Mar 14, 2007 at 3:40 pm #1222371
@jbaile38Locale: Rocky Mountains
I'm looking to adopt/rescue a young adult/adult dog to (among other reasons) hike with. I would eventually like to take the dog on 7-10 day summer trips and even a Colorado Trail hike I plan on in 2008.
I haven't had a dog in six years and I've never hiked with a dog. I have a few ?'s.
I like German Sheppards and Golden Retrievers. Would either of these be able to handle the physical rigors of hiking 20-30 mile days? Will their attitudes translate well to hiking?
Are there other breeds of dogs that I should look into?
Should I stay away from pure breads due to potential hip problems?
Are there any resources that I should check out?
What kind of training (if any) goes in to preparing a dog for being on the trail?
JustinMar 14, 2007 at 5:18 pm #1382321
I would stay away from longhaired dogs unless you enjoy picking cockleburs out of a thick coat. Personally I like German Shorthairs. The trick is to find one that isn’t too wound up.
Conditioning: Feet & Aerobically
To do that kind of mileage you will have to condition the dog aerobically and really toughen up the dog’s feet. You can’t just take a dog that is used to carpet and grass out on a trail and not expect to have problems. Running around a grassy yard will soften up the pads leading to a very painful experience for the dog when the pads come off, and a heart wrenching one for you when you realized it is your fault because you didn’t condition the dog’s feet properly. Think about walking on a gravel road with your own bare feet and you’ll see what I mean. Begin to work the dog’s pads up by having the dog take short walks (less than a block) on a concrete sidewalk once a day. Once the feet are toughened up a bit make it a full block, then two blocks, and so on. If the dog is licking their feet you have gone too far.
Work the Dog: Voice & Whistle Commands
Your dog should also be very disciplined when it comes to voice and whistle commands. My dad lost a dog for three or four days because his dog was so poorly trained. They were in the woods, a deer took off, and so did the dog.
So you have to work with the dog on voice and whistle commands. Working with the dog doesn’t mean twice a year, every once in a while, or once a month. It needs to be regular and often. Once or twice a day at first, and then two or three times a week once the dog is trained. Dogs have a knack for finding skunks, porcupines, and rattle snakes so the commands will help with that.
You will also need to make sure your dog is drinking, eating, and resting enough. Dogs generally don't stay on a path like a human, at least the one's I've been around. They run here, there, and everywhere. Exploring everything that smells interesting. Out in front of you and then back, to the left of you and then to the right. So a 10-mile hike for you is a lot longer for them.
One other thing… My dad has had four German Shorthairs. Two with pretty much a solid chocolate colored body (like the head in the above link), and two with a speckled body. The solid body dogs had a much longer lifespan (16 and 17 years). And the male chocolate body dog we brought home from the pound was the smartest, well-tempered, disciplined, affectionate dog I've been around. Even though his previous owners starved and abused him.Mar 15, 2007 at 9:47 am #1382408
I would recommend a herding dog over all others as a hiking companion. I have an australian sheperd, and at fourteen he's still going strong. They are super smart, and very trainable, and they have endurance for days, they're just built for it.
They are a pure breed, but they're a working breed, not a show dog, so they're bred for strength, intelligence and health, and they generally don't have hip problems.
Another bonus of these dogs, as they're trained to herd things, they tend to stick close to you, unlike hunting dogs who have different priorities.
what steve mentioned about long coats is definitly true with these dogs, they get dreadlocks on their hind ends sometimes, but they stay warm in the winter. Other herding breeds you might think about are australian cattle dogs, and kelpies.Mar 15, 2007 at 10:27 am #1382413
@aroth87Locale: Missouri Ozarks
My girlfriend is getting a sheltie (Shetland Sheepdog) in a few months and I was thinking about maybe trying to bring him on the trail with me sometimes. They're really smart dogs but can be a little loud sometimes. I figured I would see how he did on walks in the park before I took him out hiking. Any comments on shelties? I've heard mixed feelings about them.
