Let me start of by saying I understand the amount of responsibility taking anyone man, child, dog or pup into the backcountry is. I am a father of three, And have always been a responsible pet owner.
I currently have a 9 1/2-10 year old lab boxer mutt. Wonderful dog but our 2.5mile nightly walk is about all he can handle. He loves to go on day hikes and he knows his weight which pretty much means I'm always stuck holding his leash . Sometimes for dear life. Anyways as I realize he's not getting any younger and I've pretty much exhausted all my resources for two legged hiking companions.
I've started to put some thought into getting a puppy. Maybe not now. Maybe not until our dog now passes but I've put enough thought into it that I'm starting to research breeds and breeders.
I've grew up pretty much my entire life around golden retrievers and labs. And as much as I love labs. I beleive I'd like to break the trend. My mom and brother both have had siberian huskys in my aldult years. Which were both lovely dogs. But not planning on going that rout either.
Let's start with a few requirements. Must be a smart breed. Medium sized breed. Good with kids/family dog.<< yea I know this requires socialy traing the pup around children and supervising the children around pup. Fairly energetic breed capable of 10+ mile hikes in moderate terrain. I would prefer a short coated dog but this is not a deal breaker. Im really not sure if I have a preference male or female
The only bread I really have been looking at at the moment are the Australian shepherds.
Any advice on breeds or sex of dogs as family dogs or hiking companions will be greatly appreciated. . Thanks SAMOSET
Edited by Samoset (10/28/1110:49 PM)
Some peopole live life day by day. Try step by step.
Aussies are great hiking companions, as are all herding breeds. They want to be with you, and learn to go down the trail, and then come back to check on you, athletic, smart, with lots of stamina.
Hunting dogs have great qualities including strong noses that get them into trouble because of all that instinct to chase stuff. Huskies are a breed I have always wanted as a U of WA graduate but they like to run off on their own for a few days.
Females are less trouble and more pack oriented. They are not as pushy and better with kids than males in general.
My greatest outdoor dogs have been border collies, bc crosses, and Aussie crosses. They all had hybrid vigor, never got sick or had any problems like bad hips or eyes.
I would be very picky if looking at any herding breeds. I have horses and have had cattle and have dealt with various herding breeds. They may be fine on the trail, but they tend to cause issues with people on the down time at home. Their brains are always going and they need "something to do" all the time. Border Collies are one of the most numerous of dogs dumped at shelters.
Aussies, in my opinion, are 50/50; buy from a breeder where you can mess with the parents to get a feel for their hyper-ness.
I would honestly look at the breeds used in the service industry for service dogs. They possess the traits a camper/hiker would want.
I have had Alaskan Malamutes and Golden Retrievers. As a trail dog I have had good luck with both breeds. I love the Malamute personality (I too am a U. of WA grad). They are smart and tough with an independent streak. Golden Retrievers are gentle and intelligent and easy to train. They do have a bit of a goofy streak that can emerge at inappropriate times. I have also had experience with Labrador Retrievers; similar to Golden's but without the goofy streak. I have had un-neutered and neutered male Malamutes and a spayed Golden bitch. All were good dogs although the Golden is better with children. I believe that training is more important than breed but breed can influence overall behavior.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
The best dog I've ever taken backpacking with me was a big Rough Coat Collie. His name was "Trouble" but he never really was any at all. Gentle, friendly, fun to hang out with, and loved kids. The biggest problem with him was that his coat attracted burrs like it was made of Velcro.
The next was a lab/German Shepherd mix named "Buddy". He too was a truly great dog. I found him in a shelter. Unfortunately, the vet that cared for him wasn't so great. I had asked him to treat him for worms, he said he did, but not the kind that killed him. I found that out after the fact, when it was too late to save him. I had him less than a year. We only got to do a few hikes together, but he was everything you'd want in a hiking partner. That dog could trot through a field of burrs and come out clean as a whistle
My next dog, a pure bred Aussie named "Tucker", was like having a cartoon Tasmanian Devil ripping and snorting around. He didn't like anyone, or anything. He barely put up with me. He was great at hiking with me though, always did big loops around me, checking everything out and making sure it was safe for me. But you couldn't pull out anything to eat without him going nuts to get at it. And he went "Alpha" on anything that was near his food (all food was his), and all dogs that came near him. We only hiked on property and the public land that borders it, which is for the most part completely inaccessible. I would have never taken him out in public, it would have been a disaster. Tucker was not trainable in the common sense of the term, but he had qualities that made him a great dog none the less. He passed away this week. He was 16 years old, a long life for an Aussie.
My current dog, another pure bred Aussie, named "Annie", I got as a pup earlier this year. She will be doing her first backpacking trip with me very soon. She has been a handful going through puppyhood. Aussies have a zillion watts of energy and get bored fast with repetition. She chewed a lot of stuff up that I'd rather she hadn't, but she's getting over that now and on the few short day hikes we've done she has done pretty good. She also runs (zooms) loops around me, (which has earned her the nickname "Bullet Butt"), but she has much better manners around food, people, and other critters than Tucker could ever muster up, and she loves everyone (with great exuberance!). I'm looking forward to getting her out there now that hiking season has begun here. I'll let you know how she does soon.
