Prepping A Dog For Long Back Country Travel

Jauwater

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It's looking like I'll be having to take my girlfriends dog with me this summer. We will be covering 300-500 miles of trail this summer, but I have no experience traveling with a dog in the back country. Right now I got him a Ruffwear approach pack, small thermarest tech blanket, some doggy boots, two collapsible bowls. I'll have a very basic first aid kit on me. Are dog boots even necessary? He's weird about them, but I guess he'll come around to them. I can fit all that in his pack and about 4 days of food. Plenty of water on the trail. Something Im missing? Something I should take caution too?

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Jauwater

Jauwater

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He's a black lab mix. 5 years old. Very athletic. 55lbs.

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Jauwater

Jauwater

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Should he eat more on the trail? I've seen documentaries where these guys don't feed their sled dogs hardly nothing in the AM, but feed them a heavy portion in the evening. If i understand it right it keeps them from being sluggish. Is that something I should follow?

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UtahJimmy

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Sounds like you have it covered. You could drop one bowl, just put this food on the ground.

All dogs are weird about boots. But if he shreds one of his pads it'll be the only way to keep going. My advice would be make sure he is in shape and ready. That's a lot of miles, and his pads need to be callused or he'll be useless after a few days.

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Bearlodge10

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Interesting, I have no experience but I am curious to know if this is one long trip or several extended trips? I would consult your vet to get recommendations for diet etc. Perhaps carrying some packets of olive oil for his food would add some fats etc. that would keep the weight on in healthy terms (I am guessing here). I think a lot would depend on the terrain and distance covered in a day. I think the foot pads and such a great especially in rocky and prickly country. On a trip that long, I would also carry some medications for the animal for inflammation, bites etc. just as I would for a horse or pack animal. Some conditioning might help especially with the pack to make sure it doesn't rub with the weight shifting. Best of Luck!
 

Tod osier

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It is unlikely that the dog will need boots if he stays on the trail (i.e.,if he doesn't put on 20 times the miles as you). Dogs feet really vary as far as wear. My older lab's feet are hard and tough, but on extended bird hunting trips his feet get destroyed (margins of the pads). My younger lab's pads/feet are soft and supple and he hardly ever has a problem. Neither usually have problems with backpacking, just bird hunting, which is much more abusive. If the dog gets footsore, keep it on the trail to cut down on the miles. Walk the dog on pavement to toughen feet up before, if the dog is not in good condition already. After a week or two there won't be any problems once pads get toughened up. Trim nails to proper length at start (won't need it once you get going).

With my older lab, I've gotten to be a bit of an expert managing dog feet (during long bird hunting trips). If the dog gets footsore, put boots on. Some boots actually make the feet worse. I've used cordura booties and homemade booties from duct tape. Either way, I wrap the foot in vetwrap first. Can't wrap too tight because you will cut off circulation and on some dogs wrapping or booties causes a toenail to dig in to the other toes - have to watch that. HAving the dog in wet boots softens the pads, which causes they to be less tough and prone to damage.

In case of need due to injury, put a roll of vet wrap in your first aid kit. Duct tape boots are the best with injured feet, IMO. Wrap the foot with vet wrap up the leg. Take a piece of tape that runs down back of leg, under pad and up front of leg. Use strips crosswise to hold the first piece on. Thinner strips conform to shape better. They cab be pretty snug, but watch it.
 

BroodBuster

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Yep. Pad injury would be the only real show stopper. Might want to start playing fetch in a gravel parking lot to toughen them up.

I use bear bells during the day and a red light at night. It helps in keeping an eye on her around camp.

I keep her on leash on the trail. Mainly for stock but she'll also get thirsty and wants to run down a cliff to get at water. Apparently she can't read a map and know we will cross a creek in 50 yards.

Finally grass seeds and meadow debris can be tough on their eyes although this seems to be a bigger issue for spaniel's than labs. But still might want to ask your vet about eye drops.
 

UtahJimmy

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Should he eat more on the trail? I've seen documentaries where these guys don't feed their sled dogs hardly nothing in the AM, but feed them a heavy portion in the evening. If i understand it right it keeps them from being sluggish. Is that something I should follow?

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I also have a lab and he loves backpacking! For food, I increase his serving by about 25% per meal. I still feed him the same amount for breakfast and dinner. I feed him first thing in the morning, right when we get up. That gives him time to digest while I make breakfast, coffee, and sit for a glassing session.

You don't want to feed them and then expose them to rigorous amounts of activity. It can lead to bloat, which is no bueno (life threatening). I'm guessing that's why sled dog owners only feed them at night.
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Brendan

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Just like any person - I'd be worried about doing too much too quickly. You're not going to go on an Elk Hunt and carrying a pack without training for it, right? If not already doing it - make sure to start working up his mileage to get him ready.

You would need to start feeding him more. Simple calories in / calories out. I can't comment on when - but we give our lab/dane mix breakfast and dinner and I don't think I'd change that.

With a black lab (like mine) I'm always worried about the heat and getting enough water... With a black coat and exertion in hot weather - you don't want to give him heat stroke because they don't cool down as well as people do... We stop more often and let him drink to cool down. Even better if he likes to swim - let him go in the creeks where you can...

Boots probably aren't needed unless he hurts / injures his pads - but, his feet probably need to toughen up the same as yours.
 

mtnrunner260

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Depending on your daily mileage you'll need to limit the free run the first few days. Our lab and golden would do 10 times the distance we did. As long as it wasn't a super long day it wasn't a problem but when you do 15 miles and they do 50 they get pretty tuckered out.
 
