Tips For Hiking With A Large Pack

TEXT + PHOTOS BY MOLLIE UNDERWOOD
@wildling_tails

Whether you head to the mountains, beach, forest, or even just your local park, adventure speaks to all of us. The views and memories we create while exploring our natural world can send tingles down our spines and bring tears to our eyes. The outdoor journey reminds of how great it is to be alive.

Dogs are an important part of that journey, and for people like me, hiking with my dogs is everything. In fact, hiking with my dogs is a whole lotta everything. After all, I have six of them! That’s right, I love exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my best friends Winry, Kenoby, Bigby Wolf, Paladyn, Bryer Thorne and Juniper. Talk about #squadgoals!

Of course, hiking with several dogs is different than hiking with one or two, and you have to be prepared and make considerations. While not every hike is built for each of our dogs, we do occasionally want to take out the entire family (or at least a large portion of them) together, and that takes a lot more prep work and planning than a normal hike would!

There are many things to consider when contemplating a hike with a dog, but more so when you plan to bring more than one or two dogs. You want it to be enjoyable for both you and your dog, so I’m sharing some of my favorite tips to consider.

 

Choose The Right Hiking Trail

The first thing you want to consider is your location. Obviously, be sure the trail allows dogs. Please do not break trail rules when it comes to if dogs are allowed or not. Most of the time, the rule is in place for the safety of your dog or the wildlife around the area.

Aside from double checking the rules, we’ve found that it is helpful to not only choose a trail that is a bit less traveled, but also, hike at a time of day that is less active, specifically in the early morning. This cuts down on extra dogs you may run into and other people that may not be as comfortable on a trail with so many dogs as you are.

You must also be sure your dog can handle the trail you’ve picked. For example, one of our pack members has problematic hips, so doing an extremely long trail or one that requires a lot of climbing isn’t the best idea for him. This can also apply to weather or trail conditions, such as a very short-haired dog in the cold or a dog that doesn’t like water at a beach or in the rain. Make things easy on yourself by picking the right trail for you and your large pack—make it an adventure they all will enjoy.

Pack the Right Gear + Supplies

Be sure all your dogs have the proper gear for a hike, such as leashes, collars with current identification and information, harnesses, water, towels, bowls, a first aid kit, and treats.

Longer hikes require more supplies, like added fresh water or a snack to keep them going.

Training treats can help wrangle everyone as needed, snag their attention, and keep their tails wagging, while leashes keep everyone under control when they need to be. You also want to be sure you’ve got enough hands in case of an emergency. Going out alone with several dogs can lead to a dangerous situation, so it’s best to have enough humans for the amount of dogs you have. For us, it’s usually one human per three dogs, but do what you’re comfortable with–everyone is different!

Build Trail Manners Through Positive Training

If your dog is not trained to be off leash, doesn’t have nice leash manners, or can be frustrating for you to walk, then taking a lot of dogs out on a hike probably isn’t the best idea. Being sure your dogs have the proper training can make all the difference in your enjoyment, as well as theirs!

If your dog pulls the entire hike and that bothers you, be sure you work on and improve that through positive training before taking multiple dogs out together. Once your dogs know the basics and can handle themselves on the trail, it makes walking multiple dogs easier and a lot more fun for everyone involved! Set yourself up for success, as well as your dogs by putting them in a situation they can properly handle with the training they have.

If in doubt, hire a trusted positive trainer in your area to help work on your pup’s recall, leash skills, off-leash manners, and socialization.

Considerations for Reactive Dogs

If your dog is reactive or gets over stimulated easily, a hike with an excited pack may be too much for them and can cause stress, fear, or over-excitement. While reactive dogs need just as much attention and fun as the rest, it’s best to leave your reactive dog at home if being with the large pack causes problems.  Some dogs do best with one-on-one attention! This keeps the other dogs safe, as well as your reactive dog.

The point of hiking is to enjoy the outdoors, have fun, and get some exercise–not to force your dog into situations that they can’t handle. Sometimes, a large group can bring out the worst in a reactive dog, which isn’t fun for anyone. If you do decide that your reactive dog can handle it, then you can always consider hiking with a muzzle if needed.

Hit the Trail!

Once you’ve selected the right location for you and your dogs, have all your gear and supplies ready, and load up the correct dogs for the day, you can hit the trail!

For us, a full pack hike would consist of six rescue dogs. The best trails for our large pack is one that isn’t frequented by others, allows pups to be off-leash—and preferably with water features!

With the proper gear, the right training, and the perfect spot, hiking with 3+ dogs is possible without being total chaos, but it’s important to be honest with yourself, too. If you don’t think you can handle it, your dogs can handle it, or you just have a bad feeling, then don’t do it! Try something else, do individual hikes, or play some games with your pups as a pack. Your dogs simply love just spending time with you regardless.

A large pack can be a handful, but when you take the right steps before bringing them out and about, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself and so will all your dogs. Adventure awaits you and your pack! 

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