Bushcraft with dog: Equipment, leash requirement and hunters
Bushcraft with dog: Learn the basics you need to consider: provisions, equipment, safety, leash regulations, hunters, and how to handle your dog.
From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.
👉 The key facts from this guide
- It is important that your dog is well-trained and listens to your commands before taking them on a bushcraft tour.
- You should always have enough food and water for your dog.
- It is essential that your dog is protected against ticks and other parasites.
- You should always have a first aid kit for your dog.
- It is advisable to keep your dog warm in cold weather. A dog sleeping bag can be helpful in this regard.
- You should always make sure that your dog is not too far away from you and that they do not get into dangerous situations.
Bushcraft with a dog can be an entirely new and great experience for you. However, there are a few things to consider making your trip successful for you and your beloved pet.
Provisions, Equipment, Safety, Leash Requirements, Hunters, and Handling your dog are the most important topics. This guide aims to cover all your questions and provide you with tips for "Bushcraft with Dog".
A dog is completely individual
There are dogs that have long fur and only need a surface to sleep on. These four-legged friends are used to nature. The wilderness is still in their genes. They require something to eat and that's it. They find water themselves.
On the other hand, there are dogs that are more dependent on their owner. They require blankets, special food, rain protection, or a dog sleeping bag.
Just like with humans, it's the same with dogs: Dogs are completely individual and therefore have different demands and needs.
Surely, you know your dog best and can assess exactly what he requires. A Dalmatian may still need a blanket in the summer. In contrast, a sled dog has no problems with temperatures at 0 degrees.
If you don't consider some of the following advice necessary, then skip that part. But there will surely be dog owners who have been looking for exactly this advice. Let's get started!
What are the important requirements?
If you've ever been in the woods with a dog, you might know this: it rustles, a mouse or a hare has been sniffed out or spotted.
The trail has been picked up.
Your dog runs away.
So, what now? Will he stop when you call him, or will he ignore you?
Such situations will not be avoided by most dogs in the forest. You have to consider how you deal with it.
It makes sense to attend a dog school with your dog. Serious imprinting and socialization errors usually cannot be corrected later. Your relationship with the dog can become exhausting as a result.
If you still have a puppy, go to a puppy school. Otherwise, at least one basic obedience course is recommended. Regularly engage with your dog so that you become a great team.
You must not forget one thing: The best foundation for a partnership with your dog is good training. The better your dog harmonizes with you, the more fun you will have together.
The Route and the Equipment
If your dog is still a puppy, don't overload him. Take on small distances and see how your dog can keep up. In dogs under one year, the bone structure is still growing.
Later on, you can also have your dog carry his things (food, water, sleeping mat). You can do this with a dog backpack, and you can start with most dogs from their first birthday.
When going on your bushcraft trip in the forest, remember the following:
- Is your dog protected against ticks?
- Has your dog received all the necessary vaccinations?
- Do you have a tick removal tool with you?
- Do you have a dummy with you for search games, free play, target games?
I also recommend checking out my article "Ticks: How to protect yourself and remove them". You can apply this to your dog as well.
What you need for a day trip with your dog
You don't need much to spend a day in nature with your dog. Here's my recommendation:
- Folding feeding bowl (€ 8-12, buy here)
- Leash (optimal to have a short and long one)
- Paw balm (for long hikes)
- Dog tent with mosquito net (optional in summer, buy here)
Reading tips with packing list as PDF: What do you require when camping with your dog?
What you need for an overnight stay with your dog
Firstly, you should make sure that your dog is comfortable sleeping outside in the bushcraft camp. Some dogs are not used to sleeping in a tent or under a hammock.
Additionally, depending on the season and breed of your dog, you will need a blanket. I find a thermal blanket for dogs very practical for this purpose. A regular isomatte with aluminum coating is also useful.
If your beloved pet requires even more warmth, consider a dog sleeping bag. Brands like Ruffwear have made a good name for themselves in this area. Here is a recommendation:
kein Preis ermittelbar (B00XREGXAW)
In the dark, a glow collar with LED is indispensable (it's pitch black in the forest!). Or a safety light that is attached to the harness. For example, I find the lights from Orbiloc quite practical.
