Hiking with dogs

A hiker’s best friend, dogs are a lot of fun to take into the wilderness. Their enthusiasm is contagious!


A dog is a pack animal and a well adjusted dog knows that you are the leader of its pack. Dogs, by nature, migrate. So, pack + migration = hiking. It is exactly what they need.

We don’t really have well adjusted dogs, however. One was rescued from a very neglectful situation (she didn’t even know what “walk” meant) and the other is naturally wound like the core of a golf ball. At home its all we can do just to keep them from eating the furniture and batting around the cat. On trail, we are mildly successful at dissuading them from trampling the vegetation and chasing the wildlife.

Guess that’s why their not allowed in the National Parks!

But come on, LOOK AT THIS FACE!


Ours are herding dogs by breed and are truly indefatigable; indeed, they seem to amp up as the hike goes on, frequently tornado-ing like two tasmanian devils. So, they get leashed a lot, which seems cruel, but it really does calm them down. Again, when they know we are in control, they don’t have to be on such high alert.


Notice the pack.

Dogs can safely carry 10% of their weight. Our dogs both use backpacks when we go for an overnight. They will pack their own kibble, poop bags, treats, paw protection, and my gloves if I don’t feel like un-hoisting my pack. Sometimes water as well if we expect there to be a dearth of creeks to lap up.

So, for our 40lb dogs, they will carry about 4 pounds.

The theory is that carrying a pack makes them feel like the are doing their job. Ours are working dogs after all. I haven’t noticed any significant change in their demeanor, however. Mostly they are just giddy.

Dogs get dirty. For us it’s easy to leave our boots outside the tent. I recommend bringing a pack towel for wiping their paws of grit and/or snow.


Mealtime can be challenging, to say the least. You know how food seems to always taste better outdoors? I think it is true for the pups as well because their level of “begitude” goes off the charts. Plus, your spread is generally, all spread out. Cheese balanced precariously on your lap. Carrots underneath your knee. Crackers here, nuts there. And the dogs know that whatever hits the ground is rightfully theirs. So, if they  just happen to knock over the gouda…SCORE!

Meditation or yoga takes a real focus and a lot of leashing. I have found that once I settle deeply, they normally do as well.

8 thoughts on “Hiking with dogs

  1. This is great! I too have some hyper, maladjusted dogs (one a herding dog) that I take out on the trail with me. It definitely can be challenging but worth the rewards. My aussie loves her pack and hauls water for the dogs on our longer hikes. Cute pups!

  2. Nice post 🙂 Hiking is the main thing I do to keep my dogs energy at a manageable level so they don’t drive me crazy every night! It’s such great conditioning for them too.

      • Oh nice! I hope to hike again one day in the Pacific NW- it’s so beautiful there in a whole different way!

  3. We thoroughly enjoyed this article. A dog backpack is a great idea for all of the reasons you touched on, and everyone wins. Dogs love to be useful, all we have to do is make it easier for them to carry their own stuff! It’s also much more convenient to have all of the dog related supplies in one central place and readily accessible, and why should “you” carry the extra 5 – 10 lbs? Also, if your dog isn’t used to hiking, go easy at first, both with dog backpack weight and distance. Just like people, dogs need to get their bodies in shape and are prone to injury early on if allowed to carry too much or hike too long a distance without proper conditioning.

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