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When is it time for a backpacking trip? Is there any recommendation on age and amount of miles they can go or pack they can carry?

Thanks -brandon
 

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How old is your dog and what kind of climate/terrain are you considering? How many days?

If you have a little more info on what you're thinking, I'd be happy to give you my two cents, and what has worked for me. I've done quite a bit.
 

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I've not done any back packing with my dogs but I do know that once spring gets rolling, the ticks get more active. Last summer was brutal.
 

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They're very bad in my area as well, as is Lyme. Wondering what people use to protect their dogs?


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I had read somewhere some time that an adult dog can carry 20% of their body weight. If you leash your dog, an adult dog that has trained and is fit, can easily do 10 miles based on my experience. If you are on volcanic rock, watch out for worn pads so have booties with you and first aid supplies.
My dogs carry their food in and trash out.
 

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If you plan on backpacking extensively with your dog, there are some things you can do when they're young that will set you up to have awesome (and safe) trips, down the road.

I started both of my dogs wearing empty backpacks and going on walks around 5-6 months of age. They're taught that when the backpack is on, it's time to walk in an orderly fashion. No wrestling, no rolling in the mud, no swimming. I don't care about any sort of "heel" position, but I don't allow crazy behavior. When the backpack comes off, in camp or for a break, they can act goofy, roll, swim, wrestle with each other, etc. I did not ask my dog to carry any real weight until she was around 18-24 months old, her pack on long trips usually averages around 10lbs (she's about 70-75lbs, full adult weight). My 9 month puppy currently carries empty plastic bags, spare mittens - bulky but essentially weightless stuff.

Get in the habit of paying very close attention to your dog's eating trends, so you're 100% in tune with their body and fuel needs before you hit the trail. Hopefully your dog doesn't have any food allergies - if s/he does, this will be even more important. I'm fortunate that both of my dogs have iron stomachs and can eat most anything. Their calorie needs skyrocket on extended trips, especially in cold weather, and you'll want to plan accordingly. Kibble is pretty bulky, figure out some rich, calorie dense foods that can be added to whatever you normally feed. Tuna, butter, coconut oil, real peanut butter, lots of things work. Also, if you get stuck somewhere due to bad weather or other issues, you'll need to be able to improvise dog meals from your own stash that meet your dog's needs. It's guaranteed to happen sooner or later.... we got snowed in and stuck in the mountains in North Carolina a few days longer than expected, so I made my dog a stew of cooked un-flavored Ramen, rinsed tuna, butter, and dehydrated eggs. When every pound in your pack counts, the way I see it, I can't (or won't) eat extra kibble, but my dogs can eat extra "people" food, so that's what I pack. Don't experiment with totally new foods on a trip, the last thing you need is a barfing dehydrated dog stuck in your tent.

Expose your dog to horses, snowmobiles, mountain bikes, four-wheelers, cattle (from behind a fence), and everything else you might encounter. Some of the best backcountry trails in the USA are shared-use with equestrians, cross through active farmland and pasture, and are used legally or illegally by ATV's and cyclists. Make sure your dog knows to leave these things alone, and doesn't chase or harass any of them. Dogs are getting banned left and right from well-known trails due to complaints from non-dog trail users, this is a serious problem.

Teach "Leave-It", and enforce it with absolute clarity. Snakes, porcupines, other hiker's food, piles of horse droppings, dead animals, traps during hunting season, the list is endless. Teach your dog to wait at potable water sources (like springs and artisan wells) and fill a bowl for them to drink. Many hikers get justifiably furious when they get to the only potable water source within miles, only to find two muddy dogs playing in it, slobbering in it, or heaven forbid, peeing in it. This is a huge deal on long trails, and one of the biggest reasons some people want all dogs banned.

I hope some of this info is helpful, if there are any other specific things anyone wants to chat about I'm more than happy to keep rambling. I love (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE) backpacking, and I'm heading out to try a new route this weekend. :D
 

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Exellent read, thanks! I really look forward to starting some short backpack trips with my dog (he's only 14 weeks now..)
 

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Exellent read, thanks! I really look forward to starting some short backpack trips with my dog (he's only 14 weeks now..)
Time flies, you'll be out there in no time!

Off-topic, I noticed you're from the Netherlands. I think your country has a magical way of creating a crazy high percentage of backpackers and climbers.... I've made Dutch friends all over the world, on every trek I've ever been on, more than any other nationality. :) Happy Trails to you.
 

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I had read somewhere some time that an adult dog can carry 20% of their body weight. If you leash your dog, an adult dog that has trained and is fit, can easily do 10 miles based on my experience. If you are on volcanic rock, watch out for worn pads so have booties with you and first aid supplies.
My dogs carry their food in and trash out.
What kind of booties? I saw a Ridgeback up in Truckee wearing them and should've asked the owner where he got them?
 

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I love this idea! I can't believe I've never thought to do it before with my very high energy 3.5 yr old shepherd :). How does one even find places to do this, though? Doesn't sound like something where you can just find a public hiking trail... do you look for camping sites?
 

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Exellent read, thanks! I really look forward to starting some short backpack trips with my dog (he's only 14 weeks now..)
Time flies, you'll be out there in no time!

Off-topic, I noticed you're from the Netherlands. I think your country has a magical way of creating a crazy high percentage of backpackers and climbers.... I've made Dutch friends all over the world, on every trek I've ever been on, more than any other nationality.
Happy Trails to you.
True! Would be nice though if it were possible to speed somethings up and slow others down.

