Many German Shepherd Dogs (GSD or GSDs) are willing, able and do carry Backpacks. GSDs make great trail companions and provide protection in camp as well as on the trail.
But let me stop here and tell you that if you are looking for a dog to carry 25% of their body weight, to carry large loads for many miles, look for a correctly built, old style GSD, or for another breed. It is not that a GSD could not do this work, it is not that GSDs have not done this work well, it is that the GSD (most that is) is/are not really built for Backpacking large loads many miles. I am talking her about the slanted, roached back GSD dogs.. If backpacking many miles carrying a heavy pack is what you are looking for in a dog, look for a dog with a larger, more square body type.
HOWEVER, if you are looking for a good trail companion to carry day packs, or share part of load on Overnight, Week End, or A Few Week Long Backpacking Trips per year, with the right conditioning and training, any GSD with a good sound body type, is a GREAT choice.
Photos of 6 month old Titus VonKazmaier wearing an empty Backpack for training. He is learning to stand still as the pack is put on his back and taken off, he is learning how it feels and sounds as he moves about.
As I have said over and over on these pages, we lost all of old our 1980 - 1990's GSDs photos to Black Mold in N WI. The photos below however ARE of our own dogs, dogs we have many miles backpacking with on many different trails, in many different states.
This page, as is all of our website(s) pages, is/are written from our own experiences of being out on the trial with backpacks on our back and dogs wearing backpacks right with us. Deron and I have backpacked for many years have been many, many, miles, with all sizes and breeds of dogs, from Saint Bernards to Cocker Spaniels and an 18 pound Beagle. Most of our miles are with GSD, Labrador Retrievers, Siberian Huskies and Malamutes. All have been a pleasure to be on the Trail with and especially in Camp with. Yes, all of the photos you see here are of our dogs, and are copyrighted.
Photo of Tabaliah, 4 months old, first time in her empty green backpack.
BACKPACKING WITH DOGS
There is no better way for me to enjoy the great outdoors and my animals then to take a hike. I have hiked 100's of miles with dogs in backpacks. I hiked 1/3 across the state of MO with my Labrador Retriever sled dog team in backpacks. Backpacking with dogs is great sled dog and weight pull cross training. Dogs can carry 25% of their healthy weight in a pack on their back. I never asked mine to carry that much. I could carry that amount of weight too, but it would not be fun for me. I would not enjoy the trip as much. Carrying 25% of your body weight will also break down your body over time....so I don't ask my dogs (or goats, or llamas, or horses) to carry that much either.
There are many items a person should carry with them in the woods and sometimes the dogs can carry the weight without the owner carrying a pack at all.
Most dogs (I have only seen one squirrely dog that did not, and it was not mine) take to a backpack easily. Start out with low weights, almost nothing in the pack, and add as the dog gets in shape not only for the weight but also the miles. Keep the packs equal in weight....ie, if you are carrying shoes, put one on each side. Be sure to carry water and a Frisbee for the dog to drink out of. Put the Frisbee in the pack so that the concave side is near the dog and this will protect the dog from other items poking at it as it travels. Be careful NOT be pack sharp items in the dogs pack.
ANY breed of dog can and probably has backpacked. My son had an 18 pound beagle that carried a small backpack I made for her and scaled everything down she needed to carry for her Backpack Title she earned.
Photo of Marna with two our our, now gone, AKC Registered, Seppala Line Siberian Huskies, Petey and Zamboni.
NEVER, EVER, HAVE YOUR DOG RUN WITH YOU AND WEAR A BACKPACK. BACKPACKING IS A JOB IN AND OF ITSELF, ASKING YOUR DOG TO RUN ALONG SIDE OF A BICYCLE OR MOTORED VEHICLE WHILE CARRYING A BACKPACK IS JUST CRUEL!
DOG BACKPACKS ARE NOT JUST FOR 'THE WOODS' OR 'CAMPING'
Deron and I do not Backpack/Camp as much as we used to. But we do train each of our dogs to carry packs. We may not take as many dogs with us when we DO go Backpacking, now, just one each, but we do train each of our dogs to carry packs.
We have noticed that no one seems to go Backpacking like they used to. But something to keep in mind. Having a dog carry a Dog Backpack is not just for 'the woods' or just for 'camping out', it is also good for having your dogs carry your items in town. If you take your dog out and about with you, have them carry your items rather than you carrying them. Such as items from your purse and or your Tablet or Laptop.
Training Your Puppy or Dog To Wear A Backpack
It is not Rocket Science, training a puppy or a dog to wear a backpack, but it might take a bit of your time. Training time.
I usually start my puppies out very young learning that I can touch them anywhere, I can put anything on their bodies, and they are not to refuse. I do this by handling my puppies and dogs a lot. Call it petting. When I hold my puppies I do so in the cradle position. Why? This is a submissive position for a dog. They need not only to learn that they need to do as you tell them, but to also submit to their owners. Is this mean? Heavens No! This is basic training!
While you hold that puppy in your lap, pet it's ears, the inside and the out. Gently of course. Hold the puppies feet in your hands, if the puppy pulls the foot back, hold that same foot more snuggly until the dog stops struggling and relaxes, release the foot as soon as the dog relaxes. This helps later when it is time to trim their nails. Hold the base of the puppies tail snugly in your hand. Rub the belly lightly. Pet you dog on the top of the head. This puts you, in the dog's mind, above it. All of this will be of value to you later in the puppies life. Your dog needs to be comfortable with you handling it.
