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  1. #1
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    Default New to dog on the trail.

    I a man new to bringing a dog on the trail with me, it's my buddy's dog and he's new to backpacking, let alone with a dog. What should we get for the dog for both day and weekend trips? Leash lengths would also help.
    BTW the dog is 80+lbs.
    thank you in advance.
    I would do a through hike if it wasn't for job restrictions, so section hiking it is.

  2. #2

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    Good of you to ask about this prior to the event. I wish more people I run into would consider this question before taking the family dog on a trail adventure. There are many "dog" related issues to consider, from the dogs overall health to interaction with other hikers. Since your question seemed to be regarding control, I will leave dog health issues, which there are many to consider, to others.

    Since its not your dog, you will probably not have a lot of control over its behavior. If your friend has spent considerable training time with the animal it may prove beneficial, but unless part of its training has been geared toward a hiking environment it may not be sufficient. Most family dogs who are not used to trail environments are hypersensitive to the new and changing stimuli of a forest and can have a personality change as a result.

    Dogs used to a predictable home environments will behave in predicable ways, which is what owners typically see. When the same dog is placed in a forest environment they can and usually do, change. The stimuli for dogs increases exponentially, which can change the dog from a calm home personality owners are used to and can become gregarious, some become aggressive and/or stand-offish, some want to wander and range away from owners. The owner is legally responsible for the behavior of their animal and the damage or injury they may cause so this is an important issue that can go well beyond an unpleasant encounter.

    From experience with dogs on trails and observations of others trying to manage them, these are usually the things that typically annoy people and cause problems on a trail:

    1. Dogs, particularly large dogs, running to "greet" hikers on the trail out of sight/control of owners can be very threatening and have bad consequences
    2. Dogs not under controls taking aggressive stances (ears back, hackles up, snarling, growling) when being passed by other hikers
    3. Dogs who cannot resist jumping on people, smearing mud and tearing fabric/scratching skin with claws.
    4. Barking, especially in camping areas after sunset.
    5. Dogs wandering around camping areas, knocking over water and food that is being prepared by others (or worse, eating food of others)
    6. Wet dogs shaking off water in a shelter or among a group of people
    7. Dogs walking on sleeping bags or other equipment in a shelter or tents as they are spread out on the ground
    8. Dogs chasing wildlife, especially bears who can react violently to this sport
    9. Dogs who get into fights with other dogs, especially when one dog is tied by leash and the other is not

    There are probably other annoyances that others may add, but these are the major points I would say should be considered when bringing a dog on a trail for any length of time. Since control issues tend to be the root of these (and most) dog issues, a leash solves most of these issues quickly, especially if the animal cannot be voice controlled in a forest environment. So I would recommend a stout, positive control leash as a remedy to most of these issues.

    Most State parks and in many sections of the AT, a leash is a legal requirement for all dogs. The exception to this may be allowed if the dog is very well trained and responds to vocal commands. If that will be the owners claim, be prepared to demonstrate that to appropriate authority when asked. An 8' leash should be sufficient (or retractable), longer can get snarled in brush and not protect people who pass by, shorter may not allow a dog of that size to avoid getting tangled up with the handler. There are sections of the AT where dogs are not allowed, period. Be sure to know the rules of the trail section(s) that will be hiked to see if there are any restrictions.

    Some basic etiquette will help turn a confrontation into an exchange of pleasantries that a leash alone won't fully solve. For example, if the dog is particular about who gets near it, attentive owners will step off to the side of the trail and shield it with their body or pull back of the leash allowing hikers to pass. This etiquette is always appreciated, I always thank owners who get this.

    Unfortunately, people may want to touch the animal not understanding the dog may snap or growl if approached, attentive owners caution anyone who looks like they wanted to touch the dog that it would not be a good idea. Additionally, children may want to approach a large dog in a camp area, not understanding the risk when the dog has food nearby so special attention should be made for that circumstance. Staying near the dog, with the dog secured by leashed is the only sure way to engage positive control of the animal and who approaches it.

    In my view, having had many water spills and food stolen by wandering dogs, the leash is probably the single best tool to use. It keeps the dog from running up to or jumping on people, roaming around a camping area or shelter getting into trouble, and provides some assurance for hikers who need to pass it will not bite or jump.

  3. #3
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    1) Friendly, quiet, personality
    2) Good discipline and behavior training and fitness
    3) Water and a container for the dog to drink out of.
    everything else is optional . . . except #10 which I forgot (probably unconsciously intentionally)
    4) Food and a container to eat out of (I use the same cottage cheese or sour cream carton I use for water).
    5) Closed cell foam pad for sleeping and resting on
    6) Anti-tick treatment of some sort - in many areas of the country anyway
    7) mosquito/bug repellent for the poor dog's sanity in buggy conditions
    8) A pack for your dog to carry its own food and water, etc so you don't have to (used to use one of these, but haven't in recent years)
    9) A quilt for you and your dog to share to keep the dog warm and not inside your sleeping bag at night (I have badly underestimated how important a coat and/or a quilt is for the dog stay warm enough to get a good/settled night's sleep. Yeah, some dogs have enough fur, but most family pets are acclimated to our homes and get pretty cold when they stop moving and temperatures drop).
    10) oh yeah, leash/tether. I use a pretty light 5' or 6' leash for on trail so I can attach it to my belt if desired without a lot of extra. At times, I also carry a 20' leash so the dog has a bit more room to roam (and get tangled) while in camp. As a puppy, I've used the 20' leash on trail, but I expect tighter leash behavior with my dogs as adults in most cases. Also, I try to hike in areas where there aren't too many people and the dogs can be off leash most of the time. That way I have more fun and so do the dogs. It's supper important to be able to verbally stop your dog if they are off leash. My best dog doesn't come well, but I can call her to stop immediately so she doesn't chase game or run up to people . . . most of the time. Annoyingly, she it also pretty intuitive and she will break her stop command to run up to an oncoming person that is acknowledging her and presenting in a friendly manner. It's only ever a problem when not everyone in the oncoming group is comfortable with a very friendly and energetic dog running up to them.

