View Full Version : Dogs on the trail

Former Admin
09-10-2002, 04:57
Questions, Comments, Concerns, related to bringing Fido on the trail

09-10-2002, 17:46
I know there was lots of discussion on this before. I personally would prefer that folks not bring dogs. But if you are going to bring one, then it must be well behaved and under your control at all times.

Most people don't like to be licked all over by a dog they don't know.

I would also recommend camping away from shelter sites because some (myself) would be uncomfortable camping with a dog I didn't know and that didn't know me. Had a bad experience with a dog at a shelter on my trip this year, he acted like he wanted to eat us at first. This was not what we wanted at the end of a long day hiking.

Maybe some folks would want to bring a cat. It might help with the mouse population in shelters.:D


09-11-2002, 07:55
Dogs are not welcome in the Great Smokey Mtns or Baxter State Park(ME).

I think everyone like's a well behaved dog and a responsible owner.

There's a lot of good and bad with taking a dog. Most of it bad I'm afraid.

I think a dog would be great on a section hike, but for a thru hike....I'm not real sure about that.

09-11-2002, 09:39
During my Springer->Damascus section hike this spring, I met a grand total of two well behaved dogs and lots that came close to getting a thrashing. Most of the owners would say, "He never acts this way in town!" I really like dogs. It seems that the outdoors really gets them going. I should also say that atleast one dog that was trying to thruhike died about 1 week in front of me and several others were getting very sick. I'd probably leave the pooch at home for a long distance hike, but this, of course, depends on the dog.

SGT Rock
09-11-2002, 13:44
I copied this from the old board and edited it some.

I was once a hiker that believed my dog could and should go anywhere. I hiked a few trails with her and had a good time. But a couple of long distance section hikes as well as my fellow hikers have convinced me otherwise. I love my dog just like I love my children, but I would never bring either on my thru hike I'm planning. There are lots of issues with bringing a dog the most dog owners will tell you they can hack, but experience on the trail tells me otherwise.

A dog is another hiker, period. Now if you take that as fact - then you gotta take the informal and formal rules along the trail and think how that would apply.

1. Will a dog owner bury the dog's feces every time the dog goes? A hiker has to, but I rarely if ever see a dog owner doing that.

2. Will the dog owner be able to keep Fido out of every small spring and water hole on the trail? I doubt it. Dogs want to get right in the source to drink. If Joe Bob the thru-hiker was standing with his size 10 boots in the spring you would want to have his butt.

3. Will the dog beg at shelters? Maybe you can yogi from campers, but from other hikers it is considered bad form. Every meal at every shelter is a dog's attempt to get yours. If Joe Bob was yoging from everyone at every shelter he would be an outcast before long.

4. Besides begging, imagine if a hiker yelled at you to go away every time you approached - or even once to any hiker for no reason. Dogs want territory, it is in their nature. I've been barked and growled at so many times I just assume it will happen every time I see a dog on the trail now. Again, if Joe Bob did it you would want to smack him with a trekking pole.

5. Pissing on stuff. I'm not delicate because that is one that really gets me. Dogs want to mark stuff, especially males. I've seen a dog mark a tent and the owner say "dogs do that, it's no big deal" well if it is my tent or pack - it is a HUGE DEAL! Dogs will also do it anywhere - next to water, next to you, next to your food, etc. If Joe Bob whips it out and pisses next to you while your eating or even just sitting, or especially if he does it on your tent or pack - he will get his a$$ whipped. But if you want to beat a dog for doing that, the owner gets all defensive.

6. Aggressiveness. Sometimes dogs attack - even ones that have never done it before. I've seen an heard it so often it makes me sick (and I'm a dog lover) - "Fido never hurt anyone, before now" while the owners have this perplexed look and the victim (that is right, a victim) has a bleeding dog bite he didn't deserve. If you walked into a camp and Joe Bob attacked you without reason - he should go to jail, but it seems dog owners want their dog to be above that.

