9 Tips for Keeping Back Seat Clean When Hiking with Dogs


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Jen and I love hiking with our two rescue dogs, Chompers and Mia. Chompers is 16 now and Mia is 11 and both of them have been on hundreds of hikes.

The only real drawback that we have run into over all these years of taking our girls hiking is how to keep the back seat clean when we’re hiking with our dogs.

Between the hair and muddy paws, your back seat can turn into a disaster quick!

In this article I’m going go over the best tips that we have learned over the years to keep our back seat as clean as possible while transporting two dogs to and from weekly hiking adventures.

Pre-Hike Tips

Sometimes the best offense is a good defense. In this case, if you can set up a defense for your back seat before you head out the better chance you have for it to not be destroyed after the hike.

Use a Back Seat Cover

If you’re trying to keep your back seat clean from your four legged hiking companions, then chances are you’ve already looked into or at least thought about getting a back seat cover for your car or SUV.

They really are the best way of keeping hair, dirty paws and nails from wreaking havoc on your back seat.

The problem is, we’ve gone through about a half dozen back seat covers and it’s not as easy as you’d think to get a back seat cover that both works, and doesn’t tear up in a month.

After a lot of trial and error, we finally found this Frisco Hammock Car Seat Cover on Chewy.

This cover stays in place and protects your seat from mud and scratching from dogs that like to dig around before they lay down (like ours do). It also has held up longer than any other back seat cover we’ve ever had.

Finally, it’s a hammock style back seat cover which means it covers not only the back seat, but it also connects to the back of the front seats and creates a, well, hammock. This works great to create a barrier to help keep our girls from trying to come up over the console and into the front seat.

Use a Sheet Under Your Back Seat Cover

When we first started taking our dogs hiking, we were… how do I put this… super poor. So our first version of a back seat cover was just an old sheet.

Then we progressed to being able to buy actual back seat covers. They worked much better overall than the seat, except for one particular weakness. Dog hair would still accumulate under the cover and still end up on the seat.

So, we started placing an old sheet over the back seat first. Drape it over the back rest and seat and tuck into the sides and where ever you can find that will help keep it in place. Then put your back seat cover in place.

This double layer of protection does a great job of keeping our back seat clean.

Brush Your Dogs Before Your Hike

One of the best ways to keep hair out of your car is to brush your dogs before your hike. This may seem obvious – getting all the loose hair off your pups will lessen the amount that ends up in your car.

As obvious as it may be, you still have to actually do it. I know for us, we don’t remember to do it nearly as often as we should. It’s usually that moment five minutes into a drive where one of us looks at the other and says, “we should’ve brushed them.” Yep.

It you can remember (and stick to) brushing them before hiking trips it will make a big difference.

Check The Weather

Weather Forecast

Did it rain last night? Is it about to rain this afternoon? Maybe sticking around the neighborhood is a better option then heading to the nearest trail.

Let’s be real, you’re taking dogs out into the woods. There’s going to be dirt involved when they get back into the car.

However, you can help to avoid dogs completely caked in mud if you pay close attention to the weather.

In addition, you should also learn what nearby trails don’t hold up well when there has been rain the day before. We have one trail close to us that has a couple spots that will stay muddy days after a hard rain and we definitely avoid that trail whenever there has been rain.

BONUS TIP: Weather not looking great, but you still want to hit the trail anyway? It may be worth it to get some hiking boots for your dog to at least keep their feet clean while you’re on the trail.

Post-Hike ‘Bathing Kit’

I’m going to discuss here in a second some ways in which you can get your dogs cleaned off after a muddy hike before they get back into your car.

But, these tips won’t work if you don’t have the accessories you need. The easiest way we’ve found to make sure you have it is to just leave a bag in the car with all the supplies you’ll want.

Post Hike

You’re hike is finished. You arrive back to your car with a dog (or dogs) that “encountered” mud along the trail.

Before you let your pup hop back in the car, with the right preparation, you can give your hiking buddy a quick wash to get at least some of that mud and dirt off them.

Bathing Kit

We leave a bathing kit in our car at all times so it’s always available when it’s needed. If you’re able to put a small bag together that just stays in your car you don’t have to worry about remembering it each trip. When the kit gets used, simply restock when you get home.

Our kit is pretty simple and includes:

  • 3 Towels (preferably dark colored)
  • 2 Large Bottles of Water
  • A Brush
  • Grooming Wipes

When we get back to the car we’ll each take a dog and use the bottle of water to try to get as much excess dirt and mud off of them as possible.

If you want to take it up a notch you can go with a mixture of vinegar and water or add in a little baking soda, but we don’t get that fancy.

Once we get off the really caked on stuff, we’ll towel them off. In this stage we’re trying to dry them, but also scrubbing off a little more mud if we can. Sometimes we’ll repeat this process of using the water and towel multiple times if it’s beneficial.

Afterwards, a quick brush can help remove more dirt from their coat as well as hair that may be matted up at this point.

Finally, we keep a box of dog-friendly grooming wipes to use as a final pass through to freshen them up and take one last shot at removing as much filth as possible.

Will your dog still need a bathe when you get home? Probably. But, this should clean them at least enough to get them home.

Clean Paws Are Key

At this point, your dog is most likely going to be standing in all of the dirty water that you’ve been cleaning off of them for the past 5 minutes.

So, it’s crucial to make one last wipe down of their paws before putting them back in the car.

We find a clean corner of the towel we were using to wipe their paws down, but there are also paw cleaners built specifically for this purpose. We’ve not gotten one ourselves (yet), but we’ve heard from family they are awesome.

The Third Towel

Remember that third towel that we listed in our bathing kit? That’s for you!

You just got done washing off a muddy dog in a hiking trail parking lot. Trust me, you’re going to want a towel and probably some hand wipes to clean yourself off after all that.

Final Thoughts

There’s nothing more enjoyable than hitting the trail with your dogs, but no one wants an unusable back seat because it’s been completely destroyed by your furry hiking companions.

Follow these tips and you can go hiking with your pups and still have a back seat that can be occupied by your human friends without being embarrassed!

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Ryan H

I love hiking and being outdoors with Jen and our two rescue dogs, Chompers and Mia. I also enjoy a good weekend trail run. I'm also really enjoying sharing some of the knowledge we've learned along the way here on Zenful Hiking!

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