How to tell when your dog is ready for a long hike?
*First, is it grown? Puppies or yearlings have no place on a long hike.
*Have you hiked with it a lot, including being out for several weeks at a time?
Just because your dog enjoys day hikes or weekend excursions does not mean it's ready for a thru-hike.
*How well trained is your dog?
- ·Does it respond to voice commands immediately?
- ·Does it bark or howl?
- ·Is it OK when you're not around?
- ·Does it deal well with strangers?
- ·Does it deal well with children?
- ·Does it deal well with other dogs, or other animals?
- ·Is it skittish around strangers, does it snap or jump at people, does it bolt to chase wild animals?
- ·Does it stay by you when off leash, or does it wander?
- ·Does it pee wherever it wants, including on things like tents or gear?
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These are all things to consider.
*Are you willing to spend a good deal of time every day tending to your dog's needs and health, i.e. checking its feet frequently; checking for ticks; altering your schedule out of consideration for its health.
*A dog is NOT a pack animal. Are you willing, if necessary, to carry your dog's food, water, and other gear?
*Are you willing, WITHOUT COMPLAINT, to deal with the times where you'll be unable to do what other hikers do and stay where other hikes stay, because you've elected to travel with a dog?
*Are you willing to NEVER expect rules, regulations, policies of hostels, motels, restaurants, etc. to be altered for you, and are you willing to never ask people to make exceptions for you and your pet?
*Are you willing to forego staying in shelters, as there are many, many folks who don't wish to share them with an animal for any number of perfectly valid reasons?
*Are you OK with the fact that many Trail facilities and locations will be barred to you because you're with a dog?
*Are you willing to always obey the rules, regulations, and laws in certain places where dogs are barred, or where leash laws are in effect?
*On the Trail, in trail towns, and elsewhere, are you willing to ALWAYS be vigilant and aware of how your dog's presence and behavior is impacting other people? And are you willing to take immediate action when it's clear that your dog is creating problems?
*Are you willing to NEVER have other people being responsible for your dog, i.e. are you willing to forego certain things, and are you willing to never leave your dog alone and unattended where he might have a negative impact on either the location or the people staying there?
*Are you willing, and I mean REALLY willing to make an effort to clean up after your pet, in camp and elsewhere?
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These are just a few things to consider.
But if your dog doesn't measure up here, or if you're not ready to do all of the above, then no, your dog is not ready for the A.T.
And 95% (at least) of Trail dogs and their owners are not up to the requirements listed above.
Plain and simple, the vast majority of Trail dogs need to stay at home and are better off there, and this is almost always NOT a dog problem, but instead, an owner one.
The plain and simple answer to "Is my dog ready to the-hike the A.T.?" is very simple:
In nearly every case, due to negligence, laziness, or apathy on the part of the owner, the vast majority of the dogs one encounters on the A.T. are NOT ready to be there.
Sorry to say it, but it's the plain truth. Most of them need to go home.
Article written by Jack Tarlin AKA Baltimore Jack<o></o>