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backpacking with a dog
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Evan Brodfuehrer
backpacking with a dog on 10/11/2010 18:30:57 MDT Print View

I recently adopted a dog and want to take her backpacking. I've gone with a friend before who took her dog. I want to take mine during the fall or possibly the winter. She is an Australian shepherd/collie mix. Would I need a sleeping bag/blanket for her? I have no idea how they are in cooler weather. Also, should I start out doing shorter day hikes with her? I think she's capable of overnight hikes. She's in good shape but really slows down on the trail after a couple hours or so...Thanks!

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
backpacking with a dog on 10/11/2010 19:24:56 MDT Print View

Congratulations on adopting your dog; I hope you have many pleasant years together with your new hiking buddy! You might want to search for previous dog threads--there have been a number of them.

Definitely start with short hikes and work up slowly. The same is true for a carrying a pack. Start with an empty pack and add weight grdually. Hopefully the shelter or your veterinarian can give you some idea of your dog's age. An immature dog should not be going on long hikes or carrying a pack, which can cause permanent joint damage. With larger breeds, especially those prone to hip dysplasia, that's close to 2 years old. The conditioning will also help toughen his pads so they won't get sore on longer trips.

Remember that a dog can't sweat, except through its pads, and otherwise can cool only through panting. Heatstroke is a frequent problem with dogs, and it's a veterinary emergency when it happens. To avoid this, he'll need frequent drinks of water and frequent rests to cool off in hot weather (for a dog, that's anything above 75*F). Try to avoid high, exposed trails in warm weather and look for shady trails with frequent water sources.

Training and socialization, training and socialization are the most important aspects of training a hiking dog. I strongly recommend several obedience training classes if you haven't already started. Once the dog is at the intermediate stage, consider an agility training class. If your dog is willing to run through tunnels and over teeter-totters, you will have far less trouble coping with deadfall or with crossing logs over streams.

Remember that many other people on the trail are wary of loose dogs (often with good reason). Also, many otherwise sweet and gentle dogs tend to become protective or even aggressive when in strange places. You don't want your dog chasing wildlife or barking at horse parties, which could cause a serious accident. There have also been a number of instances in which a dog has gotten too close to a cliff edge and gone over. For these reasons, unless your dog is thoroughly trained to stay right next to you and ALWAYS come when called, keep him on leash. I have trained my dog to stay on the trail right behind me, and I put him on leash when hikers, horses, wildlife or, especially, other dogs appear. Letting the dog go ahead makes him think he is the leader instead of you. It also creates an interesting situation if the dog stops right in front of you to check out an interesting smell! I've found that it's far better to keep mine either behind me or alongside in the "heel" position, depending on how wide the trail is.

I take a closed cell foam pad--basically a cut down "blue" or "green" pad--for my dog to sleep on. My dog is a Lab, and with his downy undercoat theoretically should be fine below freezing. However, he is an indoor dog at home, so he wears a jacket on really cold nights or if his fur is wet (to keep his wet fur separated from my sleeping bag).

Your dog may also need booties if you're traveling over rough, rocky or gravelly ground. For snow, clipping the hair between his pads helps, and using vaseline or (better) beeswax may be better than using booties (which cover up the dog's natural "crampons"). In our volcanic areas in the Pacific NW, things like volcanic cinders or lava can cut up a dog's pads in a big hurry, and the booties are essential.

Be sure your dog has all his shots and that you use a flea/tick treatment (Frontline or K9 Advantix) monthly. Check with your veterinarian on health aspects and on first-aid items to take for your dog.

tommy d
(vinovampire) - F
barkpacking light on 10/11/2010 19:30:19 MDT Print View

I've been taking my GSD hiking and backpacking for years. She love it, but there are a few things that I feel are really important.

First, it's important to always have your dog completely under control - for it's safety and for others. For instance, where we hike there a plenty of porcupines. An unleashed or uncontrolled dog can really get hurt. As you mention, I'd do a couple day hikes to see how your dog does on the trail.

When it comes to camping, the issue of control is also important. You don't want the dog running off at night chasing an animal. When we sleep under my tarp, I've been bringing a short sleeping pad and a wool blanket that I drape over her. Also, I bring a long 15 foot leash and tie it to a tree or stake it to the ground. That way she can get out from under the tarp to pee, but can't wander off. At first I was worried that she's have problems with the guylines, but she's really good about avoiding them.

Overall, I think you have to keep the dog warm and off the ground at night, and under control so it can't get hurt or into trouble. I hope this helps. Enjoy!