When our puppies are young I put small sized harnesses on them, just to let them learn what it is and it will not hurt them. I do this often and most times take them for a very short walk in it while making a big fuss over them as they walk along wearing the harness. I like for them to get the feel of the harness or other equipment as they move, how it feels in motion.
This photo is of Titus and Tekoa at 6 months old (each) wearing empty Dog Backpacks, Jan. 28, 2014.
I do the same with small Dog Backpacks. First I put it on them empty. I walk them just about 20' with it, praise the dog, give the dog a small treat, and take the backpack off. Then soon I add with just loosely rolled up newspaper to the inside of the backpack. The newspaper fluffs up the backpack to size but offers no weight. The sound, with the newspaper in the backpack, will be different and good training for the puppies. When you add your backpacks with newspaper on your dogs back, make a fuss over the dog, walk forward about 20' and take the pack off, of course, continue to make a big deal out of the dog.
Most dogs, especially large breed dogs, should NOT carry loads in a backpack for at least 18 months and many of the breeds, two years. But there is no reason a large breed dog that is 1 year old can not carry light loads. What is a light load? You might put your socks and gloves and empty poop bags and your harmonica in a young dogs pack. Keep it light and make it a quiet load that does not slop.....slop? Move around in the pannier as the dog walks.
Younger dogs can sure go with you on short Backpack Trips, they can wear a bandana. You never know when you will need another bandana. Younger dogs seeing and hearing the other dogs in pack will also teach the pup about packs, later they should not be afraid of it. This will also be the time to train them about how to act on the Trail.
This is our Texas Tea at 5 months old in a Bandana that could become useful on the Trail.
You might notice a slight roach in your dog's back the first few times it wears that empty Backpack. Don't worry, they are not hurt, they are just learning how the backpack feels, not only on their backs, but the straps ties to them underneath. The photo here is of Texas Tea her first time in a Backpack.
Above all. Like all training make your serious training fun. Praise the dog. You are training your Trail Partner. A dog or dogs in packs can sure help make your trip more pleasant, carrying items you would have left at home, not to mention the company and having a guard with you "out there". A dog or dogs can extend your Backpacking Trip by carrying more items so that you can stay longer without YOU carrying more. Just do not get silly about it and ask a dog to carry too much weight. And do not ask a young dog to go too many miles until it is older and you have conditioned it by spending many short miles and working upward on the Trail with your dog in pack.
How Much Weight Can/Should A Dog Carry In It's Backpack?
As I have said before above, I am not one to overload a dog's back. Many years ago I had a friend that owned beautiful Alaskan Malamutes, she and I backpacked with our dogs together many miles. She wanted her Alaskan Malamute to work on a Title with the Malamute Club. Her dog had to carry 40 pounds of weight on it's back for 10 miles to qualify. It was 30% of what the dog itself weighed. The dog did not have to carry the whole weight the entire trip. I told her to buy a 40 pound bag of dog food and cut small holes in the back on either side, that way the weight would fall out as they walked. I wanted no part in this and I was appalled that a Dog Club would ask people, reward people, to over work and over load their dogs. Can a dog carry this much weight? My question is WHY would you even consider ruining your dog's health for a title like this one?
Frankie our little working dog that does much more than just Backpacking.
Put your dog's health and safety above all else.
What is the percentage of weight, now really get on the scale and weight yourself and then weigh your backpack, the do the math. What is the percentage of your own weight do you carry in your backpack? And I don't mean, might you carry. I mean, how much are you getting out and carrying for long trips. There is a difference between the person that is "going to do this", "wants to do this", but never has, and the person that gets up off the couch and goes and carries a backpack and knows how the weight feels and moves on the trail, up hill, down hill, over rough terrains, and through water.
A dog should not carry 25% of it's weight on it's back unless you have a well conditioned dog that you have started with a light load on it's back and worked up to the 25%. And on then if you take it out for Backpacking Trips every week end. And then, only if you also have the full 25% of your body weight, that is weighed out, not guessed, in your own pack.
Any more weight then 25% is like a fat adult riding a Shetland Pony with a heavy western saddle! Don't do it!
Ahhhhh, but you say.... I know people that have their dog's carry 35% of their dogs weight. Maybe you do. But do you know how that dog fared in health? Even if it was fine as a young dog, do you have any idea the health of that dog as an older dog? Just like fat people break down their feet and knees and hips carrying their body weight, the same can be done to both humans and dog (horse, goats, llamas, donkeys, mules, yaks, any packing animal) with loads that are too heavy for them to be carrying.
Just because you read it in a book or a Dog Club asks for too much weight to be carried by a dog does not make it right. Dogs have backpacked for man for, well, probably since the beginning of the relationship between them. Just remember, those overloaded dogs in the photos of the Klondike day, were of dogs that probably became a meal on the trail.
TYPES OF BACKPACKS
Obviously the more dogs you pack with the more "stuff" you can take with you. The larger the dog you pack with the larger the pack will be too.
Please note that Turquoise, Black GSD in front, is wearing a different type Dog Backpack than Texas Tea, our other Beautiful Black GSD is wearing.
