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  1. #1
    Registered User Speakeasy TN's Avatar
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    Default Torn about taking my dog.

    I'm really torn. Hollywood is great on the local trails but I don't know how he will handle the distance but then again it could be me that breaks down. He's good at staying close to me on a 25' retractable and stays on the trail. I had considered attaching the retractable directly to my pack. Is this the best way to go? Anybody got experience using a hammock instead of tent? Seems like extra lines to get tangled in. Convince me to take him and have fun!

  2. #2

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    Let me convince you not to bring a dog.

    It's a hassle. It costs a lot. You won't be welcome in shelters. And it's hard on the dog - which should be reason enough. If you are at all serious about doing a thru hike, don't bring a dog.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  3. #3

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    Since you asked. I love dogs. I saw a handful of very responsible dog owners on the trail that took care of their dogs and were respectful for other hikers when it came to their dogs. I also saw more dog owners that allowed their dogs to become a nuisance, threat and simply put "a pain in the As_" for other hikers. After being on the trail for three months and hiking all day, I don't want to deal with someone else's misbehaving pet at the shelter. It looked like a lot of additional work for those that were trying to do it the right way, when frankly it is challenging enough to take care of yourself. I can't tell you how many times I heard, "he usually is very calm" or "he may look mean, but he really won't hurt you".

    I think dogs are probably ok on weekend hikes, if you are committed to doing the extra work they require, but I cannot imagine doing it for weeks and months. Don't make it any tougher on yourself.

  4. #4
    Registered User Grampie's Avatar
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    Are you just doing a section or are you going to thru-hike? 80% of those who start a thru, do not complete their hike. Add a dog into the mix and the compleation rate is something like only 5%. Taking a dog on a long distance adds more complications to the hike. If you are serious about doing a thru-hike, leave the dog at home.
    Grampie-N->2001

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grampie View Post
    . . . If you are serious about doing a thru-hike, leave the dog at home.
    I love my dog also. And I almost always take her on backpacking trips because she loves running 20 miles a day and she hates staying home, and she is well enough behaved that most (but never all) people she meets get along with her or enjoy her immensely. There is also no doubt that probably at least one person a day, on busy trails, is freaked out and angry at seeing a dog on the trail regardless of how perfect my dog and I are behaving.

    It sounds to me like you are not confident in your dog doing well, so the above pessimistic rants are probably appropriate. But, if after a few multi-day hikes your dog seems more ready than you to keep going, go for it. Heed/address their wise concerns, and then screw the naysayers!
    I'm not lost. I'm exploring.

  6. #6
    Registered User IslandPete's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Let me convince you not to bring a dog.

    It's a hassle. It costs a lot. You won't be welcome in shelters. And it's hard on the dog - which should be reason enough. If you are at all serious about doing a thru hike, don't bring a dog.
    Wrong on all counts. We're finishing our thru in the next couple of weeks, and as far as I can tell, Scout is loving every minute of it! First rule about taking your dog hiking? Don't come on WhiteBlaze and ask if you should...

  7. #7
    Registered User methodman's Avatar
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    Default Torn about taking my dog.

    Then control the animal and it never happened.

  8. #8
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    Have you ever seen a thru hikers dog leaving a blood trail along the trail in the whites?. I have several times. Despite 4 months of hiking, the rocks in the whites and on into Maine can wear out a dogs pads in days.Some dont but many do.

    Have you ever met a thruhiker have to give up their hike as their dog just could not go on and they could not afford to send the dog home or didnt have place to send them to?. I have. Their dogs arent allowed on the only public transportation out of the whites so they end up hitching out of town hoping a dog lover might give them a ride.

    Have you ever been asked to help carry a dog down off the AT as it cant walk ? I have. In my area NH F&G will not rescue dogs so if there is need to carry a dog down the hiker is on their own to find a crew and a potentially 40 mile trip to a vet.

    Have you ever seen a thru hiker dog abandoned at a vets clinic that is only open two days a week as the owner was going on an could not afford to care for their dog? I have

    Have you ever seen a thru hiker dog with a muzzle full of porcupine quills? I have several times. In some cases the hiker was a couple of days from the nearest vet so the dog was going along with a snout full of quills and most likely no ability to eat and drink.

    The other aspect is that the dog is hopefully a long term companion animal. Thru hikes are hard on dogs and they most likely will end up cutting their already short hiking career shorter. I know of many dog owners who have worn out their dogs hiking. They are still lovable animals, they just got worn out from the miles. Bill Irwin and his famous guide dog Orient stopped by BSP the year after his thru hike to repeat a section of the AT he wanted to redo, two days into it his guide dog stopped and wouldnt go on, it had to be carried out. He wore the dog out on the thru hike the previous year and even when walking around the campground it was obvious that Orient was having a tough time.

    Its not that all dogs cant hike the AT, it just that many cant. Lets do some math, A typical thru hiker starting at Springer has a 25% chance of finishing. Lets use the same percentage for a dog. That means that the odds of both finishing the trail together is 0.25*0.25 which is 0.0625 (6.25%). If you are out to have fun with your dog great but realize that your chances of finishing goes down, potentially by a factor of 4. I think many thru hikers with dogs finally figure out the math at some point down south and tip the odds back in their favor by sending the dog home.