AdamMar 15, 2007 at 10:53 am #1382416
@gmagnesLocale: Upstate NY
I have a Sheltie and have taken him on wilderness paddling and backpacking trips where he's been a wonderful companion. As the earlier poster mentioned, as a herding dog he wants to stay with me and with the group. So far, he's shown absolutely no inclination to run off or take off after other wild life, which is a great plus for a dog in the wilderness. Although they can be kind of shy, ours is very sociable and highly intelligent. He loves going out in the woods with us. The cons are: he's a barker. He barks at strange noises (that only he hears) at night. He barks when one of the group goes off. He barks when he sees wild life (like loons on the lake or a moose one time on a paddling trip in Canada). His hair is long and can get matted if it's not cared for, but he seems to have a surprisingly quick drying time after he gets wet from rain or going in the water. He also seems to come out surprisingly clean once he dries off after getting wet and rolling around in the mud for good measure. Although he's only going on such trips once in while, he hasn't had any paw or pad problems so far, sometimes on pretty rough trails. I've also taken him on winter day trips cross country skiing and snow shoeing. He does pretty well in the snow as well, although sometimes, as with most dogs, he can get snow and ice stuck between his pads and in various nooks in his paws. Apart from how they do in the wilderness, we've found our Sheltie (Shuki) to be a wonderful pet.
Hope that helps.
Schenectady, NYMar 15, 2007 at 11:50 am #1382423
Joshua is right about herding dogs being smart. They are probably the smartest dogs out there. A friend has a Blue Heeler that is very clever, has tons of energy, and is much smaller than a German Shorthair.
There seem to be a lot of herding dogs in shelters. Probably because their owners were not aware how much energy they have. They need a job to do, but are really great dogs. And if you like frisbee you have definitely found the right dog.
So I'll have to change my vote to a herding dog as well.
Mar 16, 2007 at 12:40 am #1382496
@jbaile38Locale: Rocky Mountains
Thanks everyone for all the help. I'm VERY excited.
I've been putting off owning a dog for years because I've been working and going to school full time. Not right to own a dog I would just ignore. I'm graduating in about six weeks and taking the summer off before I start my first year of teaching. I thought now would be a good time. I'll post a picture of him/her once I find the right one.Mar 16, 2007 at 1:57 am #1382499
@djohnsonLocale: Washington State
I can't wait to have a dog to hike with someday…that will be SO fun!
Until then, I've had some non-dog time to consider a really cool idea. I often hike with SuperUltraLight (SUL) loads where my base pack is aroun 4 pounds. Add food, fueld and water and it's 12 pounds or so for a 3 day trip. So what if you put this minimum of gear in a large dog pack along with their food and stuff and headed out with NADA on your back. That's what I'd call "Dog ZERO".
Sure, it's more of an exercise than a reasonable necesity but just imagine cruising down the trail with ZIP. Maybe one of the runner water bottles in your hand and nothing else? It would be too cool!
Dogs and Cuben Fiber. Now THAT'S a combination!
DougMar 16, 2007 at 5:07 pm #1382594
I take my border terrier on hikes and we both love it. The only problem is that he's a snuggler so I tend to get pushed off my sleep pad at night.
The most important things to consider have to do with the health and safety of your dog.
1. No offence to Mr. Dent, but even when my dog was a puppy he could handle more than a block on concrete. In fact, he never had a problem with concrete and would never needed to condition himself for that. However, trails, gravel, etc are a different matter. So, you need to be taking your dogs on short dayhikes, longer dayhikes, then an overnight, then a few nights, etc. See how the dog does at each level. If he handles it no problem, and i mean no problem, move to the next level.