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Trail dawgs on 10/11/2010 20:22:10 MDT Print View

My Aussie has done very well on day hikes, but I wonder what he would do at night if there were beasties outside-- visions of my tent getting ripped up. He's gone through a window screen at home. I don't want him facing off with a bear or cougar, let alone a skunk or porcupine.

Temperature wise-- inside your shelter on a foam pad should be okay into the mid-30F. I guess you could add a fleece blanket. Aussies have a pretty thick coat and were bred for wandering the Western US taking care of sheep. Of course, your dog is acclimated to home life. I would start in the summer and work into cooler nights.

He likes his pack and loves to get out:
Hiking Aussie

He's pretty good in the outfield too:
Dog with fly ball

Joseph Reeves

Locale: Southeast Alaska
Re: backpacking with a dog on 10/11/2010 21:52:00 MDT Print View

We took Maes with us on a 29 mile bushwhack in late February, and she comes with her friend Tim on most every hike/backpacking trip he takes. Mighty dog. Sleeps with him on a fleece blanket, but has a tendency to bark at the wind and roam around camp in the early hours. She won't carry her own gear, or even her food. Occasionally enjoys rolling in dead salmon. But, she is fun to watch and scares the bears.

here with a flipper bone (probably sea lion)
Maes gets a flipper bone

And helping with the fire
Tim and Maes

Edited by Umnak on 10/11/2010 21:53:11 MDT.

Evan Brodfuehrer
thanks! on 10/12/2010 03:50:15 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone for your insight! Greatly appreciated.

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Dogs on 10/12/2010 09:37:11 MDT Print View

+1 to keeping your dog leashed. It's the law in designated wilderness areas but I don't see anybody but me doing it. And I haven't seen a single one under voice control either. Why it's such a big deal to keep dogs leashed, I don't know. I don't think the unleashed dogs are having more fun then mine. All I ever hear from the owners is "Sorry. Sorry. Sorry." as they catch and leash their dog. Which they immediately unleash after they pass, on their way to the next apology. I've never had to apologize for my dog. Quite the opposite. We step off the trail to let others pass and she sits quietly until I release her. She gets lots of compliments and also lots of attention. I walk her on a Flexi lead so she doesn't have to stay right beside me but I can quickly shorten up the lead when necessary. Since there's always slight tension on them, they don't get tangled in the dogs legs.

Don't believe anyone (even me) who says their dog is friendly although I always ask as the dogs race up to us. (I DO want to know if they know it's not.) My dog was attacked by an offleash GSD going up Mt. Democrat about 2 seconds after the owner told me she was friendly. Luckily I was able to get my dog away before any damage was done. "Sorry. Sorry. Sorry."

My Golden has a shorter coat then most. Down to freezing she just sleeps on her short Z-rest. If it's going to be colder, she carries a fleece. If it's really cold, I let her sleep on my down jacket and I throw the fleece over her.

She's a rescue and not a very confident dog around the house. But on the trail she comes into her own. She's a natural who handles any obstacle without hesitation. I hope you and your dog have as much fun as we do.

Here's a pic of her in cold weather sleep mode. It was 21 that night. And another of her on top of a 14er.

Kai in tent


Edited by rlnunix on 10/12/2010 09:44:59 MDT.

Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
dogs gear list on 10/14/2010 15:26:25 MDT Print View

+1 to keeping your dog under control, on or off leash. We take a leash with our pup but he is almost never on it. Only when it is the law or he is in a wierd mood and not behaving. The most important thing to remeber is that he is a user of the trail just like everyone else so he has to follow all the rules that we do. Stay on the trail, let others pass, not cause a scene...

My dogs day hike list is:
1. 20' long lease I made out of 3mm cord
2. a few home made dog treats with oatmeal and peanutbutter
3. potty trowl because he just won't go 100' off the trail and dig a small hole and then use the restroom???
4. when its colder, I made him a flece and nylon jacket with a hood this summer that he is excited to wear in the snow!!!
5. plastic bowl for water and food

I carry it on a day hike, it is just easier. We feed him a big breakfast and a big dinner. He doesn't do well with eating and exercise, always gets sick.

His overnight list is:
1. Dog pack
2. long leash
3. potty trowl
4. his food in a dry sack with measuring cup
5. home made dog treats
6. a tube of peanut butter he loves the stuff and it helps him maintain energy all day
7. 2 sections of a zrest
8. 3' x 5' fleece blanket
9. jacket when its cold
10. plastic bowl
*first aid kit is shared with mine, we are working on this still as far as specalty gear that he needs.

