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Where Should Dog Sleep?
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Austin Lowes
Where Should Dog Sleep? on 08/24/2011 16:50:31 MDT Print View

Hi everyone.

I have a question regarding backpacking with a dog. In the next couple of days, I’m going to be taking my eight year old collie mix on a three day backpacking trip in a remote section of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Although I’ve been backpacking for a number of years now, I haven’t taken my dog on many over-nighters. My question is this: should I allow my dog to sleep in my tent, or should I just let her sleep outside? My main concerns are mosquitoes and wet weather. Any feedback would be appreciated.


dog on 08/24/2011 17:03:34 MDT Print View

in tent

tyler marlow

Locale: UTAH
floorless shelters and dogs on 08/24/2011 17:14:04 MDT Print View

Floorless shelters really shine with a dog.

No worries about nails ripping your floor, scratching through walls, or bursting out after a deer at 3 am.

I hear hammocks work well too, just string a line between the trees below your hammock and clip the leash to that line. Offers shelter, proximity, and security.

My dog used to sleep next to me in shelters, occasionally clipped to a rafter or something but most of the time untethered. She would occasionally sneak off for a minute or chase something, but she always came back :)

There really is nothing like hiking with a dog. The best companion you could ever ask for

tommy d
(vinovampire) - F
Re: dog on 08/24/2011 17:22:24 MDT Print View

in the tent.

Before her retirement from backpacking this year (due to arthritis), my dog always slept next to me, whether it was in a tent or under a tarp. in any case, your dog should be safe and under your control at all time.


Jesse Glover
(hellbillylarry) - F

Locale: southern appalachians
Subject on 08/24/2011 17:25:13 MDT Print View

In your bag with you if it's really cold.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
tent floors are easy to patch on 08/24/2011 18:00:09 MDT Print View

And I never had to patch one from any of five dogs I have hiked with. Bring a closed cell pad cut to size for them.Coverthem with rain gear if cold. And dont give us dog people a bad name, pick up after them, keep em quiet and dont let them jump on or scare people. Im guilty on the last one alittle but we work on it.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Re: tent floors are easy to patch on 08/24/2011 18:13:35 MDT Print View

I've never had to patch a tent floor, not even the 30D silnylon floor of an SMD Lunar Solo. Keep the dog's nails trimmed. My dog is 9 years old now, and we've been backpacking for 8 years. I consider him part of my sleep system!

Crate trained dogs are happy in a tent--my dog thinks the tent is his crate and goes in quite happily to sleep! However, don't go off and leave him there because he may panic at waking up and finding you gone and put a nice hole in your tent.

I fully agree with Mark's other comments; please make sure your dog is a good citizen on the trails (which means that you have to be the good citizen!). Not everyone likes dogs, and some are really nervous about them, often for good reason. Even the sweetest dog is liable to become fearful and therefore protective in a strange place. If your dog won't stay close to you and ALWAYS come when called regardless of distractions, please use your leash.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Bring er in on 08/24/2011 19:05:39 MDT Print View

I always brought my dogs inside, safe from bugs and right there under your control. Maybe get a dirty spot on the tent floor where they sleep, but no damage, just don't let them get too excited in the AM before letting them out.


Austin Lowes
What about wet weather? on 08/24/2011 19:30:19 MDT Print View

I'm not too worried about encountering people. The area that I'll be hiking in is both remote and rarely used by other hikers.

From what I've been reading, the general consensus is that dogs should sleep beside their owners. However, if it rains on this trip and my dog becomes wet, should she still sleep beside me in my tent? I really don't want to have a wet dog rubbing against my down sleeping bag.

By the way, is there some kind of rule of thumb regarding how many miles a dog can comfortable hike in a day? Like I said before, my dog is eight years old, but she's in decent shape.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Exercise on 08/24/2011 20:34:11 MDT Print View

I always walked my dog(s), so they were used to getting around and their feet were conditioned some too. Maybe bring a small piece of plastic to protect your bag if your shelter isn't gigantic or a dirty shirt to cover your bag. I never had wet dogs except from dips in the water before bedtime. Shake, shake, shake. Get outta there!


tommy d
(vinovampire) - F
Re: What about wet weather? on 08/24/2011 21:03:53 MDT Print View

Austin, Here are a few follow-ups, based on your last post.

(1) Dangers - Since you aren't too concerned with running into people, I'd be equally or more concerned about your dog running into an animal at night. If you wake up and your dog has run off after a deer or taking 72 porcupine quills in the face. Even if your dog doesn't get injured, it could get lost chasing game at night.

(2) Damage - If you're worried about your sleeping bag, bring a light weight bivy sack or use a piece of .7 mil plastic to keep between the bag and the dog. Unless the dog has just taken a bath, it should be manageable. I have an 85 lb German Shepherd Dog, which sheds a chihuahua-worth of fur a night, and have never had a problem with my sleeping bag or ground sheet. Remember, your dog will need to be kept off the ground too, so it may need to carry a sleeping pad and light blanket.

