A lot of preppers actually choose to include their dogs in their bug out plans, not only with special training but by making a survival bag for their dogs. In any SHTF situation, a dog can be extremely useful, not only in terms of protection but also by carrying some extra items that you might need.
Dog bug out bags should contain similar items to what you would pack for yourself as dogs have similar needs to humans in terms of air, water, food, and shelter. Altho these are their basic needs you will need to pack extra items in their dog bug out bags such as collapsible water and food bottles, muzzle, first aid kit, dry blankets, documents, and even a flashlight. If you own a dog think of what that would mean for you and your dog in terms of logistics in an SHTF situation.
Having a good durable bug out bag will be vital in an SHTF situation. My recommendation is to go with a sturdy bag which has several compartments for storing the dog’s items Click here to check it out on Amazon.com
If you are planning to bug out anytime and have pets you should consider making them a dog bug out bag or a dog survival bag. Most people who own dogs consider them as a part of the family and in the case of and SHTF event where you are forced to bug out with your dogs, you do not want to run around your house making an improvised bag for them as you could easily forget something. Think of your pets as small humans which do actually have basic needs just like you, things like food, water, medicine and so on.
If you have several dogs make sure that each of them has their own dog bug out bag, this, of course, will mostly depend on how big your dogs are and how much weight they can carry. Before purchasing any bug out bag for your dogs make sure of the following:
- Comfort, we all know if a dog isn’t comfortable wearing something they usually goof around till they get it off, you definitely don’t want this to happen in an SHTF scenario, it might be funny but it will slow you down a lot.
- Size, make sure the dog bug out bag is made for the size of your dog, if not it might come loose or it might be tight making your dog very uncomfortable.
- Durability, while dogs do resemble their owners they usually do not care if something gets dirty or damaged so keep in mind that the dog out bag will go through some wear and tear.
- Carrying capacity, this depending mostly on your dog’s size but as a general rule it should have space to fit all their needs into their own bag, you don’t want to carry your own bug out bag and your dog’s bug out as this will consume a lot of energy.
- Camouflage, this will depend on the crisis situation, if you go on a hike make sure that your dog has a reflective west so hunters don’t mistake it for a wild animal. On the other hand, if you are in a true crisis situation and your main goal is to stay out of sight and away from people then you should go for a bug out bag with camouflage which reflects the local area.
What to pack in your dog bug out bag
Like all living creatures, we have a couple of basic necessities, air, food, water, and shelter, while your dog will probably not build its own shelter but you still need to take this in consideration when you are making your own bug out bag.
Humans usually can go without water for around 3 days, while dogs in general but also depending on the size can go without water for 4-5 days. My personal recommendation is to use 2 collapsible water bottles, this is excellent as you can collapse them when they are empty so they will occupy less space. As for why you should bring 2 of these is because when you actually bug out you will have both of them filled with freshwater, once they consume one of the bottled water you can refill it with dirty water after which you sanitize the water.
A good idea would be to have different colored collapsable water bottles so you know which one has the dirty water and which one has clean water. As dogs cannot drink water from a bottle, although I have seen some on youtube, you will need to use a collapsible dog bowl. If you are making a dog survival kit, then make sure to calculate how much water you can fit in it.
Do not let your dog drink from stagnant water sources, these are usually filled with a lot of bacteria and the last thing you want is a dog with diarrhea while bugging out. You can let him drink from streams directly if the water is clear and fast flowing. What you need to keep in mind is that your dog has the same hydration needs as you do, currently, there are no Lifestraws made for filtering water for dogs, if you need more information about Lifestraws, check out my article Do Lifestraws work? ( Or do they? ).
Make sure you pack enough food to last for 3 days, make sure it has as many calories, protein, and fat for a balanced diet. If for some reason you would think that your dog is vegan, while he might eat some vegetables this will not be enough while being outdoors for long. Most dogs are not used to be outdoors all day long and if you get them off the leash they will run around a lot in the first hour burning a lot of calories. Any dog travel bag should contain at least some treats for your dog.