He carries what ever can fit in his pack. Balance from side to side is key on the dog packs. He never carries water, too heavy for the size, it makes him lopsided. When it is hot every few miles I take his pack off and strap it to mine for a mile or so and let him cool off.

The biggest thing that most people don't know about, I only have a clue becuase my girlfriend is a future vet so she did the homework before we took the pup on over nights. Is how dogs recover different from how people recover. We recover by adding calories (any type as long as the number is right) in the form of food and then rest. Dogs recover by needing calories in the form of protein or fat, I can't remember which one it is. I will post it when I ask the future vet tonight. They also take longer to recover, if you take a dog on a week long trip they will need a very specific diet to make it to the end of the trip. I am not good with the science of it so I will update when I find out.

EDIT: The food menu for a dog while on a hike to help them recover are high in carbs. I was way wrong with fats or protein.

Edited by earn_my_turns on 10/14/2010 19:00:55 MDT.

Ben P
(benp1) - F

Locale: London
my dog doesn't carry anything on 10/15/2010 03:29:20 MDT Print View

I carry all his bits and his food. I don't really want the hassle of unclipping his pack and carrying it so often, he's often got to get through narrow places and the pack would get caught or in the way

I just accept that I'll be carrying his weight. I generally take the following
- a mat of sorts (which has ranged from a BMW Torsolite to thermawrap)
- a light fleece blanket
- his lead (which is always round my waist and clipped to him when sheep are around)
- treats
- food
- fold up water bowl
- water bottle (wide brimmed lexan so I can pour water from the bowl back in the bottle)
- halti head collar
- paracord (to loosely wrap round my waist over my sleeping bag and tie to his lead, will only trigger if he tries to wander off during the night)
- microfibre towl (to take off the worst of the water, he likes to swim)

Total weight penalty is around 910g plus the weight of water and food.

Completely worth it for me, he makes a great companion. He's a 30kg black lab

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
vet on 10/16/2010 10:08:01 MDT Print View

my gf is a vet and she recommends that if you're taking your dog hiking and there is ANY chance he may drink water that isn't treated you get a "leptopirosis" vaccine. it's not 100% but it is pretty good. dogs (and us) can get it from drinking urine of rodents (usually in little pools of water). if your dog gets this, it's a bad prognosis - as it shuts down either the liver or the kidneys, i forget which.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
backpacking with a dog on 10/16/2010 14:19:43 MDT Print View

My daughter is a vet and does not recommend the leptospirosis vaccine. A surprising number of dogs have severe reactions to it. The University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine formerly didn't recommend it at all, but I just checked and they have recently (in the past 18 months) changed to recommending it for dogs at high risk (water seriously contaminated by livestock and wildlife). It should not be given to pups less than 12 weeks or to small dogs. Here are the latest vaccine protocols:

Because of the lepto risk, it is important to keep your dog from drinking out of puddles and stagnant pools, especially where livestock are common. That's what obedience training (the "leave it" command is very important) and a leash are for! If I'm going somewhere like that, or even to a place where lake outlets have dried up, I take a filter and filter my dog's water, too.

Another hazard out here in the Northwest is dead salmon. The salmon have a fluke parasite which carries bacteria that can be fatal to your dog. No harm from the flukes; it's the bacteria they carry. Watch what your dog is getting into when he's around a stream!

Edited by hikinggranny on 10/16/2010 14:34:54 MDT.

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
double checked on 10/16/2010 20:57:26 MDT Print View

well i double checked w/ my gf and she simply said this:

the lepto reaction (which is usually just some face swelling) can be taken care of with a simple injection. there is no cure for kidney failure. our dog has the vaccine...

James Stiely
(Jakester) - F

Locale: Southwest
Re: backpacking with a dog on 07/14/2011 01:33:30 MDT Print View

I have been searching for feeding options for my dogs while backpacking and I am appalled by the number of people who feel dogs do not belong in the wilderness hiking with their owners! Why has it gotten to the point that we are expected to pack out our dogs waste!Are you complete wilderness idiots! I agree nobody wants to step in any kind of animals waste weather that be deer, bear,elk, coyote or dog! So as a responsible owner if your dogs does his business on the trail get off the trail into the woods! LNT! Get real do you realize that most dog waste is tasty meal for another animal? I am not trying to gross anyone out ,however this is basic stuff that any country person knows, educate yourself, please! So there is no trace idiot!
Are you offended if an elk crosses your path or startles you on the path? If so what are you doing in the woods! Stay at home in your concrete jungle were you can keep your life controlled and sterile! the wilderness is precious and wild do not try to turn it into a controlled environment, understand it before you try to control it by changing it to suit your comfort level! It is us who need to adapt to it rather than conforming it our pleasures and animals all animals are more a part it than we are now that we have evolved to our controlled environments. A lesson we are finally learning about our so called sophisticated forest fire controls.
Sorry I went off on a tantrum!
Back to my original inquiry food options for sustained backpacking trips with my dogs. I welcome any comments unfortunately I feel I am going to get feedback about weather dogs belong in the back country, but hey bring it on my friends!
I do appreciate and respect all opinions!

