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Backpacking w/ dog?
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J Bailey
(jbaile38) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Backpacking w/ dog? on 03/14/2007 16:40:13 MDT Print View

I'm looking to adopt/rescue a young adult/adult dog to (among other reasons) hike with. I would eventually like to take the dog on 7-10 day summer trips and even a Colorado Trail hike I plan on in 2008.

I haven't had a dog in six years and I've never hiked with a dog. I have a few ?'s.

I like German Sheppards and Golden Retrievers. Would either of these be able to handle the physical rigors of hiking 20-30 mile days? Will their attitudes translate well to hiking?

Are there other breeds of dogs that I should look into?

Should I stay away from pure breads due to potential hip problems?

Are there any resources that I should check out?

What kind of training (if any) goes in to preparing a dog for being on the trail?

Anything else?


Edited by jbaile38 on 03/14/2007 16:43:37 MDT.

Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Re: Backpacking w/ dog? on 03/14/2007 18:18:20 MDT Print View

I would stay away from longhaired dogs unless you enjoy picking cockleburs out of a thick coat. Personally I like German Shorthairs. The trick is to find one that isn’t too wound up.

Conditioning: Feet & Aerobically
To do that kind of mileage you will have to condition the dog aerobically and really toughen up the dog’s feet. You can’t just take a dog that is used to carpet and grass out on a trail and not expect to have problems. Running around a grassy yard will soften up the pads leading to a very painful experience for the dog when the pads come off, and a heart wrenching one for you when you realized it is your fault because you didn’t condition the dog’s feet properly. Think about walking on a gravel road with your own bare feet and you’ll see what I mean. Begin to work the dog’s pads up by having the dog take short walks (less than a block) on a concrete sidewalk once a day. Once the feet are toughened up a bit make it a full block, then two blocks, and so on. If the dog is licking their feet you have gone too far.

Work the Dog: Voice & Whistle Commands
Your dog should also be very disciplined when it comes to voice and whistle commands. My dad lost a dog for three or four days because his dog was so poorly trained. They were in the woods, a deer took off, and so did the dog.

So you have to work with the dog on voice and whistle commands. Working with the dog doesn’t mean twice a year, every once in a while, or once a month. It needs to be regular and often. Once or twice a day at first, and then two or three times a week once the dog is trained. Dogs have a knack for finding skunks, porcupines, and rattle snakes so the commands will help with that.

You will also need to make sure your dog is drinking, eating, and resting enough. Dogs generally don't stay on a path like a human, at least the one's I've been around. They run here, there, and everywhere. Exploring everything that smells interesting. Out in front of you and then back, to the left of you and then to the right. So a 10-mile hike for you is a lot longer for them.

One other thing... My dad has had four German Shorthairs. Two with pretty much a solid chocolate colored body (like the head in the above link), and two with a speckled body. The solid body dogs had a much longer lifespan (16 and 17 years). And the male chocolate body dog we brought home from the pound was the smartest, well-tempered, disciplined, affectionate dog I've been around. Even though his previous owners starved and abused him.

Edited by pappekak on 03/14/2007 22:48:55 MDT.

Joshua Gilbert
(joshcgil2) - F

Locale: Seattle
Re: hiking with dogs on 03/15/2007 10:47:50 MDT Print View

I would recommend a herding dog over all others as a hiking companion. I have an australian sheperd, and at fourteen he's still going strong. They are super smart, and very trainable, and they have endurance for days, they're just built for it.
They are a pure breed, but they're a working breed, not a show dog, so they're bred for strength, intelligence and health, and they generally don't have hip problems.
Another bonus of these dogs, as they're trained to herd things, they tend to stick close to you, unlike hunting dogs who have different priorities.
what steve mentioned about long coats is definitly true with these dogs, they get dreadlocks on their hind ends sometimes, but they stay warm in the winter. Other herding breeds you might think about are australian cattle dogs, and kelpies.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Backpacking w/ dog? on 03/15/2007 11:27:30 MDT Print View

My girlfriend is getting a sheltie (Shetland Sheepdog) in a few months and I was thinking about maybe trying to bring him on the trail with me sometimes. They're really smart dogs but can be a little loud sometimes. I figured I would see how he did on walks in the park before I took him out hiking. Any comments on shelties? I've heard mixed feelings about them.


