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  1. #1

    Default questions about the reality of dogs on the trail

    Folks:

    Just now posting, I'm a long time lurker. I'm considering hitting the trail with my dog later this Spring. I have a couple of questions, below, but first a small envelope of info.

    The dog I'll be hiking with is well trained, for both on and off trail behavior. (I refuse to go in public with a dog that doesn't have basic training and manners.) I have taken effort, and plan, to have her in good physical shape and/or "trail hardened" by the time we make the long journey to even begin the hike.

    I would appreciate direct answers to the questions in the spirit of what Sgt. Rock originally envisioned for this thread. Please hold off any negativity and noxious opinion. I get it, the bigger part of the problem is with the owners, which is usually the source of dog problems. I'm looking for solutions and answers to the questions, preferably by those who have hiked the trail with their faithful companion.

    1. Does one encounter as much maligned opinion about the mere presence of a dog on the trail as I find in the threads? I've talked to one or two people who hiked the trail and said they enjoyed seeing dogs on the trail. In short, is the attitude toward (well trained, restrained) dogs on the trail abusive?

    2. I've taken the effort to inform myself about what I'm getting into, and I have experience with it. I'm curious about how hard is it to actually find a place to take a shower and/or spend time in/near civilization with the dog? I will need the occasional cell phone recharge, etc.

    3. I'm a "hanger", use a hammock. Typically the dog sleeps leashed under my hammock, I have a system for this. Does anyone have direct experience in both these areas?

    4. Has anyone ever had their dog (or pack/gear) stolen? I often have to tie my dog outside when I go into a store. I'm always concerned and/or cautious about how and where I leave her. I realize that town visits are necessary when long distance hiking, and I'm wondering if this is a concern on the trail.

    Thank you very much for your consideration.

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by WoodlandNightHawk View Post
    Folks:

    Just now posting, I'm a long time lurker. I'm considering hitting the trail with my dog later this Spring. I have a couple of questions, below, but first a small envelope of info.

    The dog I'll be hiking with is well trained, for both on and off trail behavior. (I refuse to go in public with a dog that doesn't have basic training and manners.) I have taken effort, and plan, to have her in good physical shape and/or "trail hardened" by the time we make the long journey to even begin the hike.

    I would appreciate direct answers to the questions in the spirit of what Sgt. Rock originally envisioned for this thread. Please hold off any negativity and noxious opinion. I get it, the bigger part of the problem is with the owners, which is usually the source of dog problems. I'm looking for solutions and answers to the questions, preferably by those who have hiked the trail with their faithful companion.

    1. Does one encounter as much maligned opinion about the mere presence of a dog on the trail as I find in the threads? I've talked to one or two people who hiked the trail and said they enjoyed seeing dogs on the trail. In short, is the attitude toward (well trained, restrained) dogs on the trail abusive?

    No its not

    2. I've taken the effort to inform myself about what I'm getting into, and I have experience with it. I'm curious about how hard is it to actually find a place to take a shower and/or spend time in/near civilization with the dog? I will need the occasional cell phone recharge, etc.

    it can be a pain, highly variable, in general its easier with 2 owners so one can watch other can shop ect...just plan on doing less in town stays get in get out so to speak.

    3. I'm a "hanger", use a hammock. Typically the dog sleeps leashed under my hammock, I have a system for this. Does anyone have direct experience in both these areas?

    never had issues with that setup, personally i think its a bit easier to tent w/dog though.

    4. Has anyone ever had their dog (or pack/gear) stolen? I often have to tie my dog outside when I go into a store. I'm always concerned and/or cautious about how and where I leave her. I realize that town visits are necessary when long distance hiking, and I'm wondering if this is a concern on the trail.

    sure its happened, its not common, but any property left unattended is placed at risk, in town is obviously more of an issue than on trail.

