DC: Who let the dogs out?

Mappy Hour DC returned to the Wundergarten in April–but this time, it was a different, furrier crowd.

With spring upon us, many hiking humans and canines are eager to stretch their legs in the great outdoors. Gene Park, a local climber and best friend to Leon the Doberman, told us how to bring dogs into the woods safely and responsibly.

The first thing to consider when hiking your dog is whether you’re allowed to hike with your dog. Follow the rules! If the park says no dogs, don’t try to sneak yours in. There’s always a reason for the rules.

Also, just because your dog is good with other dogs or other people, doesn’t mean all those other dogs and people are okay with your dog. So, if you’re on a crowded trail, keep your dog on leash. Your dog might be fine off leash, but it’s important to be respectful of people who might not like dogs as much as you do.

Gene also talked to us about the gear he uses when in the backcountry with Leon. Gene’s favorite brand is Ruffwear, and depending on the season and the trip, he brings Leon’s shoes, a base layer, a coat, a headlamp (put it around the dog’s neck so you can spot him in the dark), and a high visibility vest during hunting season. For backpacking, Leon uses a pack that clips into a harness. His leash can attach to the harness, and the harness also has a handle–a key feature, Gene said. A few other backpacking guidelines:

  • The dog can carry some weight, but the total weight of their pack should be no more than 25% of the dog’s weight
  • When you’re backpacking, you can’t really force the dog to eat or drink. Leon eats half of what he would at home, Gene said. But don’t worry about it — your dog will drink and eat when they need to, so don’t force them.
  • Dogs can probably drink water you can’t, so don’t worry if your dog drinks out of a stream or a pond.
  • Get your dog vaccinated! Lyme is especially important if you’re going to be outside around the mid-Atlantic.

Finally, Gene shared his best dog-backpacking tip: a dog’s pack is the perfect place to put a flask. Easy access, and not to much weight for your pup!

Thanks to Gene, Leon, and the Wundergarten for a great night. We’ll be back at the Wundergarten in May, and hope to see everyone–people and puppers–out on the trail!

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