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6 Must Know Tips for Walking the Camino with a Small Dog

It is essential to know these tips up front before taking your small dog to Camino de Santiago

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Going on a family holiday doesn’t always only include the humans in your life. With more and more people opting to take outdoor holidays and camping trips, it’s becoming more common for people to take their dogs with them as well. One such place where groups or solo travelers are taking along their fur babies is the Camino de Santiago in the North of Spain! This 500-mile trek can be broken up into smaller routes and is available for people and dogs alike to enjoy. So, if you’re thinking of walking all or part of one of the most famous Caminos in the world with your small dog, then check out some of our top tips so you can be fully prepared for your adventure!

Be Physically Prepared

Even the smallest routes along the Camino can stretch upwards of a hundred miles and for many people, you will need to build up your fitness levels before your trip. This may include increasing your step count every day or even joining a gym so you can be sure that you will be able to keep up with the daily pace that you’ll need to complete each step along the way. However, don’t forget about your dog’s fitness as well!

It’s easy to assume that your dog will be fine, after all, most dogs love the outdoors and are happy to be out exercising for hours. And your dog might be happy to walk 10/12 plus miles a day… for a couple of days. But if they’re not used to such distances, your dog will soon tire of the daily trek. Make sure you increase your dog’s exercise in the weeks or even months leading up to the trip, they need it just as much as you.

Food and Water

You will need to eat and drink more during the trip and your dog will need to as well. However, unlike humans who are generally happy to eat whenever, you mustn’t adjust your dog’s eating schedule. For example, if your dog normally eats twice a day, stick to the times you would normally use. You should increase the amount of food you give them because they will be using a lot of energy. Upping their main regular meals is far better for their routine and digestion than increasing the number of times you feed them. You can give them little snacks during the day as you would at home but remember to wait at least half an hour between a big meal and exercise.

You should make sure you have enough food for your dog on your person, and you can have your remaining dog food supplies carried between each hotel or hostel alongside your luggage, or you can buy food along the way at the local shops and supermarkets. Of course, your dog also needs regular hydration, while there are lots of fountains and streams that your dog can safely drink from, these are not always regular enough for you’ll need to have several liters on you to supply you both.

The Other Essentials

The weather in the North of Spain is a little less predictable and stable than it is in the South. Meaning there will be days of brilliant sunshine with the chance of a storm in the middle. You can even set out for the day without a cloud in the sky and be soaking wet come the afternoon. Of course, it’s still Spain so the weather will mostly be great, especially if you go in the summer months, but it’s a good idea to pack a few items for your four-legged friend for all weathers. No matter what time of year you go, it’s advisable to take a coat or jumper for your dog.

Also, buy a bottle of dog-friendly sun cream for their nose and other important spots. Finally, it’s a great idea to get some shoes for your dog if they don’t already have them. Dog shoes can protect your dog’s paw pads against the hot floor, the stones and gravel, and even any slippery surfaces if it’s been raining. However, not every dog will be happy to wear shoes, so if you decide against them, make sure that you are regularly moisturizing your dog’s paw pads so they don’t crack or tear easily from the high levels of exercise.

Rest, Rest, Rest

Most owners would describe their dogs as couch potatoes. Your dog may enjoy zoomies in your back garden or local park, but they’re also happy to snooze on the couch all day. Dogs need an average of 12-14 hours of sleep a day which will increase during such a physically exertive trip like walking the Camino de Santiago, so keep an eye on the time and stop for regular breaks.

Your dog will in the very least need to lay down for 20 minutes or so every few hours and ensure that they are getting a lot of uninterrupted sleep during the night. Your dog will need far more sleep than you so don’t let anything get in the way of their beauty sleep.

Use a Lead When Necessary

If you’re walking the Camino during the summer, you’ll find that there may be days when you’re still out walking when it’s getting dark, just because it’s so much cooler and bearable. If you do find yourself walking late at night or when the sun is going down then keep your dog on the lead. A dog running off in pursuit of a rabbit is stressful enough in the day let alone at night when you have no idea where they’ve gone. Even if you are sure your dog won’t run off, the risk of your buddy getting lost in the dark is not worth it.

Additionally, if your dog is a dog that isn’t afraid of running up to strangers and jumping all over them then you should keep them on a lead in busier areas. Unfortunately, not everyone will love your dog as much as you do and you don’t want to be upsetting any travellers along the way.

Book in Advance

Some people throw caution to the wind and just turn up to a hostel or hotel on the day. This is fine for people not following a particular schedule or for those who are happy to walk to the next one if there are no rooms available. However, if you’re with your dog, this is a terrible plan. Since only a select number of private hostels accommodate dogs as well, you’ll have to have your rooms booked in advance and a suitable walking schedule so you’re not left out in the dark. If this happens, you’ll end up wasting a lot of money on transport to find the closest private hostel that will take you for the night.

Bonus Tips!

