Bugging Out With Your Dog

We all want to be prepared to take care of our loved ones in an emergency situation. But what if your loved one has four paws, fur, and puppy dog eyes?

Every person (dog owner or not) should be prepared for when the proverbial dog poo hits the fan, whether due to natural disaster, social collapse, or freakin’ ZOMBIES.

We wouldn’t dream of evacuating without our best friend, even if that friend has four paws and sheds hair all over the furniture.

If you and Rover are ever forced to leave your home, having a prepared bag of basic pet supplies will help ease the stress for both of you. Not sure what essentials to pack? No worries. We’re going to walk you through everything you need to know about bugging out with your best bud.

Why Your Dog Needs a Bug-Out Bag

Because zombies.

I’m definitely keeping my fingers crossed for zombies (Please let them be the Walking Dead kind and NOT the World War Z kind). However, the reality is far less exciting. We are much more likely to need a bug-out bag for quick evacuation due to a natural disaster than we are the zombie apocalypse or a Red Dawn-style invasion.

I know. I’m sad, too.

Bring on the zombies!

Leaving your pooch at home to fend for himself in the face of a wildfire, hurricane, flood, volcanic eruption, or a swarming horde of North Korean paratroopers isn’t a good idea.

Even if you think you’ll just return to grab Rover in a few days, dogs don’t have opposable thumbs. That means they can’t open doors or work a can opener.

That means our canines are completely reliant on us to take care of them. It’s the price they paid when that first wolf ancestor cozied up to the fire with early humans and both decided domestication was mutually agreeable.

It’s not a bad arrangement for either of us, really. Our pups get belly rubs, a warm place to snooze, and sometimes a random potato chip tossed in his direction.

We get undying loyalty and faithful companionship.

We totally got the better end of the deal.

Lessons from Hurricane Katrina

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, more than 60,000 pets were killed or stranded.

As Louisianans fled ahead of the hurricane, most thought they would be able to return after the storm passed over. However, Katrina’s storm surge caused several breaches in crucial flood protection structures. As a result, more than 80 percent of the city ended up underwater.

For two and a half weeks.

Many of the abandoned animals were locked in their homes, patiently waiting for their owners. With no way of escaping, most of those pets died in the flood waters.

If they didn’t drown, they died a slow miserable death via dehydration and starvation.

The moral of the story is this: Disaster situations are unpredictable, and you never know what might keep you from returning home to your confused dog.

Domesticated canines depend on their human companions to meet their most basic needs. Most of the survival instincts their wolf ancestors relied on to survive have been dulled by centuries of domestication. That’s what makes them good pets.

Leaving your dog to face a long and painful death alone is both cruel and irresponsible. The responsible and humane thing to do is take Rover along if you need to evacuate.

It’s In The Bug-Out Bag

Bugging out with your dog takes a little more planning than skipping out all by yourself. You’ll need some extra supplies. Since dog food and other necessities add extra weight and take up space, it makes sense to make Rover carry some of his own supplies.

Unless your dog is small or frail, a canine saddlebag is perfect for building Rover a bug-out bag of his very own.

Doggie saddlebags are commonly used for hiking, and come in a variety of sizes and styles. They are designed to distribute the pack’s weight evenly across the dog’s body to prevent injury and fatigue.

However, just like in the world of human bug-out bags, not all doggie backpacks are created equal.

The qualities you want in your own bug-out bag are the same ones you’ll need for Rover’s – durability, reinforced stitching, quality zippers and straps, and a comfortable design.

Many canine saddlebags are made from waterproof fabric to help protect Fido from the elements. Some tactical versions come with MOLLE strips, so Rover can look as tacti-cool as you. Plus, you can attach and detach utility pouches and other gear and swap them between your bag and his.

There are plenty of options to choose from. Here are a few of our favorites.

Saddlebags for Hiking

Millennials love both the outdoors and their dogs, and those loves have fanned the fire when it comes to canine trail gear. Fortunately, hiking saddlebags also make great doggie bug-out bags.

My dog, Seamus, wears a hiking saddlebag we picked up some time ago at a local pet store. Seamus is 15 and falls well into the “senior” category. Since he has bad hips, he doesn’t need to carry heavy gear long distances. However, comfort is extra important since he’s kind of a grumpy old man.

However, he still gets a puppy twinkle in his eyes when we strap on his saddlebag because he knows it means adventure. And it’s the perfect size for him to carry a day’s worth of puppy survival supplies.

RUFFWEAR

RUFFWEAR makes some seriously durable multi-day hiking backpacks for dogs.

