Real quick, we’ll give you some background on Rooney, to put everything in context. He’s a 3 year old Weimaraner, which is a very high-energy bird hunting dog with a natural prey drive (i.e. his instinct is to chase wildlife). He’s incredibly athletic and strong. He weighs anywhere from 70-80 pounds, depending on his level of exercise and his diet. On the trail, he was a solid block of muscle weighing in at 75 lbs. He’s friendly, cute and likes to be around people.
Another quick disclaimer: we are not veterinarians or experts on dogs. We are just sharing what works for our dog and us. We encourage you to do your own research and talk to your vet about your dog’s situation. Each dog is unique.
There weren’t enough calories in the dehydrated food and Rooney dropped about 5 pounds in the first week. He was always hungry for more food and never seemed satisfied after a meal. It was clear right away that we needed to adjust. We switched to dry bags of food and supplemented it with olive oil for extra calories. This did the trick and he put the weight back on quickly. When we walked out of town we typically had a 6-7 lb bag of food and a big bottle of olive oil, for 3-4 days on the trail. In town, we fed him a TON of food. Pretty much anything we could afford to get our hands on. Raw meat, sweet potatoes, eggs… anything that was safe for him to eat.
And again, to put it in perspective, his diet before the trail included raw foods. We would not have introduced him to a brand new diet on the trail. A typical day for Rooney pre-trail was 2 raw meals (chicken, sweet potato, kale) and 1 dry meal (regular dry dog food) so the trail was just an increased amount of things he was already familiar with. We also carried acidophilus supplements, to prevent/reduce infections in his floppy ears.
If you would like to learn more on ticks, associated diseases and tick removal, please visit these websites: Dogs & Ticks and The Humane Society.
Gear. Rooney carried his own pack and gear. On average, it weighed about 5-8 lbs (remember, he weighs ~75 lbs) and fit him snugly, without being over-stuffed, so that it didn’t move around & chafe him while he hiked. He carried his food, bowl, supplements, pack cover and first aid kit. We often carried 2-3 lbs of his food in our own packs – be prepared to help your dog with the extra weight coming out of town. For a complete list of his gear, click here.
That’s it for Part 1. We’ll be back later this week with Part 2 which will cover trail etiquette, dealing with pet policies on the trail (hotels, the Smokies, etc) and tips for determining if your dog is ready for a long distance hike. If you have any other questions that you’d like us to cover, please leave them in the comments.
In the meantime, you can read all of our posts on hiking with a dog by clicking here. And be sure to enter for a chance to win an Aquapac Mini Waterproof Camera Case.
Update: to read Hiking with a Dog (Part 2) click here.