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Dog Question
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Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Dog Question on 03/22/2012 15:53:22 MDT Print View


I tend to avoid bringing my best friend, Henry, on backpacking trips due to concerns about heavy mileage on doggie paws and weather-related concerns. Henry is a fit, spry, super obedient, all-animal-loving 45-pound pit bull with very thin fur and a lack of love of being cold.


I want to design a trip this week for West Virginia's Tea Creek Wilderness (for anyone paying attention, I decided to not do a 70 mile trip in two and a half days so I could spend some more time with my dog). Since mileage can be flexible based on the comfort and happiness of my pooch, I'm curious what other folks do when backpacking with their dogs. How many miles a day do you typically do with your dog companion? Any other thoughts also appreciated.

John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: Dog Question on 03/22/2012 16:16:05 MDT Print View

I've hike hundreds of miles with my dog - she loves it! My dog does better the colder the it is, but 8-12 miles per day is about average for us (when not on snow). The longest day I've done with my dog was about 15 miles and 4000 feet of elevation gain. We recently returned from a 4 day trip and by the 4th day, I could tell she was feeling pretty tired. On shorter trips, we can go further. She normally sleeps at least 16 hours a day, so I think the sheer lack of sleep catches up to her on longer trips.


Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: Dog question on 03/22/2012 16:32:58 MDT Print View

Hi Evan,
I've also got a high energy pit bull mix. Anything above 20 miles per day and I leave him behind. I'd say he's the vanguard for the first 15 miles, then noticeably lagging behind after that. Leashed vs unleashed also makes a huge difference. If unleashed, he easily adds an additional 50% in mileage early on from running back and forth in excitement.

By the way, I've always thought of you as my gear-brother. I think we own identical stuff. Doesn't surprise me in the least that our dogs are similar too.

Edited by Ike on 03/22/2012 16:34:03 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Dog Question on 03/22/2012 16:55:16 MDT Print View

Some thoughts from someone who knows a lot of serious dog mushers:

They think in terms of "miling up" their dogs in many realms - endurance, cold tolerance, foot toughening. You shouldn't cold-turkey a long hike and neither should your dog. This becomes more important as either of you age. It needn't limit your trips or your distances, but it may dictate a longer, fuller training schedule.

They also are VERY aware of the surface on which their dogs run. Some gravel roads can tear up their feet in 2-3 miles whereas the same dogs could do 20 or 30 miles on snow with no problem (and 100+ in a day later in the season). There are some sharp-ice-crystal conditions that can develop but the bigger issue is snow/ice forming/sticking between their paws. Doggie booties fix both those problems. No one is using $29/set booties from REI. Just uncoated nylon stitched into a simple pouch with a velcro strap to secure it at the dog's ankle. There's a local cottage industry in them and they went for $1 each a few years ago. But you've got to train your dog to them so he associates them with fun hikes and doesn't spend all his time trying to chew them off. So don't bother using them at home. Start to use them at super-fun, distracting places so there is a positive association with their use. Our dog, for instance, LOVES having a bear bell on her collar because it means a fun hike is about to happen.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Dogs on 03/22/2012 17:12:12 MDT Print View

Dog Hazards I've come across included--

Snow blindness (Stay off of bright snow unless you have goggles for the dog)

Torn pads from running on asphalt and rocks (booties are the answer like he said)

Heat exhaustion (Lots of water, all day long)

Bleeding toe nails from crossing boulder and talus fields

Train with them before you go. Don't take a dog under a year old on long hikes.

Bring something for them to sleep in/on if they are not used to sleeping outside.

A friend adopted a sled dog that had been to both poles. At age of four it was already
blind from the UV exposure.

P. Larson
(reacttocontact) - F
Re: Dogs on 03/22/2012 18:13:41 MDT Print View

My dog, doesn't seem to mind hiking. In fact, I'm pretty sure she'd enjoy carrying my pack if I let her.



Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Dogs on 03/22/2012 18:45:36 MDT Print View

Beautiful pup, Johnny Finger, reminds me of my pup. Looks an awful lot like him!

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Re: Re: Dogs on 03/22/2012 19:00:47 MDT Print View

Great replies! Thanks!

I think I'll try to keep the mileage to 15 per day for this trip and see how he holds up over three days and about 40 miles. The temps should be dog friendly (highs of low 60s) and there will be plenty of water.

Apart from general exhaustion, heat issues, and obvious limping and bleeding paws, is there anything I might be missing in terms of anticipating problems before they become truly dangerous to my dog on the trail?

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Re: Re: Re: Dogs on 03/22/2012 19:03:10 MDT Print View

Henry and Our Tarp

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: Re: Dogs on 03/22/2012 19:26:44 MDT Print View

> I might be missing in terms of anticipating problems before they become truly dangerous to my dog on the trail?