Off-topic, the only reason I can come up with is that Dutch people generally really like nature. They also believe it is really formative and healthy for young adults to go traveling before or right after university. Dutch parents believe they have to let go of their children for them to become adults, and will often support their kids choice to travel. There is a large percentage of Dutch citizens who ride their bike daily (especially students) and they generally love taking a walk in the woods when the weather allows it. It's also typical for a Dutch couple/family to go camping with their family in the summer. (the last two are a bit different for people from the metropolitan area).

On-topic, did you take your dog to other countries with you on your trips?
United States must be any hikers paradise. You can probably find anything you want in one country.
 

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I love this idea! I can't believe I've never thought to do it before with my very high energy 3.5 yr old shepherd :). How does one even find places to do this, though? Doesn't sound like something where you can just find a public hiking trail... do you look for camping sites?
Going "car camping" - drive into a reservable site in a campground and stay for a night or two - is a great way to teach your dog camping manners before you end up together in the middle of nowhere. :) Dedicated areas where actual "backpacking" is allowed are less common, they're often on national trails (Appalachian Trail, Ice Age Trail), state or federal forest land (not county parks), etc. It's been my experience that many of them aren't well publicized, you need to do a little digging and then you'll find them. Park rangers and local governments are concerned about graffiti, arson, and so on. Where (ish) do you live, if you don't mind me asking?



Off-topic, the only reason I can come up with is that Dutch people generally really like nature. They also believe it is really formative and healthy for young adults to go traveling before or right after university. Dutch parents believe they have to let go of their children for them to become adults... {snip}

On-topic, did you take your dog to other countries with you on your trips?
United States must be any hikers paradise. You can probably find anything you want in one country.
That's exactly what we've been told by the friends we've met, when traveling. :) Many Americans think you're strange if you travel other countries without an itinerary, ride buses/walk and hitchhike, stay in hostels or on farms, etc. but it seems to be not only accepted, but embraced, by many from your country. How neat.

The only international traveling our dogs do is up to Canada, on foot, in the wilderness border areas. I've been told it's easy to take your dogs OUT of the US, but it can be difficult, expensive, and risky getting them back IN. Leaving them in locked up quarantine isn't something I'm okay with, so they stay at home.

And you're absolutely right, there are many wonderful trails across the US. :)
 

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Ah okay, that makes sense. Not even sure if I'd be able to go camping, tbh. I live about 30 min north of Dallas, TX. But I don't turn 18 until the end of May, so I can't really go anywhere too far. Not to mentions I absolutely will not drive through dallas to go anywhere. Kody is godawful in the car and I can't see out the back with his crate in there, so I'd prefer to drive north/east/west through the country with him than south though dallas to get to the country.
 

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That's exactly what we've been told by the friends we've met, when traveling. :) Many Americans think you're strange if you travel other countries without an itinerary, ride buses/walk and hitchhike, stay in hostels or on farms, etc. but it seems to be not only accepted, but embraced, by many from your country. How neat.

The only international traveling our dogs do is up to Canada, on foot, in the wilderness border areas. I've been told it's easy to take your dogs OUT of the US, but it can be difficult, expensive, and risky getting them back IN. Leaving them in locked up quarantine isn't something I'm okay with, so they stay at home.

And you're absolutely right, there are many wonderful trails across the US. :)
Dutch people are quite straightforward in general. Choices will generally be made based on logic and experience. I compare that with my mother who is South American.. Her choices are largely emotion driven. She won't think, "I traveled at the age of 30 alone, so my daughter could do the same". Her experience won't matter for the positive, because nowadays things are different and it is her child.
It has a downside though. Many of Dutch youth are quite distant/disconnected from their parents and rely too much on the trust and opinion of people their age.

Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked here, haha.
The Netherlands is a very safe country. People here generally believe you are safe almost anywhere if you use common sense.

Really want to go to the USA and Canada at least once in my life. Not sure how I will do that having a dog, but I'll figure something out in the future. :)
 

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RE: dog booties...

(I lived in Belgium, Brugge for a year so you may not trust me. ;-)

The head of our SAR group loves Woof Hoofs (Hooves?)

I just have some Rufflwear booties. And just wanted to add that I do no have my dog wear them regularly. It is more for injuries. I do know that dogs with well toughened feet can still rip them up on volcanic rock. That is why I made the comment. I think any booties will work for injury so don't feel like you have to spend a lot. Just nice to have in your pack.

P.S. I agree by the way. Dutch folk just have something cool about them and I love the straightforward logic and their humor.

P.S.S. My Dutch Shepherd's parents are both out of a kennel in the Netherlands, Le Dobry.

Okay back to my coffee this morning.
 

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I would get them use to crossing different bridges. We've come across people struggling to get their dogs to cross, It would be no fun to find this out several miles into a hike. Most hikes we do will have some kind of "bridge". Some are just a large log or a log with a flat cut across the top with a hand rail on one side, others might be a swinging rope/cable type bridge.
 

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(I lived in Belgium, Brugge for a year so you may not trust me. ;-)

P.S. I agree by the way. Dutch folk just have something cool about them and I love the straightforward logic and their humor.

P.S.S. My Dutch Shepherd's parents are both out of a kennel in the Netherlands, Le Dobry.
Never been to Brugge, even though I have wanted to for years (it's less than a four hour drive).

P.S. Thanks, I'll pass it through! :p

P.S.S Ahh, I have finally figured out that your nickname is a reference to the Dutch Shepherd.
 
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