Doggy Pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela

Read the advice written by APACA, the Association for the Protection of Animals on the Camino, on how to enjoy the Camino with your dog.

By Regional Government of Galicia

Asociación Protectora de Animales del Camino (APACA; the Association for the Protection of Animals on the Camino)

Doggy pilgrim at the end of the worldOriginal Source: APACA

Every year, increasing numbers of pilgrims undertake the Camino pilgrimage accompanied by their four-legged friend. There are growing numbers of facilities and services provided to make this possible, putting the Camino at the forefront of dog-friendly tourism.

Polar and VegaOriginal Source: APACA

That said, a pilgrimage with a dog is not without its challenges, and there are some things you should take into account. Here are a few tips to ensure you enjoy the experience safely.

Lobo and Gulliver on their way to CompostelaOriginal Source: APACA

1. Think about your dog

Choose the most appropriate route and organize your days of walking with your dog's ability, limitations, and needs in mind, as well as taking into account the time of year. Remember that some routes will be too long or hot for your four-legged friend, even if you can manage them. The Camino is neither a race nor a competition. It is an inner journey and an experience to be shared.

Polar and Vega trainingOriginal Source: APACA

2. Physical preparation

Get yourself and your dog into shape in the weeks before you go, with daily walks that increase in length over time, on different terrains and slopes, and see how your dog copes. This will avoid unwelcome surprises in the earlier stages.

Sonia in the Sierra del PerdónOriginal Source: APACA

Don't take puppies, elderly dogs, or dogs who are unwell on the Camino. If you do, take all the necessary precautions for them: carriers, broom wagons with medical kits, dog backpack carriers, etc. Smaller breeds will need to be carried from time to time, while particular care should be taken with brachycephalic (flat faced) dogs to make sure they are coping with the heat and not fatigued.

Miguel and Sputnik (2019)Original Source: APACA

3. Accommodation

Find and reserve genuinely dog-friendly accommodation in advance. As a minimum, check that they will allow your dog to sleep in your room, and that they will not discriminate on the basis of size or weight.

Way, Mer and YiOriginal Source: APACA

4. Transport

Public transport in Spain still does not allow pets on board, and where they do, they tend to discriminate on grounds of size or weight, and in contravention of animal welfare laws. You should therefore transport your dog by car to the starting point if at all possible. One of your party could then go on to Santiago de Compostela, park the car, and come back to join you on public transport.

Frenkie, preparing for the CaminoOriginal Source: APACA

5. Your backpack

When packing, you should consider your own needs, your dog's needs, and the weight you can carry while walking. There are plenty of backpack transport services on the route, but as a minimum, you should carry water, a portable water bowl, a first-aid kit, key documents, a spare collar or harness, and a snack.

Iris and Joan with Hodor; and Susana with Pixel and Utopia (2019)Original Source: APACA

6. Health matters

Take your dog for a vet check-up before setting off, and make sure he is up to date with his vaccinations and deworming treatments. Take along any special medicine that your dog might need, and find out where the vets clinics are along the Camino (bear in mind that there are no emergency services for canine pilgrims along the route).

Vicente, Bomba and Rumba on a rainy day.Original Source: APACA

7. The climate

Although you should take steps to protect your furry friend from any sort of adverse weather, the most dangerous weather condition on the Camino is, without doubt, the heat. High temperatures and scorching asphalt can be fatal. If you're traveling in summer, choose your route carefully (avoiding routes with lots of asphalt) and avoid the middle of the day.

Yolanda with Freya and Kronos (2018)Original Source: APACA

8. Protect and look after your dog's footpads

Long stretches, extreme road surfaces with lots of gravel, or asphalt (especially when it's hot) will quickly wear away your four-legged friend's footpads. To avoid injuries, use a footpad hardener before setting off, and make sure your dog is well hydrated at the end of each day.

Polar with Paula in the Camiño de Geira e dos ArrieirosOriginal Source: APACA

9. Plan their food …

Your dog will be doing lots of exercise, and may be exposed to cold, rain, heat, or stress. You should therefore make sure he is well fed, with energy- and protein-rich food. On the busiest routes with more facilities, and if you pass through populated areas, you'll find it easy to buy what you need. If not, take it along with you, using the backpack transport service.