    Thank you very much for your consideration.

    reply is above in bold

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by WoodlandNightHawk View Post
    1. Does one encounter as much maligned opinion about the mere presence of a dog on the trail as I find in the threads? I've talked to one or two people who hiked the trail and said they enjoyed seeing dogs on the trail. In short, is the attitude toward (well trained, restrained) dogs on the trail abusive?
    I would say there is an overall positive attitude towards dogs on the trail, at least on the surface. As a veterinarian, I can say that this attitude is not well deserved. What constitutes a "well trained" dog is certainly subjective but I saw few that would fall into that category. Please don't assume that everyone is going to "love" your dog. Not everyone likes a dog in their face and for the sake of avoiding negativity, I will hold it at that.

    I suspect the surly message board opinions on dogs are a result of past hiker experiences. If your dog is as you state, perhaps you can change opinions.

  4. #4

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    1) Problem dogs are generally owned by day hikers or weekenders. Hiker dogs are generally so tired at the end of the day they just want to eat and go to sleep. But to avoid any conflicts, keep your dog away from/out of shelters. Especially if they are wet and muddy. Also keep her away from people cooking and eating to avoid any begging issues.

    2) The south seems to be more dog friendly, probably because there are still a fair number of people with dogs on the trail. Still, in many cases you'll have to pay extra for the dog. The guide book will generally tell you where the dog friendly places are. Keep in mind that dogs are not allowed in the GSMNP, and that's an expensive problem to get around. A lot of hikers with dogs just give it up there.

    3) If that system has worked for you in the past, it should continue to work.

    4) Having your dog or gear stolen is very unlikely. Every year you'll see "Lost dog" posters along the trail because it ran off chasing wildlife and gets lost, since it has no clue where it is.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  5. #5

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    A lot of good info in this so far. I would suggest reading the AT book "Lost on the AT". It is direct day by day experiences of taking a dog on a LDH.

    If you are a solo hiker it will be more difficult. If you are a social butterfly, others that you form strong friendships with will help when it comes time for you to resupply. Some/ a lot of hostels do not allow dogs, along with a lot of establishments. So that will add a level of difficulty, as well as if you are hiking with others that you meet along the way.

    I have always loved meeting well behaved dogs on the trail. These are the things that I personally do not like from dog behaviors while on the trail(as I don't think anyone would).
    1- Shelter dogs (I exclusively tent now so I fixed that problem)
    2-aggressiveness of any kind. Barking, growling, lunging etc this typically happens while passing folks on the trail, but has also happened while passing a campsite and even in MD a hiker had "claimed the shelter" by chaining his pitbull to the center post which was not a polite dog.
    3-the free roamer dog. "Now that we are in camp, I will let the dog free roam at his leisure amongst every ones stuff. (This has in a couple instances negated my efforts of bullet #1 because once or twice a dog has urinated on my tent.)
    4-Not following the rules. If a hostel has a no dogs policy, keeping the dog in the mud room, sneaking the dog in under your bunk or leashing him to a tree out back in the woods all are not acceptable resources to the dog, and are not kind to fellow hikers obeying the rules.
    5-Noisy dog. I am in camp, I walked 20 miles today, I want to hear the peace and quiet of the natural world. Nope, fido is 2 tents down howling at the moon all night.


    NOW. I have met many polite, well behaved dogs on the trail that acted better then a lot of hikers I have met. I have also walked with a dog for a total of about 1700-1900 trail miles and know the rigors of taking dog. I finally quit taking him when I saw that I had all but worn the dog out. Not just for a trip until next time, but for his life. for 2 years now my dog has spent the entireties of his days sleeping in his bed, with little to no activity. If he does more then about 4 miles, he becomes tired, slow, possibly due to pain etc.

    Two good quote I like about hiking with a dog...
    "The dog didn't choose to hike, you did."
    "Your no longer hiking your hike, your hiking your dogs hike"

    Both of these are accurate and not meant to be hateful. Its just the facts.

    It sounds like you are responsible and know your dog very well and so I don't see it as a bad idea. It is also obvious that you understand up front that taking her along will impact and change your hike. So just be prepared for that.


