Toska

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas (or Happy Holiday of their choice) and a Happy New Year – and at the same time, I’m also introducing our new little Malinois, Toska, who joined our family at the end of November. She’s from Mark Keating’s kennel, Red Star, in Wisconsin, and we plan to register her as Red Star i’Toska. (We were originally going to name her Jinx, but realized after a few days that the name just wasn’t working out.)

Bringing this little girl home was quite the adventure since she arrived via Delta Airlines to Syracuse Airport. Except her flight had been delayed by an hour and a half, and I made most of the Delta personnel at the airport very unhappy by ensuring I checked in with them on a consistent basis so they knew she was on the flight and that we were waiting for her. She did finally arrive almost two hours after she’d been scheduled, but safe and sound. We wound up riding home with two additional passengers, two soldiers returning to Fort Drum after coming back from Thanksgiving leave, so Toska spent her first evening with us being cuddled by myself and two soldiers while my husband was driving.

Our cats didn’t exactly take to the newcomer. As we came into the house, the feline response was one of, “What the heck is that? Why is it here? Give it back!” and continued to be such for the next five or six days, during which the gang boycotted anything except their feeding routine. Poptart, who usually greets me at the door to jump on my shoulder and who likes to sleep on my head wanted nothing to do with me. They’re largely back to normal now, except they’re having to get into shape to jump the baby gates that have cropped up in strategic places, and they’re occasionally finding themselves play-bow-bounced at by a barking puppy desperate to engage them in play (to which they respond by hissing and fluffing).

Toska is starting to settle down in her new home and working on her potty training and her crate training. Potty training is a little difficult this time of year because it’s been very cold here. On one hand, that’s fantastic because it means she’ll go quickly once she is outside because it’s cold. On the other hand, it sucks because she’s reluctant to go outside in the first place. I can’t say I blame her – as I type this, it’s a whole 4 degrees outdoors. I’d rather tinkle on the carpet than go outside, too. (Thank heavens for “Resolve.”)

I believe that it’s never too early to start training a new dog, regardless of age, and started introducing her to the clicker and basic obedience commands the day after we got her, and she’s turning out to be easily motivated and very intelligent, if not always the fastest learner. But I have to keep reminding myself that I’m working with a young puppy and young puppies have the attention span of a gnat. (Cue Dug from “Up” – Squirrel!) Even so, we’ve been working on the basics for the past week, particularly on her leash walking, sit, and down. Some of those are very easy to practice for “life rewards” (like getting attention or getting food), particularly the sit. She now sits to go out, come back in, get her bowl of food, and be lifted over the baby gates. We’re still working on always sitting politely when meeting people (rather than jumping up), but she’s doing really well with that.

So far, she’s very solid on her sit and shake commands. She is getting there with down, stand, and heel. And then we’re doing some other stuff to build the groundwork for practical applications – an up command to jump onto an object, a get it command to fetch a ball or other item, off, leave it, step up to place her front paws onto an object, follow the hand, come, focus, and roll over. We’re also getting her started on using her nose to find things – right now, using kibble hidden around the room – and our breeder already started her on bitework using tugs, rags, and puppy sleeves along with the rattle stick, and we’re continuing that. This little girl has a nice deep bite and will hang on like there’s no tomorrow.

Since she’s only 9 weeks old now, we are somewhat limited with the places we can take her to, and we do try to avoid places where a lot of dogs go (like PetCo). Thankfully for us, we have both a Tractor Supply and a Gander Mountain in town, both of which allow dogs but don’t usually have a lot of four-legged visitors because most people don’t know they allow dogs. She also gets to come with us to the local gun shop, where all the “old guys” hang out in the evenings and talk guns, politics, and just about anything else. (It’s also where we’ve gotten most of the local history and folklore from.) And occasionally another opportunity crops up – like being able to bring her to visit my husband at work or like today, when the PX offered “Pet Pictures with Santa.” (Yes, we bought a set of photos, but we probably spent about an hour in the PX working on basic commands, meeting people, and working around other dogs. She even got to meet a miniature pig and she really didn’t know what to think of that.)