Gerald Magnes

Locale: Upstate NY
Re: Re: Backpacking w/ Shelties on 03/15/2007 11:53:23 MDT Print View

I have a Sheltie and have taken him on wilderness paddling and backpacking trips where he's been a wonderful companion. As the earlier poster mentioned, as a herding dog he wants to stay with me and with the group. So far, he's shown absolutely no inclination to run off or take off after other wild life, which is a great plus for a dog in the wilderness. Although they can be kind of shy, ours is very sociable and highly intelligent. He loves going out in the woods with us. The cons are: he's a barker. He barks at strange noises (that only he hears) at night. He barks when one of the group goes off. He barks when he sees wild life (like loons on the lake or a moose one time on a paddling trip in Canada). His hair is long and can get matted if it's not cared for, but he seems to have a surprisingly quick drying time after he gets wet from rain or going in the water. He also seems to come out surprisingly clean once he dries off after getting wet and rolling around in the mud for good measure. Although he's only going on such trips once in while, he hasn't had any paw or pad problems so far, sometimes on pretty rough trails. I've also taken him on winter day trips cross country skiing and snow shoeing. He does pretty well in the snow as well, although sometimes, as with most dogs, he can get snow and ice stuck between his pads and in various nooks in his paws. Apart from how they do in the wilderness, we've found our Sheltie (Shuki) to be a wonderful pet.
Hope that helps.

Gerry Magnes
Schenectady, NY

Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Herding Dogs on 03/15/2007 12:50:13 MDT Print View

Joshua is right about herding dogs being smart. They are probably the smartest dogs out there. A friend has a Blue Heeler that is very clever, has tons of energy, and is much smaller than a German Shorthair.

There seem to be a lot of herding dogs in shelters. Probably because their owners were not aware how much energy they have. They need a job to do, but are really great dogs. And if you like frisbee you have definitely found the right dog.

So I'll have to change my vote to a herding dog as well.

Edited by pappekak on 03/15/2007 13:16:18 MDT.

J Bailey
(jbaile38) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Thanks All on 03/16/2007 01:40:35 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone for all the help. I'm VERY excited.

I've been putting off owning a dog for years because I've been working and going to school full time. Not right to own a dog I would just ignore. I'm graduating in about six weeks and taking the summer off before I start my first year of teaching. I thought now would be a good time. I'll post a picture of him/her once I find the right one.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Dog ZERO on 03/16/2007 02:57:48 MDT Print View

I can't wait to have a dog to hike with someday...that will be SO fun!

Until then, I've had some non-dog time to consider a really cool idea. I often hike with SuperUltraLight (SUL) loads where my base pack is aroun 4 pounds. Add food, fueld and water and it's 12 pounds or so for a 3 day trip. So what if you put this minimum of gear in a large dog pack along with their food and stuff and headed out with NADA on your back. That's what I'd call "Dog ZERO".

Sure, it's more of an exercise than a reasonable necesity but just imagine cruising down the trail with ZIP. Maybe one of the runner water bottles in your hand and nothing else? It would be too cool!

Dogs and Cuben Fiber. Now THAT'S a combination!


Aaron Bradshaw
(bradshaw) - F

Locale: Alberta
Conditioning your dog on 03/16/2007 18:07:19 MDT Print View

I take my border terrier on hikes and we both love it. The only problem is that he's a snuggler so I tend to get pushed off my sleep pad at night.

The most important things to consider have to do with the health and safety of your dog.
1. No offence to Mr. Dent, but even when my dog was a puppy he could handle more than a block on concrete. In fact, he never had a problem with concrete and would never needed to condition himself for that. However, trails, gravel, etc are a different matter. So, you need to be taking your dogs on short dayhikes, longer dayhikes, then an overnight, then a few nights, etc. See how the dog does at each level. If he handles it no problem, and i mean no problem, move to the next level.

2. The other issue is obedience. You need to train the dog to sit, stay, etc. basic stuff. You also need to teach him to stop. I would take my dog's favorite toy (tennis ball), go to a field, and play fetch for a bit. I would then throw the ball, let him run a few yards, and then command him to STOP. Now the first few times he didn't - but he doesn't get rewarded for that either. After some repetitions of this, the dog will probably stop to see why you're giving him a command when he has to get his ball. Reward him then. Keep going and he'll get it. Try to keep training sessions short - 15 minutes or so. Also remember to socialize your dog as much as possible. This will curb the tendancy to bark at everything.

Of course, the only sure-fire way to ensure your dog stays with you on the trail is to have him leashed. And just as important as it is for you to have the right gear, don't forget the dog's needs. Something soft/warm to sleep on, adequate food and water - something to chew on if he's bored.

I think it's awesome that you're looking at a rescue dog. You'll be able to gauge the dog's temperment when you go to the shelters. Good luck!


Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Re: Conditioning your dog on 03/19/2007 18:19:53 MDT Print View

I guess I didn't phrase my post very well. Walking the dog on the concrete is a way to condition the pads for hiking. The block I used to take our dogs on to condition their pads was about .6 miles. Not sure what a "normal" city block is distance wise.