7. Aggressiveness (again). Not all dogs attack, but a lot like to jump up on people to say hi. It is unwanted and isn't cute. If Joe Bob gave you a bear hug and tongue kiss every time you saw him, you would have him arrested.

8. Wetness. A dog can enter a dry spot like a shelter when coming out of the rain, and a second later everything in it gets a shower when Fido shakes it out. If old Joe Bob took off his jacket and shook it out inside a shelter he would get a good chewing out, but a dog owner just sheepishly says sorry when it was obvious it would happen. But now your gear (maybe even your bag) is now wet.

9. Mud. Again, coming out of the rain, Fido will have muddy feet. While a considerate hiker will take off his boots and not track it everywhere - the dog cannot. He will pace all over, getting the floor nasty. sometimes he even walks on other's gear. If Joe Bob did this he would end up right back out in the rain!

10. Wildlife - dogs will either think it is prey or a threat. Dogs chase birds, squirrels, frogs, butterflies, etc. I've seen a lot more wildlife without my dog than with. If Joe Bob spent all his time chasing squirrels and rabbits, he would be a pretty sad (and crazy) hiker.

I haven't even hit all the aspects as the dog as a hiker. But I think I have shown what just the surface concerns SHOULD BE! If you decide to stay away from other hikers or shelters with your dog to avoid this, then you are doing exactly what a considerate hiker with a dog should try to do. Just because you love your dog and think you can't live without him, others will not agree. If you plan to hike with your dog, and screw what others think or feel, your just as bad as a parent that lets his kids beat you car with rocks, scream in libraries, and leave trash wherever they go.

But besides what other hikers must put up with, think about you and especially your dog.

Will you keep your dog on a leash? You are supposed to. The reasons why are all listed above - because on a leash you SHOULD be able to prevent all or most of the above. When you dog goes off on a scent and you loose them, or they get that "Call of the wild" it will be the saddest moment of your life. I lost my very obedient dog once on a trail for over an hour. She is so connected to me and my family we have accidentally left the gate in the yard open - and she never left the inside fence. But after three days on a trail I had one of the saddest moments in my life when I thought she was gone.

Will you make Fido carry a pack? Well a dog needs a lot of food based on body weight. I'm a 155 pound man and can live fine off 2 pounds of food a day, but my 45 pound dog needs almost as much per day as I do. A dog isn't a pack animal and shouldn't carry more than 10% of their body weight unless you want to hurt them. So the most my dog can carry is three days food in her pack. You will have to carry enough food to feed yourself, and the dog. But you will also need water - your dog can get a lot of the same illnesses you can from water. You will also need a towel for those rainy days, a dish to eat and drink from, and a blanket or something to sleep in in cold weather. A leash, harness (collars can hurt the poor pup), tags, maybe a longer rope for camp, etc. Might as well take on a partner and volunteer to carry everything for the both of you.

How about the dog's health? Dog's feet are tough, but once cut it would be like you trying to do 10 mile days in bare feet with a cut on the bottom. Dogs can get muscle strains, tendonitis, bone spurs, etc just like people. The difference is you won't know usually until your pet is totally lame. Dogs can get sick, get cut, get certain dog specific diseases, etc. do you know dog first aid, carry the correct meds, and can you diagnose and treat someone that can't talk? If you dog gets hurt so bad it can't walk, can you carry the dog and your gear?

Is you dog really in shape for long distance hiking. My dog can run me into the ground and look like she loves it, but after 12 miles I'm dragging her. This was even after many miles of trail conditioning.

Dogs don't hike by nature. It isn't natural or pleasant to them. They are pack animals (pack as in group, not as in gear) and they love to be with you as leader of their pack. They will go with you because they love you, but they may not be able to communicate well how pleasant or unpleasant it is to be on the trail. You as a pet owner assume they want to be there, but you can never really know.

So, if your selfish enough to take your dog, please abide by the rules and be considerate. If you love your pet enough to not take him/her, I applaud you.

That was longer than I planned, sorry ya'll.

09-11-2002, 17:05
A few short comments.

First, when you bring Fido along, you no longer hike your own hike. You hike your dog's hike.

