Hiking the Appalachian Trail with Your Dog

Jesse & Cooper the Wonderdog

Jesse Bier & Cooper at Hot Springs' Trailfest 2013 ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

We receive many questions about the wisdom and/or guidelines for taking dogs on section- and thru-hikes on the Appalachian Trail.

Here is our definitive answer: "It depends."

Some dogs (four-legged ones) are more civil and courteous than a few of the two-legged variety.

Take Cooper, for example. Cooper cares for his master, Jesse Bier, a 2013 Warrior Hiker. Cooper makes it possible for Jesse to be on the trail and to take the miles in stride.

Cooper belongs on the Appalachian Trail.

You don't see many cats hiking with their feeders on the Appalachian Trail. Not because they're smarter than dogs. They're not.

Cat lovers -- that most deluded breed of kind people -- are certain that cats could make graceful, leaping catches to snatch Frisbees out of the air; lead the blind; break up riots; and/or sniff out illegal drugs blended in with pepper and rancid anchovies, even better than dogs.

Fans of felines roll their eyes, give you a firm "Pffft!" and snarl statements such as, "My cat could do that. But s/he would rather laugh at your dog for running around trying to please you."

Cats have been spoiled ever since they were worshipped by barbarians centuries ago. Now, kooky kitties want to be returned to that elegant existence.

Dogs just want to please you -- much like politicians who want your vote -- but dogs (four-legged ones) keep their promises. Standard dogs are always happy to see you and always think the best of you. If only we could be the people our dogs think we are.

I have six grandchildren -- each cuter and smarter than the others. Dog lovers and grandparents are alike. We believe our "loved ones" can do no wrong. We think their every annoyance is charmingly cute and YouTube worthy.

Grandparents do not take tiny grand-tots on Appalachian Trail hikes. We know babies need food and attention. We accept their lack of manners. We deal with their propensity to poop or spit up whatever they last ingested. We love it when children stare at us during feeding times and we accept their cries when it's time for bed or a rest.

Dog lovers are almost as forgiving and accepting, especially when it's time for their pets to go for a walk or attack the mailman.

[Please forgive our editors for not using the politically correct term "person person" for mailman.]

Other hikers we meet on trails have the right to eat without our hungry mutt staring them down, begging for ever-increasing amounts of crumbs and/or entire meals.

We might believe our "best friend" is talking to us, while the unenlightened only hear barking and whimpering.

If you want to know how others perceive your dog's noises, listen to the samples below and ask yourself, "What does Max/Muffy/Spike/Pooky sound like to others?

Sample of Acceptable Dog Barking on the Appalachian Trail

Sample of Unacceptable Dog Barking on the Appalachian Trail

As your reward for enduring my writing, you have earned a treat (but no scratching behind your ears, sorry). Please click on the link below for a more profound presentation of the Do's, dont's, and delights when taking your dog on the trail, written by Lisa Densmore and published in the Appalachian Mountain Club's (AMC) Outdoors Magazine.

You'll love it. Ready?

Sit! Stay! Read!

Click Here for AMC's Story on Taking Your Best Friend Hiking

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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