Backcountry hiking with corgis -- some things I've learned.

We once quickly returned 2 lost pointers because the owner's cell phone# was on the collars.  Test your microchip when you visit the vet -- Gwynnie's gave no signal!

chillybuddy cooling vest    keep in plastic bag, so you can add water to wet it (crtitical; much of the cooling is evaporative).  They wilt in sun above treeline and this thing really does help.  Size Medium with a Small girth strap.

Carry a tiny bottle for leftover dog water, unless you want to share; often there's none to waste.  Don't neglect water.  Hand-feed scraped snow.  They love to be buried in snow in hot weather (pupsicle). Dogs do get heatstroke.  I heard of a dog sick for 3 days, had to be evacuated. 

Outward Hound collapsible dog bowl.

Keep all dog gear -- collar, leash, harness, bowl, bottle, etc. -- as light as possible.  Most dog gear looks absurdly overstrong and overweight to me.  I'm waiting for the ultralight backpacking industry to find this market opportunity.

Doggles look cool but I can't get them to keep them on long; flag them with survey tape so you can find them in the snow.

Don't put a pack on a corgi.  I am unimpressed by all dog packs I've seen.  Heavy, not ergonomic, and a corgi can't carry anything anyway.

I carry Pawz (TM) booties, for emergencies only.  They're big rubber balloons.  Do NOT get ones too tight!!  They could cut off circulation!!  I've tried some Ruff-wear booties that required extensive modification to get them to fit.  My dogs get sore feet in loose sand and maybe coarse spring snow (if running to keep up with skis -- snowshoes are more corgi-frierndly).

Carry vet-wrap of adhesive gauze.  81 mg aspirin.  I have leftover Rimadyl and a narcotic painkiller from Al's accident last fall. 

This book has some good ideas about emergency preparedness:  Dan Nelson's book

I carry a chest harness for belays on dangerous log crossings, but think carefully about this.  What happens after your dog falls off a log?  I have not solved this problem.  The belay rope may well be more dangerous than crossing unaided.  Make sure only 1 dog crosses at a time (last weekend, I saw one dog knock its partner off a log, fortunately in a forgiving stream).  With experience -- mine and theirs -- I have come to trust them on crossings, but many of our crossings are quite serious-looking.  Our dogs seem sure-footed.  My harness will NOT hold a corgi in a vertical hang -- they slip neatly out of it (and might get hurt dong so).  Imagine your dog in the current downstream of a crossing log, harnessed, belayed;  will the rope hold it upright?  What are you going to do next?  Unless the crossing is easy, I put the dog on a stay, cross first with my pack, ditch the pack, and return for the dog.

I have seen some heavy-duty safety harness with a handle on the back.  Might be useful.  Reflective, too.

The chest harness we have will wear a bad sore on the collarbone if they walk with it, so look for stuff like that.

I belay the dog on steep snow sometimes with the chest harness, and have held dog slides on steep mountain snow -- real ice-ax terrain -- dogs can climb up stuff they can't climb down. 

I have a light braided nylon rope leash, quick-draw setup, attached to my pack, with a slip-knot wrist loop.  A rubber band contains the slack.  Practice quick-draw leash drills.  I immediately leash my dog when I encounter people, esp. other dogs and esp. horses.  When meeting horses, go to the downhill slope, be calm but talk so the horses know you're there, don't spook them. 

Never leave poop bags on a trail.  Keep dog in front when it's poop time so you can pick it up, bury it,  or at least get it off the trail.

There are many freeze-dried raw-meat lifghtweight dog foods, expensive but worth it for the weight on long trips.  Dog food is bear bait, so bear can, Ursack, or learn to do a bear hang that works (few people do, and often there are no trees).  Bears not much of a problem here 'cause I'm never near frequented campsites.  I carry liquid vegetable oil -- messy, bear bait, the lightest form of calories -- and I add it to the dog food, but iot leaves a messy  oily bowl.

Your emergency first-aid bluefoam pad doubles as the dog's sleeping pad.  You may need your jacket for sleeping, so I have a small pile blanket for the dog.  I have spent 8 nights with Al entirely inside my sleeping bag (he is very calm, not claustrophobic).

We use Advantix for tick country.  Snakes are not much of an issue here, but the eastern Cascades do have timber rattlers.

MOST important:  bombproof really reliable recall!   Google it, practice it often.  Make it a point of pride.

10 rules reliable recall

Really Reliable Recall

Don't let the dog wander far.  I flag mine with day-glo magenta survey tape.  A reflective collar sounds good.

Train them not to chase squirrels or wildlife.  If your dog has a high prey drive, don't let it off-leash.  I keep mine leashed to my wrist or pack at night.  Think: porcupine, bobcat, cougar, coyote.

Al passed his Porcupine Test (see my blog).  Look at these photos:   Google "porcupine dog quill".  That made me replace my wimpy forceps with a hemostat.  Do NOT let your dog get quilled!

Master the "Corgi Toss".  Make this a standard command.  When I say "corgi toss",  I must be ready, for they trustingly hop into my arms and I assist them over the obstacle (sometimes they ignore me and jump over it). 

IMPORTANT:   do not let your corgi struggle over coarse talus or, particularly, tangled fallen logs and branches or high logs, and they will attempt to surmount anything.   I suspect -- but don't know -- that this is how Al hurt his leg/knee Sep. 2013 on Day 5 of a long trip (see below).  I think he may have slipped backwards off a log too high when we were separated (I was scouting for the trail under blowdown).  I do not think he has fully healed from this 10 months later, and he may not.  Here are photos & report of the evacuation sling I fashioned out of my plastic groundsheet and a carabiner (17 miles):

corgi evacuation

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Comment by Jennifer Markley on July 3, 2013 at 8:58pm

Your dogs have the best life ever!!!

Comment by Linda on July 3, 2013 at 7:57pm

What an exciting life you guys lead!  I've shown the pictures to my hubby for corgis mountain climbing.  He thinks that is the coolest thing.

Since Max is only allowed to do stairs once a day we are long past that kind of hiking.  But that's a lot of good information for those with dogs able and willing to go trekking or even on a weekend hike.

Very important for all dogs that are chipped.  Always have the vet check the chip whenever you have the dog in for a checkup.  They can actually come out or lose their signals.  Same for cats.

Comment by Teresa Gilpin on July 3, 2013 at 4:01pm

I may not climb tall, snowy mountains with my corgis, but this is great info for anyone living with and traveling with corgis!  John, you and your corgis live a very exciting life!

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