    I might have missed it but I don't recall you stating the following info
    Age
    weight
    species...
    of the dog. This can play a big part in the hike as well

    My dog Ward when he use to go on trips with me

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    Last edited by Gambit McCrae; 02-20-2019 at 14:06.
    Trail Miles: 3,715.9
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  6. #6
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    I think it's somewhat overblown, but it's usually the dog owner that's the real problem. I've been bitten by dogs while the owner says "gee, he's never done that before." I had a dog jump all over me - yes he was friendly, but he was also covered in mud - while the owner was dangling the leash. My favorite: while Rex is baring his teeth at me the owner yells from afar "don't worry, he's friendly!" To which i either reply "I'm not" or "you have a strange idea of friendly"

    I love dogs, but it's always the 1% of dogs and/or owners that ruin things for the rest. Just like any other issue, really. If you can't control your dog, it shouldn't be on the trail with you. Period.

  7. #7

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    [QUOTE=Slumgum;2238242]I would say there is an overall positive attitude towards dogs on the trail, at least on the surface. As a veterinarian, I can say that this attitude is not well deserved. What constitutes a "well trained" dog is certainly subjective but I saw few that would fall into that category. Please don't assume that everyone is going to "love" your dog. Not everyone likes a dog in their face and for the sake of avoiding negativity, I will hold it at that.

    Perfectly stated. I love dogs, but few on the trail are "well behaved" in spite of what the owner tells you. It's not the dog's fault, just as misbehaving kids are actually the fault of poor parenting.

    On the last hike, the final straw was a "well behaved" dog that crapped by others camping area while the owner was busy telling fascinating stories. I tolerated the running through gear, etc., and even tolerated his doubt of the act right up to the point where I walked him over to show where Fido left his calling card. To his credit, he did clean it up.

    Well behaved. Uh huh
    The older I get, the faster I hiked.

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    [QUOTE=Ankle Bone;2238252]
    Quote Originally Posted by Slumgum View Post
    I would say there is an overall positive attitude towards dogs on the trail, at least on the surface. As a veterinarian, I can say that this attitude is not well deserved. What constitutes a "well trained" dog is certainly subjective but I saw few that would fall into that category. Please don't assume that everyone is going to "love" your dog. Not everyone likes a dog in their face and for the sake of avoiding negativity, I will hold it at that.

    Perfectly stated. I love dogs, but few on the trail are "well behaved" in spite of what the owner tells you. It's not the dog's fault, just as misbehaving kids are actually the fault of poor parenting.

    On the last hike, the final straw was a "well behaved" dog that crapped by others camping area while the owner was busy telling fascinating stories. I tolerated the running through gear, etc., and even tolerated his doubt of the act right up to the point where I walked him over to show where Fido left his calling card. To his credit, he did clean it up.

    Well behaved. Uh huh
    i'm not sure i'd say a dog that doesnt know that while out in the woods it shouldnt poop near tents isnt well behaved. the owner not paying attention i don't like, but at least he did clean it up.

    in general i'll just add that both problem dogs and people who have problems with dogs are something i've never actually encountered. the dogs are generally well behaved (generally, not like theyre all perfect little angels and im sure someone who is looking for could find fault in many if not most of them) and the people around are mostly happy theyre there and want to say hello to them, ask their names etc.

  9. #9

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    I will be the first to announce that Ward was ( My hiking dog) was not perfect. He was good. Real good. But nobody or nothing is perfect. I had exactly one vocalized negative response to my dog. It was a t standing bear hostel and an old grumpy arm chair sleeping hiker did not appreciate Ward wanting to petting and while snarling his upper lip told him to beat it. He had the right to do that and I told Ward to come lay down. That was the end of the incident. I taught him during the stage of his life of us hiking every weekend to get off the trail to poop. He did so religiously for many years. Now he has lost a lot of his old trail tricks and I have to clean up after him when we go on day hikes. Ward hasn't slept in a tent in about 2 years now. Old man.

