Hiking with Dogs and Family Pets

Why Should Big Breeds Have All the Fun?

Before Hank, a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, could go on a backpacking trip with his owner, Jennifer Hall, she needed a way to carry him. Avoiding overexertion, joint injury, and ingestion of wild mushrooms were her major concerns. Because he weighed less than 20 pounds at the time, she decided to strap Hank to her chest, using a baby-carrier borrowed from a friend.

“He didn’t seem to mind, but he definitely wanted to see where we were going…twist around and face the front, versus facing me. And logistically, that didn’t work with his legs and everything else. But he got cozy, and I could hike with him for a couple hours,” she says. “People assumed that I was carrying a baby, but then if they closely looked, they realized it was a puppy.”

Back in Spokane, she continued carrying Hank for longer walks, after he exercised, until he became too big.

Photo of 10 week old Hank and owner Jennifer
Hank exploring the Lochsa wilderness with Jennifer. // Photo courtesy of Jennifer Hall.

Hank isn’t alone. Phoebe, a 9-year-old Pomeranian mix who weighs 13 pounds, is carried on trails by Glen Copus. “Phoebe has a tendon problem with both of her hind legs and can only walk a short distance before it becomes too painful. If we try to leave the house with our other dog, Reggie, she has a fit,” he says.

Copus adjusted a front-wearing dog carrier so it could be worn on his back. “Phoebe enjoys riding in it, and was very relaxed after a few minutes the first time out. She occasionally falls asleep in there,” he says.

Carrying Phoebe is “not much different than wearing a backpack with a picnic and beverages in it. I do need to remember to squat down when I’m adjusting my boots or snowshoes, rather than just leaning forward, as that tends to invert the dog. It is also helpful to have a table or a tailgate or something I can back up to when slipping the pack off my shoulders.”

Photo of Glen Copus hiking with his dog Phoebe in a backpack pack.
Glen Copus with his hiking partner. // Photo courtesy of Glen Copus.

Pet gear companies are finally catching up to demand. K9 Sport Sack offers both forward and back-carrying adjustable packs for dogs, designed for dogs to rest in their natural “begging” position. They recommend giving dogs a 15-minute rest break outside the pack for every 45 continuous minutes they’re in it. Other brands creating wearable dog-carriers include Outward Hound, Ruffit, and Pawaboo.

And how about hiking with a cat? “Leon the Adventure Cat”—as he’s known on Instagram—is an orange tabby with a “laid-back, brave, and trusting personality” who loves being carried by his Spokane owner, Megan Ferney.

“I started putting a harness on him the second day I had him…on our adventures, he ‘hikes’ about a third of the way and I carry him the rest,” she says. “I just use a regular backpack and put a fleece blanket in it. He has his harness and leash on at all times, so if he jumps out it’s okay.”

Hiking with a cat: Leon loves being carried. // Photos courtesy Megan Ferney.

Amy McCaffree is digital editor and Out There Kids columnist. When she was kid, she carried her pet Chihuahua on longer walks, , when needed, holding it like a chicken. Now she hikes with her Siberian husky, Kenai.

[Feature photo courtesy of Megan Ferney.]

Find more stories about dogs in the OTO archives.

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