The only thing so far that really baffles me about this girl is crate training. She’ll happily run up to the car and try to jump right up and into the crate in there, even though she can’t make that jump quite yet. Once I lift her up, she runs into the crate, curls up, and goes right to sleep. Not a peep out of her, no matter how long she’s in the car – until she needs to go potty. But crate her at home – that’s a whole different ball of wax. If you crated her for an hour at home, she’d bark for an hour. Oy vey. Needless to say, we’re taking turns taking her out every four hours right now and letting her sleep in the bedroom rather than crating her for the night while we’re working on (properly and slowly) crate training her at home. She’s to the point now where she goes into her crate downstairs in my office and curls up on her dog bed with the door open, and I’m slowly working on building time with her being in the crate, quietly, with the door closed. (With a little bit of help from Comfort Zone.)

At any rate, just a quick post to introduce our new little one. I am going to try and update the blog more often, now that I have puppy stories to write about, but no promises. If anyone has any specific puppy questions, needs help with training, or really has any ideas for things I should write about, let me know in the comments or via email. Also, if you just like reading dog-related stuff and looking at dog photos, make sure you follow my page on Facebook and Tumblr.


Very sadly, we’ve had to make the decision to euthanize our girl Ronja this evening.

Ronja had been battling cancer for most of 2013 and we did one big surgery this past spring to remove two large mast cell tumors; one from her shoulder and one from her chest; and decided along with out vet that due to her advanced age (she was born in December 2001), we were not going to do any more surgeries, daily pain killers, steroids, or other ongoing aggressive treatment. Instead, we opted to monitor and make whatever time she had left with us as much fun and as comfortable as possible.

I honestly believe that Ronja was waiting for Brian to come home from deployment to Afghanistan before letting us know that it was time for her to go. Shortly after her surgery, she started developing a small, new lump on her left elbow and small nodules started coming up in various places on her body. However, it wasn’t until the past week that tumors seemed to appear out of nowhere. The night before we left for the Vermont Iron Dog (last weekend – a week after Brian returned from deployment), we found two large lumps on her back leg. Today, the lump on her shoulder appeared to have doubled in size and seemed to cause her a fair deal of discomfort moving.

Ronja had a fantastic last week with Brian being back home, getting lots of snuggles on the couch, sleeping on the bed, and getting all sorts of no-no foods from his plate. She had a great weekend at the Green Mountain Iron Dog, camping out, meeting other dogs, doing the run, getting to bite the sleeve, and playing her favorite game, tetherball. But we knew that it was going to be time soon because she slowed considerably, she was having difficulty with the obstacles, and after playing tetherball for a short period of time, she just gave up and I had to carry her. When she wouldn’t play the keep away game on Monday night, I called the vet to inquire about details. I’m glad I was able to get them discussed and worked out before we actually had to make the appointment today.

Our vet clinic was wonderful about accommodating us for this visit. Although our vet, Dr. Kenyon, had left the clinic due to a family emergency, she did come in to perform the euthanasia for Ronja. We were able to spend a little bit of time playing outside in the sun, with Ronja barely interested in tugging (a game she loves), and then settled down on Ronja’s sleepy blanket in the grass outside. Dr. Kenyon sedated her so she would fall asleep (she snored!) and then euthanized Ronja, while I was holding and petting her, telling her she was a good girl and to go play. I’m sure there’s a bite sleeve and a tetherball set waiting for her.

We didn’t have her for very long, having gotten her in 2007, and we didn’t expect to have a very long time with her due to her age and prior injuries. In the time we did have her, she did a lot for other people. We visited with soldiers on base and would head out every Christmas Eve to deliver cookies and candies (and warm dog hugs) to all of the soldiers having to spend their holiday doing CQ duty. We also taught people about working dogs at reenactments and living history events, and were active in competing at local fun shows where we took ribbons in obedience, tricks, and even conformation. We did many hikes and runs, including a number of local 5Ks, and had all sorts of adventures. She even got to accompany me to work where everyone paid her attention, played with her, and loved on her when we weren’t out on ambulance calls.