- Dry food: This is excellent for them as it has most of the nutrients your dog needs, usually dry food lasts a lot longer than any other food. The problem with this is that your dog will need more water then usual digesting this food, keep this in mind especially if you are in a more arid climate.
- Wet food: Altho not a must-have for a dogs bug out bag I do still recommend them, my recommendation is in the evening when you have already set up camp to mix in some dried food with wet food so he can have a bigger meal.
- Treats: All dogs love treats, when your dog was just a puppy you have probably trained it with treats, bugging out can be stressful for man and animal alike so give him a small treat every time he is a good boy.
If you have already packed a collapsible bowl for your dog’s water needs, you can also use this for his food. Do not let him eat from the ground as dogs are not picky eaters and who knows what he could ingest while eating from the ground directly. If you are planning to feed your dog with some kind of powdered food I do not recommend it, while these are nutritious most dogs are not accustomed to eating powdered food. In this case, my recommendation is to get some canned foods, if you want more information about canned foods, check out my article Longest lasting canned foods ( Up to 30+ years ).
Depending on what climate you live in your dog will need some form of insulation from the outside elements. If you are in a more colder climate you might think that your dog would be just fine sleeping outside, while some dogs are but the vast majority are not and it doesn’t rely on matter how big or furry your dog might be. Odds are that your dog is used to the inside temperature of your home and sleeping outside could actually make him sick.
- Dog blanket: Most dogs in their puppy stage take a liking to a blanket on which they usually sleep, this way he is not sleeping directly on the ground and actually comforts the dog.
- Dog poncho: Dog’s do not mind getting wet, altho in certain scenarios, this could be dangerous if your dog is running around wet all day long. If your region has a lot of rainfall or high humidity you could protect your dog with a poncho, these are relatively cheap but you can also improvise with something as simple as a garbage bag.
- Dry towel: Once your dog gets wet, make sure you dry him off, we all know as people how uncomfortable it is when you are wet, so make sure you dry him every time he gets wet. Another benefit, if you have your dog dry, is that he doesn’t smell like a wet dog anymore.
Now you might ask yourself why would a dog need a flashlight, actually, the flashlight is not for your dog but for yourself. While dogs have excellent night vision, we as humans have to rely on tools to see during the night. Once the evening comes and you are still traveling put a flashlight on your dog’s collar, this way you can easily see them if they are off the leash. My recommendation is to get a hand-cranked, solar-powered flashlight and most importantly waterproof.
This way you do not have to pack extra batteries, and if it is waterproof you don’t need to worry if your dog gets wet.
During your bug out journey, there will be times when you need your dog to stay quiet. Usually, when dogs get stressed they tend to bark a lot which can be heard from several miles away and if you do not want to attract attention to yourself you will need a muzzle. Muzzles also will prevent your dog to bite somebody altho in most situations you will rely on your dog for security and in this case, you should take off the muzzle.
My recommendation is to get a leather muzzle especially if your dog is going to wear it for longer periods of time as the leather ones are more comfortable for them as the metal ones.
Make sure to also pack the Certificate of Vaccinations of your dog, my recommendation is to pack this along with your other documents in your own bug out bag. If you want to be extra safe make a copy of these documents and have one in each of your dog’s bug out bags in addition to having one in your own bug out bag. In my recent article Do fireproof bags really work ( Or do they? ), I point out that the best items to store in fireproof bags are your documents, even if there is no fire hazard it is still a good idea as these bags are also water-resistant.
This is fairly situational of what kind of SHTF scenario you are facing, you might think these are only useful in a gas attack but these will be useful in places where dust storms are frequent or if a major earthquake hits making a lot of dust.
You should use a dog whistle for training your dogs, usually, these work on such high frequencies that we can not hear them with the human ear but dogs will hear them. This is especially useful if you are trying to stay away from people as yelling for your dog’s name for hours could attract people and wild areas.