There are many types of backpacks for dogs...and many sizes. Make sure that the pack fits the dog correctly. A bad fit can mean pain and injury to your dogs. For small dogs (under 35 pounds) two straps will work well, one at the chest and one just behind the dog's front legs. For larger dogs three straps are a must. One at the chest, one just behind the dog's front legs and on at approx the last rib of the dog. Straps need to be snug but not too tight.
Can you imagine if someone handed you a 35-45 pound backpack and thought you should carry it for 5 miles without training. It is the same for a dog. They need to work up to the higher weights in their packs as well as the longer trips. Have fun on the trail with your dog, don't make a "beast of burden" out of your dog.
Make sure you do NOT buy a backpack that only has a few, some as few as two straps rather than a Yoke. The Yoke is the fabric area that sits on the dog's back that holds the two panniers with all becoming your "Backpack". You want full, and if you can find one, padded, Yoke to set on your dog's back. If the dog's pack only has straps up over the back, the pack will rest, with all of it's weight, on a few vertebrae. This can not only cause pain for the trips, it can do permanent damage. These packs are not good even for a few short light weight hikes. You could however add a fabric yoke to this type of backpack and use it after the work has been done correctly to it.
Start backpacking with our dog in a light weight pack and go a short distance. Check the dog for chaft areas where the straps were. If they are sore, check your dog's backpack in that area, something is wrong. Always make sure your dog's Backpack fits, and fits very well and sits correctly on the dog. As the dog gets used to the hiking and wearing the backpacking, add weight in the packs (evenly) and miles to the distance you travel.
I am not big on all the Fancy Attractions to Dog Backpacks. Many times the most simple is the best and safest way to go with Animal Equipment. I learned many years ago I used to backpack with a friend that bought, and at that time, late 1980's, they were very expensive, Dog Backpacks that had velcro so that a person could just take the panniers off the dog rather than the whole pack. I backpacked with four dogs (on leash) and she one. I could take off my backpacks almost as quick as she took of the one. I could put my dog's backpacks back on them, with a good fit, the same fit they had when we arrived at the rest area, as it took her to line up that velcro and get the panniers back on the yoke of the backpack correctly. And my dogs were far more comfortable with the straps off than her dog was with the yoke of the backpack still on it as it rested.
If you look at these photos, the Pink Dog Backpack is made so that the load rides more up on the dog's withers (shoulders). In theory, I like this. However, I have backpacked with dogs wearing backpacks for many many miles. I am afraid that the load will fall forward in these packs, sliding as the dog walks and pushing the load forward to the point of the straps rubbing the dogs front legs and back belly. Be sure to pack this pack with the heaviest items in front in the bottom. (as it should be in all Backpacks) Light weight items should be to the back and high in this type of pack.
What you need for your dog, is a well fitting dog backpack that does not hang down to it's knees when loaded, with a padded yoke. It needs to have three straps for larger dogs and two for smaller dogs. The snaps should be quick or side release snaps for easy removal. If you backpack through creeks or into rivers, or take part of your trip in a canoe, or are so serious of a backpacker you go in the rain, or stay out for several days, then you will want/need a waterproof fabric backpack.
In this photo to the left, you will see compression straps on each of the panniers. When you tighten these down around your load, it does a few things...one, it keeps the load from moving around, two, it takes up the extra fabric making the panniers laying closer to the dog's body, and three, while doing all this, it keeps the load more quiet on the trail.
Remember, the more simple, if built well, the Dog Backpack is, the less on it that might break on the trial, allllllll those miles from home, with all those items inside of it.
The color of your backpack, for the most part, will only matter to you. However, if you are going backpacking during Hunting Season, put on ORANGE and buy an ORANGE Dog Backpack for your dog. When Safety matters, all else is off the table. Red is not Orange. If you do not have an ORANGE Backpack and go out during Hunting Season, add a sheet of ORANGE Fabric over the entire size of the Backpack you and your dogs are wearing.
If you are trying to stay unseen, there are Camo Colored Backpacks, and Deron and I just like the color, that will match many of the terrains you will be backpacking in.
This is a photo of our Totally Black GSD, Texas Tea, wearing a smaller Backpacks (Frankie's really) just to get the feel of the pack as she walked. The pack is empty. For puppy training, with an empty backpack, I often use a smaller size so that it fits them well.
If you can see in this photo, I like Dog Backpacks that have "D" Rings up on the top, just to the inside of the top of the panniers. I am able to tie on to this. Even on a short trip there are items I like to carry there, such as a short poly rope tie out.
REMEMBER: JUST BECAUSE A DOG BACKPACK IS LARGE ENOUGH TO CARRY MORE, they make some too big in my opinion, DOES NOT MEAN YOU SHOULD OVER PACK YOU DOG. PLEASE ACTUALLY WEIGHT YOUR DOG'S BACKPACK BEFORE SETTING IT ONTO YOUR DOG'S BACK. I have my dogs carry about 10 - 12% of their body weight AFTER they are trained and have worked up to that amount of weight.
The M.O.L.L.E. Dog Backpack Vest
This is a new idea and I love it! The idea is that this vest goes on the dog as a full Dog Backpack will. You add each pouch to the vest in a very secure lock down. You choose your MOLLE attachment bags with the M.O.L.L.E. adaptability in the sizes and types and colors you want to add to this Dog Vest. The pouches and holsters are interchangeable with your own M.O.L.L.E. Vest. If you check around to MOLLE attachment suppliers, you can/will find everything to hook onto this harness vest from water bottle holders, small and larger pouches, first aid kits, to holsters for pistols and magazine pouches. With this Dog Vest you are able to set up your dog's backpack for a Sunday Picnic and then change it up for a Shooting Day on the Range or ready for Bug Out. Just remember, when setting this pack up for your dog not to overload the dog and to keep the backpack balanced...same weight on each side.