Second, I saw many dogs down south, and very few up north.

Fact is, a long distance hike is very hard on a dog. I don't thing that owner's fully understand this until they try it.

12-09-2002, 19:33
sgt rock - "I've been barked and growled at so many times I just assume it will happen every time I see a dog on the trail now."

hate to say it, but after reading your post, i don't wonder why.

personally, i met several great dogs/owners on the AT. least of my worries.

Lone Wolf
12-09-2002, 19:40
Anybody know Heald and Wonder Dog Annie? They arrived in Damascus today going SOBO. Annie is a damn good dog.

12-09-2002, 19:43
I must say that the dogs and owners that I've meet on the trail have been very well behaved.

The only time I had trouble was when I was hiking with a friend whom had a dog and we crossed another couple who also had a dog.

Good thing we both had our Gizmo's on a leash or the fur would have flown.

Funny thing the dog was the best tempered dog there was until we came up on the other dog and then he turned into Mike Tyson.

I have no problems with dogs, just keep them on a leash please.

12-09-2002, 19:44
Tell Heald I said hello, I meet him last year. What is this his 5th southbound?

Lone Wolf
12-09-2002, 19:52
I don't really know. I'll ask him. He'll be in town a coupla days. He's gonna work at Neel's gap when he gets there, work 5 weeks or so then head north. He's quite the yo-yoer.

SGT Rock
12-09-2002, 20:12

I'm a dog lover. I have a dog (notice I didn't say own - she is a part of the family), watch other peoples dogs, and like to see well behaved dogs on the trail - but honestly, I hardley ever see them. Please read that again - I LIKE TO SEE GOOD DOGS ON THE TRAIL! But pay attention to the second half because it is very true - I hardley ever see them.

I really mean it - I expect to get growled at now every time I see a dog on the trail. I don't think it is my fault that most dogs on the trail should not be there. What gets me is when a dog acts stupid on the trail and the owner is either oblivious to the fact or makes up excuses for it. How can it be my fault if I hear the dog barking at everything as I approach, then get charged by the dog with hackles, and get my heels nipped as I pass by? Some dog lovers in my experience make allowances for dogs and assume everyone else will or should, but I do not. The trail is a public place and others have the right to not have their gear ruined or get molested by another hiker's dog.

12-09-2002, 20:56
I enjoy dogs on the trail as long as they are well behaved. I had my first bad experience in 01 when a 100lb Rottie tried to take my right hand off at Rausch Gap. That made me think twice, but I still think dogs have a place on the trail...but then again I like dogs. The only exception being very large, angry, seni-vicious dogs that aren't on leashes and bite, those dogs I don't like very much.

12-09-2002, 21:36
I don't mind dogs on the trail most of the year. But in winter every dog insists on peeing right in the trail. I suppose it's because only the trail is packed, and if they step off the trail they are above their gonads in fluffy snow, making it hard to pee. Sometimes you have to walk carefully to keep the yellow snow off your snowshoes. Watch out for the brown stuff in the trail too.