At night, there are rustling sounds in the forest and your dog will definitely react to them. Find a reliable attachment for your dog. A sturdy tree with a tear-resistant leash is sufficient.
If you want to know what your four-legged friend is up to at night, attach the leash to yourself. This way you always know when something is moving around your bushcraft camp.
Or take your dog with you into the tent. He makes a great heat cushion and is also soft. :-)
Where exactly he sleeps, of course, depends on the very individual preferences of you and your dog. You will surely have to find out first.
What you can practice beforehand
Dog school: as already mentioned above, you should complete at least basic training with your dog in a dog school.
Dog backpack: You can use this not only on your bushcraft trips, but also when shopping with your dog. This is a good training opportunity for everyday life.
Sleeping/lying in a tent: Your dog may wonder what a tent is. Practice sleeping in a tent in your garden.
Why you shouldn't let your dog run free
Dogs have more or less of a hunting instinct. This is due to their genetics and can never be completely suppressed. If you have a hunting dog, you surely know this hunting instinct very well.
The hunting instinct can lead to a problem: unwanted hunting in the forest. Heard a noise? Seen a deer? Smelled something? And boom, your dog is gone. He is no longer responsive when the scent of game is in the air.
If your dog reacts like this, you should always put him on a leash. Not just for your sake, but also for the forest inhabitants.
From mid-March onwards, in many forests, it is the breeding and nesting season and leash laws apply (more on that below). During this time, many animals breed, lay their eggs, and wildlife gives birth to offspring.
A free-roaming dog with a strong hunting instinct can significantly impact this ecosystem. It scares off nesting birds, causing their eggs to become cold. In most cases, the unhatched birds die as a result. But even young animals, such as deer, are separated from their parents. They then become lost and die without care.
Do a favor not only for the forest inhabitants, but also for your dog. For example, I wouldn't wish any dog to encounter an aggressive boar (which can weigh up to 400 kg) or a sow that protects her young until death.
And I am convinced that most Bushcrafters are true nature lovers and do not want to harm nature. Wouldn't it be reasonable then to take a long leash? This way, everyone in the forest has the greatest possible freedom.
And this danger also arises: If your dog chases after wild animals, he poses a threat. According to the hunter, he is then a poaching dog.
Wild dogs in the forest
You must always remember that hunting rights holders are allowed to shoot stray dogs that are chasing or endangering game, depending on the federal state.
For example, hunting rights holders are allowed to do this in the most extreme emergency. An emergency would be when all measures taken to secure the dog no longer work. But be careful, it is not only allowed to shoot in emergencies. In some federal states (such as Berlin and Brandenburg), it is already allowed to shoot a poaching dog if it is no longer within the range of influence of the dog owner.
Leash requirement in the forest
In addition, in most federal states, there is a leash obligation. The leash obligation in German forests is regulated in the respective forest laws of the federal state.
I have summarized the information on leash requirements in a concise table below (as of October 2019). If you engage in bushcraft with your dog, make sure to read everything carefully.