    Have fun.
    I'm not lost. I'm exploring.

  4. #4
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    Dogs need to be in shape and they sometimes are not very good at telling an owner that they are worn out and under stress. Sometime they will hike all day and then be unwilling/unable to get up in the morning.

    If the dog ever exhibits a tendency to run away and disappear, be ready for some frustration. With the dog in new territory if it runs away it may be gone for days. Definitely have a permanent collar with a phone number that someone is going to answer during the hike. You may want to research Vet options near the trail, in rural areas it may require quite an expensive drive if you need to pay someone. There typically is not an animal search and rescue along most if not all of the trail so if the dog gets injured its up to you and anyone else you may be able to get to volunteer.

    Sometimes the hike ends up revolving around the dog and that is not fun especially for the non owner.

  5. #5
    Clueless Weekender
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    1. Rock solid recall.
    2. Not being able to recall the dog from wildlife, tempting food or other smells, or 'greeting' other hikers or their companion animals is not a rock solid recall.
    3. Accidents happen, so you need a rock solid recall even if you're planning to keep the dog on lead at all times.
    4. Dogs belong in a shelter only when you're not sharing it, or when you're invited by someone else to bring the dog in (and by unanimous assent only!)
    5. Most of the nasties that are in the water supply, you can catch from your dog, so don't let your dog drink anything you wouldn't. Likewise, never, ever feed a dog off the ground or let the dog eat anything off the ground. Really careful handlers train the dog to eat only when released.
    6. Make sure you're trustworthy. The dog needs to know that you have his back no matter what. Most problem dogs mistrust their handlers.

    If a dog isn't 100% on COME, SIT, DOWN, STAY, HEEL and LEAVE IT, (and whatever word or noise you use to release a STAY, of course), the beast is not trail-ready. If he is solid on those, and if you're attentive to his needs (adequate water and food, watch for fatigue, inspect the pads regularly, warm and dry place to sleep, bug protection ... the same things you'd do for yourself except that your feet don't have pads), none of the problems that the earlier posters mention will arise.

    If another hiker displays the slightest unease about dogs, step off trail and tell the animal to go to HEEL, or tell him to rest at FRONT or BEHIND if he knows those commands. A dog that's willingly sitting by you with eyes on you is likely to put them at much greater ease.

    I envy some of my buddies who hike with dogs. Then I remember the amount of time and patience that it takes to train a trail dog. I'm glad that there are people who have that much time and patience.

    (And, as I've said before, feel free to substitute 'she' and 'bitch' for 'he and 'dog'. I don't like calling a pooch 'it.')

    Lots more in this thread.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

  6. #6

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    In addition to the above. A harness, not a collar. Never a choke collar. If you have to ask, start with a short leash. Like 3 feet long. Attach to the chest, not the top of the harness, so that it turns the dog if it tries to pull. It's kind of remarkable how many dogs aren't remotely leash trained. It's dangerous having an 80 pound dog pull you around when you're trying to keep your balance.

    Dogs are territorial. Out on the trail, they get confused about where they are, what is theirs, and they aren't usually happy about it. Expect that well behaved dog at home to do some growling and barking when encountering other dogs on the trail... or at least expect to have to deal with other dogs that are possibly more anxious and snarly.

    Have fun on the trail!

  7. #7
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    As this is a "first" for you both, be prepared to bail out (just in case).

    Also, for peace of mind (not to mention plain good sense), make sure the dog is "chipped" with a microchip. When a dog runs off the trail, there's little way for an owner to find it among all the square miles of mountains.
    ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit..... Numbers 35

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  8. #8
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    Thanks everyone. I was out this past weekend on the trails in Washington and watched how some people were with their dogs to give me some understanding of this as well. Most people had their dogs on leashes and there were some without but they wouldn't even put their nose in any direction the owner didn't want. I will sit with my buddy and his dog to see all of the above because I haven't even met the puppy yet. I saw the website ruffwear for dog stuff, other than a harness anything else major?
    I would do a through hike if it wasn't for job restrictions, so section hiking it is.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by SubSquid View Post
    Thanks everyone. I was out this past weekend on the trails in Washington and watched how some people were with their dogs to give me some understanding of this as well. Most people had their dogs on leashes and there were some without but they wouldn't even put their nose in any direction the owner didn't want. I will sit with my buddy and his dog to see all of the above because I haven't even met the puppy yet. I saw the website ruffwear for dog stuff, other than a harness anything else major?
    Drinking system. I used a solo cup, clipped to the side of my pack, and held it while my dog drank out of it. You have a larger dog, you might need to scale that up a little, to a 32 oz cup? Test some things in advance. You don't need a large wide bowl, because all that surface area is wasted, it's an effort to fill it, it's an effort to retrieve the extra water the dog doesn't drink. You don't need to spend a lot on a purpose built dog bowl that won't be all that light. Depth is more important than width. You'll be more likely to keep your dog hydrated when you feel you aren't wasting a ton of water on each attempt. It's probably easier to explain with this video.


  10. #10
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    All good info here for you and doggo. One more thing: Please set up your tent in your house if you can, lay pack beside it. Go in tent. Get doggo in tent quietly. If you do this like you approach all dog training the dog will not freak out and potentially try to tear out of the tent or rip gear. Leave the tent standing in your house as long as you can. Then establish a routine at the end of the day. Water dog, feed dog, pick ticks, put doggo to bed... Only a yall's command. Have fun. I take a bar of soap as well for just in case scrubbing.

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