On my days off, I love getting out and exploring with the dogs. We are so lucky here in New Zealand to have so many great beaches and bush tracks to explore, and there is always a new trail somewhere! Although most of my dogs are working cattle dogs and get plenty of exercise, I still feel that it is important that they get that time off the farm to decompress, see something new and have that low-stress bonding time.
I’ve had dogs my whole life, and for the first 16 years we had a pretty simple set up. A simple leather collar, the cheapest lead you could buy and a cozy outdoor kennel with good bedding and that was that. Since I got into Facebook and talking with other dog enthusiasts however, I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of dog and dog-walking accessories! While not always great for my wallet, it is great for you as I can give you some insight into what I’ve found useful.
1. While not strictly a “dog” product, great walking shoes for people are pretty important if you want to enjoy your walks! Until recently I just had a cheap pair of sandshoes (sneakers) which did the job, but weren’t very helpful when it came to slippery tracks or after heavy rainfall. I purchased these North Face shoes hiking online, and love them! They are the single most expensive pair of shoes I own, but worth every penny for a comfortable and safe hike.
2. Another human product that is helpful for hikes – a Camelbak! When I was a teenager we did a lot of mountain biking as a family, so I’ve been using Camelbaks for years. I recently upgraded to a newer one, and love it even more. While not necessary for short walks, if I’m heading out for an hour or more I will take my Camelbak with me. It means having water handy but keeping it hands-free so you can concentrate on the dogs. My one has a space on the back which fits my rain jacket perfectly, and plenty of space for poop bags, a small first aid kid, a couple of muesli bars, my car keys, wallet and phone. I can also clip my dog leads onto it if we are in an off-leash area, saving me from having to hold on to them. I chose the 2017 L.U.X.E. in Black and Columbia Jade – so comfy.
3. Speaking of contents for the Camelbak – I always carry a small first aid kit with me for the dogs. My worst nightmare is having a dog injured out on a trail and not being able to get them back by themselves (my dogs are all 20-40kg), so having at least something with me to stop any urgent bleeding is a small peace of mind. I also chuck a couple of band aids in there for me in case of a blister. I bought my basic one for my pack from Dog Mechanics and have a more comprehensive one in the car at all times which I bought from The House of Food at the 2017 Animal Expo.
4. When I’m taking a new dog out on an off-lead trail or even just in the front paddock for the first time, I’m always a bit wary of just letting them go until I can trust their recall. I still like them to have a bit of freedom though, so I invested in a great lightweight long line from Working K9 Gear. Light & durable with great grip – love it! I also like lungelines from any saddlery shop, though the clip on them is usually a bit heavier.
5. Secure transportation. I live out in the wop wops, so some of the tracks and beaches we go to are an hour or more away. With a large number of dogs, windy roads and a love for adventures, I needed something secure to ensure everyone was safe and the mud was kept contained in the vehicle! After asking around a lot of different places, I asked my local engineers GT Engineering to create a dog crate set up for the back of my ute which would not only be secure and safe, but also provide the dogs a good “home away from home” if we go further afield. I’m so happy with how they turned out, and the dogs love it! If you are wanting to keep your own dogs secure and safe when travelling but can’t justify a semi-permanent crate set up, I used to use regular crates in the back of my ute. The best ones I have found so far are these ones from TradeTested – available in all different sizes. Fast shipping, nice and sturdy and easy to clean, and last ages.
6. Access to water. When you’re travelling, you need to have somewhere safe for dogs to drink, so I always carry water bowls with me. For in the ute I have these great ones from Working K9 Gear which I fill up after a walk and hook onto the crate while we are parked. I love them and have one for each of my crates at home too! For in my pack, I carry one of these collapsible water bowls I bought at the Fieldays from the Real Dog Company – works great and folds up small.
7. Mendota Leads. I was recently introduced to these by some dog trainer friends of mine, and now own 7 of them! Light weight, look great, dogs walk well on them and the leads fold up very small. They are also really handy for photo sessions where we don’t want big bulky leads, or for if I come across a stray dog without a collar. I also like the double ended “Training” dog leads from Friendly Dog Gear – they are great for tethering dogs on the go if needed and super strong. If I’ve got more than a couple of dogs with me, I hook the leads onto a caribiner and attach that to my camelbak, belt bag or just a bit of rope so I can walk hands free.
8. Friendly dog coats. Many of my dogs have come to me with issues of some sort from rough handling in their previous homes. As a result, some of them are quite nervous when out and about and like their personal space. I recently bought one of these “Nervous” coats and think they are a great idea to let people know to give you space while out and about. There are a whole bunch of different colours and descriptions on them, so something to suit most dogs.
9. For shorter walks when I can’t justify taking a camelbak but still need storage for poop bags, my keys, phone and somewhere to attach leads to, I take my beltbag. I use this running belt from DogMechanics and find it great. Just the right amount of space without being bulky.
10. A jacket. I just have a cheapy I bought off 1-day, but it’s warm, waterproof and folds up small. It can get cold in the bush really quickly, so for walks longer than an hour or so I always make sure I have a jacket with me just in case. I don’t usually need it, but it’s great to know I have it “just in case”! The one day I forget it will be the day it rains – Murphy’s Law!
So those are the things I find most useful while out on adventures with the dogs. But you don’t need a whole bunch of gear to start exploring – just get out there and start. There are tons of awesome short walks around that are both beautiful and dog friendly, and your dogs will enjoy it as much as you do.