Gear List for Man’s Best Friend
It was a long debate but I finally convinced myself I couldn’t do this hike without my dog.
From when she was three months old I have always taken her on all my hikes along the mountains of East Tennessee, including parts of the Appalachian Trail. Most of the time I was carrying her like a football up and down Roan Mountain but I am fully confident this mutt can make this journey. She was born in the Grayson Highlands area; mountain dog is in her blood and she has lived along the AT all her life.
Having a Dog on the Trail
Remember that not everyone wants to be around a dog during their hike. When entering a shelter or coming close to a town, keep your dog on a leash. Most dogs are unpredictable; you never know what is on their mind, whether they will take off or sneak food from another hiker’s plate. My dog, Watauga, has always been well-behaved but after hiking multiple miles a day, like yourself, your dog is starving for food and the animal instinct for survival will kick in. Respect your fellow hikers and ask if they are willing to share a shelter with your dog.
Pet priorities. Sometimes you’ll have to put your pet’s priorities before your own. Most stores, restaurants, and lodges don’t allow dogs. That means while your hiking family is enjoying cold beers and staying in warm hostels with showers, a dog owner will have to make their way back into the cold woods for the night. On the positive side this will help you save some cash along the way.
How Your Dog Will End Your Hike
It’s something nobody wants to think about but the chances of having your hike end early increases with a dog. You’re not only taking care of yourself but another living creature. Injury, Lyme disease, and losing too much weight are all factors in a hike ending early. A way to help prevent an early end to your hike is when you take a break check your dog for ticks. I’ve taken a dozen ticks off Watauga within only a short three-mile hike. Use tick prevention every month. It won’t prevent all ticks from jumping onboard your dog, but something is better than nothing.
I found a decent and not too expensive saddlebag for my dog. We are using Black Doggy Route Expedition. To help prevent chafing from the straps I found seat belt covers work best and fit perfectly behind her shoulder straps.
After some research, I find that dry dog food Pedigree is most common in towns and gas stations. So we will be making the switch to that food brand before we start hiking. To help prevent Watauga from losing too much weight, I will be adding dabs of olive oil to her food.
Protection for her paws. I tried putting dog booties on my dog but she wasn’t digging it and it made her hike more clumsy, like a newborn giraffe. So during breaks and before hikes each morning I am applying Musher’s dog wax.
To keep her saddlebag and all the contents inside dry during wet weather I bought a large Ruffwear rain fly.
Look Out for Us!
With all that said, there is nothing I want more than having Watauga with me. Even if that means ending my hike early. She is great company and has a personality I cannot describe. She is loved by everyone and I am happy to share her with anybody that we meet. I am looking forward to every challenge and every mountain I hike with her.
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Dogs also really help you finish. Their positive attitude, yay we get to walk again!, really help when you’re putting on wet frozen shoes again. Also they keep mice away in shelters. They also do slow you down which prevents injuries. Every time I needed a snack, every 2 hrs, I gave him a treat and put down his food and water bowl. This was a suggestion from a blog I read to make sure your pup gets plenty of food. Enjoy!