(3) Miles - For some reason, I thought you mentioned that your dog has hiked in the past. That's a good starting place, but you need to consider trail conditions like rocks and elevation and river crossings. Personally, I never took my dog on a trip where I didn't have a better good sense of the conditions. In my experience, dogs can't travel as far as you expect. Especially over multiple days, if they're not "trail dogs." Where I live, I'd say 10 miles a day would be okay for a dog on a multi-day trip.

Also, you have to watch for signs that your dog is tired problems... because they're not always the best communicators ;-) Here's a short 2-minute video I made of my dog last Spring, when I realized here hiking and camping days were coming to an end. It doesn't show us camping, but it shows two examples of how I'd know when she needed a break - at 1:40 and 1:54 - pretty much she'd lay down and put her paw on my foot.

I wish I had some more camping pictures, but I would bring (a) a small blanket, (b) short sleeping pad, (c) food and water bottles, (d) dog meds, and (e) 15-foot lead for camp.

Overall, backpacking with a dog is the best, but you have to take it slow and see what they can handle and what they like. A dog that's never slept outside (even in a tent) will be smelling and hearing things it's never heard before, and that you most likely can't sense at all. It may be overwhelmed at first. So, take it easy and just enjoy the time together, rather than planning big miles and new places. Perhaps it's best to sort of think of your dog as a child that can run faster than you, but still a child.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Wet Dog on 08/24/2011 22:05:04 MDT Print View

If your dog is wet and its wet outside and you would have your dog sleep outside Im out of this discussion. You pet deserves to be warm, dry and bug free bring him/her a mat and use rain gear to separate dog and your beloved down bag. Bring a light weight towel to dry the dog as best you can nights can be cold and damp where you are going. Or better yet let the dog have the tent and you can sleep outside :^)

Rodney OndaRock
(RodneyOndaRock) - F

Locale: Southern California
Dogs don't plan on 08/24/2011 22:06:56 MDT Print View

My dog doesn't understand the importance of hydration.
When he's excited he doesn't drink.
Can't force him to drink. I have to trick him with a handful of kibble mixed in with water. You also have to increase your dogs food in take. Translation more dog poo to manage.

Dogs don't understand pacing and stamina and round trip.

Dogs will follow you everywhere, even with a cut paw pad, until they collapse from exhaustion. Dog may get by on day1, but day 2, dog will have sore muscles and not want to move. Be prepared to carry your dog for 10 miles back like a sac of potatoes around your neck or over the shoulder. No joke.

House carpet dogs will cut their pad after 5 miles on granite. You wear boots but they are bare paws.

Dogs will freeze outsize when temps dip, and moisture makes it worse and stinky for you too to have a damp dog.

Use the dog for shared body heat. It's a bonding experience. Primal.

If you keep your dog tethered to your waist belt 100% of the time, then you don't need the garmin gps dog locator. Although I feel those give a false sense of safety.
Your house dog can't defend itself against a pack of 12 coyotes that circle him.

Deer kick their hind legs in dogs face. The chase is funny until your dog has a bloody face. Not cool. Tom and Jerry and spike are cartoons.

Mosquitos will eat him alive. Wilderness insects can pierce a leather jacket (exaggeration) keep in mind blood sucking ticks. Bring a match to pop those vampires.
Read this article titled Fido First Aid from backpacker mag

I have doggie socks and boots. I put them on the dog the second half of the day trip when injuries will happen. Practice at home first. Dogs will do a silly walk like English horses.

Edited by RodneyOndaRock on 08/24/2011 22:14:21 MDT.

Jessica Rankin
At least in the tent... on 08/24/2011 22:22:21 MDT Print View

if not also in your bag with you...

Luna and Me asleep

Edited by JessiD87 on 08/24/2011 22:22:58 MDT.

Austin Lowes
Tent it is. on 08/25/2011 07:56:36 MDT Print View

Thanks, guys. Tent it is.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Bear Country on 08/25/2011 09:23:05 MDT Print View

If you are in Bear Country keep your dog on trail with you at all times and don't let him off into the bushes. One of the more dangerous types of bear encounters is when a dog is off trail, finds a bear, agitates the bear or the bear thinks its prey, and the dog runs back to the trail drawing an agitated bear to you.

So avoid this type of encounter by using a leash if your dog has a tendancy to run off trail.

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Dogs on 08/25/2011 14:21:23 MDT Print View

I thought I'd prefer a floorless shelter because the dog that goes with me most of the time has a long, thick coat, which doesn't dry fast. I have a Rainshadow 2 and a Shangri-la 3. The problem is the SL3 has to be pitched really low or he just walks under the sides and I don't want him wandering off. I guess I could tether him to a stake at night but would prefer not to do that in the shelter. If I pitch it low, there's less room and more condensation. And he likes to do his morning "victory lap" around the inside walls so more condensation is not good. (Trying to break him of this but he's already half way through when I wake up and stop him.) The RS2 keeps him contained and has great ventilation but weighs more and the floor can get really dirty when he's wet at night. We like to hike late so not much drying time before bed. Not sure which way I'll go yet.