Your dog’s bug out bag will suffer some wear and tear and usually, the first things which break are the plastic clips. You do not need to buy new ones as I bet you have some old backpack in your garage, just take down the plastic clips and reuse them or use them as a backup.
Depending on where you are bugging out you should consider getting some dog shoes as well. Dogs are not that concerned with safety and if you need to travel on foot a lot while bugging out they might end up with blisters or cuts on their paws, having a dog that hops around on 3 legs will slow you down a lot. Make sure that you get your dog accustomed to the dog shoes as they will find it uncomfortable at first.
In addition to dog shoes, you might want to get some socks as well especially if you are in a wet environment. Just as for humans get some extra pairs and change their socks every time you get a fire going and dry off the used ones. If you are on a budget and let us face it most of us are my recommendation is to buy baby socks, these usually come in 10 packs and are way cheaper then actual socks make for dogs.
First aid kit
Just as humans dogs also need their own first aid kits. My recommendation is to get a pre-made first aid kit and add items that your dog might need in addition. You should put this first aid kit in their dog bag in case they get injured and someone finds them, this way they can help them on the spot. Make sure that you take your dog to a veterinarian before an actual SHTF and check him if he has some kind of condition like allergies or parasites and to treat them. Dog 72-hour kits usually come with first aid kits, just make sure you check before.
You should also add pain medicine to the first aid kit, just make sure that the medicine is actually made for dogs and not humans or any other animals.
Things to consider before bugging out with your dog
In terms of basic needs dogs are not so much different to humans, altho depending on what breed they are they might become an asset or a liability during your bugging out journey. Do not neglect the psychological and physical effects of bugging out on your dog as in most cases they will sense that something is wrong. Dogs just as humans burn energy much faster being outdoors, keep this in mind while feeding them as they will most likely need extra calories.
Do not forget their higher water needs in arid environments and higher calorie needs in colder environments.
Same a for humans in case of an SHTF you and your dog will become stressed. The dog will most likely become stressed as a result of seeing you stressed, usually dogs sense our emotional well being and if you are panicking your dog will most likely panic as well. While people panicking can result in unpredictable actions in the case of dogs they will either hide or go on the offense and see everybody near their owner as a threat.
If your dog is not used to being off the leash and dos not listen to your commands when he is off the leash than you need to start training them asap, no matter how old your dog is it is of utmost importance that your dog follows your command especially in an SHTF situation. There is nothing worse when your dog just runs off and you are trying to flee an imminent danger.
My personal recommendation is to train him with a muzzle or some other type of similar equipment. Just as when you touch the dog leash and he flips out of joy he needs to know that this is not an ordinary walk and he needs to behave himself. In addition to this make sure to bring some treats with you and do not forget to pet him once in a while, as in an SHTF situation you most likely be very serious and dogs need to know that you still love them.
Your dog must have a good physical condition if you are planning to bug out with him as we all know that once they get exhausted they simply refuse to move, and there couldn’t be a worse time to carry your dog in your arms then in an SHTF situation. If your dog has some kind of medical condition make sure to also pack his medicine, while tending to your dog might be difficult while traveling, the lack of it could be much worse in the long run.
My suggestion is to take your dog on long hikes in wooded area where he can also get used to the different smells and animals. Dogs can last without food and water for a little bit longer than humans altho after the first 3 days, their condition will spiral out of control.
Some dogs are not suitable for carrying a bug out bag due to their size or medical condition, in this case, you need to carry their bug out bag in addition to yours. If you have a small dog such as a Yorkshire, French Bulldog, etc their bags would be much lighter as they tend to eat and drink less due to their size, these kinds of dogs are not suitable for long travel and my advice is that you should put them in a pouch while traveling.
Best dogs for bug out
The following list of dogs is based on their natural instinct, basic obedience training, and proper socialization. This means that these dogs have to be trained like any other dog but do not need any extra training what so ever. Many dog breeds have been selectively bred to be protective and loyal which will become very useful in a bug-out situation. No matter what kind of dog breed you go for all of them will need some basic training with which you will establish how your dog should behave and have the ability to control him under stressful situations.