M.O.L.L.E. stands for Modular Light Weight Load-Carrying Equipment. (I know kinda weird the way they broke the abbreviation down)....but all the same, Very KOOOOL Gear! and a great idea!
We bought this human vest, for Deron, with several pouches on it already from a Pawn Store. We also bought the additional pouches at a different Pawn Store. We got a great deal on the items, far less than you could buy them for On Line, new or used.
**A few things we really like about this type of Dog Backpack is how securely, (tightly) the pouches are to the vest, not allowing movement on the dogs back as it is carrying the load. It also allows for pouch changes per trip. You may need several for an overnight trip, but only a couple or a few for a day trip.
This is a photo I LOVE. It is Deron with Tekoa. Both are wearing a M.O.L.L.E. Vest. It was taken just off our front porch.
M.O.L.L.E. stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, it is of course a Military Term and idea.
WHAT YOU MIGHT CARRY IN THE DOG'S PACK
The first thing people ask me when out with my dogs in backpacks is "What are they carrying?". When I told/tell them what is packed into the Dog Backpacks they people were not only interested in purchasing their own dogs a backpack, but were glad to see me sharing the trail, because,as they released, they too, might need what I had. Some of the items I have the dogs carry on each of our backpack trips are....
Photo of Marna with Labrador Retrievers, Hannah, Mary and Martha.
WATER for both people and dogs
FRISBIES for the dogs to drink out of if they did not drink from the sprout top
TREAT for both people and dogs
A HAT for me
EXTRA GLOVES for me
A BANDANNA can be used as a head covering, a sling, something to wash with, something to cover a wound with, keep dust out of your face and the list goes on(see section on bandanas, as well as our page on 101 Uses For A Bandana at www.faroutliving.com
A SMALL FIRST AID KIT making sure it has Triple antibiotic ointment
EXTRA SOCKS in case mine got wet or I blistered
ID for both the dogs and or I (just in case)
DOGS SHOT RECORDS
A SMALL BIBLE
A LITTLE MONEY
AN EXTRA LEASH
BUG SPRAY I use Skin So Soft by Avon (no, I do not work for them) in a small spray bottle I purchased in the travel item isle in a discount store
A SMALL NOTEBOOK AND A INK PEN THAT CLICKS SHUT ~ tuck the pen into something and make sure it is away from the dogs body
DOG BOOTIES in case of injury (you can NOT carry the dog, it's pack AND your pack out of the woods....)
POOP BAGS more then you think you will need
A SMALL AND WELL PADDED AND PACKED SEWING KIT I did have a Dog Backpack Pannier rip on a stick once, 5 miles out, luckily, I had a sewing kit to repair it right away
AN EXTRA SET OF KEYS TO YOUR VEHICLE you never know when you might loose one set and need a backup. You might also want an extra house key too.
You need to make sure that soft items are next to the dogs body and the packs weigh the same one each side so that they balance while riding on the dog's back. If you go out for a meal on the trail, be sure to rebalanced your load after you have repacked the dog's bags. Be sure all cooking utensils are cooled and you may want to wrap them in a towel or napkins to keep the "black" off your other items and to keep your pack clean inside.
Sterno Cookers are wonderful for backpack cook outs. Small lightweight skillets can not only be cooked in, but also become your plate. Camping plastics (tableware) are light weight and high tensile, they are also don't melt when you use them to cook with....but do not leave them set in the pan as you cook. The jar you carried your milk in for scrambled eggs can become your drinking cup.
If you have a map of the area carry it in your own pocket or pack. You sure do not want to take a chance on loosing it.
Photo of Marna with Tekoa and Texas Tea at the Center of the Nation Museum in Belle Fourche, SD.
Dog Items You Will Need To Pack With You When Backpacking With Dogs
There are many items for your dog that you will NEED to remember to pack with you for out on the trail, especially on overnight or trips that last several days:
Water for the Dog
Water Bowl or Frisbie for the Dog To Drink Out Of
If you use Folding Fabric Bowls for your dog, take at least two. These are so light weight they tend to blow away and or dogs see them as toys and can chew a hole in them really quick.
Chew Toy or Chew Treat, such as a bone
An Extra Dog Collar
An Extra Dog Leash
A Dog Tie Out for the Night or Afternoon (no leather that can be chewed)
Depending on where you hike: Poop Bags
First Aid for the Dog, at the least, a Vet Wrap
Any Medications Your Dog Might Need
Your Dog's Records
Skunk Off or the mix to make one yourself
Small Pliers (porcupine quills)
The Bandanna; what an important piece of hiking, camping, jogging, horse back riding, sports, everyday, equipment it is. It can be used for so many things and it might even become your life line.
Photo of Dog Star Kennel's (us) Traveler, a wonderful, well trained Siberian Husky.
I always carry a few Bandanas. I put at least a couple into the backpacks/panniers as well as put bright colored ones around my animals necks for visibility. Many times I wear one myself, either around my neck or around my head to keep my ears warm and the wind out of them.
Bandannas can simply be used to wipe the sweat off your face or dampened to get the dust off your clothing. Use it for a knee cushion while praying or working around the camp.
