Love overlanding but can’t bear the thought of leaving your furry sidekick behind? You’re not alone. Hitting the trail for days in pursuit of adventure isn’t the same without your playful best friend. Thankfully, bringing your dog and having a great time together is possible.
But before you gear up for an off-road expedition with your pup, read our top tips on overlanding with a dog. These clever tricks and ideas will keep your canine pal safe and happy and help you avoid frustration on the trail.
And as you shop for outdoor essentials for yourself and Fido, don’t forget to get some incredible off-roading apparel from our store!
Do Dogs Enjoy Overlanding?
Dogs crave the outdoors. They always want to go outside, smell new things, take in the wild sounds, exercise, and enjoy the freedom of the vast spaces. But that’s not to say every furry sidekick will be excited to go on a charged trail run. Dogs living a sedentary lifestyle and those who do not fancy a car ride need to be gradually introduced to the rigors of off-roading.
To help your furry friend get on board with the lifestyle, start by taking them on less vigorous adventures, then slowly increase the challenge levels. Puppies and senior dogs are best left behind. Once your four-legged pal gets used to the rocking movements and loud noise of your 4x4 beast, you can take them on extended trips.
Now, let's look at the tips and tricks for overlanding with dogs.
Go On Training Runs
The comfort of your dog should be the priority. If your dog spends most of its time lazing on the couch, it may be challenging to transition to a fast-paced life. A few months before your big adventure, take your dog on several short trips in your 4x4 and try to mix up the terrain. This will reduce nervousness and help them build the skill and confidence needed to enjoy the experience.
Make Sure Pets are Welcome at Your Chosen Destination
Always do some research to learn whether the trail you plan to traverse allows dogs. While many are pet friendly, some aren’t. If dogs are welcome, know if there are any pet-related rules you need to be aware of, such as keeping them on a leash.
Get Up-to-Date on Preventatives and Vaccinations
Before you set off, ensure your tail-wagging friend is current on vaccinations such as rabies, distemper, and leptospirosis, as wild animals can transmit these diseases. You'll also want to ensure Fido is treated with flea and tick prevention. If your dog has underlying health conditions, book an appointment with the vet so they can verify if it's healthy enough to tag along.
Reinforce Your Dog’s Commands
Nature's intriguing sights, sounds, and smells may get the better of your furry friend, making them overexcited. In this state, your dog can easily ignore your commands. Weeks before you head out, reinforce obedience training. Brush on commands like sit, come, stay, quiet, and drop it. Remember to be firm on these commands during the adventure to prevent your dog from getting in trouble with wildlife or strangers.
Create a Safe Space for Your Furry Friend
To make your pet feel at ease, safe, and comfortable when your four-wheeler is in motion, designate a space your pet can call their own. You can secure a crash-tested dog crate to your vehicle or use a car safety harness that works with your seat belts. Another option is a barrier or Variocage that turns the rear cargo area of your car into a pet-friendly space.
Use This Overlanding Packing List for Your Dog
Before an Overlanding trip, thinking about everything you need to pack for your dog can feel overwhelming. Use this pre-travel checklist.
- Dog Sunscreen - Like people, dogs can get sunburns and other complications due to sun exposure. Pack natural water-resistant sunscreen to protect sensitive areas like the noses, ears, and underbelly.
- Paw Protection - Many off-roading terrains aren’t easy on a dog’s paw. Pack a non-toxic protective paw wax, or get dog shoes to protect the sensitive pads.
- Dog Collar with Identification Tag or Microchip - Such advanced collars will help you track and recover your best friend when they get lost.
- Light Up Collar and Bell - If you’re exploring a place where it’s safe to let your dog run loose, a waterproof and rechargeable glowing collar will help you hear and see your furry friend even at night.
- Harness and Leash - Get a lightweight harness and a long leash if you take your dog for a swim or hike. Leashes are required in most trails; they’ll help you keep your doggy from straying off.
- Water and Food - To refuel and rehydrate your exhausted best friend, bring enough food and water for the days you’ll be adventuring. Pack some extra in case you unexpectedly extend your trip.
- Collapsible Bowl - Space is at a premium when packing for a multi-day overlanding trip. So, pack a light doggie food/water bowl that can collapse and save space.
- Dog First-Aid Kit - Pack a small pet’s emergency kit and make sure you include the medication that your dog takes, vaccination paperwork and medical history, tweezers, alcohol wipes, gauze pads, vet wrap tape, and antibiotic ointments.
- Plastic Bags and Poop Scooper - When your pup answers a nature call, these essentials will help you easily clean up. Invest in a Trasharoo Spare Tire Trash bag to pack out the pet waste instead of burying it.
- Comfy Bed - Your sidekick may be more accustomed to sleeping on hard surfaces, but that doesn't mean they won't appreciate a small cozy bed and blanket.
- Grooming Supplies - Pack a doggy brush and old towels to wash, dry, and groom your dog after a swim, mud bath, or an exhausting day on the road.
- Car Seat Cover - Want your playful best friend to sit next to you? A waterproof, wear-proof, and slip-proof seat cover will keep your car cleaner.
- Extras - Bring their favorite toys to keep Fido occupied on those long trips, a mat to lie on when you lounge outside, and treats to reward good behavior.
Take Plenty of Breaks
On those intense expeditions, your canine pal will need more rest than you. With breaks, the experience will become more fun and more relaxed. To keep your pup cheerful, allocate lots of sleeping time and plan to frequently stop for potty breaks, water breaks, and stretch time.
Listen to Your Dog's Body Signals
Dogs are good at communicating their needs. Don’t ignore their audible huffs, whines, and pants, as they may be trying to tell you they’re tired, hungry, thirsty, overheating, or injured. Paying attention and responding to your pet’s non-verbal cues will strengthen your bonds and help them view overlanding trips positively.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Keep an eye out for anything that can pose a danger to your pup. Don’t let your beloved pet go near surfaces with sharp rocks, beehives, stagnant water, ant mounds, or areas with wildlife. Never leave your fluffy buddy locked in the vehicle in hot weather, even for a few minutes. If you have to go somewhere, leave the AC on and windows open.
Get Contact of a Reliable Vet in the Area You’re Exploring
From a wounded paw, a bad fall injury to a bite from a wild animal, mother nature can quickly create an emergency. Since you may not be able to access your home veterinarian's services, get the contact details of a dependable vet near the area you’re exploring.
Happy Overlanding With Your Dog
Whether your dog will enjoy or detest your off-road expedition will depend on how well you prepare for the trip. To make your playful companion fall in love with the freewheeling lifestyle, take some time to think about their needs, go easy at first, pack the right essentials, be patient with them, and reassure them when they look stressed.