Birding With Your Dog

If you like birding and have a dog, this will hopefully help you bring your dog on your next birding adventure. And if you love taking your dog hiking but don’t consider yourself a birder, this guide will help you with that too!

Dogs need a lot of exercise. Going for long walks helps burn off excess energy, keeps their joints and muscles strong, and their weight healthy. Plus, daily walks and longer hikes help dogs emotionally and mentally. They get to be dogs: sniffing and searching and they get to be with their pack leader.

Birding with a dog can be a bit challenging. They require your attention whether on or off leash. They can be a distraction and potentially a disturbance to birds and other wildlife you may encounter. But your dog can be an inspiration to explore new areas, hike more often, and leads to even better birding adventures.

Birding with your dog is a win win for everyone.

Pre-Trip Preparations

Your needs and your dogs needs really are not that far off. What they really need for a normal, few hour hike is simple: water, identification, leash and halter. Dogs rarely need to snack like humans and have no use for coffee, bathroom breaks, insect repellent, sunscreen, jackets, etc.

Essential Equipment for Your Dog

  • Water with portable bowl (helpful) – this can be supplemented with clean water found along the trail
  • Durable leash plus optional halter
  • Identification tag
  • Rabies tag and other required vaccination information if necessary
  • Treats – great for on-hike training
  • Poop bags
  • First aid kit (see more on this below)

Birding Equipment

  • Binoculars
  • Water
  • Trail maps
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Appropriate clothing and footwear
  • Flashlight

Optional Dog Equipment

  • Dog footwear – better to try these out several times prior to hiking with them. Not all dogs take to them right away
  • Towels

Unnecessary Birding Equipment

Your hands will be full already with your dog plus binoculars so it is best to leave behind the spotting scope. Anything else you bring will be dependent on how long you anticipate hiking, the terrain you will encounter, and the remoteness of your hike. Being prepared is always the right thing. However, being encumbered with extra gear for “whatifs” can quickly lead to an irritating hike and decreased desire to return. Common sense should prevail!

First Aid Kit for Hiking

There are pre-made kits available but you may be better off making your own with these items. The key is to bring a compact kit along with you on all hikes while leaving a larger, more extensive kit in the car. This list is not exhaustive and you should add to it with anything specific to your dog’s needs, especially but not limited to, any medicine they take regularly.

Also, make sure you have first aid for the humans in your hiking party. Most birders neglect bringing any sort of basic first aid. While most hikes will be free of harm, incidents arise quickly. 

Especially important: bring and know how to use a tourniquet!

  • Absorbent gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antiseptic wipes, lotion, powder or spray
  • Blanket (a foil emergency blanket)
  • Cotton balls or swabs
  • Gauze rolls
  • Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting—do this only when directed by a veterinarian or a poison-control expert)
  • Ice pack
  • Non-latex disposable gloves
  • Petroleum jelly (to lubricate the thermometer)
  • Rectal thermometer (your pet’s temperature should not rise above 103°F or fall below 100°F)
  • Scissors (with blunt ends)
  • Self-cling bandage (bandage that stretches and sticks to itself but not to fur)
  • Sterile non-stick gauze pads for bandages
  • Sterile saline solution (sold at pharmacies)
  • Tweezers
  • Pet first-aid book
  • Phone numbers: your veterinarian, the nearest emergency-veterinary clinic (along with directions!) and a poison-control center or hotline (such as the ASPCA poison-control center, which can be reached at 1-800-426-4435)
  • Paperwork for your pet (in a waterproof container or bag): proof of rabies-vaccination status, copies of other important medical records and a current photo of your pet (in case he gets lost)
  • Extra Leash