HYOH: Bringing My Dog

So you’re thinking about hiking the Appalachian Trail (or any trail) and you want to bring your dog. But should you? Because your dog is a great hiking companion and you feel safe and comfortable with them. Plus, it’s more fun and what else would you do with them? This post is to walk you through my thought process on bringing my dog or going on without her.

Warning: Lots of cute dog pictures included.

Cat Scout SmileJean Louise “Scout” Kimsey

PRO:

1. The dog is a great hiking buddy

If you’re like me, you think your dog is the best thing with four legs. My dog has travelled the country with me — literally. She has been with me to the mountains of North Carolina. She has seen the Arch and activism in St. Louis with me. She has barked at the buffalo at Yellowstone with me. She’s camped in Moab with me. She is great in the car. She is great with other people and dogs. And she is never happier than when we are hiking together. I would love to have her come and she would love to be there

Cat Scout MoabMoab, Utah

2. You worry about the alternatives

Leaving your dog with anyone can be a nerve-wrecking experience. Even if you arranged for the best alternative, you know there’s no one your dog would rather be with than you. Finding a place you trust to leave your dog for nearly half a year is a difficult part of planning. So why not bring them with you?

3. Dogs can keep you safe and give you “comforts of home”

At the end of a hard day, there’s nothing better than coming home to the unconditional love of a dog. So why wouldn’t you want that same love at the beginning, middle and end of every hard day on the trail?

Cat Scout OverlookSee? She loves a good hiking look-out

CONS:

1. Tough logistics 

Planning to live in the woods for 6 months is not easy. You think it’s all “getting back to the basics and simple living” but the preparation to do so can be tedious – from potential mail drops, financial planning, gear reviews and decisions. It can continue on the trail with maintaining budget and getting all the right rations for food and water. These types of logistics only become more complicated with a dog. Carrying both of your food and water would definitely add on to the pack weight – not to mention the other necessities your dog would require. How much food should your dog eat hiking? How much water will be enough for both of you? Will this food last until the next drop? Will the next town have the specific needs for my dog?

2. Dogs can’t talk

Your hiking family can tell you if they’re hungry or thirsty. They can tell you when they need an extra day to rest. They can tell you when they are no longer enjoying the trail and it’s time for them to go. Your dog cannot. This is by far my biggest concern. While most dog owners can definitely “read” their dog somewhat, your dog cannot tell you their needs.

3. Invasion of hiking their own hike

I am a huge believer in hiking your own hike. Taking my dog would be a big decision to do so. However, I do not want my hiking decisions to encroach upon everyone else’s hike. Not only does my hiking partner not “really like dogs” but I understand that everyone on the trail might not enjoy the company of a dog at the end of a long day. Taking my dog on the trail would mean making a decision for a lot of people to have a dog on the trail. She would be on the trail with people. She would want their attention in the camp.

Cat Scout Silly

My big decision:

For those reasons and more, I have decided not to take Scout on the trail. I am still exploring where she will be while I’m on the trail and this keeps me up at night. But at the end of the day, my decision to hike is my own. And Scout wouldn’t have much say in the matter if she was not into it and neither would anyone else on the trail. It is a tough decision and everyone needs to make their own, but for me and Scout, we will have an epic reunion after Katahdin!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 2

  • Avatar
    Josiane : Oct 29th

    Take a look at @mfryska on Instagram. She took her dog with her on her thru-hike this year. It was really nice to be part of her journey thanks to this social media.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    A J MacDonald Jr : Oct 29th

    I think you made the right decision.

    Reply

What Do You Think?