Vega on the French Way (2021)Original Source: APACA

10. … and their water

Hydration is one of the most important things to take into consideration: dogs lose essential fluids when they pant, and these fluids need to be replenished regularly by drinking water. There will be stretches or stages along the Way when you won't be able to find water fountains easily, so it's sensible to make sure your water bottle is always full.

Serguey with Sonia, a stop on the WayOriginal Source: APACA

11. Rest

Enough rest and a good night's sleep are essential for the challenges of the Camino, and for feeling fit and well. Remember that dogs need more sleep than humans do, so when you reach your accommodation, you should prepare your dog's space and let him recover. Choose places with shade while you walk, and let him refresh himself in rivers and fountains.

Doggy encounters on the French Way (2021)Original Source: APACA

12. On or off the lead?

In Galicia, dogs are legally permitted to walk off the lead on rural pathways (although the opposite is true in some municipalities). Use your common sense: put your dog on the lead when walking alongside roads or in urban areas, but let him off the lead on rural pathways, in forests, and alongside rivers, as long as your dog is well-behaved with good recall.

Mars, Pluto, Saturn and UranusOriginal Source: APACA

In fact, you'll always see dogs roaming freely in small villages. This is part of the uniqueness of rural Galicia. They are almost always harmless, even if they bark when you pass in front of what they think of as their home. Stay calm, get hold of your dog, and walk on quickly.

Bimba with Neus and Mariano with Teo collecting their Canine Compostelas (2020)Original Source: APACA

14. The Dog Compostela

On arrival in Santiago de Compostela, you'll be able to collect your well-deserved Dog Compostela (the certificate awarded to all those who complete the Camino). To get this, you'll need to present your Dog Credential, your dog's documentation (passport or registration card showing its microchip number), and, of course, the doggy pilgrim must be there with you.

Canine Credential 2020 (2020)Original Source: APACA

13. The Dog Credential

Your dog is just as much a pilgrim as you are, so don't forget to take his Dog Credential along with you. Just as with your own one, you use it to collect the stamps certifying that your dog has completed the different stages of the Camino. You can get it from APACA's website, or other participating organizations and establishments.

Meeting of the Dogfluencers at the Obradoiro (2019)Original Source: APACA

In summary: for the best approach to taking your dog on the Camino, be aware, be sensible, be responsible, and be compassionate. If, in addition, you are caring, kind, generous, friendly, sensitive, respectful, and understanding towards other people and animals, you will be living the true, universal values of the Camino.

Raquel Freiría, APACARegional Government of Galicia

Raquel Freiría, APACA

Tips for a doggy pilgrimage

Raquel Freiría provides a summary of all the tips we've covered for a successful doggy pilgrimage, in this audio clip.

Lisa, recently adopted, in her definitive homeOriginal Source: APACA

We recommend taking a look at APACA's website for the most up-to-date information. And for loads more super useful tips, the website also has a Codex Canini: a guide with practical advice and thoughts on undertaking a pilgrimage with your dog, and on living with pets, published by APACA.

Enjoy your doggy pilgrimage!

Credits: Story

This exhibition was the work of APACA.

APACA, the Asociación Protectora de Animales del Camino (Association for the Protection of Animals on the Camino). This animal protection charity was established in 2015. It was recognized as a not-for-profit organization, and awarded the Camino Prize in 2018. Its main aims are animal protection, promoting a dog-friendly society and encouraging people to complete their pilgrimage in a way that is ethical and respectful to all beings, in line with the values of the Camino.

Notes on the gender strategy used in this text to take into account inclusive language, while ensuring that the text is accessible and readable:

-When referring to "people," we mean all people, regardless of their sex.
- When referring to dogs, whether male or female, we will use "it," "he," or "they," as appropriate.
- When referring to "doggy pilgrims," we specifically mean dogs, both male and female, who are walking the Camino, and will refer to them as "it," "he," or "they," as appropriate. When referring to the team that is a dog and its owner, undertaking the Camino together, we will use the term "doggy pilgrimage" or "doggy pilgrims," as appropriate.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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