Is it solo hiking if my dogs join me?

My pace, my adventure, and my reasons for hiking. What is not to love about being solo on the trail? Sometimes it’s nice not to have a human companion but still want someone to talk to, to feel safe with, and to relax with. That is when Asha comes hiking with me. My dogs are my people.

Arya and Asha could not be more different with temperament and interests. Arya, a Shiba Inu is a professional bitch that is a feisty firecracker and runs the show between the two of them. She prefers to spend her days cuddling on the couch, going for gentle walks, and only likes campsites where there is a large patch of grass to sprawl out on. Asha, an American Akita is the polar opposite. She is courageous and protective, independent, and loves adventure.

I admit that I spoil my dogs and I am a borderline crazy-dog lady. We rounded out our family with two dogs after our daughter was born and I have had puppy-fever far more often than I have ever had baby-fever. I have rarely met a dog that I didn’t like. But people on the other hand…

Asha has a couple of dog friends that she gets along well with but they met in a controlled setting, not in the middle of the woods where instincts are on overload. While on the trail and at camp, I discourage owners from introducing their dog to Asha, whether or not “they are friendly.” I sometimes feel anxiety in the pit of my stomach and worry that we will have another off-leash dog incident. I think I have a little PTSD.

I welcome adults and older children, around the age of 9 or so to pet Asha if they want. And lots do! She really is a sweetheart with most humans but she will make it known if she does not like you.

I mention all of the above because I need to be in the right mindset to take Asha hiking with me. I really do enjoy spending time with her but if I am in a low mental health spot, I don’t always want the added responsibility of having her with me. She raises my spirits but is high-maintenance. Hiking solo means that I am responsible for just myself but that is not the case when Asha joins me.

She wears a double-coat all year long so not only do I need to carry water for myself, I need to make sure all 100-pounds of her has a sufficient amount of water before, during, and after the hike. I discourage my dogs from drinking from slow-moving water sources until I am able to filter the water, which means carrying extra water.

I also need to pack food for my dogs. Our dogs rarely eat human-food with the exception of a raw turkey neck a couple of times a year, cheese, and high-value treats for training. My little dog is a cheese monster! We feed our dogs Acana and their treats are high-quality as well. They eat better than me most days!

Asha is food-motivated at home but on the trail, she could care less if you try to offer her a treat in exchange for performing a task. I have tried multiple high-value options including boiled chicken breast and scrambled eggs. She has her own agenda.

She does not have much of an appetite while backpacking overnight or camping. She is out of her regular routine and the comfort zone of home. On a 40 KM overnight hike earlier this year we introduced bone broth to supplement the kibble that we knew she would barely touch. She lapped it up! The bone broth contains turmeric, which is a natural anti-inflammatory for dogs.

Even though I am a border-line crazy dog lady, they are not my fur-babies or my furry-children. Preparing to hike and camp is about the only time I would consider comparing my dogs to my daughter. The well-being of my dogs and my daughter are both priorities when choosing what I pack.

With the amount of work that I put into preparing for my dogs to hike and managing them on the trail, I do not consider it to be solo hiking when they join me. She is fantastic and my favourite partner when I want her to join but I like going solo too.

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