These multi-day packs have spacious compartments, so you can easily fit in all of Fido’s necessary gear and still have room left over for his favorite pull toy.

One cool feature of RUFFWEAR’s dog packs is the padded handle and non-slip girth straps. This is a handy feature that allows you to lift Rover by the handle if you need to help him over obstacles or rough terrain. It could also help you keep hold of him when crossing deep water.

Designed for high visibility on the trail, all RUFFWEAR dog packs come in bright, vibrant colors with reflective trim. This certainly makes Rover easy to spot, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your situation.

The RUFFWEAR Palisades Dog Pack makes a perfect 72-hour bag. It even comes with two one-liter collapsible hydration bladders and features a cross-load compression system to help evenly distribute the weight of that water.

For about two-thirds the price of the Palisades, you can outfit Rover with the RUFFWEAR Approach Dog Pack. This model is closer to the pack we use for my dog. It has roomy compartments, convenient quick-access stash pockets, and it’s made of lightweight nylon fabric.


Outward Hound

The Outward Hound focuses on all things canine, not just outdoor gear. The Outward Hound DayPak makes a suitable no-frills 24-hour canine bug-out bag, and it is super affordable.


“Tactical” Saddlebags

Hiking packs tend to come in vibrant colors, even when the packs are designed for dogs. So, what do you do if you don’t want Rover to look like he just stepped out of a brightly colored Patagonia ad when the SHTF?

OneTigris makes some awesome, highly durable dog packs with a more tactical look and feel. The compartments may not be quite as roomy as some of the hiking brands, but when it comes to durability, these guys know a thing or two. Their bags are also way more affordable than hiking packs marketed for Millenials looking to spoil their “furbabies”.

The OneTigris Mammoth Dog Pack gets high marks from both dogs and their owners. This model has two side pouches each with cross bungee cords for water bottles or extra gear. It also features loop panels for cool morale patches and a breathable mesh lining to help keep Fido cool and comfortable.


Fitting In

If you do need to evacuate with your dog, Rover could end up spending a lot of time in his bug-out gear. That means finding a pack that fits him comfortable is an absolute must.

Companies don’t always size their products the same way, so it isn’t always as easy as buying a “large” or “small” pack. Your pup could need a medium pack from one brand and a large from another.

Most brands size their packs by weight. However, not all 50-pound dogs are built exactly alike. A 50-pound Siberian Huskie isn’t built like a 50-pound bulldog.

Because dogs of the same weight can have vastly different body structures, chest circumference is usually the best way to size a canine backpack.

However, the only foolproof way to find the perfect fit is for Rover to try it on.

Once you have the pack on your dog’s back and have the straps fastened, check to make sure there aren’t any places that are extra loose or too tight. A pack that is too tight could make it hard for your dog to breathe, especially when he is physically active. A pack that is too loose could rub Rover and cause uncomfortable chafing.

Dog Bug-Out Packing List

Once you have the perfect pack for your pooch, it’s time to stock it with supplies. Here’s a quick run-down of what Rover needs.

  • Water – Most dogs will consume between 1-2 ounces of water for each pound of body weight per day. Water is heavy (a gallon weighs about 8 pounds), so few dogs are strong enough to carry a three-day supply. Consider packing a portable water filter or water purifying tablets for both of you.
  • A collapsible water dish (Unless you don’t mind sharing your own).
  • High-calorie dog treats.
  • Canine first aid kit.
  • Back-up collar and leash – in case your primary breaks or you need some extra leash length to tether your dog.
  • Dog booties – to protect your pup’s paws from ice, extreme heat, or sharp, rocky terrain.
  • Poop bags  – While it might seem like overkill to worry about poop in a survival situation, you never know what the apocalypse may hold. Besides, they can be used for plenty of things besides your dog’s number two.
  • Muzzle – Even if you think Rover would never bite someone on a normal day, emergency situations are not normal. A muzzle can be extremely handy if your dog becomes injured. Dogs (and people) can become violent and unpredictable when in pain. Rover could try to bite while you are stitching a wound or removing a splinter.
  • Comfort items – Packing a favorite toy or blanket can help ease your pet’s stress in unfamiliar circumstances.

Final Thoughts

Canines have rightfully earned a place as “man’s best friend.” However, most of us view our pets as full-fledged members of the family. When you are creating an emergency plan for your family, don’t forget to include your dog.

Have you ever had to evacuate with your pet? Have any tips you’d like to share? Hit us up in the comments.

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