You don't normally see a Coonhound above 8,000 feet elevation.
That's because they are swamp dogs; hailing from Louisiana trained to tree raccoons and other small game in the South. But my Bluetick Coonhound, Boone, fit right in when I took him backpacking in the Tahoe Sierras.
Here's what I learned taking my dog on his first backpacking trip.
Bring a leash.
Yes, I let my dog run free most the time but when he howled at other campers, chipmunks, or other animals, I was happy to have a leash handy to keep him close. Plus, there were three other dogs on the trip and it was nice to keep them all separate when they were being fed.
Bring something for your pooch to sleep on in the tent.
Yes, I know dogs are built to sleep out in the dirt, which some dogs on the trip did. But my dog is spoiled so I made sure to bring him a blanket to sleep on. He is also a short-haired dog, unlike the shepherds and Golden Retrievers that came with us on the hike. He got cold when it dropped below 40 degrees at night!
Even though it added some extra weight on my pack, I made sure to bring Boone a blanket to sleep on.
Bring enough treats for everyone.
Make sure that all the dogs get treats! Treats not only keep your dogs closer and less inclined to stray, but they can also give your dog some extra energy on the trail. Zuke's Power Bones are dog treats that are made with lots of protein and other natural ingredients; combinations to keep a dog energized.
Bring a doggie pack.
Not only can the dogs carry their own food, but they can carry the trash out after your trip!
Lots of companies make doggie backpacks. Ours is from Aussie Naturals.
Bring a doggie medical kit.
I completely forgot mine on my trip, but Adventure Medical Kits makes a great dog first aid kit. It would have come in handy, too, because we had some canine casualties on the trip. Chima, the Golden Retriever, bit Boone's ear and made him bleed. That little skirmish was over lack of treats; Boone got one while Chima didn't...hence bringing enough for everyone. Chima also had a few cuts on the bottoms of his paws from the hot granite by the end of our trip.
All dogs survived, and everything was okay, but a first aid kit specifically made for dogs is worth it to bring along.
Take lots of pictures!
I didn't necessarily need to remember this one, since my phone camera is completely full of pictures of my dog on the trail. But make sure you take plenty of photos!
Backpacking with your dog is a really cool experience, and when he's old and gray you will be happy you have these amazing pictures of his adventures.
Boone was a happy pup after our backpacking trip- he could howl at his heart's content and he was free to swim and roam as much as he wanted. It's a dog's life in the backcountry and you start to see pretty instinctual behavior when dogs are free to be wild again!
Take your dog on a big camping trip before the summer is over! I won't tell you exactly where we camped, so our spot stays secret, but the Tahoe Desolation Wilderness has plenty of spots to explore!
Do you take your dog in the backcountry? Do you have any tips to add? Tell us in the comments below.
All photos via Mateja Lane