James Stiely

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Dog waste on 07/14/2011 09:00:09 MDT Print View

Well, I used to just kick dirt over it if along the trail. Out here in CA, I usually bp in areas where not many others use, except Desolation Wilderness where it was necessary to control your dog more than in non-wilderness. Dogs in a Wilderness? Bring them, are not all of us an animal to one degreee or another. It's the bad owners with untrained dogs that give dog lovers a bad name. I am presently without a dog due to work circumstances.

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Quilts and Dogs (and Duomids) on 07/14/2011 11:01:15 MDT Print View

I backpack with my dog occasionally and basically opted for the Duomid to accommodate him (he doesn't fit in a bivy). He gets cold quite easily and often ends up under my quilt with me, which is another great advantage to a quilt over a sleeping bag.Dog and Duomid

Jenn M
(jennm) - F
dog business on 07/14/2011 11:04:38 MDT Print View

Wow, so you can't say 'poo...p'. I used to pack out my dog's pooh, but I don't often do so anymore. That said, if they are poohing on trail and too in the moment to move them, I roll the pooh off the trail and cover it, or cover it if it's off trail to start with.

Ron D
(dillonr) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: backpacking with a dog on 07/14/2011 11:04:56 MDT Print View

James - No, we aren't complete wilderness idiots. Unleashed dogs are a major problem as are the slob pet owner that leave dog poo all over the trail. I don't really care if it's a natural substance that other animals can eat, I'm tired of trails that are a minefield of smelly piles. I've been threatened by unleashed dogs multiple times and my LEASHED dog has been attacked several times. Your rights stop before you impact my or my dog's safety and before you thrash the trails. Leaving the fact that dogs are required to be leased and picked up after on most trails, all it takes is basic manners, have your dog under control either with a leash or reliable voice command (a fantasy for 90% of dog owners) and don't leave dog poo all over the trail for the rest of us to walk through. The trails are a shared resource and most dog owners realize this and try to be good neighbors.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
backpacking with a dog on 07/14/2011 11:07:03 MDT Print View

I don't have a dog, but my friend's dog sometimes accompanies us so I was interested enough to read this thread.

Evan, Mary, Tommy, Dale, Joseph, Randy, Jeremy, Ben & Josh: that was a thoughtful rational thread.

James: yes, that was a tantrum.

Matthew Perry
(bigfoot2) - F

Locale: Oregon
"backpacking with a dog" on 07/27/2011 23:48:11 MDT Print View

Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon. Dog's name is Bennie AKA Sherpa (his "trail name").


Bring a's awkward when you have to eat your companions...



Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: backpacking with a dog on 07/28/2011 10:44:01 MDT Print View


You aren't running into bad dogs you are running into bad dog owners. I am 100% with you on loss of rights and priviledges if your dog comes at me or my dog in a way I don't like. As I move away from the urban crowd I don't run into this issue at all. I think urban folk keep there dogs pint up to much. I live just outside of NYC, I grew up in Ohio. The only wierd dog owners I have ever met are in the tri-state area? Still can't figure out why people are so wierd with dogs in a city. My dog is and will always be off a leash 9 out of 10 times (only on when the tax collectors are writing tickets). He stays on the trail, and responds to my voice always. He learned the trouble he gets into when he doesn't always listen to my voice. Now I will say that when we get dog number two it will start out always on a very short leash until it learns the important only rule, always listen to my voice.


As far as food goes, for my 55 lbs dog who normally eats 1.5 cups of food twice a day (Science Diet, Active Adult). We take an extra cup per day plus the home made dog treats that are high in carbs (oatmeal and peanut butter), and a whole squeeze tube of raw peanut butter. That is one of the dogs only fixes in life. He gets 1.5 cups first thing in the morning (before I even start to take camp apart), 1 cup or a little smaller during the day at lunch we normally stop at a water source so he can eat, drink alot and rest, and then a large dinner of about 1.5 cups. As the day goes on he gets a treat every so often and peanut butter whenever he looks like he can't go on. He starts to get those pb addiction shakes real bad. I am an enabler what can I say.

Edited by earn_my_turns on 07/28/2011 10:48:00 MDT.