She’ll be sorely missed. (Except maybe by the cats who didn’t like to share the bed.)

 

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Site Guide

I realize that it may not be very easy to find specific articles and information on this page, so hopefully this little guide will help you locate the most important parts – or at least get you in the right direction. As always, if you have any questions or there’s anything I can help with, please don’t hesitate to email me – click on the “Email Me” link to your left (underneath “Dossier”).

Left Side Menu

On the left side of the blog, underneath the Dogs for Defense K-9 logo, you’ll find some of the blog’s internal links.

These start off with the dossier, which contains a link back to the index, regardless of which page you’re on, a link to my email in case you have any questions (or praise, praise is always awesome), and a link to the photo albums. The photo albums actually contain a ton of stuff, including free downloads you can use on your website or in an educational setting, and a large selection of vintage military working dog books from my collection that I’ve digitized for your viewing (and study) pleasure.

Below the dossier are a bunch of connect links that go to external websites linked to my DFDK9 page, such as both of my Zazzle stores where you can buy stuff (if you’d like), the Facebook Page where myself and two other admins share dog-related news and articles, and the Tumblr account where I share working dog photos.

Right Side Menu

On the right side of the blog, you’ll find links that largely go to websites that are not part of DFDK9, such as blogs that I like and follow, some of my favorite bookmarks, and specific information on Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds, the two breeds that we have owned over the last decade.

Top Menu

At the very top right of each page, you may notice a small top menu with simple text links. Those are the meat and potatoes of the blog, as they’re a collection of the “most important” link for quick access. This section will help you learn more about DFDK9, as well as give you the ability to quickly access some of the most-linked (and most read) articles, dog product reviews, and how-to guides I’ve published on the blog. And, of course, there’s the obligatory links section where I share some of my favorite pages, organizations, and places to shop for dog gear.

A Note About Images

Lastly, a quick note – you may notice that some blog posts seem to have missing images. This is due to the fact that I originally had this page over on Blogger before I moved to WordPress, and the images themselves were unfortunately not transferred when I moved blogs. I do no longer have most of these pictures and am not able to update them – but hope that the descriptions are clear enough to where they may not be needed. I apologize because that *is* very annoying but there is, unfortunately, nothing I can do about this.

Forever and a Day

… that’s how long it’s been since I’ve had the time (and inclination) to write a new blog entry. Well, alright … that’s partially due to the fact that I’ve wanted the Rose Bowl entry to stay on top for a while so people would know that this Dogs for Defense is not the one that had the float in the Rose Bowl parade – and that we’re not trying to pretend we were.

Things have been incredibly busy here with my husband’s deployment to Afghanistan as a TEDD (tactical explosives detection dog) kennel master with the 10th Mountain Division (click the link to check out their Facebook page) and me juggling keeping up everything at home, working as an EMT, and going to school for my next higher levels of certification, EMT-Intermediate and EMT-Critical Care (<– this latter one being unique to New York). I just finished my classes at the end of June and am now waiting very patiently to receive my grade for the written exam and (hopefully) my new EMT-CC card in the mail. Four to six weeks is the average amount of time that takes … needless to say, I’m taking a bit of a break at the moment to recover from all the classwork and clinical time I’ve had to do to get here. Hopefully I’ll be going back to school again either this fall or next spring – meeting with a counselor from the local college on Thursday. (And did I mention – I’ve also lost 54lbs and become a 5K runner!)

But you’re not here to read about my exciting coursework – most of the new page visitors in the last few days are probably here because  my “Dog to English Translation Chart” was recently featured on page 14 of the digital edition of the American Kennel Club’s “Family Dog” magazine, which is very cool and I’m thrilled that they chose to use it and that you’ve chosen to check out my page after seeing it! Of course, the article it accompanies is pretty great also (but I didn’t write that!).

From "Family Dog" magazine, digital edition, July/August 2013. Copyright American Kennel Club.

From “Family Dog” magazine, digital edition, July/August 2013.
Copyright American Kennel Club.