12-10-2002, 01:02
I hiked for 13 years with a Samoyed and our Boy Scout troop...he was kinda troop mascot and carried in his own backpack his own food as well as the troop first aid kit (and this was a big kit)...he would forget he had on the backpack and occassionally clip the legs of a scout on the trail, true to his breed he was never aggressive toward any person or other dog-I'm sure there are exceptions with Samoyeds. After his passing I hiked a few times with a Rottweiler-my oldest daughter's dog. From Carvers Gap to 19E in early September he became slower and slower, finally he sat down and would not move. We saw it coming and all in the group donated water to him, eventually we made a stretcher out of branches and our shirts and carried him from Doll Flats to the road...he never hiked again. The last 300 or so AT miles I have done with the exception of GSMNP was with Gitchee Goomie the ten pound wonder dog. She was given to me by a co-worker dying of cancer who asked if I would take one of the pups from her liter. I said yes before asking what kind of dog and after so many trail miles with her I am almost over the embarrassment of admiting I have a miniature poodle. Of course this dog cant hurt anybody, doesnt shed (not important on the trail), and believe it or not actually knows the word 'hike'...I have to agree with everything everyone has said, especially Sgt Rock when it comes to the affective perception we attach to our pets and their love of hiking/versus love of being with their owners and after reading Sgt Rock's post I have to wonder if I should send back Gitchee's booties and backpack (yep actually found a backpack her size). But after I sum everything up I have to think that there are some of us hikers who have no family, maybe even no friends except the animials we keep, and at the same time I have to look at the bond humans have forged with animals especially the dog. In clinicals back in college I had to rotate through a nursing home and I have seen the power dogs have on the infirm and disabled and I will admit that I am calmer when the dog is present....and yes after saying that I will also tell you that I have been to the ER on 3 occasions to get stitches-all from German Shepherds, one even my great great Aunts whose name was Booger (I laughed when I was told his name and he got pissed which made me laugh louder, then my dad pulled him off of me), but even after these events I still love dogs and will even cross a street to pet a stray...so next week if the weather permits Gitchee Goomie will be going over Cheoah Bald with me-all decked out in her new booties and backpack...and the girlfriend-same one who said Stecoah to Fontana was a death march will go to, and guess which one I think will be most able!

12-10-2002, 12:04
sarge, i didn't mean to imply you don't like dogs, but you said yourself, you have the expectation of getting growled at. i don't mean to criticize you in any way, but that expectation has to bring on a certain tenseness when you meet a new dog, and dogs have a way of sensing that. don't know how, just have seen it over and over again. i know this kid who works with a friend. he lives with a dog, he loves the dog and they get along fine, but outside his house, there is not a single dog that doesn't growl or snap at him. why? because he thinks every dog is gonna come after him. don't know what to say, except most of the stuff you list doesn't bother me and i rarely meet a dog that doesn't become my friend. btw, i don't have a dog.

however, i do agree that people should, at least, attempt to control their pets. i wish you would have met Raven or Winter (both ger. shep.) or panama red's chow (i forget his name) as i did in 2000. complete hiking dogs all and never bothered anyone.

08-21-2003, 23:39
I was hiking with a friend and his young son when someone's dog from a neighboring camp almost bit him. What happened? It was a car camping site and the neighbors had a cooler with some popsicles, OK. Seems the kid stuck a popsicle in the dog's ass. Dog spun around ready to chomp, and let's face it... could have had the bite in by the time I went to stop it. Luckily, dog growled angrily and that was it.

If someone sticks a popsicle stick in my butt, I probably would have bit them, too. Shivers.

08-22-2003, 02:33
Sgt Rock speaks a lot of sense and I concur with his comments. Another angle you might want to consider is are you being fair to your dog? Taking a dog on a section hike for a few weeks might be one thing, but a thru-hike is another thing altogether.

I saw quite a few dogs suffering during my hike in '02. One with badly cut paws and two that were really stressed from the rigours of the hike and should have been at home resting up. Another dog died on the trail in ME (unfortunately his owner Harley later died in the Whites). IMO it's quite cruel to make a dog walk over the seemingly endless sections of the trail that are covered with sharp rocks. If we humans elect to do it then that's our choice but our four legged friends don't get a say in whether they go thru-hiking or not!

08-22-2003, 08:32
Originally posted by Downunda
Sgt Rock speaks a lot of sense and I concur with his comments. Another angle you might want to consider is are you being fair to your dog? Taking a dog on a section hike for a few weeks might be one thing, but a thru-hike is another thing altogether.

I saw quite a few dogs suffering during my hike in '02. One with badly cut paws and two that were really stressed from the rigours of the hike and should have been at home resting up. Another dog died on the trail in ME (unfortunately his owner Harley later died in the Whites). IMO it's quite cruel to make a dog walk over the seemingly endless sections of the trail that are covered with sharp rocks. If we humans elect to do it then that's our choice but our four legged friends don't get a say in whether they go thru-hiking or not!

