[Cdt-l] Hiking with a dog

Jonathan Ley jonathan at phlumf.com
Tue Jan 6 22:33:52 CST 2009

This subject has been discussed previously on the cdt-l (mostly wrt/ 
long-distance hiking... which is what my comments are geared toward... 
shorter hikes, and non-CDT locations have different considerations). It 
might be worthwhile to search the archives.

One thing I've learned is that neither all dogs nor all dog owners are 
created the same. I've met dogs on long hikes that appeared to be 
thoroughly enjoying the experience, and others that were clearly not. 
I've met loads of very responsible owners and well-trained dogs, a few 
irresponsible owners and untrained dogs, a mix of the two, and a broad 
spectrum of everything in-between. A smaller dog is going to have a very 
different set of issues and impacts than a larger dog. A hike through 
the desert is going to be quite different than a hike in the snowy 

My suggestion would be to know yourself, know your dog - be honest with 
yourself as to whether it's a good idea, and have a backup plan that 
works in the dog's favor. If the hike is not going well for the dog, are 
you prepared to stop and go home? Can you send the dog home to a good 
situation (i.e to your spouse, etc.)? Are you familiar with reading the 
dog's signs and being able to anticipate a problem (like sore pads or 
dehydration, etc) so that you're not stuck a day's hike from anywhere 
with a dog that can't move?

Please also be aware that a dog has a different impact on the land than 
people do. Dogs are predators... and even if they're well behaved and 
don't chase anything, they can stress the wildlife they do encounter. 
(They can also stress livestock, which might not win you favors with 
some ranchers.) Do they create more stress than the large population of 
coyotes along the CDT? Or the population of humans? Possibly not... But 
it's something to consider.

Hitching and staying in towns can also be more of a challenge if you 
have a dog too. And you're likely to encounter people who will give you 
a hard time for bringing along your pooch... either because they feel it 
violates a LNT ethic, or is bad for the dog, or they just don't like 
dogs, or whatever... It's just something you'll likely have to deal 
with. Then again, a dog can win you friends too.

I'd be careful about making assumptions that all non-dog or 
dogged-hikers feel the same, or that people hiking with dogs do it for 
the same motivations. For the most part, I think hikers with dogs love 
their dogs dearly, and bring them out of that love, not fear... they 
want to share the experience with their trusted pal, and get more out of 
the experience because of the canine company.  

As for getting a dog specifically for the purpose of hiking a trail like 
the CDT... It'd be hard to recommend that approach. Despite carefully 
selecting a breed, or a shelter dog, it'll be difficult to know if any 
particular dog is well-suited to a long hike. The only way you'll be 
able to learn is if you have the dog for a while, and are able to do 
shorter hikers with it... There could be any number of reasons that an 
individual dog won't have the temperament, stamina, smarts, or health to 
manage a thru-hike. If it doesn't work out, it'll still be your dog for 

FWIW, most of the "successful" hiking dogs I've met were mutts about 
mid-sized (knee-height) with medium-length hair... and most importantly 
with committed owners who invested a serious effort in training them to 
obey commands (most importantly, to heel).

Best of luck to you,


> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* dan kayser <mailto:yoyodadio at msn.com>
> *To:* cdt-l at backcountry.net <mailto:cdt-l at backcountry.net>
> *Sent:* Tuesday, January 06, 2009 7:29 AM
> *Subject:* [Cdt-l] Hiking with a dog
> I haven't heard a lot about hiking with dogs.  I am thinking of 
> getting a dog and would like to be able to take it on hiking trips.   
> I would like to hear from those that have hiked (short & long 
> distances) with their dog.  What are the pros and cons?  How did you 
> train and/or acclimate your dog to hiking?  Is there a certain breed 
> or type of dog that is better suited for hiking?  Any input (good or 
> bad ) would be greatly appreciated.
> Thanks,
> Dan (Molasses)
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