Interactions with wildlife come to mind - dogs are very disruptive with deer, etc (hence banned in many areas), while a bear or a porcupine could really ruin your dog's day. Fleas and chiggers could be picked up especially where other dogs or horses have bedded down. Plague (yes, the Black Death that decimated Europe a few times) is endemic in some areas such as far northern CA and is carried by fleas on squirrels and rodents.

Interaction with other hikers and their dogs is always an unknown, a risk and a good reason to keep any dogs on leash at all times.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Dog Question on 03/22/2012 19:31:29 MDT Print View

Do you take your dog with you on exercise/conditioning walks/runs? The dog needs as much or more conditioning as you do. In addition to developing muscles and exercising joints, the regular exercise helps toughen his pads. I also take booties, although they never seem to stay on my dog for very long. If your dog is to carry a pack, he needs to be exercised with the pack and with gradually increasing weight over time. If you're going to hike 15-mile days, he needs already to be accustomed to that distance. Otherwise I suggest shorter days until he gets into better condition.

A thin-coated dog like a pit bull will need a warm jacket in cold weather and a waterproof jacket in rain. The warm jacket may also do for sleeping in cold weather if you have an insulation pad underneath, but I'd have something else to put over him, too.

My dog comes with me on every trip (I won't hike without him). He sleeps on a CCF pad (Gossamer Gear Nightlight torso length) and wears a jacket if it will be a cold night. He's mostly Lab, but an indoor dog so his coat isn't thick enough for freezing nights. My days are 5-8 miles (at 76 I'm not exactly the world's fastest hiker, and my dog is about to turn 10 so is hardly a spring chicken either) and we take plenty of rest stops. If it's hot weather, we start at the crack of dawn and quit by 11 am, spending the heat of the day in shade close to water. He sleeps in my tent, either at my feet (he makes a great foot warmer) or curled up alongside me. There have been really cold nights when I've wished for more dogs to curl up with!

I agree with all the above posts, but need to add that a skunk encounter would ruin both your days, maybe weeks! (Been there, done that, but fortunately not on a backpacking trip!) Vinegar helps, but it's not something we take on backpacking trips!

Edited by hikinggranny on 03/22/2012 19:36:28 MDT.

John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Dogs on 03/22/2012 19:52:44 MDT Print View

I think every one above me has covered it pretty well. Nothing dangerous, but one minor thing is that my dog doesn't sleep well at night unless she's under a full-coverage shelter, i.e. she can't see out. If I sleep with the fly off, she stays up half the night playing guard dog. Not sure how many others have this problem?

Thanks, Doug!

Dan Magdoff
(highsierraguy) - F

Locale: Northern California
speaking of dogs... on 03/22/2012 20:02:58 MDT Print View

So just a week ago I recused a dog. Shes about 9 months old and we are thinking she a Border Collie mix...but not 100% sure. My ultimate goal is to take her on my backpacking trips, but I know that is still a long ways away. Currently we are doing private training lessons and I take her on a small hike everyday (we are doing about 2-3 miles a day), just to get her used to hiking and the sights, sounds and smells of the trail and to toughen up her pads. I am hoping to have her ready for a 3-4 day trip in a few months, maybe up to 6 months from now.

I want to start getting the proper gear for her, and get her used to it. So, my question is...what additional gear do you bring backpacking when you have a dog with you. SO far here's what I am thinking:
- Collar/ leash
- Doggie pack
- Booties
- Collapsible food bowl (I am thinking I dont need a water bowl because she can drink out of the streams and lakes)
- A doggie jacket
- Something for her to sleep on (any suggestions?)
- Dog food
- Dog treats

I would like to get the booties and pack and start getting her used to them starting in a month or two. Suggestions for a doggie pack?

Thanks for all the help!


Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Re: speaking of dogs on 03/22/2012 21:49:56 MDT Print View

You're on the right track on your list.

My suggestions:

I carry 2 leashes. A flexi that I clip on my hip belt for the trail and a long lead for camp.

You can use the bowl for both food and water. We try to avoid camping near water so you need water for her in camp if you do the same.

Booties depend on the dog. We live in the same type of terrain that we backpack in so my dogs have tough pads already and we've never had an issue. But a dog that has a grass yard and walks on sidewalks is a completely different story and there's all kinds of variations in between. But always check their pads at night. I carry super glue in my first aid kit for both of us.

Get a pack but don't put any real weight in until the dog is at least a year old. Check with your vet on that as different breeds joints are fully formed at different ages. Then add weight slowly as you go. But if you want to carry the weight, you're dog could go with you as soon as she's in condition.