It can also be used as a wash cloth, dry it out and put it around your neck to keep you warm, or wet to keep you cool. It can become a sling for a hurt arm, a band aid, a leg wrap for animals or it can be used to hold splints to a broken leg.
It can become an extra collar for your animal or even repair some holes in packs (double or triple the bandanna over and set it into the place where the hole is in the pack). I also always carry Safety Pins.
You can put a bandanna on your face, stage coach robber style, in a wind storm or snow storm. It will keep the dust and or snow out of your face. Use it as a neckerchief to keep you warm or to keep the hot sun from burning you.
Your bandanna when rolled or scrunched up, can become a pot holder or a cushion for a bucket handle that the plastic broke off of. You can use it for a napkin at dinner or to blow you nose in or cough into.....don't use it for your nose then the same one as a napkin....see why I take more then one?
Use bandannas when packing between pots and pans to keep down the rattling. And for washing those dishes in camp.
Something else that is really fun is to teach your dog to bring you the bandanna (as a trick, see the trick page here at this site). You can dazzle your friends with the trained dog....have the dog bring it too you off the ground, out of someone's back pocket, from a distance....
You can also make your own bandannas with fun, use upcoming Holiday Prints and/or cute dog prints. When looking at fabric in the fabric store double up a corner (triangle shaped) of the cotton (or cotton blend) print you like and that is how much fabric you need. That doubled piece of fabric in your hand will make two (four if you cut out the triangle) bandannas.
I did set up a page called 101 Uses For A Bandana on our www.faroutliving.com website. This might give you ideas on how to use a Bandana around home and in camp. I also have other 101 Uses set up for other items you might have around your home and farm too.
What to carry in the First Aid Kit
You should carry First Aid items in your First Aid Kit with both people and animal items included. Your animals depend on you and you might be all they have to help them if injured while on a packing trip. Don't let them, yourself or another human down by saving weight in your packs and not being prepared at least for elementary first aid. Some of the items can of course be used for both animals and people.
Band Aids in several sizes
First Aid Cream
First Aid Tape
Hoof Trimmers (goats, horses, donkeys, llamas)
at least one Kotex (woman) can be used for so many uses
Small Bright Flashlight
Mole Skin (found usually in the shoe department, wonderful stuff!)
Antibacterial Hand Cleaner
A few Q-Tips in a zip lock or small container of the same
Break and Shake type Ice Packs
Clean Bandanna in a zip lock to keep it clean for first aid use only
4 or more latex gloves, also carried in a zip lock to keep clean
Small Safety Scissors
Needle Nose Pliers (porcupine quills)
add items to tailor the area you live in or medical needs you, your family members and or animals might have.
What is in that Sewing Kit?
Your sewing kit should be small and safe. It should be kept in a small and well closing metal or plastic container. If you have the flip top type, put at least one rubber band around the case. To pack your needles, first thread them. One with light thread another with black or dark thread. Get an index card, doubled over, or some sort of backing/packaging cardboard and stick the needles through it and back. You might even wrap this in a small piece of fabric or place a small piece of webbing on either side of your needle holder. Place your needles in the Sewing Kit toward the middle of the kit so that if your container should break or crack the needles are safe and not against your animal. (photo of Turquoise learning to carry a Backpack "fluffed out" with bubble wrap and packing paper)
At lease two needles in different sizes
at lease one 4" piece of webbing that has been burned on each end (to sew on camping gear or backpacks as a patch)
Safety Pins in several sizes, including a couple diaper pins
Buttons, at least three and in different sizes
A patch, maybe a 5" square of denim or the like
Think about what you might be sewing while out on the trail or in camp with your dogs, friends and family members. Add the items you will need to have with your to sew the items for yourself or others with you.
Items We Tie Onto Our Packs
Sleeping bags, sleeping pads, small tents, camp chairs and the like can be tied up on top of many types of dog packs. Smaller items can be tied onto small dog backpacks, such as Frankie, our Cocker Spaniel, has on in the photo here, Survival Bracelets, giving you extra cord if needed (see our 101 Uses For A Survival Bracelet on our www.faroutliving.com site. Frankie also has a little Glock Pistol (keychain) that could be used for many different applications. It is heavy weight and metal. On each of my Labrador Retriever Backpacks as well as our sled dogs when they backpacked, we snapped on a tie out line (20ish inches of poly rope with a snap), a pinned on compass, and a keychain flashlight.
Ideas To Use/Pack Less
It is always a great idea to carry lighter weight items and smaller items when you go packing. Many times a smaller items, such as a flashlight, can work just as well as a larger one and weigh less and take up less room. You will find many Lighter Weight and Smaller Sized Camping Equipment Stores and Catalogs. They are not just cute, they are very useful. Look around for items such as these in all kinds of places, including garage sales and dollar stores. It does not have to cost you a fortune to go packing with the correct equipment.
Many years ago we bought these wonderful little light weight skillets for $1 each at a store called The Dollar Store. We cook in them and eat right out of them, using the handle to hold it with when no table is available.
Many times you can prepare your food enough before leaving home so that you will not need to carry spices with you. Add your spices at home to the foods before you pack them. If you are going out just for a brunch hike, put your eggs (out of the shell), butter and a splash of milk, salt and pepper into a clean plastic jar and put the top on tight. Give the jar a shake before packing and as you/the animals walk your scrambled eggs are being prepared, just cook when the fire is ready.