Edited by pappekak on 03/19/2007 18:22:36 MDT.

(jhaura) - F

Locale: Trail
Re: Backpacking w/ dog? on 03/19/2007 19:39:16 MDT Print View

I vote for cattle dog! Here's a pic of mine this weekend on a two day-er. He hates the flies and bees though and tries to catch them all day. Our pitbull is way tougher than him and can go way farther, but she is a b*tch and fights every dog, so I have to hike with her on a leash.

I use to play ball with him in the street and his paws are like leather. I worked him up to it though and now he can throw the brakes on in the street to catch the ball and skid like a bike tire with no damage:


Edited by jhaura on 03/19/2007 19:40:41 MDT.

Kevin Lane
(Paddster) - F

Locale: western NY
Re: Backpacking w/ dog? on 03/19/2007 20:00:18 MDT Print View

I have taken my part corgi mutt hiking a number of times. I believe she is a herding breed. One thing that I found with her is that she will not only follow whoever in our group is in the lead, but will also go back and forth the entire day, Thus, a 20 to 30 mile day for her is like a 40 to 60 mile trek,

I believe Australian Shephards are among the brightest dogs that there are. One thing I have heard about them is that they want to please so much that they will literally work themselves to death. I think that is the breed

Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Re: Re: Backpacking w/ dog? on 03/19/2007 20:36:07 MDT Print View

One thing I have heard about them is that they want to please so much that they will literally work themselves to death. I think that is the breed

My friend's Blue Heeler is like that. If you are playing catch you have to make the dog take a break. Otherwise she will play until she pukes.

Joshua Gilbert
(joshcgil2) - F

Locale: Seattle
re: ocd in herding dogs on 03/19/2007 21:12:55 MDT Print View

My australian shepard is 14, and only in his old age has he quieted down somewhat. he just keeps going, and he has a problem solving intelligence. He used to open doors, like he would reach up and work at it with his paw until it popped open.they definitly need a job or they will find something to do, probably something mischevious.

another thing about aussies (the dogs that is) is they are really good climbers, they scramble up things that you figure a dog shouldn't be able to. I was scrambling up the haystack on mount Si, near seattle, a low 4th class route, and I looked back and the dog was halfway up the thing. eventually he stopped, but it was incredible.

I also used to take him mountain biking, we'd go for twenty miles, and he just ran along, losing me on the descents and catching up to me on the climbs. he's really been my best hiking companion since I bought him from an amish farm in pennsylvannia.

Kevin Lane
(Paddster) - F

Locale: western NY
Re: Re: Backpacking w/ dog? on 03/20/2007 10:22:09 MDT Print View

My friend's dog is a border collie

cat morris
(catt) - F

Locale: Alaska
Aussies! on 03/20/2007 15:43:38 MDT Print View

They hike well & are small enough to fit in a tent vestibule in a storm.

I use an expanding leash that I hook the handle onto my backpack waist band when I want him attached.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
since I can't actually remember on 03/20/2007 21:22:17 MDT Print View

Since I can't actually remember the details there was a person featured in backpacker magazine that was breeding a dog just for hiking, maybe somebody has an old pile or library that keeps them.
It sticks out as being 2004 but that could be way off.
I would be curious what traits and breed this person was going for.

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Re: re: ocd in herding dogs on 03/20/2007 21:55:01 MDT Print View

Just a question-by Australian Sheperds, do you mean kelpies? I am an Aussie and am struggling to picture what an Australian shepherd is. Maybe its what Kelpies are called overseas. A kelpie is kind of like a blue heeler in size and appearance. Blue Heelers are traditionally cattle dogs, while kelpies are sheep dogs, although the definition is certainly flexible.

I would agree that a kelpie or a blue heeler or a cross of both would be excellent for hiking with. Get a kelpie from a pup and you can train it to practically cook for you. They are incredibly loyal and obedient, and are very very tough animals.

Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Re: Re: re: ocd in herding dogs on 03/20/2007 22:17:25 MDT Print View

This is what is referred to as an Australian Shepherd in the states. The naming is just to confuse you Aussies :)

Edited by pappekak on 03/20/2007 22:18:02 MDT.

Charles Ruefenacht
(cwruefenacht) - F
hiking w/ dog on 03/21/2007 09:00:44 MDT Print View

Love hiking with my Queensland Heeler. As noted above, my dog walks 30-50% more than us humans as she herds us along the trail. She carries her own food, I carry mine. As for training, she runs w/ me on the firetrails but decomposed granite can be hard on their feet if they're not used to it. I take some 'paw shoes' along for her to wear. My boys and I love having her along!