I’m very happy to see that this chart is making the rounds on the Internet (and especially that it’s doing so with the copyright information at the bottom left intact!) because I think it’s very important for people to learn more about canine body language. It’s important because it helps those of us with dogs to learn more about them and build a stronger bond, and it’s important for folks without dogs to learn more about them to prevent dog bites. The latter is one of the primary reasons I’ve created the original graphic and why I also created this updated version in 2010.

While the original version of this chart had just the dog silhouettes and titles – which is cool to give a general overview – I created the updated version to add more information, such as some of the smaller signs to look for. I also designed this update to be printed on standard 8.5″ x 11″ printer / copier paper so that it could easily be printed or photocopied to use in an educational setting. (And yes, since several folks have asked – this is absolutely meant to be shared and used! As long as you keep the copyright information at the bottom intact so that others can find my page, you can use prints of this for your training classes, safety education, rescue events, you name it.) You can click here to get a nice, big version to print. (Or right click to “save link as” to download it to your computer.)

I do realize – and I’ve been asked this a couple of times – that this is a very basic “beginners” sort of chart of the big body language. It’s meant to be. It’s not meant to encompass everything a dog can tell you with his or her body, just a couple of the most important postures that are often seen and often misinterpreted. (Some people still believe that the “submissive” posture is actually caused by the other dog rolling the dog into this position, for example.) It’s a basic guide to help you get started and, hopefully, get you interested in wanting to learn more. A “Dog Body Language 101″, if you will.

There are prints available for those of you who’d like to purchase them through my Zazzle store. Currently, this updated version of the graphic is available only as postcards, but I hope to make a poster available soon. (If you’d like to see this on other products, please let me know what you want and I’ll see if it can be done through Zazzle.) The old version without all of the text is available as postcards and as posters from my old Zazzle store, and both have customizable background colors, so you can use whatever color works best for where you plan to hang or display them. If you’d like to buy any of my stuff, that would be pretty awesome, of course.

Rose Bowl

Added 1 January 2014: Please note that the write-up below is about the Rose Bowl last year (2013), not the Rose Bowl this year. We’re not affiliated with this year’s Rose Bowl K-9 float, either.

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Hello!

You may have found this website through a Google search after seeing the Military Working Dog float in the Rose Bowl Parade on January 1st. I’d love to welcome you to the page and I certainly hope you enjoy it, but to be really clear up front, I also need to point out that DFDK9 (Dogs for Defense K-9) is not at all affiliated with the Rose Bowl Parade float!

I did not see the parade, but from what I gather, the logo at the front of the float said “Dogs for Defense.” The logo in question actually says “Dogs for Defense Save Lives” and it is the logo for the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument, which inspired the float. That organization’s website is located at JBMF.us. The actual float was put together by Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Dog Food, which, along with PetCo stores and Maddie’s Fund, is a corporate sponsor of the National Monument.

Of course, I would love it if you bookmarked this website or liked us on Facebook, but I don’t want you to think that DFDK9 was represented in this year’s Rose Bowl Parade. Please do take the time to check out the great organization that was, the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument, and if you have some money to spare, please contribute to their great cause!

So, you might wonder, what is this “Dogs for Defense K-9″ about, then? Well, we are a very small group of dog owners and handlers located currently at Fort Drum in upstate New York. We are all either military or military family members with an interest in dogs and working dog history.

We do a number of different displays and talks on dog-related topics, which include the history of military working dogs, working dogs in general, therapy dogs, and dog safety. Our members are available to speak to school classes, educators, civic organizations, and really anyone who’ll invite us and wants to learn more about dogs. We also take our display to living history events / reenactments for the public to see and touch artifacts, ask questions, and see our demonstrations. Here’s an example of our living history display, from last year’s Soldiers Through the Ages at Old Fort Niagara. And here are some of the materials we use to teach dog safety to young children that you can download and print.

I hope you enjoy this page, but please send your support and/or donations to the fine people at the Military Working Dog National Monument, as it was their float and publicity that brought you here!