Warning: This is a bit of a rant.

+1 on leashing you dog. Although I rarely see anyone else do it and most of my trips are in wilderness where it's the law. Keeping my dog from bothering other people is very important to me. But keeping him safe is even more important. As mentioned above, keeping your dog safe also means keeping your dog from encounters with wild animals. Here's a video from last weekend demonstrating this. (Sorry for the blurriness at the end, still learning this camera):

As far as going where there are few people, that's also where I usually go to. On the same trip last weekend, there was 1 car at the trailhead when we arrived on Friday and it turns out they were camped down a unmaintained trail that ends in a box canyon and sees very little use. They were camped, (illegally) right next to that trail. And they had a view where they could see anyone approaching on that trail for a good half mile as it was in a meadow. They probably felt very comfortable letting their dogs off leash while they were there. There were no other cars at the TH when they arrived and anyone going in past them would be easy to spot well before they got there. They just didn't count on us doing a 4 mile bushwack into that canyon, and hiking out on that trail Sunday morning while they were cooking breakfast. I have encounters with off leash dogs all the time and most aren't a problem and you can USUALLY tell. When I spotted an Australian Sheperd on the trail about 100 ft away, I was wondering if it was friendly when it bolted right at us barking and growling. There was no question with this one. I started yelling for them to get their dog (their young kids nay have learned a few new words that day) and they were calling their dogs and yelling at each other to get the dogs, get a leash, etc. It sure wasn't the usual, "Don't worry, they're friendly". Then a second Aussie (a twin in appearance) came onto the trail in the same spot where I saw the first one and started racing up the trail about 20-30 feet behind, which turned out to be a stroke of luck. I put my dog behind me and when the first one got there and tried to go by to get my dog, I kicked it under the jaw as hard as I could and it veered off and maybe 10 feet away still growling and snarling. The second one arrived and I kicked it in the neck (missed a bit on that kick) and it also still wanted my dog but didn't want to get hurt. The owner finally got there and, of course, said the off leash dog owners catch phrase: "Sorry. Sorry. Sorry." and tried to get his dogs but couldn't. He was finally able to kind of herd them back to camp and they got leashes on them and we went by as they apologized again. I love dogs but if I did hurt them, and I was certainly trying to, I don't care. I didn't put them in that position, their owner did. I have to protect my dog. Right when the first dog got there, I heard my dog (14 months old) really growl for the first time. Afterwords I started wondering, if this happens a few more times, is he going to become dog aggressive?

Now that is the worst case I have seen. So far that is. A GSD went after my other dog once but I spun her behind me and the owner got her dog and leashed her. My dog didn't yelp so I don't think she got bit. This was 5 seconds after the owner said "Don't worry. She's friendly." But I know more trouble is coming. Even if your dog is not aggressive in any way, there are plenty of people who are scared on any dog. Don't be surprised, or complain, if your dog gets peppered sprayed if they do approach someone who's afraid of dogs. And it could be even worse. When I told this story to my friend who carries when backpacking, he said good thing it wasn't him as he would have shot them. I have no doubt he's not alone. I'll defend my dogs with whatever means I have at my disposal.

I used to carry pepper spray but read that it can actually increase the aggression in really aggressive dogs. Plus you and your dog can end up getting hit with some of it. My dog training instructor recommends Spray Shield, which is citronella, and says it works 99% of the time. Supposedly harmless and effective. I bought some last night. Clips to your waist belt. It's 3.25 oz but I now think it's a required piece of gear.

And when people say that their dogs are under complete control by voice commands, I laugh. If the right distraction is there, especially some animal they haven't seen before, they'll ignore their owners. I've had llamas for a little over 3 years, in that time exactly 1 dog has listened to their owner's commands when they saw them. A really laid back Bernese Mountain Dog. I'm sure there are a very small amount of exceptions, but I've only seen one.

Edited by rlnunix on 08/25/2011 15:34:07 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Dog digs on 08/25/2011 16:20:10 MDT Print View

IMHO a "backpacking dog" (one that carries a pack W/ his food & sleep mat) should sleep in the tent's vestibule or at one corner of a tarp - on their light mat.

Personally I love dogs but don't want one inside my tent or on my tarp's ground cloth for many reasons.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Dog digs on 08/25/2011 16:26:29 MDT Print View

Recently there have been some good photo examples of an A-frame "dog tent" that was pitched beside the owner's tent. Gee, with an old piece of foam pad on the floor, what more would a dog want?


Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Dog Tent on 08/26/2011 13:47:23 MDT Print View

Perhaps Bob is referring to my dog tent...I'm not sure. I sewed this one up last summer.

6oz. She carries it in her little doggy saddle bags.




Edited by dandydan on 08/26/2011 13:48:08 MDT.