I have a Zrest that I cut down. They don't have to be big if your dog curls up to sleep. My smaller one does but the bigger dog stretches out. I'm going to stop taking one in the summer as he won't stay on it anyway. But he's a warm sleeper. He's been out down to 8 degrees and I can't keep a jacket on him. Err on the conservative side with insulation until you know your dog.

Poop bags. They are light so always have some around. My dogs always wear their packs on day hikes as well so I just keep some in there. Bury it when in the backcountry but if I'm on my way out, I double bag it and put in in their pack. Then I have them lead or follow depending on the wind. :)

Some training stuff:

We always step off the trail for everyone and I put them in a sit stay. If people ask if they can visit with them, that's great. But some people are scared of ANY dog. My dogs are about as goofy and friendly as dogs can get and some people still walk past them as if they are Cujo. I have never had a negative comment about my dogs and that has nothing to do with their behavior and everything to do with making people comfortable as they pass. And always go to the downhill side for horses or other pack animals passing, of course.

A really handy thing to teach your dog (besides walking at your side on a loose lead) is to lead and follow. In steep terrain downhill terrain especially, I like my dogs to follow.

I guess that was a bit long winded. Your will teach each other more than anyone can teach you. I hope you and your new friend have many, many miles and smiles ahead of you!

Edited by rlnunix on 03/22/2012 21:58:01 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: speaking of dogs... on 03/22/2012 21:54:43 MDT Print View

Dan, the standard gear for a mountain dog is an old piece of foam pad on the ground plus an old piece of synthetic blanket over the top.

A dog jacket might be nice, but so many dogs have a thick coat as it is, and they won't like to wear a jacket. I made a dog jacket for a friend's dog that has a thick coat, so the focus was on it being a rain jacket and not so much a warm jacket.

Don't worry about a dog bowl. The dog can just drink out of yours.


John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Dog Gear on 03/22/2012 22:20:59 MDT Print View

I dislike having my dog's leash attached around my waist - she's much easier to control on a normal leash and we frequently have to climb over, under, or around obstacles so easy release of the leash is key for me, but to each their own. I follow almost the exact same etiquette as Randy above with regards to other hikers. I'd bring a dog bowl for water unless you always hike and camp near water.

For a pack, I would recommend the REI Classic Dog Pack. It's y-harness is great (avoid the non-y-harness packs as they restrict the motion of your dog's front legs), it's simple, and it's durable. REI let me bring my dog in the store so I could get the one that fit her best. I had a RuffWear Palisades pack and found it to be just okay. My dog seemed to get hotter wearing it and it just seemed to complicate things in general.

My dog sleeps on a 1/8'' Gossamer Gear pad cut to her size and a mini cheapo fleece blanket. Both items are light and provide a lot of warmth. She sleeps on them regularly at home so she knows her place in my shelter.

WoofHoofs makes the best dog boots I've found - don't waste your money on more expensive boots.

I always bury my dog's poo. I started carrying a trowel or snow stake along because she always decides to poo right in the middle of the trail and it's much easier using a trowel to move her poo away from the trail and bury it then trying to use sticks and rocks to do so! My dog also loses her appetite at altitude so I mix in a bunch of crushed dog treats with her normal food.

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Successful Dog Outing on 03/26/2012 20:30:48 MDT Print View

Thanks for the advice! I did less miles (limited to 12 per day) and packed more weight (opting for the Duomid and inner net over the normal mini tarp and Superlight bivy I would take this time of year), but had a great outing with my dog. And yes, Henry packed his own stuff (with his very own cuben dry sacks).

Henry in Tea Creek

Hanging the Duomid gave us even more room inside.Camp setup

The Tea Creek Wildlife Management Area in West Virginia sits at between 4,000 - 4,500 feet (high for the mid-Atlantic) and is a feast of rich glades full of hemlock, moss, ferns, and rhododendron.Tea CreekHenry on a RockEnjoying the View

Edited by evanrussia on 03/26/2012 20:42:39 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Dog Question on 03/26/2012 21:56:30 MDT Print View

Glad the trip went well! Henry is a handsome dog!

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Heartworm on 03/27/2012 11:18:26 MDT Print View

Make sure the dog has all the shots and meds needed for the area you are going too.

Many many skunks carry rabies. Mosquitoes heartworm, etc.

Dogs can carry poison oak too.

Sarah Kuhn
(SCKuhn) - MLife

Locale: Mountainous Ohio
Dog Question on 03/28/2012 09:53:44 MDT Print View

Sorry for the temporary thread highjack, but David everytime I see one of your posts I think of my dog Daisy
Daisy and Gunner
daisy and gunner

Surprise no one has cautioned about dogs drinking 'wild water', especially for a 'house dog'. We try to avoid/limit our dogs from drinking 'wild water' when hiking since they typically only have faucet water at home and therefore the GI system isn't really accustom to the bacteria, etc of 'wild water'.