Camping and Hiking With Your Dog in NZ

Autumn rolls around with epic weather windows, cool mornings, and clear days. The calling was strong: Robin is off to the mountains with her dog Kea!

These four days tramping would be Kea’s first big trip. At almost two, she’s been coming out on bike day trips for a while, but this time the stars finally aligned for her first multiday trip. The West Coast of New Zealand is a backcountry mecca, an amazing gateway to many different routes through the Southern Alps, and a great place to go tramping with dogs. I was excited to  experience a new route with my best friend.

Dogs love tramping and hiking-- Literally all-day walks!  l was about to learn the many different moods to the hiking dog--almost as many as the tramping human.  A few of my favourites were:


“Walk is beginning! SO many smells, so much space. We run ahead, we run back, we sniff, we run again. Human, hurry up!”


“Cross the rapids? How? What? Where? Why are you doing it? Do I need to do it? I really, really don’t know about this. Okay, okay here I come. THESE ROCKS ARE SLIPPERY! Oh I made it. We’re all good.”

This was the first crossing on a small side stream,  but did provide a great warm-up for what was to come...


River crossing dog nz

The first crossing. Little did she know...


Swing bridges

“OH HELL NO.  Nope, na da, no way. Not getting within 10ft of that thing. It doesn’t even have sides. We’ve reached an impossible barrier. I’ll swim. No actually, that’s looks really scary too.”

 The solution? A ride across Mum’s shoulders. Lucky we practised this as a pup! I’m a helicopter mum, so in absence of having a harness for her, I put her on my shoulders and carried her across.


dog Being carried across a swing bridge nz

Swing bridge fear is real, and so far not a 'normal' walk!


You can watch a seasoned professional, Iain Graham, crossing a swing bridge above. 


The least impressed with bush bashing

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more unimpressed face than Kea following me through three hours of off-track creek, bush, and alpine scrub bashing. Not a fan. Every time I look back, she’s right at my heels. At one point, she watched me struggle through a particularly tricky bit with a look saying: “You chose this, but I guess I follow”

The most impressed with scrambles beyond a humans ability

In direct opposition to in unenthusiastic bush bashing, is the look on Kea’s face when she’s figured out a better way to the top of a root and rock scramble and is staring down from above, almost genuinely confused. “Why so slow human? You should’ve gone the way I went”.


misty views with dog nz

Misty outlooks


 Reassurance (from Kea to me!)

When the going is slow, and I pause to catch my breath or check the route, I’m guaranteed  a reassuring lick on the legs from Kea. Either that, or it’s the combination of sweat and blood from bush scratches running down my legs.


On the tops she is queen of the mountain

Maybe she does like tramping! So much to sniff, insects to chase and FROLICK on the tops. Tail wagging gleefully; bounds of energy. All above the trees and the clouds!


high country hiking with dog

Tops travel, much easier!

The Kea, her namesake

Maybe it’s because I called her Kea, but she was enthralled by these birds as a pair swooped down in the evening. I watched her track them, from a distance, with her alert eyes, head tilted, perched on an outcrop. Something straight out of the Lion King, and an incredibly peaceful scene overlooking the mountains.


watching the bird life

Evening Kea Watching from a far


Tired Doggo

All day walks turned into lots of mini day walks. What about naps? Every time we stop is now an opportunity for a micro nap. Sometimes, she suggests stopping by just curling up for a kip. “No? Not stopping? Okay then…” A tired Kea makes for excellent evening cuddles in my sleeping bag!


dog takes nap in the bush nz

But first, nap


DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)

Yes, dogs get DOMS, just like we do. Bless them, they don’t understand what’s happening! Their confused faces as to why it hurts to get out of bed is just priceless. But the aches while we both stretch soon dissipate (this is why training is important!)


dusk selfie! with the dog nz

Evening selfies, but someone was too distracted by the views!


Would I do it again? 

Yes! Having my best mate in the hills was pure magic. It was amazing to have a solo trip, but not feel alone. Dogs are so expressive, and it was awesome to see her gain confidence with the challenges of tramping and become more comfortable with the tricky bits. Even the swing bridges were much less of a big deal on the way home.


summit picture! Mt Ross with the adventure dog kea!

Happy Kea on the summit of Mt Ross



7 Tips For Your Dog’s First Overnight Hike:

  1. New, scary things: for some dogs, river crossings and swing bridges can be intimidating! Bring some treats and don’t be afraid to take it slow to get them used to new experiences.
  2. Tired doggo: your dog probably isn’t used to hiking all day! Make sure to take breaks throughout the day, bring more food than usual and a comfortable bed, such as the Ruffwear Highlands Dog Bed, so they can wake up rested.
  3. Birds, bears, possums oh my! Wherever you are hiking with your dog, they are likely to experience new animals. Make sure to have a leash easily accessible if you see wildlife, for the safety of the wildlife and your pup. 
  4. Sleeping arrangements: New Zealand huts do not allow dogs inside, so the best solution is to camp outside the hut with your pup. A two person, lightweight, tent works great for a dog and a human.
  5. Dog Safety Gear: think about what your pup might need to feel comfortable. If you are going across scree or snow, consider bringing some dog booties. If it will be cold and wet, a coat to keep them dry and warm.
  6. Make sure your route is dog friendly and you have the necessary permits, your local DOC office can help.
  7. Have fun! Enjoy exploring new places with your best friend.



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