5 Tips for Hiking with a Dog on the A.T.

5 Tips for Hiking with a Dog on the A.T.

Hiking with a dog is awesome, but it is without a doubt more complicated than hiking alone. Here are some things I’ve learned from my time on the A.T. with my dog.

Pros: It’s a dog. You’re never alone. Bad days are all good days to a dog. Doggie snuggles. Extra warmth. An extra set of ears. Extra protection.

Cons: Extra gear = more weight. You need to filter more water. Unless your dog carries their own food, you have to carry it. Their food takes up more space in the bear vault/bag. Not all parts of the A.T. allow dogs. It poops.


E-Collar train your dog before hitting the trails.

An E-Collar, or electric collar, is a remote collar that owners use to communicate with their dog. It can beep, vibrate, or administer a small zap to your dog to redirect their behavior. It is a way to get your dog to “clock back in”, and understand that you still have access to them. Most importantly, it allows dogs to be FREE. Kodak is ecstatic when I get the E-Collar because it means that she gets to off-leash walk, sniff, and explore. I’m happy that she gets to be a dog and that I have control over her safety. I am thankful that Kodak was E-Collar trained prior to hitting the trails. There are parts of the trail that are so steep that I feel it would have been dangerous to have my dog attached to me. Not only did she have more freedom, but the E-Collar allowed us to move independently through difficult inclines and declines. Thus, reducing the likelihood of her pulling me over or me falling on her.
Get a lanyard for your E-Collar remote. I had my E-Collar remote clipped to my pack chest strap. I quickly learned that this can become a problem when I unclipped my pack to rest. You don’t want to lose your remote. A lanyard will stop your remote from falling off when you unclip your pack, and it will keep it on your chest for easy access.


Have an easy hitch system.

Some paracord and a carabiner works wonders. Although Kodak is mostly an off-leash dog on the trails, she is hitched at camp and during certain activities. I prefer to hitch Koko when I am filtering water and cooking food. She is a curious little thing. Water filtration is already a process. It is much more difficult when you have a curious dingo in your business or stomping through your water source. Hitching is also helpful during water filtration because I don’t have to monitor her. In other words, I don’t have to worry if she found a new hiker, squirrel, or black bear to befriend. I hitch her during food preparation for obvious reasons. Doggos like people-food.


Command your dog to sit when other hikers pass.

It took me a couple days to figure out what the best protocol here is. Some people like dogs, some people don’t, and some people do but they are allergic (chances are, if you are a crunchy hippy hiker type that enjoys getting sweaty and covered in dirt for fun, you probably like dogs. And beer. But I shouldn’t assume). Regardless, every hiker deserves to not have a strange dingo tongue surprise them. When I see a hiker approaching, I move to the edge of the trial and command Kodak to sit. This works a lot better than trying to move past the other person at the same time. Kodak is friendly. And she likes to sniff. And even if I “heel” her, she’s going to try to sneak a sniff. She can’t help it. Commanding her to sit gives her a clearly defined expectation. Most hikers that pass appreciate it and say, “Thank you”, or Koko’s favorite, “Good doggie”.


Dehydrated food is a lighter weight option for dog food.

I reached out to The Honest Kitchen and asked for sponsorship. They said yes! The Honest Kitchen sent me some food samples to use on the A.T.. I wanted to use dehydrated food on the trail because it is lighter than dry food. Four days of dog food is approximately 44 ounces (3.75 pounds) of dehydrated food. At some point, I plan on Kodak carrying her own food. I started her without a pack because I thought adjusting to the trail would be a big enough hurdle. The directions are simple. You just mix the dehydrated food with water and it turns into an oatmeal consistency. My dog really likes this food. She gives it the same crazy eyes that she gives hotdogs. I started mixing it in with her normal dry food, as a meal topper, before we hit the trail. I’ve had no issues with an upset stomach.


Dog boots are optional, not a must.

We do not use dog boots on the trail, and at this time I have no plans of using them. Even in rocky terrain, Kodak’s paws are fine. I personally feel like she needs full dexterity in her paws for balance and agility. I use Musher’s Secret, a paw wax, at the end of the day for paw care. It helps keep her paws hydrated and less likely to crack.

These are some tips that I learned in my experiences with Kodak on the A.T.. Of course, everyone’s dog is different and has different needs. Everyone should make their own judgments about how to hike with their animal. As the owner, we should know the needs of our dog and try to anticipate their behavior. Cheers to all of the mountain pups, you make life better.

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Comments 2

  • amber : Apr 22nd

    Thanks for being considerate of others on the trail and keeping Koko out of reach when others pass 🙂

    Have a great hike!

  • Bloodthirsty Vegan : May 1st

    Depends greatly on the dog. Homebody/Adventurer that my rescue Beagle is, he’s great for a couple of nights, but I think he’s confused and lonely for his couch beyond that, plus, non-pet friendly lodging, shopping, and dining issues. Section for us. Good post, best of luck!


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