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    "I have also walked with a dog for a total of about 1700-1900 trail miles and know the rigors of taking dog. I finally quit taking him when I saw that I had all but worn the dog out. Not just for a trip until next time, but for his life. for 2 years now my dog has spent the entireties of his days sleeping in his bed, with little to no activity. If he does more then about 4 miles, he becomes tired, slow, possibly due to pain etc. "

    Sorry to hear that Gambit. Sure you two at-least had some great times on the trail together!

  11. #11
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    For some info on the logistics of hiking the AT with your dog, check out this trail journal and maybe consider contacting the human half of this duo. trailjournals.com/Happyandyappy

    Furlough
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L’Amour

  12. #12

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    My experience with trail dogs is mixed. I love dogs, I was happy to see a few of them and their owners during the course of the day. It was a bit embarrassing at times that I knew the dog's trail name and not the owner's name. This is what I saw in 600 miles.

    The good:
    - I saw exactly two "thru hiking" dogs that didn't look half dead at the end of the day. Australian Cattle Hound type dogs, they had a lot of energy left. and their owners hiked fast.
    - A few people, very much slowed down their pace to that which their dog could handle, they ended up hiking at my slow pace instead of the pace of their younger friends, who moved up the trail without them.
    - One guy had his dad meet him, to take the dog home, the dog just had enough, by the Roan Mtn. area.
    - Several well behaved dogs, that let me pet them. (I always asked first, and never assumed.)

    The bad:
    - Several dog fights. Dogs are territorial, they get confused when they're constantly moving from night to night. Formerly well behaved dogs seemed to have gotten confused about who's space was whose, after a few months.
    - One of the dogs I loved, I was less thrilled with when he flopped down two yards upstream, into the stream I was filling my water bottle from.
    - I saw one hiker taking a zero at a shelter on a rainy day, her dog just kind of hopped up and down in and out of the shelter for half an hour tracking mud over several people's gear. She kept her nose in a book.
    - I saw one dog, one of the exhausted ones, refuse to return to her owner after being kenneled for the GSMNP stretch. It was the saddest thing, the hiker was all "yay, my dog!" and the dog was cowering from her.
    - Numerous growly dogs who ran a minute or five ahead of their owner's, blocking the trail and not letting me pass (that confused territoral thing again,) which basically paused my hike for a minute or five, until the owner caught up and said "Don't worry, he or she is harmless!" Every... single... time.
    - One dog that was prowling a tentsite unleashed, that actually nipped at me when I banged my shoes together to get the mud off of them. "Oh, yeah, he does that... I have no idea why"
    - I saw two notices taped to trees at trailheads for lost dogs.

    So sure, take your dog along, just be prepared to adapt. That well trained dog at home and on the local trails, might start feeling some stress after a month and behave differently. Some people do it well, and make the hike a great experience for themselves and their dogs. Other people are a bit more oblivious. They're all good dogs. Hikers tend to like friendly dogs.

  13. #13

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    The questions are pretty straightforward so please stick to the questions folks.

    Thank you.
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  14. #14
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    The dog I'll be hiking with is well trained, for both on and off trail behavior. (I refuse to go in public with a dog that doesn't have basic training and manners.) I have taken effort, and plan, to have her in good physical shape and/or "trail hardened" by the time we make the long journey to even begin the hike.

    I would appreciate direct answers to the questions in the spirit of what Sgt. Rock originally envisioned for this thread. Please hold off any negativity and noxious opinion. I get it, the bigger part of the problem is with the owners, which is usually the source of dog problems. I'm looking for solutions and answers to the questions, preferably by those who have hiked the trail with their faithful companion.

    1. Does one encounter as much maligned opinion about the mere presence of a dog on the trail as I find in the threads? I've talked to one or two people who hiked the trail and said they enjoyed seeing dogs on the trail. In short, is the attitude toward (well trained, restrained) dogs on the trail abusive?