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Jauwater

Jauwater

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Thanks a lot everyone! Learn a lot around here in just a little time. It'll be basically a straight 300-500 miles over a 4-6 week span. Really gotta wrap it up in 5 weeks. The plan would be to do 10-15 miles daily. I never really would have thought about the extra miles he'd be putting in running around off the leash most of the time. Definitely something I'll keep an eye on.

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oldgoat

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So, my input isn't from doing what you're going to do, but from hunting with dogs sometimes on trips of a week or a little more. Yes, you don't want to feed them before moving out, I don't feed my hunting dogs til after the day is over. Just watch his ribs and feel for them through the coat till you figure out how much food he needs. I used to buy some stuff that I put on the pads to toughen them up when I lived in Nevada and hunted tough country, but now hunting farm country I haven't needed it. I would get him used to the boots and then carry them along. A lot of the foot concerns depends on the dog and on the country you're in, white pads are always the worst! Buy the best food you can afford the better it is the less you have to take to get the same results. I'd also suggest going to the vet and telling then what you are doing and asking for a prescription for anti diarrhea medicine(propectalin)and upset stomach\vomiting medicine (carafate) to take along.
 

twall13

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My experience is limited to shorter backpacking trips with my dog and plenty of hunting. The advice you have gotten so far falls in line with what I have seen. My dog definitely needs extra calories when we backpack and he hauls a pack. I agree with the feeding just at night. Dogs work better on an empty colon so let him digest his food overnight. Pay attention to the percentage of weight the dog will be carrying in relation to his weight. A small amount of weight in his pack adds up to a large percentage of the dogs weight in a hurry. I'd try to keep it below 6-7 lbs. for a dog of that weight but every dog is different. Get the dog used to wearing a weighted pack as it can sometimes rub them wrong and cause hot spots. You want to figure that out and get the dog used to it prior to hitting the trail.

I've never really had an issue with my dogs pads on a backpacking trip but I've never done one that long either. I know my uncle had a dog with soft pads that would get torn up on week long hunting trips. Someone mentioned it above but he found that duct tape worked better than dog booties for his dog. Also, he taped the paws loosely so the toes could still splay as the dog ran. The booties were too confining and caused extra pain as the toes dug into each other.

My last bit of advice is to know your dog and how it obeys, acts in various situations. Will he run off chasing deer or squirrels? How are you going to manage him at night? With my current dog I can leave him free all night and he just sleeps under my tarp/hammock and alerts me if something is in the vicinity. With my previous dog he was prone to wandering off chasing things during the night so I had to rig a line between trees that I could hook his lead rope up to overnight. Again, every dog is different. One other word of caution, even though your dog may be the nicest dog on the planet, some people have an irrational fear of dogs so if your dog doesn't come on command every time it can make for awkward situations on the trail if he is off leash.
 

skaldugwas

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Heat management and access to water will be your biggest concerns. My lab is in great hunting shape but if its over 60 degrees he will overheat scary fast. I wouldn't let my dog free run unless it was very cool or water was abundant and near by . Learn what heat stroke looks like in dogs and how to handle it. Believe me it can happen very quickly.
 
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Jauwater

Jauwater

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I have noticed in the past that he doesn't do well in the sun, and typically looks for shade. I'll be looking into heat strokes for dogs first thing tomorrow. Thanks.

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ben h

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My old lab is an EIC carrier (exercise induced collapse) at least his dad was and I never got him checked out for it. He overheats really easily. For feet, an old acquaintance told me a product called "tough feet" really helps get the feet in shape; I never personally tried it. A few years ago I bought some dog boots for our pheasant trips out of a place in Alaska that were made for sled dogs to keep the snow out of their paws. They were sort of like socks and they were pretty disposable, I think we got about 1 day out of each set, but they were pretty cheap so it didn't really matter. They really helped our dogs in the foot department. I also think leashing would be a good idea for the 1st few days to prevent them from doing 10x the miles you do screwing around.
 

bowhunter

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One place to check out may be on a thru hiker forum. I live in a town along the Pacific Crest Trail, quite a few hikers come through with their dogs along the 2,700 mile trail.

Might be some good info from those hikers that do the PCT or other thru hiker trails.

Dan

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skaldugwas

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I wouldn't worry about boots, unless he has pink pads, the darker the pad the tougher usually.
A big running birddog will run atleast five miles to your one, and wear out their pads faster than they can heal in a day. If your dog is on a leash and covering relatively the same amount of ground you are he shouldn't hurt his pads to warrant boots unless he cuts a pad on broken glass or something.
Stay away from tough pad or various other pad toughening chemicals, they work but at a cost to your dog since essentially they create scar tissue on one of the few areas where your dog can expel heat.
Mushers secret works like a champ for worn pads.
 

orelkaddict

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My lab goes every place I go when in the hills. I also carry a small container of blood stop powder, vet wrap is a must and I carry a few benadryl tablets with in case of bee stings. It seems like every summer my dog will have a bee buzzing around her and the she snaps at it and gets freaking stung. I also carry coated asprin with in case she's obviously hurting and sore during the first few days. We live in Oregon so we're lucky enough to get to hike on the PCT each summer, bad part about that is there's lot of high mountain meadows she likes to run through and once in awhile she will get some grass seed in her eyes, its something I look for as we settle in for the night and carry a small bottle of saline to flush anything she picks up. Once you're used to having a dog with you on the trail they will become your best hiking partner, IMO.
 
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