  • Don’t forget, only dogs 10kg and under are allowed on the route;
  • Pack your dog’s passport with you, even if you’re traveling from within Spain;
  • If you don’t have a pet passport then you’ll need a health certificate from your vet that verifies your dog is up to date with vaccinations and has a microchip;
  • Pick up your Canine credential alongside your Pilgrim credential, both of these can be stamped the same;
  • When you collect your Compostela certificate at the end, collect the Perregrina certificate for your dog as well;
  • If you are taking the bus to the start of your route or accommodation then your dog needs to be in a pet carrier, you won’t be allowed on the bus otherwise;
  • It’s worth paying extra for your dog’s luggage to be carried between hostels as well, you’ll already have enough to carry

Before we go, check out our top three product recommendations from Amazon that will make your trip along the Camino with your dog a lot easier! These products added value and ease to my trip and they are items I will be using again and again for similar trips.

1. Pet Organiser

PetAmi Dog Travel Bag Backpack | Backpack Organizer with Poop Bag Dispenser, Pockets, Food Container Bag, Collapsible Bowl | Weekend Pet Travel Set for Hiking Overnight Camping Road Trip (Turquoise)

$39.99  in stock
Amazon.com
as of April 18, 2021 6:50 pm

Sometimes, taking a trip with your dog can feel on par with taking a trip with a baby. You can constantly have so many items on your person at all times to cover all the “what if” scenarios. These items include food, water, dog poop bags, treats, toys, a coat, sun cream, and even an extra leash in case anything happens to yours along the way.

This backpack was a real winner for me during my trip. I was worried, in part, that my body would be under too much pressure with me carrying my own bag and this one on top. However, the thick padding on the straps and chest buckles took a lot of the weight and I was able to handle every bag I had. There was plenty of space in the compartments for everything I needed to take for which my dog was also grateful for I’m sure, especially when I could bring out a few toys for her whenever we were finished for the day.

Since the backpack’s material is water repellent, I never had to worry anytime I saw a dark cloud looming over the horizon which was a great extra bonus!

My star rating for this product is 5/5 – I would never take a long trip without it now.

2. Dog Booties with Reflective Rugged Anti-Slip Sole

XSY&G Dog Boots,Waterproof Dog Shoes,Dog Booties with Reflective Rugged Anti-Slip Sole and Skid-Proof,Outdoor Dog Shoes for Medium Dogs 4Ps-Size3

$24.99  in stock
3 new from $24.99
2 used from $22.45
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of April 18, 2021 6:50 pm

Some people may think the whole concept of dog boots is ridiculous. After all, dogs have pads on their paws that act in much the same way as shoes do for humans. And they do, to an extent. However, just like with shoes, if your dog’s paws are overused, they can wear down and tear. Not to mention the cuts and scrapes they might suffer going over any rocky roads or jagged edges.

So, while dogs have paws that are all they need most of the time, a lot of dogs can benefit from a little extra help, especially on long hikes. I for one fully support these types of shoes. My dog is bursting with energy, and there is nothing she loves more than a high-speed run or long-distance walk. But in her excitement during these activities, her brain seems to switch off her pain receptors and we have had more than a few incidents of bleeding paws and torn pads.

These shoes have been a real lifesaver for my dog and they were perfect for every day on our trip along the route. While my dog, and no doubt yours too, takes a little to adjust to walking in them, it means that neither she nor I have to patch up any wounds on the soles of her little feet. We were able to travel great distances and I never had to worry about her getting sore feet which was a nice feeling. The shoes are just as they say and the reflective strips on the top of the shoes are a nice touch.

The only thing I would say is that you have to wash them by hand rather than through them in your washing machine which isn’t always the most convenient.

My star rating for this product is 4.5/5 – with only the washing aspect losing points.

3. Dog Sling Carrier

YUDODO Pet Dog Sling Carrier Breathable Mesh Travel Safe Sling Bag Carrier for Dogs Cats (M up to 10lbs Green)

$31.79
$27.98
 in stock
Amazon.com
as of April 18, 2021 6:50 pm

For most days on the Camino, you will be walking upwards of 12-15 miles. Depending on what route you’re taking or what package you are booked onto, you may even be having days or walking more than that. And that’s a lot of miles. For a person or for a dog, that’s a lot of miles. Especially for a small dog.

They may be full of energy during their normal daily life but it’s not often your little buddy is getting so many steps in day after day. There will be times on the trail when your dog will need a break, and you won’t always want to stop when your dog does. But that’s where this fantastic product comes into play. This dog sling carrier can safely and securely give your dog their much-needed break as you can carry on your journey. Sure, during these miles, you will be carrying a little extra weight but a few extra pounds of weight are worth it if it means your dog is never pushed to exhaustion.

I was impressed with how the carrier fit around my body, it didn’t rub or make me feel uncomfortable. My dog was happy to sit and watch the world go by as I plodded along the route, and that’s all that matters. I always felt like she was safe which was a huge worry of mine, to begin with. For long journeys, I can’t recommend this idea enough. If your dog gets too tired, you’ll only end up carrying them under your arm anyway, which is never comfortable for either of you.

My star rating for this product is 5/5 – don’t walk the Camino with your dog without one!

Walking the Camino de Santiago is a special experience. To have the chance to see so much beauty, spend so much time in nature, meet new people and disconnect from the reality of life is an adventure to behold. But being able to experience all those things and have your best friend at your side makes every part of it infinitely better. My four-legged best friend and I made some incredible memories and got to spend a lot of time revelling in the landscapes, and if my escapade was anything to go by, you’ll no doubt have a fantastic time as well! Just don’t slack on the preparation for both you and your dog and you shouldn’t run into any problems!

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