|State||Leash requirement in forests?||Can hunters shoot?||Law|
|Baden-Württemberg||No leash requirement, only on children's playgrounds, play and sunbathing areas, and water treading systems (§83 paragraph 2 no. 8)||Yes, for dogs that chase wild game||LWaldG BaWü|
|Bavaria||No leash requirement||Yes, for dogs that chase wild game||BayWaldG|
|Berlin||Leash requirement, except in designated areas (§23 paragraph 1 no. 2)||Yes, for dogs that chase wild game and if the dog is not under the control of its owner||LWaldG Berlin|
|Brandenburg||Leash requirement (§15 paragraph 8)||Yes, for dogs that chase wild game and if the dog is not under the control of its owner||LWaldG Brandenburg|
|Bremen||Leash requirement during the general breeding, nesting, and rearing season (March 15 to July 15), outside of this season, dogs are only allowed to roam freely on forest paths||Yes, for dogs that chase wild game and if the dog is not under the control of its owner||Hundehaltung in Bremen|
|Hamburg||Leash requirement, dogs must even be on a short leash and are not allowed on forest recreation areas (§11 paragraph 1 no. 4)||No information available||LWaldG Hamburg|
|Hesse||No leash requirement||Yes, for dogs that chase wild game and if the dog is not under the control of its owner||HWaldG Hesse|
|Mecklenburg-Vorpommern||Leash requirement (§29 paragraph 2)||Yes, for dogs that chase wild game and if the dog is not under the control of its owner||LWaldG Mecklenburg-Vorpommern|
|Lower Saxony||Leash requirement during the general breeding, nesting, and rearing season from April 1 to July 15 (§33 paragraph 1)||Yes, for dogs that chase wild game and if the dog is not under the control of its owner||NWaldG Lower Saxony|
|North Rhine-Westphalia||Leash requirement, except on forest paths (§2 paragraph 3)||Yes, for dogs that chase wild game and if the dog is not under the control of its owner||LFoG North Rhine-Westphalia|
|Rhineland-Palatinate||No leash requirement||Yes, for dogs that chase wild game and if the dog is not under the control of its owner||LWaldG Rhineland-Palatinate|
|Saarland||During the breeding and nesting season from March 1 to June 30, according to §33 of the new hunting law, only dogs that reliably stay on the paths are allowed to be unleashed. This practically means the introduction of a leash requirement for the majority of household dogs during this period.||Cats and dogs may no longer be killed. Dogs that chase game must be reported to the local public order office, which will then take further action.||LWaldG Saarland|
|Saxony||No leash requirement||Yes, for dogs that chase wild game. But shooting the dog is not allowed if it has only temporarily moved out of the owner's control||SächsWaldG Saxony|
|Saxony-Anhalt||Leash requirement only during the general breeding, nesting, and rearing season from March 1 to July 15 (§28 paragraph 2)||Yes, for dogs that chase wild game and if the dog is not under the control of its owner||WaldG LSA Saxony-Anhalt|
|Schleswig-Holstein||Leash requirement (§17, paragraph 2 no. 3)||Yes, for dogs that chase wild game and if the dog is not under the control of its owner||LWaldG Schleswig-Holstein|
|Thuringia||Leash requirement (§6, paragraph 2)||Yes, for dogs that chase wild game. But shooting the dog is not allowed if it has only temporarily moved out of the owner's control||ThürWaldG Thuringia|
Attention, if your dog falls under the category of "dangerous dogs", then you must read up on leash laws particularly well. These are dogs that are on breed lists or are officially classified as dangerous. You can find all the special regulations in the dog owner laws and regulations of the states.
If you let your dog run free
And even outside the breeding and nesting season, the dog is still a hunter. Even well-trained dogs sometimes run off and can no longer be called back.
So think carefully about how you handle this topic. Dog on a leash? Yes or no? Consider the consequences that threaten you and your dog. Failure to comply with the leash law is punishable by a fine of up to €50,000. Usually, the fine is significantly lower, but often remains in the three-digit range!
But seriously: it's not primarily about the money and the penalties. Imagine your dog getting shot (or even killed) by a hunter just because he was running around freely. Whether the hunter was entitled to do so or not doesn't matter at first.
Your dog is critically injured or even dying.
Think about this situation and then consider how you deal with the leash obligation.
Bushcraft with a dog can be really fun. Enjoying the sunset together by the campfire. Everything is alright in the world for every dog lover.
However, a lot of practice is typically necessary to achieve this goal. Depending on the breed of dog, it is important to control the hunting instinct.
Whether you tackle it yourself or with a good dog trainer, there's not much standing in the way of a visit to the wilderness. In general, you have to be able to rely on your dog.
Furthermore, you have to consider what you can trust your dog to do. Can he handle long distances? Can he carry his provisions? How does he sleep during overnight stays?
It is significant to also consider the laws that need to be followed. Or else, you will have to live with the consequences.
And now tell me in the comments, how do you do Bushcraft with your dog?
Do you have your favorite on a leash? Does he run off at every sound? Where does your dog sleep?
Sources for the guide
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