2. The other issue is obedience. You need to train the dog to sit, stay, etc. basic stuff. You also need to teach him to stop. I would take my dog's favorite toy (tennis ball), go to a field, and play fetch for a bit. I would then throw the ball, let him run a few yards, and then command him to STOP. Now the first few times he didn't – but he doesn't get rewarded for that either. After some repetitions of this, the dog will probably stop to see why you're giving him a command when he has to get his ball. Reward him then. Keep going and he'll get it. Try to keep training sessions short – 15 minutes or so. Also remember to socialize your dog as much as possible. This will curb the tendancy to bark at everything.
Of course, the only sure-fire way to ensure your dog stays with you on the trail is to have him leashed. And just as important as it is for you to have the right gear, don't forget the dog's needs. Something soft/warm to sleep on, adequate food and water – something to chew on if he's bored.
I think it's awesome that you're looking at a rescue dog. You'll be able to gauge the dog's temperment when you go to the shelters. Good luck!
AaronMar 19, 2007 at 5:19 pm #1382844
I guess I didn't phrase my post very well. Walking the dog on the concrete is a way to condition the pads for hiking. The block I used to take our dogs on to condition their pads was about .6 miles. Not sure what a "normal" city block is distance wise.Mar 19, 2007 at 6:39 pm #1382850
I vote for cattle dog! Here's a pic of mine this weekend on a two day-er. He hates the flies and bees though and tries to catch them all day. Our pitbull is way tougher than him and can go way farther, but she is a b*tch and fights every dog, so I have to hike with her on a leash.
I use to play ball with him in the street and his paws are like leather. I worked him up to it though and now he can throw the brakes on in the street to catch the ball and skid like a bike tire with no damage:Mar 19, 2007 at 7:00 pm #1382852
@paddsterLocale: western NY
I have taken my part corgi mutt hiking a number of times. I believe she is a herding breed. One thing that I found with her is that she will not only follow whoever in our group is in the lead, but will also go back and forth the entire day, Thus, a 20 to 30 mile day for her is like a 40 to 60 mile trek,
I believe Australian Shephards are among the brightest dogs that there are. One thing I have heard about them is that they want to please so much that they will literally work themselves to death. I think that is the breedMar 19, 2007 at 7:36 pm #1382854
One thing I have heard about them is that they want to please so much that they will literally work themselves to death. I think that is the breed
My friend's Blue Heeler is like that. If you are playing catch you have to make the dog take a break. Otherwise she will play until she pukes.Mar 19, 2007 at 8:12 pm #1382860
My australian shepard is 14, and only in his old age has he quieted down somewhat. he just keeps going, and he has a problem solving intelligence. He used to open doors, like he would reach up and work at it with his paw until it popped open.they definitly need a job or they will find something to do, probably something mischevious.
another thing about aussies (the dogs that is) is they are really good climbers, they scramble up things that you figure a dog shouldn't be able to. I was scrambling up the haystack on mount Si, near seattle, a low 4th class route, and I looked back and the dog was halfway up the thing. eventually he stopped, but it was incredible.
I also used to take him mountain biking, we'd go for twenty miles, and he just ran along, losing me on the descents and catching up to me on the climbs. he's really been my best hiking companion since I bought him from an amish farm in pennsylvannia.Mar 20, 2007 at 9:22 am #1382903
@paddsterLocale: western NY
My friend's dog is a border collieMar 20, 2007 at 2:43 pm #1382942
They hike well & are small enough to fit in a tent vestibule in a storm.
I use an expanding leash that I hook the handle onto my backpack waist band when I want him attached.Mar 20, 2007 at 8:22 pm #1382978
@pyeyoLocale: pacific northwest
Since I can't actually remember the details there was a person featured in backpacker magazine that was breeding a dog just for hiking, maybe somebody has an old pile or library that keeps them.
It sticks out as being 2004 but that could be way off.
I would be curious what traits and breed this person was going for.Mar 20, 2007 at 8:55 pm #1382982
@oystersLocale: South Australia
Just a question-by Australian Sheperds, do you mean kelpies? I am an Aussie and am struggling to picture what an Australian shepherd is. Maybe its what Kelpies are called overseas. A kelpie is kind of like a blue heeler in size and appearance. Blue Heelers are traditionally cattle dogs, while kelpies are sheep dogs, although the definition is certainly flexible.