Thank you!
Chris

Also, check out this great video about the Rose Bowl Parade float. It has some background about the float and the organizations that brought it to you in the parade today!

http://landing.newsinc.com/shared/video.html?freewheel=10557&sitesection=ktla&VID=24111837

Happy Birthday


HAPPY 11th BIRTHDAY, RONJA!

Beginner’s Guide to Dog Packing

Fall is hiking and running season around the country, so I thought I would share my beginner’s guide to backpacking with dogs. I originally wrote this about two years ago as a magazine submission but it was never printed. I figure it’s safe to say that they’re probably not going to print it anytime soon. (However, if you know of a magazine that would like to use any of the materials on my page, please feel free to contact me for permission and terms.)

Backpacking with Dogs – a Beginner’s Guide

Throughout history, dogs have served in a huge variety of rules, from their early days as hunting partners and camp guardians, to more recent work as guides for the blind or detectors of explosive devices, to the many competitive venues dogs and their owners now enjoy, such as agility or dog sledding. One function, however, has been less covered by historians and dog enthusiasts – that of the dog as a beast of burden, the pack dog.

Images of dogs carrying pack baskets appear in medieval European manuscripts, where they’re sadly few and far between, and in the drawings and descriptions of Native American life written by European explorers. While dogs pulling sleds and carts are commonly referenced in both drawing and literature, dogs carrying packs or baskets are more obscure and less commonly seen. Nevertheless, dog packing (backpacking with dogs) has recently made a resurgence among outdoor enthusiasts and dog trainers.

Today’s dog packing falls into one of two categories – casual and serious.

Casual dog packing, the more common type, usually requires the dog to only carry small amounts of weight, maybe a few bottles of water, some poop bags, and his owner’s cell phone and keys. Maybe something a little more, to include treats, a First Aid kit, and possibly some other supplies. Casual packing is frequently used by many dog trainers to help an energetic or unruly dog feel like he “has a job” and to work off that extra bit of energy by adding a weighted pack on normal daily walks. But most commonly, casual packing is something people enjoy doing on their weekends off with their dogs. The average casual hiker goes for day hikes of ten miles or less.

Serious dog packing, the more uncommon type, requires the dog to carry supplies for an extended hike in his pack – food and water for a number of days, collapsible bowls, First Aid equipment, maybe a blanket on which to sleep at night, and so on. A serious dog packer would be someone who spends extended weekends or even weeks on the trail with their dog, racking up the miles as they go. Some folks even hike the entire Appalachian trail – like Rachel over at Solophile who did the entire trip with her dog Micah.

Serious packing is also considered a dog sport, which is primarily engaged in by Siberian Husky and Greater Swiss Mountain Dog owners who can also earn Working Pack Dog titles by participating in hikes for record and with a minimum weight requirement. (The pack dog titles offered by the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club is open to any breed of dog, however.)

Whether you’re hoping to pack casually or seriously, all dog packing starts off with two things: the right equipment and the right training.

Let’s talk about equipment.

Anyone who’s ever gotten serious about hiking has probably experienced what happens when their pack doesn’t fit quite right: packs that are too large, shoulder straps that just don’t sit right, or equipment that’s not holding up to the weight carried. Finding the right pack, especially for serious or extended hikes, is an important consideration for the human hiker, and it’s equally important for the hiking dog. Just like human packs, not all dog packs are created equal – there are vast differences in fit, features, and quality.

So what makes a good hiking pack for a dog, then?

Just as with human packs, you should consider the construction and materials, fit, and features when it comes to equipping your four-legged hiking buddy. A good dog pack will be made from quality materials, have padding in the places that come into contact with your dog, and will be designed to fit the dog’s anatomy well. A pack that has a Y-front harness, which looks similar to a Western horse’s breast collar in style, provides the most stability and allows for free movement. This type of harness also helps keep the pack steady, even if the load is not perfectly balanced. A good pack will also be designed in such a way that allows the dog’s shoulder and front legs to support the majority of the pack’s weight. This is important because dogs, unlike horses, have flexible spines, and putting weight onto the center of the dog’s back causes discomfort or even injury, especially if you hike with a lot of weight or for extended trips.

