Bow Wow — Hiking with Canine Americans

updated from the Backpacking GuideBook, written by me


I loathe people who keep dogs.  They are cowards who haven’t got the guts to bite people themselves.

—August Strindberg

a Jack Russell Terrier doing what Jack Russels do

I, your author, on the other hand, love dogs.  I grew up with them.  No, I wasn’t raised by them, but our family pets were always dogs, except for a snake, three chickens, a very short-lived parakeet because we also kept cats, a rabbit and a few stray birds.  My brother had cooties.

Concerning dogs:  There is something undeniable about your best friend who, when he sees you come home at the end of the day, will bend himself in half out of happiness.  I cannot name another species on Earth where every member of that species will flip over onto its back to expose its belly out of pure joy.  Did you ever take a moment to ponder why dog is man’s best friend?  You can say the stupidest thing in the world and your dog will likely respond, “By Jove, why didn’t I think of that!”

Or as Aldous Huxley said…

To his dog, every man is Napoleon;  hence the popularity of dogs.

Should you take your best friend backpacking with you?  If your best friend generally walks on four feet, has no social security number, email address or cellphone, and has a name consisting of only one word, I am compelled to answer in the negative, in fact, resoundingly in the negative.  Dogs are great to have around, but…

.  they can scare native wildlife and keep you from enjoying the critters whose home you are visiting

.  they mess up the natural ground cover and muddle resident critters’ footprints

.  they can annoy and frighten other hikers

.  they can change your hiking habits and become an inconvenience when they are tired and you are not, or when you are tired and they are not

.  even with doggie packs, they require that you carry extra weight

.  they are prohibited in some areas, including parts of National Parks

.  they may be required to be on a leash which can seriously change your hiking style

.  they don’t clean up after themselves — if for no other reason than principle, dogs will not use cat holes

On the other hand, why should you take Rocky on the trail with you?

.  they provide a unique type of companionship — they will not judge you, no matter what

The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.

—Samuel Butler

.  you don’t have to make sense when you talk to Buddy, or Rex or Sadie

.  you might be able to persuade him to carry a little more than his share of weight, you opportunist

Overall, as great a companion as dogs are, I say leave them at home.  Dogs really like being in the woods with you, but they like being with you in the park, or in the car or even as you loaf while watching television.  And especially while you are eating your dinner.  They no more appreciate the wilderness than they do the city.  Do they even know the difference?  Sorry.  Get ‘em a rubber bone or a subscription to Netflix and leave them at home.

Okay dog owners, stop yelling at me.  I know there are exceptions and your dog is one of them.

This is my dog hiking list.  I’ve got a longer one about hiking with people.

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