Summer is upon us, with its irresistible invitation to visit parks, trails, and beaches, accompanied by our favorite canine companions. Along with the doggie days of summer comes the hidden threat of dehydration – for us and our dogs – and its deadly companion, heat stroke.
Every good hiker knows how important it is to stay hydrated. We also know that water can be hard to come by on those rugged mountaintop trails, and that the only water at some beaches is briny and undrinkable. What’s a responsible canine caretaker to do?
Lots of dogs have learned to lap from the end of their guardian’s sports bottle, but that coats your sports bottle tip with dog slobber, and wastes the water you worked so hard to bring along. Pet product companies have come to the rescue. The active dog owner can choose from a variety of water bottles designed with the hiking hound in mind.
A good dog bottle should be sturdy, easy to fill, easy to dispense water from, hold an ample water supply, come with a workable dish from which your dog can drink, be comfortable to carry, not leak (duh!), and be reasonably priced. Insulated sleeves to keep water cool are a bonus, and also provide a nice padded cushion for that bottle that is banging on your hip.
We evaluated five water bottles, and found at least a couple that we would be more than happy to take along on our next hike.
We like how the Walk-n-Water, a relatively tough, flask-shaped plastic bottle laid comfortably flat against our side when we slipped the nylon carrying-strap over our heads. Plus, the bottle and its own plastic water bowl snap together snugly to make a tidy, unobtrusive package. The bottle does not leak, either lying down, held upright, or even held upside down. It holds about four cups of water and is easy to fill.
We especially appreciated the products that allowed humans and dogs to share the water – without having to share the bowl! With its separate bowl for the dog, and a pop-up spout similar to those on sports bottles, you can squeeze water into the bowl, and drink from the spout yourself. The mid-range price on our top-rated bottle is icing on the cake!
The plastic water bottle provided with the thermo-Sac holds 1.5 liters (about six cups) – the greatest capacity of any of the products we evaluated, making it a better choice, perhaps, for those all-day hikes with multiple dogs. But we found it less comfortable to carry than the flatter, sleeker Walk-n-Water; being rounder, the thermo-Sac bangs more against your side.
Banging aside (sorry), we liked the sunshine-yellow insulated water bottle carrier with its matching folding water bowl. The top of the insulated sleeve zips open in order to accept the bottle. The bottle slides in snugly but easily. It takes a little extra pressure to pull the top over the bottle and fit the spout through the hole provided for that purpose, but it wasn’t difficult, and it’s nice that the bottle absolutely cannot bounce in or fall out of the carrier. The insulation keeps the water cool for several hours.
The soft, folding water bowl (the pet-Sac) attaches to the carrying-strap with a Velcro loop, so it is easy to remove for use at watering time. Again, it’s wonderful to be able to drink from the bottle yourself, and squeeze water into the bowl for your dog, without having to worry about swapping germs.
However, we would appreciate a second strap that goes around the wearer’s hips, or something else that could keep the bottle from banging against the person carrying it, and we would probably stuff the foldable bowl into our daypack or pocket rather than leaving it attached to the strap, where it can get in the way.
Like our top choice, the Handi-Drink2! plastic water bottle also snaps into its own dish, but the similarity ends there.
This is a round bottle that folds into a box-shaped trough that the dog can drink from, so it doesn’t lie as neatly against the hiker’s side as the Walk-n-Water. The unit either clips onto your belt or daypack by a plastic hook, or hangs around your neck by a slender nylon cord. Yes, cord; this is the only product we found meant for carrying water that didn’t come with a wide nylon strap. Just imagine that cord cutting into your neck or shoulder! This must explain why we see these bottles in people’s hands at the dog park, but we don’t see them out on the trail.
Also, the water-dispensing nozzle is made of rubber or rubberized plastic, with several slits cut in it, so as to release water into the trough when the bottle is squeezed. Unfortunately, there is no way to close the slits, so while the bottle does not leak when upright or laid flat on a surface, any inadvertent squeezing causes water to ooze out. It has a smaller capacity bottle than our top choices – holding only about 2 cups, but it is the least expensive of the water bottles we evaluated. This product may be fine for short hikes, but don’t cross a desert with it!
We found the Cool Pooch Bottle sold all by itself in stores, and we also found it sold by thermo-Sac, Inc., in combination with that company’s dual-Sac for $16. We like the insulated sleeve – which keeps water bottles cool and gives you a nylon shoulder strap or a Velcro belt-loop option. But we’re not fans of the Cool Pooch bottle.
It’s a clever idea, however: a plastic bottle that enables a dog and a person to share the water, with the person sipping from a straw, and then using that straw to squeeze more water into a separate cup. It’s a good idea, but in our opinion it takes a little too much work to make it work, at least, when serving the dog. A person can sip water directly from the bendable straw. To fill up the dog’s cup, one bends the tube, pointing it into the cup, and squeezes the bottle to force water into the cup for the dog to drink. Three hands would work better than two: one to bend the tube and two to squeeze the bottle (and then there is the matter of holding your dog’s leash at the same time).
The bottle’s wider mouth makes it easy to fill, but its shape and protruding tube are annoying when the bottle is worn around the neck or over a shoulder. Also, the bottle leaked if it was laid on its side and leaked more when squeezed. On the plus side, it has a capacity of 22 ounces (almost three cups).
The Travel Canteen is a plastic version of the good ol’ Western movie canteen, except that instead of unscrewing a small cap, the entire top unscrews to reveal a bowl that the dog can drink from. And therein lies the rub. When the canteen arrived, we couldn’t get the top off to save our lives! It took several people and several attempts to accomplish, and when we finally got the lid off, we found directions inside, along with a warning not to screw the top on too tightly, and not to leave it where it can get too hot, which contributes to the lid-lock. The instructions indicated that placing the canteen in a refrigerator for a couple of hours would break the seal.
This is a pretty serious design flaw for a canteen – what good will it do your dog in the middle of the desert if you can’t get the lid off?
So, while it holds an ample amount of water (four cups), certainly doesn’t leak, and is reasonably comfortable to wear, we’d advise against this one. Oh, and you wouldn’t want to share this water, either, once your canine pal slobbers into the bowl.
-by Pat Miller