Doing the Way to Santiago is a special experience for all pilgrims. If you are a dog lover, doing this peregrination with your pet will be even more special. It won’t be an easy experience, but it will make you stronger and you relationship will improve. In this page we give you advices to do the Way to Santiago with dogs.
A good starting point to do the Way to Santiago with dogs is visiting your vet and telling him your plan. He will give you some recommendations depending on your dog breed and its limitations. Besides, you should talk about protecting them of parasites. You should deworm your dog from the inside and the outside.
Ideally, you both should start your physical preparation by doing long walks. There are a lot of hiking options in Spain, look for some of them in your surroundings. Your dog’s physical condition is really important in order to plan the different stages of your way, the number of kilometres, the walking rhythm. The agre, the breed and even the size of your dog will be determining factors. You have to be realistic because you don’t want to make your dog suffer. Forget about the official stages, because they are thought for people (accommodation will be also a decisive factor too).
Each dog and each Camino are different, so each bag will be different too. This is because the needs of each dog will be different depending on the number of days, the season of the year, where you are sleeping…
It is always recommendable to have a light bag, because you are going to carry it during all your Way (of course you can also book a luggage transfer service to make this easier). If you are going to carry your bag, you should try it before starting your Way. You should carry only what you think is necessary for you and food, water, cream and some supplements for your pet (a drinker, a feeder, towell…) Remember: do not carry something unnecessary! Doing the Way to Santiago with dogs is already a challenge so try to make it easier with the bag.
The worst season to do the Way to Santiago with dogs is summer, no doubts. Heat and water shortage (especially between Logroño and León) will make your way even harder for both of you. In addition, that will increase the risk of heat stroke.
We are not saying that you can’t do it in summer, but if you do, you should take more precautions.
There is a division of opinions between carrying unleashed or leashed dogs during the Camino. Each dog is different, and nobody will know your dog better than you, so that decision is yours. However, we recommend a mixed formula. Sometimes, you will find places where there is no risk of unleashing your dog, and thus enjoy and play, which is something they need. However, there are also dangerous places during the Camino where it will be almost essential to leash your pet and keep it close: road crossings, verges… Also keep in mind that not all pilgrims like dogs, so you will have to be careful to not disturb other pilgrims.
In addition, you must keep in mind that your dog doesn’t know how you have organized the stages, so it is possible that at the beginning of a stage it starts running. In that case, it will be better to leash your dog, you will prevent your dog from getting tired too soon. Doing the Camino de Santiago with dogs will not be as difficult once the days pass, because dogs will get used to it.
Another important thing is your dog resting. An adult dog sleeps 13 hours per day on average. In addition, as they are walking a lot during the day, they will probably need even more hours of rest. That is why, if it is possible, you should let it rest when you arrive to your destination each day.
Food is also important. Usually, it is recommended to carry 2 kg of dog food and mix it with dog food cans or leftovers. This is because the fatigue makes dogs lose their appetite and maybe they won’t eat just feed. Another suggestions is having some supplementary food.
You have to keep in mind that as you are traveling with a dog, you won’t be welcome in all hostels. Therefore, you should plan your stages very well and book as soon as you can your accommodation. Sleeping in important cities will be easier because there are many pet-friendly accommodations, but even so, do not leave this for the last moment.
You have to keep in mind that the dog’s pads also suffer. If you plan to walk for many days or with a lot of heat, ideally it should wear a specific shoe to protect its pads from heat. In addition, it is convenient to apply a bit of cream daily on its pads to maintain its elasticity. If you are not going to put special footwear to your dog, it is convenient to use specific creams to harden the pads.
A good accessory for your route, will be a walking stick to scare away other loose animals.