Two even four Sterno or Sterno type stoves will take up less room then a camp stove and fuel.
Carry a pillow case and stuff clothes into it rather then taking a pillow with you on the trip.
Photo of Marna with Frankie on a VERY cold MW SD Day.
Additional Items You Might Need
There are some camping items you might get to camp and need, but did not want to, or have room for, to carry in your packs.....here is a great excuse to buy and train another dog. Backpacking with dogs can be so much fun. But if you get to camp and do not have an item you need, especially if a person or animal gets hurt, it can also be a disaster. Always be prepared for the weather to change, even if they did not predict it on the weather channel. An extra jacket or rain jacket and heavy socks could ward off hypothermia.
Of course you can not take everything when you go packing. It is not like car packing where you just fill the vehicle and pull up to the spot and set up your tent. It is certainly not like the big old "campers" that are really houses on wheels, I have never called that camping myself, but I guess many people do.
You want to stay light weight when packing, but there are some items you will might wish you would have thought of and brought with you. Items such as extra charcoal for those campsites that do not allow campfires, but you can have a grill. Charcoal Starter. It may not be a campfire, but it can be nice ambiance.
You, your dogs and your equipment can run into skunks. If you carry a small can of tomato paste, a can opener, peroxide, and a bit of backing soda, you can at least take care of some of the smell, if not all of it.
Let's face it, if your animals run into a porcupine you will need a small set of needle nose pliers.
Spring and Fall can turn deadly in some parts of the world. A coat, hat, extra gloves, an extra pair of heavy socks, a dog coat for your animals, these items might just save your life it the weather turns bad and you are stuck in camp longer then you had planned.
If you will be gone for the week end or for a week, it is a good idea to take a little extra food and extra drink mix just in case you do get stuck there or if you are a bit hungrier then expected. The idea of taking dogs is so that you can enjoy yourself in camp and on the trail, carry a little extra.
Take Tang Drink Mix. It, as compared to other mixes, is pretty good for you. Mushers (sled dog racers) drink it hot, and it is good hot! You can give it to children for a hot drink too and it does not have caffeine in it. Hot Tang is especially good at breakfast or before bed.
If you have an extra dog you can also carry more First Aid and other items for emergencies with you too. If you are hiking way out and staying there for a few days, the more you have with you for emergencies, the better. Of course we all hope that First Aid items remain right in the packs and are never used.
If you are packing with children, they bore easily. You can carry a few crayons, a notebook for them to sketch and write about their trip in, and a coloring book. You might bring a doll and or some small cars and or trucks. Kids love those break and use tube lights and jewelry too, those might even help a child feel safer in camp and sleep better.
Cameras. Everyone has a favorite. But they all need to be taken care of. Packing your camera correctly can mean having good or any photos when you get home, as well as having the same camera for other events. If it is a small camera and has a case, you still might want to have it wrapped up and cushioned. Many people take a couple of cameras with them. Cushion each one and be sure to put it up safely at night...away from where dogs, especially pups, could find it and use it for a toy.
If you are camping for the week end or for a week you might want to take your favorite novel and or your journal and a pen with you. I love sitting around in camp talking and laughing and joking with friends, but I also love those quiet times when I sit over by/near my animals and read as the animals sink down next to me as I rub their ear or their neck.
"Packing out" is what is known as items you carry home with you. Along with all of your belongings including all of your trash and dirty clothes, you might find a rock or two you would like to own/you would like to take home.
If you are on public property you probably can not take it with you. No rocks, no fossils, no flowers, no seeds, nothing that others might enjoy on their next trip. Those items are to be left behind by law.
However, if you are on private property or your own property or even some, very few, but some public properties, you might be able to carry off rocks, fossils, arrrowheads, and other interesting items.
You may find it is in the rules or laws of the area you are hiking to pack out your own poop (no, not kidding) and leave every rock and seed behind....as well as to stay RIGHT on the trail.
But either way, keep your eyes open and have a look around. There are some amazing things out there. Be sure to get photos of them.
THERE IS/ARE NO "IN THE WOODS"
Please above all know that there are no "in the woods". Another words, someone owns all the land and you can not just go out hiking anywhere you please and think you are "in the woods". Land does not have to be fenced and posted for you to not be welcomed. Imagine how you would feel if people showed up on your property with their animals....or came and sat down in your living room to watch your TV. PLEASE STAY OFF PRIVATE PROPERTY.
State Parks and some larger local parks are glad to see you come and hike and use the land....pick up after your dog so that you continue to be welcomed. Stay on the Trails where they ask you to Stay On The Trails.
If you will be grilling with fire or camping you need special permits and will have to pay a fee. Usually it does not cost too much and is worth it for the enjoyment you will get from spending the time out with your dogs.
NOW THE HUMAN ATTIRE
Now, about your shoes. Buy proper fitting hiking boots. Pay the price in cash, or pay the price in hurting feet, back and legs. Hiking Boots are a better choice then Tennis type shoes. Hiking Boots offer ankle support and some will protect your feet from cactus, stickers, snakes, and the like. They also offer a lot of support for many many miles. Now if you are camping....pack in a pair of light weight camp shoes too. Really, it is worth it.
