Hi all! We are Morgan and Logan Greenhaw, but we prefer to go by MoonShine and Gibberish – especially out on the Trails! We thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2017 as newlyweds and it was the best experience of both our marriage and our lives in general. A big part of that was our Siberian Husky, Pneuma Paisley. We got her shortly after our wedding day and she spent the majority of her first year of life with us out in the woods.
The Garage Grown Gear team asked us to share with you all some of the things we learned thru-hiking with our pup. We hope you find our top 10 tips helpful.
Our Top 10 Tips for Thru-Hiking with Your Dog
Hike Your Dogs Hike –
If you are involved with the thru-hiker world to any extent, you’ve probably heard the infamous motto “hike your own hike”. I’m not aware of the history behind the phrase–who coined it or exactly why it was brought about–but, it’s a polite way of letting others know that their opinions or experience is not yours. One of the biggest lessons that Gibberish and I learned on our journey is how that phrase didn’t really do our hike justice. When you have your dog in tow, it becomes all about them. What hostels are pet-friendly, which restaurants will let you sit outside, how you can go into stores to resupply, how far they can or feel like hiking in a day – the list goes on. You have to be prepared and ready to sacrifice for, fight for and attend to your dog at every given moment!
Don’t Listen to Opinions –
People will be quick to tell you that you’re torturing your animal or that you have the wrong gear or how irresponsible it is to have your dog in the woods. I can’t even count how many people we had message us on Instagram or make degrading comments under their breath as we passed them and it got really discouraging at points. But you’re the only one who knows your dog and, as long as you’re being attentive and responsible, there’s nothing that’ll make your dog happier than hiking beside you for 2,000+ miles!
Test Your Dog’s Gear and Invest in Good Gear Before You Leave –
This seems self-explanatory, but I think it’s easy to assume that dogs can just go with the flow like we can. However, we ran into a couple of issues along the way with Pneuma’s gear (like her harness chaffing and her boots not staying on) that we could’ve avoided by testing it out beforehand. Here’s a list of what we used for her:
- Ruffwear Pallisades Pack; we loved that the pack detached from the harness because we eventually sent the pack home and only used the harness, so if that’s your plan from the get go, here’s a great option.
- Locking Carabiner Leash
- Ruffwear Dog Booties
Ultralight Bowls (check these out at GGG).
Invest In a Good Leash and USE IT –
There’s a lot of conflicting advice on using leashes, but we found it to be important and helpful to have Pneuma on her leash at all times. It wasn’t always convenient for us, but you never know when you’ll come across someone with traumas or a porcupine, etc. We found that one with a locking carabiner worked best, like this one at Garage Grown Gear.
Understand Their Stomachs –
It’s important to know how your dog’s stomach reacts to foods before you leave because their diet could shift often depending on how you work out resupplies. Pneuma’s stomach can’t handle changing from different brands of food, so we had to buy her food in bulk and have our parents send it to us every 5-7 days. We would also add honey, EVOO, and/or peanut butter powder to help give her extra electrolytes and fats! She never went without eating, but it isn’t uncommon for Trail dogs to not eat much for the first couple of weeks.
Pack Them a First Aid Kit –
This is so important and I think it often gets ignored. We consulted our vet before packing ours and kept it in a bag separate from our own first aid kit. Here’s what we included:
- Children’s dissolvable Benadryl tablets – in case of any allergic reactions.
- A small bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide – in case we ever had to induce vomiting.
- Neosporin – we would put this on any spot where we pulled a tick off of just as a precaution.
- Gauze & Ace Bandage – just in case she were to ever get seriously injured!
- Medical Records – these are very important to have with you at all times!
- Bravecto & Sentinel – these were her flea/tick/heartworm medications and we had to procure the dosages from our vet before we left. I cannot stress enough how important tick protection is!! Bravecto was a life-saver for her.
- Tweezers – for pulling 20+ ticks off the three of us daily. They do make specific tick keys you could use, but we found tweezers to work really well.
Protect Their Pads –
My favorite thing we carried for Pneuma was a pad protector/soother wax. There are so many things that can/will agitate your dog’s pads out on the Trail and that’s one of the main reasons people have to quit their hike or send their dogs home. We would put the protector on her pads 2-3 times a day and then we’d put the soother on once we’d get into the tent for the night.
Be Respectful of Other Hikers –
Not everyone in the woods will be comfortable with or accepting of your dog, especially at camp. Some people may have traumatic experiences with dogs, some may miss their dogs too much to see yours, some people just might not want to deal with a dog around their camp. It becomes increasingly important for dog owners to understand all of those things and to be sure people are comfortable before letting your dog run wild or into a campsite at all!
Do Research Upfront –
Dogs are not allowed at all areas on the Appalachian Trail and they’re definitely not allowed in all hostels along the way, so know those specifics and having arrangements made prior is key! It is also incredibly helpful to have a support system in place to lend a hand if need be!
Understand Your Relationship –
We used to tell anyone and everyone that they should take their dog on their thru-hike, but our tune has since changed. While it might be true that Pneuma made our trek exponentially greater and we credit her for our being able to finish on Katahdin, it’s also true that having her out there added a whole new level of mental drainage for us. The more we talk and think about our experience, the more we understand that if you’re going to have your dog with you for such a strenuous experience, they have to be your very best friend and your top priority. Dogs are different for everyone – to us, Pneuma is our baby and we treat her as such! We try to do everything in our power to give her the best life possible and I really believe that’s the only real secret to thru-hiking with your pup.
