The days of simple walks with you dog are long past. Great adventures call for great gear, whether the adventurer has two legs or four.
To help you get your dog outfitted properly this spring, we checked out the last offerings in canine gear.
All Dogs: Bowl
Just like their human counterparts, active dogs must stay hydrated to stay healthy. Bulky bowls, though can be a pain to pack on ultralight outings. Fortunately, Rad Dog offers a big new travel bowl in a tiny package. The Rad Dog Pocket Bowl folds to about the size of a large marble, yet weighs less than an ounce. When opened, it holds 16-ounces of water in its leak-proof nylon pouch. Light, tiny, and incredibly useful — backpackers should carry a second to serve as a food bowl — for just $12.
Trail Dogs: Boots
Active outdoor dogs generally have no need for footwear—their tough pads and strong claws work wonderfully well on most surfaces, and boots can actually reduce their grip and security at times. But in some situations, boots are essential. Crusty snow and brittle ice can cause cuts and scratches on pads. Abrasive volcanic rocks (like that found on many of the trails of the Cascade Mountains) can rapidly tear up pads and split claws. And desert terrain can leave dogs limping with cactus thorns, sand abrasions, and other injuries. In these situations, Ruffwear’s Grip Trex dog boots excel at protecting canine feet without loss of traction. The soft rubber Vibram outsoles provide great grip on a variety of surfaces, while the mesh uppers allow body heat is dissipate quickly to avoid overheating. The articulated design fits the foot and hock comfortably and a simple Velcro closure secures the boot without restricting movement. Wide assortment of sizes. $75
Trail Dogs: Collar/Leash
One of the best parts of hiking with canine companions is allowing them the freedom to trot along with you, unfettered by leashes or leads. Still, there are times when leashes are required—sometimes by regulation, sometimes by common sense. For instance, when meeting other hikers who show any concern about dogs (face it: Some people are just plain scared of ALL dogs), I like to get a leash on Sophie to show she is under control. That’s easier than ever now, thanks to the Rad Dog Release N Run Leash. This leash is essentially a retractable nylon cable built into a collar. When you need to leash your free-roaming dog, just reach down, grab the Release N Run handle on the collar, and hold on. A slim nylon cable pulls out of the spring-loaded cam mechanism, giving you a 4-foot leash on demand. When it’s safe to let the dog run free again, just release the leash and it winds back into its housing on the back of the collar. $40.
Trail Dog: Insect Protection
Biting flies and mosquitoes can be as annoying to your dog as they are to you, but slathering DEET-based repellents onto dog’s isn’t a good idea—at least not onto parts of the dog where they can lick it off. A great solution to beating back the bugs that bother your pooch are wearable Insect Shield products. This treatment, applied during the manufacturing process, binds permethrin—derived from an extract of chrysanthemums—into the fabric itself. Permethrin has been used for more than a century as an effective repellent, working against insects like mosquitoes and biting flies as well as arachnids like ticks. I’ve found the Insect Shield Neck Gaiter for Pets the easiest to use, but when insect populations are especially thick and aggressive, the extra coverage offered by the Insect Shield Mesh Tank is useful. The Orange Mesh Tank also increases visibility of your dog, making it a safe aid during hunting season or when traveling in heavy grass of brush cover where you might lose sight of your pup. $12-$20
Water Dog: Collar
Standard nylon webbing collars work wonderfully in many situations but once they get wet, you’ll discover a whole new level of “wet dog funk.” The Ruffwear Headwater Collar curbs that odiferous concern. The webbing in this collar is fully coated in a thin layer of urethane to make it 100-percent waterproof. And if no water can get into the nylon webbing, no funky mildew can grow. The Headwater has served thousands of dunkings in both salt and fresh water — from crystal clear rivers to stinky tidal marshes—with no ill effects. Available in assorted sizes and colors. $30
Water Dogs: Personal Flotation Devices
When rafting northwest rivers, I always wear a Personal Flotation Device, and I insist my boat-mates do as well, including my dog. The rivers of the Cascades are full of downed trees and logs, creating lots of hazards that can trap unwary people and dogs so even professional waterdogs like Labrador retrievers need the security of PFDs in many water situations. There are plenty of great canine flotation vests, but the best we’ve found comes from a company that specializes in PFDs for humans and canines. The Astral BirdDog vest provides great flotation using PVC-free foam in a stout 500-denier Cordura shell. With five sizes available, the BirdDog fits securely but comfortably on most dogs. A padded handle on the back of the vest makes assisting dogs back onto boats easy. $50.
Running Dogs: Leash
Running is hard enough without having to grip a leash in one hand while a dog tugs you off balance, while also holding onto a ‘poop’ bag, phone, keys, and other essentials. The OllyDog Mount Tam Belt & Leash eliminates also those problems for runners. The Mount Tam Belt features lightweight 1.5-inch webbing for a comfortable, secure fit around your waist. At the back of the belt is a small zippered pouch to hold essentials. That pouch also sports an interior mesh pocket with exterior port to hold pick-up bags. Daisy loops on the side of the belt are used to secure the hands-free Mount Tam Leash. This webbing leash adjusts from 4 to 8 feet in length and features a 15-inch section of elastic-core webbing to provide shock-absorption should the dog lunge (or slow down) unexpectedly. Reflective materials are incorporated into both the belt and leash for nighttime safety. The belt and leash together costs $52, or just leash may be purchased separately (it can be secured around your waist to still be hands-free) for $32.
Running Dog: Lights
Every runner is at risk of not being seen by passing motorists, cyclists, or even other runners, but dogs face greater dangers than their taller two-legged friends. The Nite Ize Dawg LED Collar Cover helps protect those four-legged joggers by putting a bright, red LED light right on them. The LED light can be set to steady or flashing light mode, and while it fits perfectly on collars, I found visibility was maximized if it was mounted on the dog leash right above the leash’s collar attachment. That ensured the light was visible from all directions above the dog’s neck whereas if it was mounted to the collar, it could slip around below the dog’s chin. Simple Velcro tabs wrap securely around webbing up to an inch wide. $12.
All Dogs: Bed
At the end of the day, every active dog deserves a comfy place to relax. The Ruffwear Urban Sprawl proves to be a favorite place for our pets to crash. The dual-density, 4-inch foam cushion provides great support for trail-sore limbs, regardless of the season. Flip the foam so the soft-side is up and the dog sinks into plush, insulating cocoon sure to keep her warm on the coldest nights. Turn the firmer side up, and it cushions without insulating—perfect for dozing during hot summer evenings. The firmer foam also makes it easier for aging, or muscle-weary dogs to get out of bed after a nap. The Urban Sprawl features a plush micro-suede outer cover that is machine-washable for easy clean-up. Available in two sizes. $150-200.