    On the AT and trails everywhere across the U.S. I've hiked conscientious dog owners and well trained dogs with their owners in command have been welcomed. A few times the sheer number of dogs can cause problems though. I currently have a dog that doesn't do well around other dogs. I will not take him on trail for that reason alone. With what seems like increasing regularity dog owners are illegally attempting to take their dogs into areas where dogs are not permitted. This causes animosity towards those with dogs.
    2. I've taken the effort to inform myself about what I'm getting into, and I have experience with it. I'm curious about how hard is it to actually find a place to take a shower and/or spend time in/near civilization with the dog? I will need the occasional cell phone recharge, etc.

    Thru hiking and hiking with a dog requires greater concerns, responsibilities, and logistical preparations. As a dog owner and one whom has thru hiked with other hikers who had a thru hiking dogs and as a LASHER(AT, PCT, etc) backpacking with hikers with dogs these are considerations you have to be prepared to address. If you've never LD hiked or stayed out long durations, several wks or more with a dog, you may not truly understand these concerns until you've experienced them personally. I too have thought I and my different dogs were ready after day and weekend hikes only to find out I had assumed incorrectly. This is going to seem like a stretch but I liken hiking with a dog as the dog owner hiking with an adolescent who I'm responsible. Not only do I have to manage myself but have additional management responsibilities. If one is NOT accustomed to managing themselves as a LD hiker as they may not truly know thyself how can one understand how that dynamic changes and increases in scope with a dog?

    3. I'm a "hanger", use a hammock. Typically the dog sleeps leashed under my hammock, I have a system for this. Does anyone have direct experience in both these areas?

    I've never hung with a dog but of those who I know did PT on LD hikes that's precisely what they did. A couple hangers I knew with small breed dogs that could keep still actually slept in the hammock with their owners successfully. Unfortunately, I've seen dogs under hammocks shivering uncontrollably and utterly soaked. I don't rec a dog be made to stay outside under a hammock without apparel or shelter even if under a hammock. Not all breeds are Siberian Huskies able to withstand those types of situations IMO.

    4. Has anyone ever had their dog (or pack/gear) stolen? I often have to tie my dog outside when I go into a store. I'm always concerned and/or cautious about how and where I leave her. I realize that town visits are necessary when long distance hiking, and I'm wondering if this is a concern on the trail.
    I've never had dog gear stolen other than a collapsible dog dish disappear which I suspect an animal absconded. One AT thru hiker with a thru hiking dog did have a leash disappear. We 100% couldn't say whether it was lost or was stolen but together were about 80% sure someone stole a leash stored on top of a pack when in town inside a restaurant. We both remembered it being put there before going into the restaurant.

  15. #15

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    Many thanks for all this information. i appreciate the perspective, and I am grateful for the focus on answering the questions. The dog I will be hiking with is a German Shepherd, 55-60 pounds, not quite two years. She's great with other dogs, shy when meeting people. I'll be spending the entire month of April on an ancillary trail (with support) further training her, this is to harden the both of us. I'll make further decisions after that endeavor. I'm working on a plan to take my truck to the vicinity of an entrance to the AT, and we'll see how it goes from there. In other words, we can amend the plan and/or bail out easily if things aren't working.
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  16. #16

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    I think it fair to say well behaved dogs and attentive owners are not maligned and find they are welcomed most every where they are on the trail. The opposite would also be true.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Puddlefish View Post
    My experience with trail dogs is mixed. I love dogs, I was happy to see a few of them and their owners during the course of the day. It was a bit embarrassing at times that I knew the dog's trail name and not the owner's name. This is what I saw in 600 miles.

    The good:
    - I saw exactly two "thru hiking" dogs that didn't look half dead at the end of the day. Australian Cattle Hound type dogs, they had a lot of energy left. and their owners hiked fast.
    - A few people, very much slowed down their pace to that which their dog could handle, they ended up hiking at my slow pace instead of the pace of their younger friends, who moved up the trail without them.
    - One guy had his dad meet him, to take the dog home, the dog just had enough, by the Roan Mtn. area.
    - Several well behaved dogs, that let me pet them. (I always asked first, and never assumed.)