Continue Hiking with MoonShine, Gibberish and Pneuma Paisley
Excellent article told from experience. Ultimately you mentioned you sent the palisades pack back .. did you decide to carry pneuma’s gear and food thereafter? The food is surprisingly bulky I’ve found! If you havent seen, hounds of houndgate https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCKs3XTj42ZcuavLxJbbHiCA is a similar dog through hiker based in Scotland.. well worth a watch as he also describes dog equipment, the Cape wrath trail vlog is also a good watch. Thanks again for the excellent article
Thanks for the information! I’m taking my dog Juniper with me on the Colorado Trail later this summer. When we go on shorter backpacking trips or car camping, she tends to stay awake most of the night, quietly keeping guard over us as we sleep. Have you heard of this behavior? It’s not a big deal if we’re just gone for a night or two (it does make me feel safe), but sleep is obviously important for a five-week long trek. I’m planning on taking her on a few longer trips beforehand to see if she eventually realizes that she can fall asleep, but I’m wondering if anyone has experienced this and how they dealt with it.
Also – why do you bring the medical records?
Nice article. I have been planning an AT thru hike with my dog Piper(Golden Retriever) for a year now. She loves hiking and backpacking and is in excellent physical shape. She is 3 years old. The most important thing that I have learned in researching is that your dog comes first. I believe Piper will greatly enjoy a thru hike but if looks like she isn’t then I will get her off trail.
A great company started years ago by a woman who took her dog on a thru hike is Groundbird Gear. They make customized lightweight dog packs/harnesses which Piper readily wears. The company has resources available for prospective thru-hikers and backpackers who are bringing their dog. They have videos from thru-hikers who brought their dogs which are excellent to review.
They now have custom quilts, ultra light weight down for cold weather which I just bought for Piper. Her gear is expensive but I believe is the best on the market and I want to provide Piper with that. She deserves it.
Morgan & Logan Greenhaw
That is a great question about poop! :) We also always do our best to abide by LNT principles. We basically treat our dog’s waste the same as our own:
1. Travel 200 ft. from water and the trail
2. Dig a 6-8 inch hole
3. Bury the poop and cover it up
Trying to get your dog to reliably poop 200 feet off-trail and away from water is nearly impossible! Fortunately for us, we have learned when our pups need to poop based on their distinct ‘poop-trots’ (as we like to call it). When we call tell nature is calling, we do our best to get our pups the 200 feet off-trail and then bury their poop accordingly. We always have poop bags with us both to help move the poop into the cat hole AND in the event that we need to pack it out!
This is one of those areas that significantly changes the nature of a thru-hike. It is one thing to practice LNT for yourself, but when you decide to take your dog, you are also bound to help them leave no trace! This can take up a lot of time and might change your hiking pace. Thanks for such a stellar question, Lyndsay! We hope this helps. :)
Great article! I was wondering though about poop 💩 do you pack out your dogs poop? Or bury it? I try to adhere to leave no trace rules but haven’t thought too much about how that would apply to dogs. Thanks!
Morgan & Logan Greenhaw
Thank you for the kind words, everyone! We really appreciate your comments. Feel free to post any questions and we will do our best to respond to them!
Morgan & Logan Greenhaw
Nina- Thanks so much for your question! Ticks are definitely tricky, especially on our fluffy pups. We conducted regular tick checks every single night on each other and an extra-long check on Pneuma. She quickly learned to stay still while we slowly scanned her entire body with a headlamp each night. We found it helpful to illuminate her skin using a headlamp so that the ticks would stand out easier. We normally spent about 45 minutes to an hour each night looking for them on her body (especially during our time through the mid-Atlantic states). We would use tweezers to get them off and then put them in an air-tight container/bottle. You really just need to prioritize your pup and make sure you are checking them every single day. Our last word of advice is to find a solid tick medication that works for your dog. If you are keeping them up-to-date on their meds, then the ticks should just pop right off! Hope that helps!
Bring back your dog backpacks, I’ve been buying them on ebay to stockpile. I’ve tried all the competitors packs and they don’t make them like you did!
Can you tell me how you were able to do a thorough tick check on a fluffy dog? I am concerned about finding all of the ticks on my short haired brindle colored dog. Thank you
A really great article! It is true what they said – you have to make the dog top priority. Many dogs are rather ill-suited for such an adventure, and you see folks on trail dragging their “beloved pets” behind them. I’ve seen malnourished and exhausted dogs on the AT and it’s pathetic how little their owners put thought into the idea of taking a dog on a through hike. These guys are doing it right. Thank you for that.
Great article. Thanks for the tips!
Thank you for the wisdom shared at the end. Most people don’t know or appreciate the rigors (for the dog) or the responsibilities required to thruhike with a dog. It’s complicated!
Ian – the boots protect the dog’s paw pads. We take it for granted that they don’t need them, but if the dog is wearing booties you never have to worry about pulling a thorn out of the dog’s paw. Also, a dog thru-hiking is walking more than most other dogs do, and there are all kinds of trail conditions our pets don’t normally encounter. I live in a climate that’s similar to a high desert, where it can be in the triple digits in August or single digits in February. Dog booties mean protecting sensitive paws from frostbite or burning.
Think a lot of thru hiking with dogs applies to regular long hikes too.
1. what did sh carry in her own pack
2.why use dog boots
3. How were staying places and rides along the way.
4. Dogs SHOULD ALWAYS be leashed, mainly for their own safety
Thanks for posting
As a huge dog lover, and a Thru-hiker wanna-Be….. it was cool,,, and I do appreciate you sharing.. stay cool, and more importantly Safe… ✌️
“Hike Your Dog’s Hike”. No truer words. Great article – thank you!