So, I will start out by introducing you to the dogs we travel with. We have 3, Kailie a husky-shepherd mix, Moose a bully breed-hound mix (we call her a toy mastiff), an Cedric a Galgo Espanol (Spanish greyhound. To learn more about galgos go here. I will get into detail on them in another post). So, you see, they are all big dogs. Kailie is smallest at 55 lbs and Cedric tops out at about 80-85 lbs (and he is ALL legs!)
We used to travel in a Honda Element, but it was getting to have a lot of miles on it. No problems yet, but since we regularly drive cross country we wanted something a bit newer. The Element was great because the dogs had most of the back to sprawl. With a rocket box we had enough space for most stuff. But if we added anything like a crate in (strapped to the side with the seats folded up) it encroached on dog space.
We now have a Toyota Tundra pick up to travel in. It’s perfect with the cab for us and the bed for camping stuff. We also have a rocket box to be bear country compliant and for more storage. We usually camp in the national parks at established sites, but we do also do some back country camping as well. Dogs ARE allowed in national park campgrounds.
We have a hammock for the dogs in the back seat. It’s similar to this one. It is so nice because it adds extra room for the dogs and we can put things in the foot wells under it that we can reach from the front but the dogs can’t reach. We usually add a thin dog bed on top of the hammock for extra padding. Cedric is 12 and has some spondylosis in his spine (fused vertebrae, a study I read says almost 100% of dogs will get this if they live over the age of 10-12 years) and Kailie is 11 (no signs of arthritis yet but she is of that age). With this set up all dogs can comfortably lie down or look out the windows (yes, even Cedric can comfortably lie down!).
We stop every few hours to let the dogs stretch their legs. They seem to sleep really well in the truck. We keep gallon jugs of water in the bed of the truck (along with our larger jugs of potable water for camping). The Outward Hound Bivy bowls work really well for water and food. They squish so we keep them in the dog’s dry food bin. I have noticed the dogs do not eat as well as at home on the road. We make sure to offer food frequently and also let them have table scraps. Cedric eats best with canned food so we do bring that along. We try to not get the really smelly stuff as we don’t want to encourage bears to visit our camp sites.
We also make sure to bring extra meds and a first aid kit. We haven’t needed any of that yet fortunately. But Cedric did pick up an intestinal bug last year out west. He had diarrhea and urinary infections on and off for several months after we returned and we had a hard time keeping it under control. It finally took a double dose of antibiotics for a few weeks. We really try to keep the dogs out of puddles and to not let them drink out of anything but the water bowls. But, things happen. This year our vet suggested bringing extra metronidazole and pain meds just in case. We obviously have the dogs on Frontline and heartworm pills too. We developed tie outs from mountaineering rope and carabiners to use at our campsites so we could cook without having to hold on to leashes. We always have an extra leash and collar, extra beds, fleece blankets, and dog coats. We encountered temperatures in the teens while tent camping in Yellowstone and both Moose and Cedric loved their coats. Space blankets also helped keep everyone toasty!
Overall the dogs do really well. The challenging thing is that dogs are not allowed on trails or in the back country in National Parks. Pain in the butt. So we drive around and look at as much as we can. For hiking with the dogs we find National Forests. They are usually right next to National Parks and dogs are allowed in the back country. Some state parks also allow dogs. Always check before you venture out, the fines for taking dogs where they are not allowed are steep ($200-300).
Also be prepared to talk to TONS of people. Since most people do not bring their dogs to National Parks because of policies, they will be totally attracted to your dogs! Having one that looks a bit like a wolf helps too. “Hello, Wolfie!” “Why do you want to go to Lamar Valley to see wolves, sweetie? There’s one on a leash right there!”
One other thing to beware of is how protective your dogs are. Cedric is pretty much oblivious to most things. He is content to be with us and walk around. Kailie is very smart, but knows when there is real danger and when things are fine (she does not growl or bark unless she absolutely has to). Moose, on the other hand, is very protective of me. We were camping in the Madison Campground (just before it closed for the year!) and it was rutting season. If you have ever heard elk bugling it is the creepiest sound ever. Listen here. It sounds like children screaming or, well, I have no idea how to describe it. So we heard elk bugling at night. OK, I have heard it before. I can handle it. But then the coyote packs started (listen here, it is amazing!). I had heard that once before. From the porch of a cabin in West Yellowstone. But never from a tent. It made me really nervous. I knew they were probably far away as it was a cold, clear night and sounds travel. But I did not like it. Moose picked up on that. She sleeps right next to me in the tent (with her face shoved into my sleeping bag!). So Moose sat right up and growled at those coyote packs. My little protector! (Little as in 70lbs and as thick as, well, a moose).
She also almost got us in trouble with a buffalo herd. We were in a regular Yellowstone Buffalo traffic jam. Moose loves cows for some reason (I found her on the side of the highway in a blizzard and she smelled like a cow. No one claimed her and I found out from a vet tech at the clinic on her rabies tag her owners moved and left her, so we kept her). So Moose saw the buffalo and started whining. The lead buffalo was not happy about that and began snorting and stomping. We quickly closed up all the windows and he was OK. Still, Moose could have gotten us in trouble. Something to keep in mind while hiking!