    Realistically your dog has to be super well socialized and trained to the point where you dont need a leash except for regulatory reasons. I have met many dogs trained at that level but far more that werent. The dog is your responsibility and as such you are responsible for it and every action it does. The attitude of the prior poster unfortunately is a typical dog owners response. The dog steals some food from another hiker and the hiker whose food was stolen responds to this, so what does the dog owner do? implies that he will threaten the person whose food was stolen. A well trained dog should not be stealing food, end of story. A well trained dog should return to the owner and heel whenever it encounters someone on the trail, end of story. A dog should be shadow to a thruhiker when entering a group campsite and for the duration of the stay, end of story. Training a dog to eat out of a designated bowl or directly from the owners hand is not just courtesy for other hikers its for the dogs safety. There have been several cases I am aware of over the years (not on the AT) that dogs have eaten poisoned bait while hiking with their owners. Its apparently legal to use this bait kill some sort of predator.

    I am not a dog hater and have hiked with well trained dogs in the past many a time and enjoyed the company of many dogs at campsites. I have also been snarled at, nipped at, warned that I need to get off the trail 10 feet to avoid being bitten, knocked to the side on a narrow trail, had food stolen,had a hole eaten in my pack by a dog that smelled food, had mud tramped all over my sleeping pad and sleeping bag at a shelter and had a dog lying in and urinating in a rare water source in dry weather. In most cases the owners spend far more time apologizing for their dogs misgivings than just spending the time to train them so they dont need to apologize.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 10-10-2017 at 09:48.

  9. #9
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    I'm a dog lover.

    My dogs are trained, well-behaved, and go all over town with me on a regular basis. On any given night you'll find at least one, if not two, in our bed.

    I'd never consider taking my dogs out on a hike for more than a day, and then only in areas that people would expect to see a dog.

    Too many opportunities for things to go wrong, not to mention the additional logistical complexity.

    Also, everything that peakbagger says above. (His post appeared after I hit 'submit' on mine.)
    Last edited by KCNC; 10-10-2017 at 08:59. Reason: Added reference

  10. #10

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    These are some rough numbers/anecdotes from my 600 miles (not even a third of the total distance) on the trail. Starting at Springer, in April. I saw a dozen or more dogs attempting a thru hike. I saw a bunch more dayhiking, but I'll ignore those for this thread.

    Of the thru-hiking dogs, exactly two had energy in the late afternoon coming into the tentsite/shelter. They were some kind of cattle dog/blue heeler types. The remainder were dragging, and visibly distressed. They were tired, overheated and suffering. I witnessed one dog, that had been kenneled for the Smoky Mountain stretch, not want to return to it's owner. I saw multiple dogs, plop right down in streams (that hikers drink from) and refuse to move until they cooled off.

    One guy recognized his dog was suffering and immediately had a family member come pick up the dog. One girl was a far faster hiker than me, but she was good enough to hike at the dog's pace. She ended up being unable to stick with her bubble of friends, and eventually even I left her behind.

    Beyond the physical toll on the dogs, several dog owners told me that their dog was having behavioral issues, from being in a new place every night, and a bit confused about what it's territory was. Their dogs had become more aggressive, with barking and growling. This was fairly evident just from watching. Some dogs made friends with everyone, some dogs were barking aggressively at everything and everyone.

    Then there were the annoying, inconsiderate dog owners, but those stories don't really belong in this thread, as you're just asking about the feasibility of bringing your dog along.

    Short answer. Don't do it, unless you have a quick backup plan to get your dog off the trail quickly for it's own health.

    After my hike, I got a shelter dog, that I chose specifically for his ability to be trail worthy. Turns out he has a bad shoulder and I can't even take him on long day hikes. I now have to plan my hikes around dog sitters. Oh well, he's still a good boy.
    Last edited by Puddlefish; 10-10-2017 at 09:18.

  11. #11
    Registered User evyck da fleet's Avatar
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    If you have to ask, you probably already know the answer.

    If you're worried about breaking down how are you going to take care of your dog throughout the day? That's where the bad dog threads start. It's usually but not always a bad owner.

  12. #12
    Registered User BuckeyeBill's Avatar
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    This is all great advise and true. A dog is only as good as their owner. Actually it is the owners who often need trained before getting a dog. I have had numerous dogs over the years and could do basic training at home. The dog and I would then go to a friend/professional trainer for the additional training I wanted the dog to have.
    Additionally people in general need to know how to respond to dogs. First and foremost is never ever bring your hand down towards the face. It takes this as an act of aggression and response in kind. Instead move your hand towards the dog with the backside towards the dog and under its mouth. The dog can then sniff you first and you can slowly begin to turn your hand over and pet it first under its mouth and neck. Dogs are also very protective of their owners, so don't play act or threaten the owner in any way, shape or form. You can and probably will get bitten. Finally, dogs can sense "Dog People" and will be friendly from the start. But hey all can sense fear. If you are uncomfortable around the dog, let the owner know. A responsible owner will move out of you way.

