What to take on a dog walk: come prepared …

… or stay home. That’s always been my mantra, and it applies to taking my dogs for a walk as well, of course.

Some women have a purse full of everything they need in their everyday lives. I am not one of them: when it comes to my own stuff, if it doesn’t fit in a jeans pocket, I’m not taking it. Not so when it comes to stuff for my dogs. Over the years I have assembled a “prepared for every scenario” dog rucksack, which I take on every walk. I also often wonder what other people take along. Show me yours, I’ll show you mine? 

The rucksack 

I use the “Fast Hiking Helium” model by Quechua. It’s inexpensive and it’s a good size at only 10 liters. Not too big, a ton of pockets, lots of convenient straps and very comfortable to wear. It comes with a water pouch and a tube through which the hiker can drink, but I threw that out. The dogs can’t drink from the tube, and I usually don’t take any water for myself along.

Refreshments

The most important thing to take on a walk is water. I find that my dogs get thirsty even in cooler weather conditions, and we don’t always come across natural water when we’re out and about. I transport it in a 1l platypus softbottle, which is convenient because it doesn’t take up any space when it’s empty. By the end of the walk, it usually is! We have a small collapsible silicone bowl for the dogs to drink from. It’s small, but sufficient, at a volume of 0,2 liters.

Treats need to be within easy reach, so they go in one of the small side pockets on the waist belt. We also often have a tube (this kind of thing) of liver paté or similar tasty stuff as a special treat, and it goes in the other small pocket or in some pocket on my clothing.

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Biodegradable poop bags

For us good citizens, this is a must. We use biodegradable ones because we don’t want to preserve for the next 500 years what would otherwise have been gone within weeks. I keep a roll in one of the belt pockets, within easy reach. There are few to no waste bins where we walk, so I carry full poop bags in the large front pocket until I can throw them out at home. I’m happy to report that I don’t smell them that way. Note to self: don’t forget to remove them …

In case of emergency

I have a first aid kit and I know how to use it – otherwise there would be little point to it. The kit contains various bandaging utensils, which I learned how to apply at a canine first aid class. I re-read my notes from that class every few months or so, otherwise I would forget all about it. I’ve added a few things that weren’t included: active coal tablets against poisoning, I’ve replaced the tick tweezers (of the “medieval torture device” kind) provided in the kit by O’Tom tick twisters. Not that we use them a lot, since we have very efficient natural anti-tick treatments on our dogs, but it’s good to have them anyway. And I’ve added some band-aids for humans as well. I’ve only ever had to use the band-aids, because I’m a clumsy person. The rest of the kit remains untouched. Let’s keep it that way!

Leads for any occasion

My dogs wear their harness at all times, so I don’t need to stow those away. I usually have one short lead (2-3 m) for when I need to keep my dog close, and one long training lead (10, 15 or 20 m) to give the dogs more freedom of movement in places where they can’t be off lead for some reason. Since the shortest lead I have is 2 m, that’s not something I want to hang around my neck while the dog is off lead, as so many people do. I don’t want to put it in the rucksack or hook it to the straps either, since it takes too long to get it out from there if I need it urgently. So I’ve created my very own “fast draw holster” for dog leads. Materials used: needle, thread, velcro cable ties (see below). The long training lead I can clip onto one of the straps on the rucksack and then strap it down with the elastics. That keeps it from dangling around on my back. So convenient!

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I also have a slip lead at the bottom of the rucksack, which I’ve added due to two experiences: 1) A buckle on Dana’s harness once broke during a walk. We were lucky enough that it happened close to the car and away from roads, so no harm done. But if that happend again somewhere more risky … Oops! Need to get the dog back to the car somehow. 2) Every now and then I encounter stray dogs, it’s as if I magically attract them. Taking them with me so I can return them to their owners can be quite a challenge if I have no way of holding onto them. Of course neither situation has presented itself again since I’ve added the slip lead – figures! But I’m glad, since I’d prefer to never use a slip lead on a dog. The reason I picked it is that I couldn’t think of any other way to get a “handle” on any size of dog that may need rescuing, especially if they aren’t wearing a collar or harness. Suggestions are welcome!

Break time

Sometimes I find myself wanting to take a break during a walk, sit down, just watch the world go by together with my dog. Usually there’s no convenient sitting space available just then, so I bring my own. My most recent addition to the all-round pack is a picknick blanket. I just purchased a random picknick blanket, fleece on top, rubber at the bottom, and then cut it to size so it’s big enough for myself and one dog to sit on. Anything larger wouldn’t have fit into the rucksack anymore, and I didn’t want to drag anything larger than necessary along anyway.

Various other things

Anyone who has ever had a long training lead dragged through their hands when trying to stop a running dog can attest to the fact that gloves are an absolute necessity. I keep a pair of sailing gloves in the front pocket. They give me grip on the lead even if they’re wet, prevent the dreaded rope burn, and since they leave the finger tips of index finger and thumb free, I can still find and hand out treats, which would be impossible in full gloves. Some like to use cycling gloves (with all finger tips free), but having had ample experience with rope burn on my finger tips, right above where the gloves end, I like to minimise that chance by having those other three finger covered.

Another inhabitant of the front pocket is a soft dog toy: we frequently use it for lost searches. It shares its space with an ACME dog whistle, since my dogs are used to a recall by whistle. The whistle is of course around my neck during the walk, but keeping it in the rucksack the rest of the time prevents me from forgetting it at home – that would be a problem! Last but not least, there is a case full of “Corey and friends” business cards, in case we come across a nice dog 🙂

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All in all, we’re pretty well prepared, and the pack weighs only around 3 kg when the bottle is entirely full, which is not too much of a bother. Whether it’s a social walks or just me and my dogs, these things serve us well. The rucksack also accommodates my phone and keys, if need be. What do you take along when you take your dogs for a walk?