Another very important thing to keep an eye out is how social the dog breed is, ideally you would want a dog which is fearlessly loyal to his adopted family, calm in panic situations, loving with children, friendly towards other dogs and cautious of other people.
The dog’s size will affect how good of a bug out dog he might become, altho by size, I mean genetic size and not how fat he can become. Size not only impacts how heavy their dog bug out bag can be but it also acts as a deterrent against people who might want to harm you or your family. Energy levels are also very important as bugging out with a large and lazy dog will be kind of difficult, on the other hand, a very high energy dog breed can be counterproductive as while you are not at home they could easily destroy everything.
This list of dogs in addition to being a good choice for a bug out dog is also excellent home defenders.
Akita’s usually live for 10-15 years and are around 75-125 lbs for a large male. This dog is confident, energetic and big enough to take down a man. He is also devoted to his adopted family especially to children but it can get aggressive to dogs with which he is not familiar. If you have an Akita pup make sure to let him socialize especially with other dogs so he doesn’t get aggressive towards them later on.
Due to their size, these make an excellent bug out dogs as they can carry a heavy bug out bag and offer you and your family protection. They also have larger fur than some of the other dogs on this list which makes them excellent for more colder environments.
These live 10-12 years and weigh from 80-125 lbs, these dogs are very courageous, protective and trainable. These dogs were bred for guarding and protecting, this dog is on the larger size but maintains excellent athletism. If you have ever seen a Cane Corso you know how intimidating they can look, anybody with a brain will stay out of your way while bugging out with this breed. Altho this breed is fierce-looking they are actually very attached to the family.
The one downside is that it is not suitable for colder climates, so if you are bugging out into a colder climate keep that in mind.
Average life expectancy of around 8-10 years and it can get up to 135 lbs. This breed will never leave your side making them an excellent guard and bug out dog, they usually less energetic then some of the other dogs on this list and you should always keep an eye out on their weight as they tend to get fat.
Having a dog that rarely leaves your side instinctively makes it an excellent companion while bugging out.
The life expectancy of 9-11 years, the weight of 85-135 lbs. Altho some of these can get to the massive size of 185 lbs they usually stay around the 85-135 lbs area. At 185 lbs they are almost unusable while bugging out, they can carry a lot of weight but they also have less energy. These dogs look very intimidating but are very loving and protective of their family.
The downside of Presa Canario is training, you need to have at least some experience in training strong-willed dogs.
Their average life expectancy is 8-10 years and weighs around 75-135 lbs. Rottweilers are natural protectors and fearless, they used to be used by law enforcement agencies in the past but due to their powerful bites on suspects made them a liability to be used by them.
The life expectancy of 10-12 years and weigh around 66-99 lbs. This is a highly intelligent and protective dog, it is not as sharp as a German shepherd but it also doesn’t need as much training as a German shepherd.
Life expectancy of 9-13 years and a weight of 60-90 lbs. This breed is highly intelligent, obedient and loyal. It is also used by numerous law enforcement agencies through the world this alone in my eyes make the german shepherd the best bug out dog.
With an average life expectancy of around 12-14 years and an average weight of 35-60 pounds. Their temperament is loyal, outgoing and fairly easy to be trained. With a thick fur, this dog is excellent for colder climates.
With a life expectancy of around 10-12 years and an average weight of around 55-75 lbs. These are highly intelligent, friendly and devoted to their adopted family. While not my first pick for a bug out dog as it doesn’t need the intimidating factor of the other dogs on this list. None the less this doesn’t mean a Golden Retriever cannot be a good choice for a bug out dog.
If you have an SHTF plan which includes bugging out and you have a dog you should always make a bug out bag for your dog, by doing this the bugging out journey will be much easier. If you are a responsible dog owner and SHTF situation occurs in your local area you should always take your dog with you as it is part of your family. Keep in mind that you will need to train your dog on how to behave once the SHTF situation occurs.