Yeah, I met some great dogs with other thru-hikers in '00... but they all seemed weary for the trip. I had someone mention to me that dogs were not built to carry packs and have great difficulty when they are asked to carry their own supplies. And being the troopers that they are, they carry them until they can't go anymore.

I, like most everyone else, enjoy the companionship of a well behaved dog, however, again like most everyone else, I don't want to be around one that isn't. What upsets me the most is the dog owner that has no control of their animal who let them run free and when the dog approaches you in a somewhat threatening manner they don't yell at the dog and try to control/teach him to not be aggressive-- they yell at me to "Don't worry! He won't bite". Believe me, I am not a violent person by any means, but I sometimes get an urge to use one of John Wayne's lines with those folks. You know the one..."Don't worry, I'm not going to hit you, the hell I'm not!" followed by a sucker punch.


08-22-2003, 10:23
Actually, some dogs are built for this kind of a hike. The Husky is one of those dogs. From everything I have read, they are made to hike long distances on little food. Here's a quote from the Siberian Husky Club of America :

The Siberian Husky is noted as an "easy keeper," requiring a relatively small amount of food for his size. This trait, too, may be traced to the origins of the breed, as the Chukchis developed their dogs to pull a light load at a fast pace over great distances in low temperatures on the smallest possible intake of food.

When we get done with our next thruhike, my wife wants to get a dog. I figure this is a good one in case we want to do some more long distance hiking :)

08-22-2003, 10:48
Does it make a difference if they are carrying a load versus pulling a load? What I was told was that their physical structure made it difficult for dogs to carry loads on their backs... to my knowledge the person that told me this was not particularly a dog expert, but a very experienced long distance backpacker. I thought it was just his opinion from his observations.

08-22-2003, 13:25
I doubt that anyone can really answer that question. But at least the dog was made to carry a load one way or another. But the pack is essentially the same as if the dog was a little fatter, as it is well balanced, and doesn't induce any additional stresses on their joints. When we actually get a dog, we'll look more into this... But all the literature that I have read about Huskies says they are long distance machines. I'd be interested in hear 1st hand accounts of this. I've also read Husky can and do run marathons regularly. And if you aren't a fit person who likes to take long runs/walks, you shouldn't have one. That's unlike almost any other dog that I have ever heard of.

Oh, another concern would be the husky during hot weather. You can always shave them down when it gets warm. I have also read that the coat works as an insolator to keep them cooler, but this doesn't make any sense to me unless their body temperature is lower than the outside temperature.

But your hike does become one with the dog, and if it is injured, then you have to take time off...

Gravity Man

08-29-2003, 02:01
I do not like dogs on the trail. I have run into many hikers who have had dogs on the trails and they are well behaved. But I still do not like them on the trail. I think you will find that most people hiking the AT will tell you that they do not like dogs on the trail. SGT Rock has made a good list of why most people do not like them on the trail earlier in this thread. I know when I have been at shelters with dogs myself and other hikers have tolerated the dog. But after the owner has left with their dog we all end up talking about how dogs can be a real pain.

I use to hike with a friend who had a well-behaved dog. In fact his dog won many, many awards from dog shows that she was in. But when he brought his dog hiking with us he was constantly yelling commands at her. Like here Sally, Heal Sally, Come Sally, Stay Sally, Back here Sally, Wait Sally, and the list goes on. It was a pain listening to him giving commands at her all day long. She did listen and behave when he yelled the command to her. But I did not go hiking or backpacking to listen to a person yell dog commands all day long.

Then at every crossing she would go into the water and sometimes get muddy. Then when we were around socializing at night and the dog was lying beside him you could smell her. I think most everyone knows what a wet dog smells like. I mean us hikers smell after a day or two hiking and we get use to that. But there is something about a wet dog that I donít like.

Every time a squirrel was near by and she heard it she would take off after it. Dogs that are on the trail should not do this and should be taught otherwise.

Every time another hiker came at us from the other direction she would start growling at them. It was a mean growl too. It would have scared me like it did most hikers. And like Weasel had said in his statement: My friend would always say. ďI donít know why she did this. She never does this.Ē But in fact she always did it to every hiker coming from the other direction.