Of course you have heard it for years....dress in layers. I can not tell you how very important this is for backpacking. There will be times you will need to either take some items off or put them on, or both within the same hour. Also, in the fall, Spring and Winter, carry an extra light weight jacket. There are many times you might need it. If nothing else it can become a pillow or a seat out on the trail.
If you are going out into the woods for the day, or 10 or more, be sure to take any type of clothing you might need...in the Spring and Fall it might be cool when you leave, but hot by 1 pm. You may want to carry a pack of your own and carry some long pants. Remember the TV show Gilligan's Island? They too thought it was "a three hour tour", look how long they were "out there".
I always carry gloves while backpacking (while out with dogs). Dogs can find some pretty nasty stuff to pick up and carry in their mouths. I have also used the rubber gloves out of my First Aid Kit for taking things from or moving nasty items while in camp.
DAY TRIPS AND OTHER OUTINGS
Of course maybe you are not interested in going on an overnight backpack trip. Maybe you want your dog to carry a few items while out walking or when you take it to parades and festivals. Great idea, I have yet to hear of a dog pack being stolen off a dog's back...purses? Yeah, they disappear.
This is a photo of Mr. Bo Jangles getting ready to head out for the St. Patric's Day parade in Pickarle, WI. Honestly, he made more friends (the guy behind him shared his hamburger with him, and folks IN the parade were pointing him out to others in their groups. We had great fun and he carried all the things we wanted to take and did not want to carry.
I made Mr. Bo Jangle's pack and hat to match. The Ty Bear is sewn unto the backpack and was holding "reins" that looped through Bo Jangle's collar to look as if it were riding him.
Backpacks can be fun and functional. If you would like to decorate a backpack for a Christmas Parade just be sure not to sew glass ornaments or bells unto it. They will break off I DON'T CARE WHAT KIND OF THREAD YOU USE!! Tie bells unto the top D Rings that are there to tie items to, with cord. Don't use glass anything, the dogs can get their feet cut on them if they come off and break.
THE MORE THE MERRIER (and the more "stuff" you can take with you)
You may want to own more then one backpack for each of your dogs. I have owned several types of dog backpacks and made all but one myself. The one you use on the trail may not be the one you would use for a Parade or to give a talk to a school, church or other organization about taking your dog backpacking.
This is my son Jesse when he was really young and me when I was really thin. <grin> You can see that any size dog can backpack. These two pack are made of deerskin and were only used for demos. My father shot the deer for meat, had the hides tanned and I made the Dog Backpacks. We were at the Wolf Sanctuary in St. Louis, MO demoing not only back packing but also sledding and other dog sports the day this was taken.
SERVICE DOG BACKPACKS
The type of Service Dogs wearing Backpacks I am going to be talking about right here are the Dogs that Provide a Service to those who need it healthwise. The PTSD Dogs, The Hearing Ear Dogs, The Emotional Support Dogs, THOSE types of Service Dogs.
There is no reason a Service Dog could not wear a Backpack and carry items for their person. In fact, think about how handy that is, indeed, a Service in and of itself. The dog could carry anything a purse might carry and more. The dog might have the person's medications and other items on hand right there in a backpack.
Be wise and Beware! Not all Backpacks made with 'Service Dog' Patches are equal. I have seen some TERRIBLE fitting set ups. Real cute, but very unsafe for the dogs. Make sure the packs you use are set up for that front shoulder, not the middle of the dog's back.
You can also use and set up Patches on the Tactical Vests for MOLLE Packs/Bags. These can change out for different items to go into. Very Handy!
One of the fun things we do here in NW SD is to Hunt Fossils. We find fossils right on our own property and on the dirt road on the way back to our place. Many of our fossils are found while horseback riding and brought home in our saddle bags, or out with our Dogs Backpacking and then brought home in the Dog Packs. The soil here is what they call Gumbo Soil (I call it dinosaur poop). It is the same stuff they use make clumpy kitty litter. But anyway it is weird stuff, where you will see no rocks at all for awhile will suddenly "spit out a pile" after a hard rain, and they will be very clean (all things considered, very clean!). Now and again we do dig if there is a interesting pile that looks like it might have more interesting pieces/rocks/fossils under it, but not too often.
Fossils or other small rocks can and do often even out the weight in animals packs. The panniers need to ride even on all animals on each side. If one side is heavier than the other, not only can these slide to falling off, they will also rub the animals body as it moves along, worse, the animal will be walking holding it's body so that it tries to balance the load, thus soring up or even pulling muscles and tendons.
You might also want to take clothes pins with you when you are camping out on the trail. They come in handy for so many things. Like hanging items above predators reach, drying clothing, closing snack bags, holding blowing clothing while relieving yourself, and the list goes on and on. Clothes Pins take up little room in your packs and can mean the difference of wet or dry clothing, in more than a couple of ways.
I normally send out a small fossil we found out here on the prairie with orders for our animal items sold in our On Line Store.
OUR GSDs FIRST BACKPACKING, MAKE THAT CAMPING/HIKING TRIP
The plan was, for months, to go and Backpack in Butte, MT....then we heard about the 80", yes, EIGHTY INCHES, of snow still on the trail we would be Backpacking into the lake/camping area, and that the Lake was frozen.....
So we changed plans and went to Ten Sleeps, WY to the Big Horn area. We went, to find that the Backpacking Trail to our destination was under about 16" - 2' of snow. But. We stayed, lower on the Mountain, and found a camp site and we
had such a very wonderful time!