Aside from finding a well-fitted and well-designed pack, conditioning is the most important thing to consider before you head out on your first trip. If you’ve hiked any longer distance – maybe in your Army days – you might know just how uncomfortable carrying too much weight is, especially when you are carrying too much for too far when you’re not quite ready. You wouldn’t just wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to run a marathon today!” unless you’re already a runner and have been training for it. And you probably shouldn’t get off the couch on Saturday morning and decide you’re going to don a 60lbs pack and hike up Whiteface Mountain just because the fancy strikes you, unless you’re prepared and conditioned for the trip. Your dog is no different. You can’t just put 20lbs of weight onto a dog who’s never carried that much and expect him to go on a ten mile hike.

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club recommends that dogs should start out carrying no more than 5% of their body weight when they first start training to become pack dogs, which includes the weight of the pack itself. From there, you can work your way up by gradually increasing both the weight inside the backpack and the distance you’re hiking. A conditioned dog can easily carry 30% of his body weight on an extended hike, and most dogs can easily carry more than that if you consider items that are used up along the way, such as food and water, in your starting pack weight.

The pack itself isn’t the only thing to consider, of course – there’s also the things you might want to pack. That’s something that is going to vary a lot depending on the length and distance of your hike, whether you’re going to be camping out overnight, or whether you are going to hike an extended period with stops to replenish supplies.

On any hike, even a simple day hike, water is both the most important and the heaviest thing that both you and your dog will carry. Platypus bottles are great for dog packs because their non-rigid design is easily packed and can be rolled up once the bottle is empty to save on space. Many newer generation dog packs, such as the RuffWear Singletrack, now come already equipped with Platypus bottles. Speaking of water bottles – if your dog doesn’t know how to drink from a bottle opening (and not all dogs do), a collapsible bowl should also be on your packing list. These can be had in many different styles and colors and most are under $20. I like and use the Sea to Summit X-bowl, myself.

On any longer hike, dog food is also a consideration, and may add significant weight to your packing list. For a day hike, on the other hand, that certainly isn’t a necessity unless you will be missing your dog’s regular meal time. Many people recommend you bring along some snacks for your dog as well, but I’ve never packed any dog treats on hikes. (I just tend to share whatever it is I’m eating when we’re out on hikes.)

Another thing you may want to consider packing is a first aid kit for your dog.

In our years of hiking, we’ve been lucky in that we haven’t had any major injuries on the trail, but we’ve had our share of sore and damaged paw pads. Sometimes, these were due to sharp rocks – which can be unavoidable on some trails – and in one case, the cut was due to another hiker’s ignorance, having broken glass and left the shards. Luckily, treating a cut paw pad is relatively simple and easy if you’re prepared: clean it out, add antibacterial ointment (such as Neosporin or Bacitracin) and then wrap it securely. A good way to wrap a pad is by using a gauze pad on the cut and wrapping it with Vetrap or something similar, such as camo wrap if you happen to have any. I’m particularly a fan of the camo wrap because it tends to be thicker and more heavy duty than the Vetrap. Of course, it’s also more expensive. If you own dog boots, carrying them is a great idea – if for no other reason than to throw them on after an injury to allow your dog to hike back under his own power.

Speaking of first aid – if you’re hiking in an unfamiliar area, it helps to keep emergency contact numbers for nearby veterinary clinics on hand, just in case. Also, make sure your dog is wearing a tag that has a valid phone number for you, a relative, or a friend that can be contacted in case your dog gets lost.

In addition to all that, another important consideration for most dog packers are good trail manners.

The majority of us, unfortunately, will spend most of our hiking time on public trails, such as trails on National Park property. Some of those trails may see very little use and we may not encounter any other hikers while we’re out there. Some of those trails may also be very busy and we may encounter other hikers with and without dogs, bicyclists, horseback riders, even folks hiking with pack goats, which makes good trail manners an absolute requirement.