I would agree that a kelpie or a blue heeler or a cross of both would be excellent for hiking with. Get a kelpie from a pup and you can train it to practically cook for you. They are incredibly loyal and obedient, and are very very tough animals.Mar 20, 2007 at 9:17 pm #1382984
This is what is referred to as an Australian Shepherd in the states. The naming is just to confuse you Aussies :)Mar 21, 2007 at 8:00 am #1383021
Love hiking with my Queensland Heeler. As noted above, my dog walks 30-50% more than us humans as she herds us along the trail. She carries her own food, I carry mine. As for training, she runs w/ me on the firetrails but decomposed granite can be hard on their feet if they're not used to it. I take some 'paw shoes' along for her to wear. My boys and I love having her along!Mar 21, 2007 at 4:13 pm #1383107
@oystersLocale: South Australia
OK, that certainly ain't a kelpie. Never seen one of those in Aus before, thats for sure!
If that was an Australian working dog it would get so dirty and full of burrs, grass seeds and prickles as to be useless.
Am wondering what people's thoughts are as to maintaining coats like that?Mar 22, 2007 at 9:02 am #1383176
@einsteinxLocale: The Netherlands
>>Are there other breeds of dogs that I should look into?<<
Uhmmm…. The lightest one?
Sorry couldn't resist
EinsMar 22, 2007 at 10:10 am #1383187
So, the wikipedia article that steve posted didn't quite get the origins of this breed right. They aren't californian, as it says, but rather the descendents of basque herding dogs. I think that when large groups of basques emigrated to Austrailia, they brought these dogs with them to work on sheep ranches, and from there came to north america. I was in northern spain last year and saw a bunch of what we call "austrailian" shepherds working sheep and cattle in picos de europa national park.
As for the coat, they are kind of like huskies, in that they have a coarse outer coat that is very weather resistant, and a soft inner coat. They definitly get matted up, and you have to brush them occasionally if you don't want them to drop big clumps of hair on the rug. Overall though, their coat doesn't give them any problems, and I've seen them on cattle ranches. They don't look as good, but they are still highly functional.Mar 22, 2007 at 10:11 am #1383188
@aroth87Locale: Missouri Ozarks
>>Uhmmm…. The lightest one?<<
I'd say the opposite, get a large one and have him carry a portion of your gear :). Since you aren't carrying it (hopefully) weight doesn't matter a whole lot.
Or you could just bring a pack mule, or better yet a mountain goat as they can go a lot more places.
AdamMar 25, 2007 at 7:48 am #1383455
@mysticmooseLocale: Great Lakes region
I also support the idea of a herding dog as a trail dog. I have a German Shepherd mixed with maybe husky or akita (I got him at the shelter), and he's a great trail companion. He loved the pack right away, and he definitely has the energy to keep going, and going, and going. With proper conditioning, I'm certain your dog could keep up with you.
You'll also need to do some conditioning to get him used to the weight. My dog carried 7 lbs on his last trip with very little training beforehand. That was a bit under 10% of his bodyweight. He didn't seem bothered by it at all, though he was happy to just lay around once we got into camp. When we stopped for breaks, he never shied away from the backpack, though.
Be aware that if you get a German Shepherd, he/she will most likely be very protective and that will increase on the trail. My dog is pretty quiet, but he will bark to let me know someone is near our camp. He's friendly to strangers on the trail, but once in camp, he goes into guard-dog mode. Also be aware that people you meet may be nervous around dogs they perceive as dangerous.
As far as trail etiquitte, I've trained my dog to stay behind me on the trail. He will occasionally wander a bit to investigate, but he knows that when he's wearing his pack he needs to stay close. I keep him leashed if I'm likely to encounter others, mostly for their peace of mind.
Hiking with a dog can be very rewarding, but make sure your dog is well-trained. That alone can spell the difference between a great trip and disaster.
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