Andy, Cheryl Andersen and their sons Derek and Levi as well as Deron and I and Blake went on the adventure.
The GSD were WONDERFUL, and well behaved. Not one a year old and they behaved pretty well. Tekoa was loose and at my feet almost every minute. We have "given" Texas Tea over to Blake while he is here in SD, so Texas Tea slept with him. And you know? She kept him safe from harm. He had left a Rice Crispy Treat in his pocket and during the night, very quiet not to wake him, she got rid of that sweet food a bear might smell and break into their tent for. Good Dog Texas Tea. <grins and winks>
We all wore jackets almost the whole time. Sleeping bags were zipped all the way up and heads were all covered at night. It got so cold that the puddles near us froze over at night.
We encountered one Moose and saw many! Some were just HUGE. Luckily the one that came into where we were, as we were getting ready to sit down and eat, was not that large.....bigger than MY horses, but thin and antlers still growing and showing much velvet. However, we ALL had our guns pulled and ready.....but no one chambered or took a safety off. I tried to keep the dogs quiet and they did well, but when the moose came within 10 yards of where we were standing, Turquoise could not longer contain herself and let off the "big dog bark", and the others joined in. The Moose ran off and we did not see him again.
We did not SEE Bear, but the trees around the camp were Marked (scratched deep with bear nails) and one tree was awfully freshly marked. I slept in the front seat of the Suburban....but not because of wildlife, or fear. I had not slept in 3 nights and needed sleep. About 10 pm, my bedtime, I went to the Suburban to get a pair of gloves out of my backpack......and the dogs were in there all snugged down.....I just kinda climbed in and when my head hit the pillow (rolled clothing) I was asleep.
I took my 10 mm Glock and found out that I do not like a Drop Holster. Woman's legs are shaped different than men's. So I am going to try my regular, what I call my Farm Gun, and also a Chest Holster. Blake got a new Chest Holster for both his 40 cal Glock and his 9 mil Taurus. We have not tried them out yet.
For people who prepared to "rough it" we sure fell into a wonderful, and lush, campground area. Across the road from where we set up our tents there was an Out House that not only had a LIGHT, it was made of Cedar (did not stink <time of year helps too>) It was carpeted, vented, had cute little stuff in it, like a Magazine Rack, with Camping Magazines in it, cute little camp signs and a plunger. There was a huge, HUGE sturdy Picnic Table, as well as several others. The Fire Ring was big and nice and had a clean grate....well, clean enough! Firewood, shovel, ax, and the most beautiful lake right there! The Creek/River was down across the road, behind where we camped. ANDY CAUGHT A FEW FISH AND ONE WAS LARGE ENOUGH TO CLEAN AND COOK. When he brought it in, cleaned and gutted and still moving. I put it on the grill and he flopped for a while. It made me feel badly. We all had at least a bite of the freshest fish you can eat, and it was delicious! Cheryl made Spaghetti on two Whispers Cookers and Andersen's brought Corn on the Cob that we fixed on the open fire. OH IT WAS SOOOOOOO GOOD!
We hiked, the guys fished, we had a very nice campfire (two different areas), we visited, we laughed and had such a GREAT time! We can not wait to got again!
Guess What I Forgot! I wanted to wear my Crocs to the site, then switch out and have my Crocs as Camp Shoes. After nipping at Blake's heals to make sure he remembered his Hiking Boots......and worrying about getting EVERYTHING packed and loaded....what an idiot! I forgot my OWN HIKING BOOTS! Good thing there was too much snow to Backpack to camp.....
We did not take Titus on the Backpacking Trip. Not because I did not want to, but because he has been outdoors since Tekoa went into heat followed by Texas Tea, so he lacked a lot of the training the others continued to get. He was loose when we got home. HE WAS HERE AND ALL THE SMALLS AND BIRDS AND GOATS WERE FINE!
We came home a day early, weather. After we washed our clothing and took HOT showers at the laundromat, we drove home to find out we sure could not get in. IT POURED HERE, POURED! Deron said we got about 4" of rain the day before. I was not happy that we needed a Hotel Room.....especially after we just had showers! So we went down and slept at the Fairgrounds. The next day we went to Cor-Bon then on to Rapid. We had a fun time and when we got home about 4:30 pm, we got in, but it was not easy. Today? They are giving more rain and it rained again last night.
Today we will each go through our backpacks take out anything that will melt or you can eat, before storing them for the next trip. I am hoping next week sometime (danged rain!) I will start a list of anything we might want to add to our packs, or buy to have in the Suburban for camping.
If you have not recently gotten out to camp or hike or bike or.......TIS THE SEASON!
YOU ALONE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN AND YOUR DOG'S SAFETY WHEN TRAINING AND WORKING WITH YOUR DOG. WHILE WE GIVE IDEAS AND INFORMATION ON TRAINING AND HOW YOU MIGHT, WE ARE NOT THERE WITH YOU. WE DO NOT KNOW YOU OR YOUR DOG. WE CAN NOT SEE JUST HOW YOU ARE TRAINING. WE ARE NOT, WILL NOT BE HELD, RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU OR YOUR DOG. YOU ALONE SHOULD KEEP YOUR OWN AND YOUR DOG'S SAFETY AND HEALTH ABOVE ALL. YOUR DOG COUNTS ON YOU, DON'T LET IT DOWN!
-- The Working German Shepherd Dogs Team
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 13:43:43 -0400