    The bad:
    - Several dog fights. Dogs are territorial, they get confused when they're constantly moving from night to night. Formerly well behaved dogs seemed to have gotten confused about who's space was whose, after a few months.
    - One of the dogs I loved, I was less thrilled with when he flopped down two yards upstream, into the stream I was filling my water bottle from.
    - I saw one hiker taking a zero at a shelter on a rainy day, her dog just kind of hopped up and down in and out of the shelter for half an hour tracking mud over several people's gear. She kept her nose in a book.
    - I saw one dog, one of the exhausted ones, refuse to return to her owner after being kenneled for the GSMNP stretch. It was the saddest thing, the hiker was all "yay, my dog!" and the dog was cowering from her.
    - Numerous growly dogs who ran a minute or five ahead of their owner's, blocking the trail and not letting me pass (that confused territoral thing again,) which basically paused my hike for a minute or five, until the owner caught up and said "Don't worry, he or she is harmless!" Every... single... time.
    - One dog that was prowling a tentsite unleashed, that actually nipped at me when I banged my shoes together to get the mud off of them. "Oh, yeah, he does that... I have no idea why"
    - I saw two notices taped to trees at trailheads for lost dogs.

    So sure, take your dog along, just be prepared to adapt. That well trained dog at home and on the local trails, might start feeling some stress after a month and behave differently. Some people do it well, and make the hike a great experience for themselves and their dogs. Other people are a bit more oblivious. They're all good dogs. Hikers tend to like friendly dogs.

    Yes, the good outweighs the bad about 2 to 1. Not the dogs fault for being a dog.

    I love dogs. I just don't like dog owners who assume the behaviors they tolerate are ones that I should also tolerate while hiking.
    The older I get, the faster I hiked.

  18. #18
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    I like dogs. If I wasn't moving around so much, I would definitely adopt one. Nevertheless, most of my dog experience on the trail is so-so. I have hiked with hikers who have dogs, and it was not a problem. However, I have also met dogs on the trail who have charged me and barked like crazy to the point where I thought the dog might attack (on leash or off). As others have pointed out, the owner always throws in the "dog is friendly/harmless" comment, which is little comfort as I prepare to defend myself. In my opinion, the dog problem is really an owner problem. If you have control over the dog, then it shouldn't be a problem.

    It's tough to get into hostels and motels with a dog. Most motels will charge you a large "pet" fee that is non-refundable.
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  19. #19

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    I have met one Rhodesian Ridgeback that was a truly well behaved dog that I would have been proud to own.Also met a white German Shepherd and a Golden Retriever that wanted to eat me alive but fortunately their owners had them on a leash and were strong enough to hold them.Then there have been a number of not so memorable dogs.

    One thing I think dog owners fail to realize is that when leashed,a dog can get overly protective of its owner and act out because the dog knows the owner is not going to turn it loose and he/she can therefore put on a "show".I know because I had a dog like that once and he never went out in public again because of his behavior.

  20. #20
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    I’ve hiked many miles over the years with various dogs (both my own and those owned by hiking buddies). In my experience well behaved and well cared for dogs get a generally positive reception on trail. (Unlike on the internet, people on trail seem to be able to tell the difference between dogs that are causing problems and ones that aren’t ) A lot of the time I end up in the opposite situatio with hikers not wanting to leave my dogs alone because of how much they miss theirs back home.

    To your question about town and resupply stops, it really is much easier to just ask another hiker you know to watch your dog while you run into a store.

    The one rare but potentially serious issue I will warn you about when hiking with a dog is being prepared for dealing with other people’s uncontrolled/aggressive dogs. One of the main reasons I do keep my dog on leash on the A.T. is so that I can be in control of such encounters and if an approaching dog’s body language tells me that it shouldn’t be trusted the I don’t let it near either of us until the dog’s owner has it under full control.
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