When we got to a water source. If we did not get there before the dog did then she would go into the water. That right there turned me away from that water source.

When I hiked with this person and his dog I never ran into any wildlife. But when I hike without him and his dog I ran into wildlife more often.

While the dog was hiking with us and she would fall behind for some reason or another he would call to her and she would come running. If he was in the lead and I was hiking behind him then she would barrel by me with her pack on and just about knock me over.

The list could go on here but I think I am getting my point across. I no longer hike with this person when they have there dog.

One other thing to consider when you bring a dog hiking. You have to realize that you are imposing your dog on other people whether they agree to it or not.

08-29-2003, 02:07
Well I'm a dog owner, however when hiking and a strange dog approaches me I panic. I am scared of encountering dogs on the trail. You just never ever know what they will do even the well behaved ones can snap for any reason.

Blue Jay
08-29-2003, 07:41
Unfortunately, dog people could care less that anyone is in any way bothered by their offensive animals or their own ignorance. They claim they love the dog but will walk them till their paws bleed and put packs on them with no way of knowing if that hurts the animal or not. Where ever there are trails there will be a small percentage of people who will contaminate the water sources, leave garbage around and/or be dog people.

Spirit Walker
08-29-2003, 10:19
A husky is good only if you are hiking somewhere fairly cool. Taking a husky on the PCT for example, would be really cruel. They also tend to be somewhat hyperactive, so get it well trained before you do any public outings.

The best dogs we saw hiking on the AT were labs. They are mellow dogs and very strong. Though I know a vet who traveled with two labs who had to send one home after it sat down one day and refused to hike any farther. Worst was a chow. They tend to be very protective and this one would growl or snap at everyone, even after we had been traveling together for several days. At one point it wouldn't let us go back to our tent, since we had to pass close to the owner's tent. We had to get the owner to call it off. They ended up going home because the hike was so hard on the dog. Doing 20+ miles a day is too much for the four footed.

steve hiker
09-01-2003, 00:57
Dogs don't belong on the trail, period. There's a certain regression that occurs when man and dog go into the wilderness. About a year ago I was hiking to a hot springs when a couple allowed their dog to intimidate me at a trail junction just to prove a point. These jerks were also camping "next" to the springs.

I got my revenge by hiking out the next day, opening their car, taking a dump on the drivers seat and pissing on the passenger seat. I wanted to make their experience as nice as mine. I actually have a friend who shot and killed two charging dobermans at a state park. The owners were pissed but had no recourse; he only got a $50 fine for shooting a gun at the park.

09-01-2003, 07:30
Originally posted by WillK

I got my revenge by hiking out the next day, opening their car, taking a dump on the drivers seat and pissing on the passenger seat. I wanted to make their experience as nice as mine.

I'm not sure whether you offer a solution or are part of another problem called trailhead vandalism. Several times I have been angered by supid behaviour from dog owners and my initial reaction was to somehow get even, but I calmed down, went on, tried to enjoy the rest of my day and hoped the dog owner learned something.

A couple of questions immediately come to mind; are you ABSOLUTELY SURE you got the right vehicle and what do you mean by "opening their car"... was it locked? I once had two tires slashed at a trailhead and I never had any kind of problem what so ever on trail or the drive over... did someone 'get the wrong vehicle'? I'm afraid you may be offering a new phenomenom called 'trail rage' and that is a troubling thought.

The people that I sometimes call 'stupid dog owners' are probably just new to the outdoors and are possibly taking their dogs for potection from all the perceived dangerous animals and people. I know that when I first started hiking I was concerned about a lot of dangers that I only laugh at now, then there was the first backpacking trip and what about the first solo backpacking trip. Most of these folks, the 'stupid dog owners' are okay people and will learn from their experiences just like the rest of us and do fine. Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, you just have to cut people a little slack... people that haven't spent time in the outdoors usually think that there are life threatening dangers at every unseen turn. What they usually need is just a little education and I'm not sure what message you sent. Do you really think that people go out to the woods just so they can sic their dogs on folks?