Unfortunately, many trails and National Parks are now off-limits to four-legged hikers due to complaints and concerns over dogs being allowed to run loose, chasing wildlife, frightening people, and generally being a nuisance. Sadly, there’s little we can do other than conform to the rules and try to leave a good impression so we’re not the cause of dogs getting banned from the trails on which they are currently allowed.

Being “courteous” on the trail means different things to different people – let’s just go over some general “trail rules” that help keep dog packers on friendly terms with other hikers:

  • Keep your dog leashed unless the area specifically allows unleashed dogs. Having a leash on your dog helps prevent a couple of behaviors that get dog hikers banned, such as chasing wildlife and harassing other hikers. This is especially important if your dog doesn’t react to the call “COME!” in every situation – including when he’s halfway down the hill chasing a rabbit.
  • Don’t leave your dog’s poop in the middle of the trail. Sure, it’s nature and poop is bio-degradable, but nobody wants to step in it. Either pick it up and pack it out, or move it a reasonable distance off the trail and cover it up.
  • Don’t let your dog act aggressively toward other hikers, bikers, horseback riders, or other trail users. This means, no barking, lunging or growling at passers-by, even if it’s a horse, a bicycle, or another dog.
  • Bear in mind that some people are genuinely frightened of dogs and may not appreciate your dog approaching them on leash and especially not off-leash. When approaching or passing other people, it’s always best to have your dog next to you and on whichever side will position you between the dog and other trail users you are passing.

A couple of other things worth mentioning are collars and leashes.

If you’re out hiking, your dog should wear a well-fitted flat collar with his ID tags securely attached to it – even if you are using a harness, head halter, or training collar to actually attach the leash to. Your dog’s ID should have a phone number for yourself that is current and can be reached even when you’re not home, such as your cell phone, or your veterinary clinic’s number. You can also get an ID tube, which unscrews to hold a piece of paper on which you can write a current contact number – like a local hotel where you’re staying during your trip – or a number for a friend or family member who can be reached in an emergency.

Leashes come in many different styles and materials, and for hiking, I’ve found that leashes made from climbing rope or similar material work great because they are comfortable in your hand and can, if needed, be tied to your pack or belt so you have your hands free. I like to cut the hand loop off my hiking leads – or make them myself from climbing rope so they have no hand loops to begin with. If your dog likes to chase wildlife, it’s recommended that you use a thicker lead so that you don’t suffer “rope burn” on your hands if your dog decides to suddenly take off on you. Thin, light leashes are great – but having nearly severed a finger with parachute cord, I’d rather use a rope lead these days!

They also make “hands-free” leashes that attach to a belt. Those are fantastic for running but I don’t like them as much for hiking as many of them are only about 4ft and when you’re on a narrow trail, that can be impractical. Extendable leashes (“Flexi Leads”) are generally a bad choice because they’re uncomfortable to hold and can easily snap if a dog “hits the end” when taking off after a squirrel or rabbit. (Actually, I don’t really like extendable leashes for anything. A flat long line is much nicer and doesn’t snap if the dog suddenly sprints forward. Plus, no fiddling with buttons to lock the mechanism and all that jazz.)

A Note on Camping With Dogs

One note at the end – if you plan to camp out with your dog or dogs, some special consideration has to be given to spending the night in a tent, too. Not all dogs understand the concept of a tent, and some are genuinely confused by the feel and sound of your tent bottom or the tarp underneath your tent. Some try to walk out of the mesh screen while it’s closed. (My dog is among those – she believes mesh doesn’t exist.) It’s always a good idea to try out the “tent experience” in your own back yard before taking it to the trail.

A simple flat sheet will prevent a lot of wear and tear from a dog’s nails, too, and help keep your tent floor intact longer, especially on those thin ultralight tents that are so popular with many backpackers. (We have the Eureka! Solitaire, for example.) Sure, it’s an extra thing to pack, but light enough not to make a huge difference and worth its weight in gold, compared to having to repair (or replace) your tent!

Dog Packing Resources

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