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.