    I only take my dog on short one day hikes, maybe two day. He is more relax at home. I would never take him on AT thru hike even though he is thoroughly trained.
    Blackheart

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speakeasy TN View Post
    I'm really torn. Hollywood is great on the local trails but I don't know how he will handle the distance but then again it could be me that breaks down. He's good at staying close to me on a 25' retractable and stays on the trail. I had considered attaching the retractable directly to my pack. Is this the best way to go? Anybody got experience using a hammock instead of tent? Seems like extra lines to get tangled in. Convince me to take him and have fun!
    I would advise not. First, you have to make a plan for GSMNP, as dogs aren't allowed in the back country. Second, I don't think it's his dream to hike the AT.
    Time is but the stream I go afishin' in.
    Thoreau

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    You can do it, but it is in your hands how it goes down. In some sense you can just say F everyone I'm going to hike with my dog and if they don't like it that's their problem. This attitude is the problem and is turning many people off from allowing dogs on trail, and many opinions expressed here. Then you can do it respectfully to other hikers, with a dog trail ready, in total voice control and will not interfere with other hikers - these are the dogs that speak volumes to the cause of allowing dogs on trail. Hiking in Europe I have found almost all hiking dogs are in the second category, in the US mostly the first.

    I also want to echo that no one loves your dog like you do, and most don't place any more love in your dog then the squirrel they just saw a mile back, some prefer the squirrel.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchild View Post
    You can do it, but it is in your hands how it goes down. In some sense you can just say F everyone I'm going to hike with my dog and if they don't like it that's their problem. This attitude is the problem and is turning many people off from allowing dogs on trail, and many opinions expressed here. Then you can do it respectfully to other hikers, with a dog trail ready, in total voice control and will not interfere with other hikers - these are the dogs that speak volumes to the cause of allowing dogs on trail. Hiking in Europe I have found almost all hiking dogs are in the second category, in the US mostly the first.

    I also want to echo that no one loves your dog like you do, and most don't place any more love in your dog then the squirrel they just saw a mile back, some prefer the squirrel.
    You have great points. I do think the one about having a dog that is totally trail ready--total voice control, etc. I have had one dog in my life that was anywhere close to being able to do that. He was a Australian shepherd/cattle dog mix, and I could stop him from doing almost anything (eating or chasing geese) with just voice control. However, I was a single man then, and had the time and patience to train him. He was also incredibly smart. That said, even with him, I wouldn't let him greet strangers without a leash. He liked most people, but there were a few that just made him tense and angry for some reason.
    Time is but the stream I go afishin' in.
    Thoreau

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    Be prepared......Iím a dog hiker but as others said it can and likely will cause you to get off trail at least temporarily.....my pup does fine in south east doing 20+ mpd but the last two years he has caused me issues on hikes of the collegiate loop and CT.....most all of my trips are fairly rushed ie avg over 20 mpd due to work and family constraints. On two occasions I had to carry him and recently caused me to bag my CT thru after his injury.......turns into his hike not yours......if you have plenty of time and $$ with options for him when he canít hike go for it but if not donít do it..pics to prove it!!!. Heís lost his hiking privileges if it requires a flight!!!


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    Top pic was the last year on the Collegiate east at the miserable road walk at chalk creek and second pic was this past sept near Bailey Co....


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  18. #18
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    no matter the distance understand that by bringing your dog it's creating more work and more logistical issues than you would have if you didn't bring him. If it's a section hike - probably not that big of a deal. you can always shorten the hike or change your plans if an issue arises. On a thru it becomes more complicated. I hiked some big sections of my thru with people that had dogs. On trail not really an issue at all. Getting off trail was where the problems began - hitching, going into stores, hostels, hotels, restaurants, etc... In some cases it became pretty difficult. Without a dog there was nothing to think about or consider (dog related stuff). I personally wouldn't want the extra responsibility and logistical issues associated with having a dog along on my thru. I like to maintain maximum freedom and flexibility when hiking long distances. Whether or not the dog is physically or temperamentally up to the challenge is a whole different conversation - if you are already on the fence, my advice would be - leave the dog at home and don't make things any more challenging than they already are going to be

  19. #19
    Registered User swjohnsey's Avatar
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    Don't take the dog.

  20. #20
    Registered User Christoph's Avatar
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    Just getting back from my thru, I can say it was awesome to see dogs on the trail and 90% of them were pretty well behaved, overall. Another note, almost ALL of them weren't on leashes either and a few were even sleeping in shelters and allowed to free roam around where people are eating. One knocked over someones dinner they were preparing and ate half of it before he could be controlled, but "he never does that". As I'm a dog lover, not everyone is comfortable around dogs. I wouldn't take the dog on a true thru attempt. I would never put any of them through what I just endured. I saw a dog that was injured and carried out (ultimately ending the attempt), one got lost (was adopted along the way (yes, really)), NUMEROUS piles of dog crap right on the trail, and distruction of wildlife (plants, etc..) of the edge of the trail, and a lady that had bite marks on her (not sure what happened, but it happened).. Save the "hiking with my dog pics" for sections or weekend hikes and if you go for a thru hike, leave him home or with someone.
    - Trail name: Thumper

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