For what it's worth, last weekend one of my wife's outdoor cats went with me for an overnighter behind our house. She followed me over hill and holler on a mile long tough bushwhack and spent the night with my neighbor and I on the top of a tall limestone bluff overlooking a lake. She ate some chicken for dinner with us, and oatmeal with raisons for breakfast. She slept all night curled up in a corner of my neighbor's tent, and had the manners of a true lady. When my neighbor and I parted ways the next afternoon she followed me home.
My neighbor was fairly well impressed. Said she was the most amazing cat he's ever met. I've met some pretty amazing cats, but she's right up there with the best of them now.
I'm sorry for your loss. Sixteen years is a long time to get attached.
My friend's redbone Ann was exactly the opposite when it came to food. You could literally pry that dogs mouth open, and pull a piece of food out of it, and she would never even growl at you. I've never seen a dog that calm around food. When you shot a coon out to her she was a completely different dog though. You didnt want to get in the middle of that, it took two or three people to get her off a coon. One holding on to her collar, and one or two to get the coon out of her mouth.
That cat story is crazy. I've only ever known of one cat anything like that. One of my grandma's kittens would follow me when I walked hom from her house. That cat spending the night in the tent is an awesome story though. Thats got to be one of the coolest cats I've heard of.
Loc: Texas Hill Country
Samoset, I'd get a puppy before your lab/boxer passes on. The company will make him happier and it will probably extend his life. Also, there's no better teacher for a pup than another dog that knows the ropes.
I wouldn't get an aussie. They are very smart and make great working dogs but every one I've know goes full throttle all the time. They simply didn't have an off switch. I'd recommend a lab/shepherd mix.
I've grew up pretty much my entire life around golden retrievers and labs. And as much as I love labs. I beleive I'd like to break the trend.
I'm the same as you, I love labs, and grew up around them all the time. I broke the trend 12 years ago with a field bred springer spaniel. Go find a fieldie. There are pretty much two classes of springer, one bred for show, and the other for field work.. Smart has heck, energetic, eager to please, and medium sized. I actaully never hunted mine much, but a great dog.
I've had him on many dayhikes, great. Not too many overnighters though because most of my overnighters are in grizzly country. and I don't want to have a dog with me in bear country.
Just find someone who is doing them for field trial or bird dog work, not show.
You'll have to cut their hair, but you just take them and give them a good buzz a couple times a year and they are fine.
My other choice would be Aussies as many have mentioned, and failing that - a good mutt from the SPCA that looks like there is some lab and or shepherd in there.
It is quite evident that choosing a dog breed even for a specific purpose is a very personal and subjective process.
We had a Golden retreiver breeder next door when I was a kid. They might be the easiest going outdoor breed around.
In defense of herding dogs, specifically border collies and Australian sheperds, they have a few basic requirements. They need to run everyday, they need some attention, and they don't suffer fools. Smart dogs can be emotionally sensitive and will not respond well to swatting with newspapers, yelling, or any negative reinforcement. They are not for first time dog owners, or people who work 60 hours a week unless they go to work with their owners. They do better with another dog companion if left alone during the day.
I lie down on the floor with my bc every day, run her at 14 years of age, and take her everywhere. Today she brought in 2 Sunday papers in one trip. Yesterday we went to the Nevada Day parade and made friends with many people, and about 12 dogs. She responds to hand signals. She has big feet and can swim with Labs all day. She loves boat trips, and flies on airplanes easily. She has never hardly growled at another dog or threatened a person in her whole life. I will never be without a border collie for the rest of my life. Smart dogs will not tolerate bad owners, but will respond beautifully to owners who are compassionate and dedicated.
Springers are sturdy dogs with a lot of heart. I was backpacking with a friend who brought 2 springers that he used for hunting chukkars. They ran down a mule deer fawn that still had her spots. It was all we could do to save her life. The dogs refused to stop chasing the fawn, and that is my only knock on hunting dogs as hiking companions.
mutt's at the pound tend to be great healthy dogs (more genetic diversity)... but you never know what you are going to get. Based on your requirements a border collie or Australian shepherd sounds like what you want, but I will reiterate what others have said. They are high energy, high intelligence dogs. They like to work and they like order. They can get a little cooky in a chaotic environment.
Lab's and retrievers tend to have the most affable personalities which make them so popular.
Though it certainly isn't a medium sized dog, something you may want to consider is a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I recently had the pleasure of dog-sitting one. Beautiful dogs, but they are big. At least the one I dealt with had a personalty much like lab, loved to run long distances, and had very short fur. If I was going to buy a particular breed, it would probably be a ridgeback.
Loc: California (southern)
Aren't we overlooking the obvious? I would thnk a St. Bernard would be ideal. You know, the ones that come equipped with liquid refreshment.I have done extremely well with mutts from the pound. That is my preferred choice.
The only breed that fills all the mentioned criteria is the Border Collie, and this is the breed I have now. My first two dogs were Siberian Huskies, and they are IMO the most beautiful dogs. But SH have a strong instinct for hunting, and anything except dogs and humans means hunt. Thus one need to have them chained all the time, and this is a hassle.
All breeds have both pros and cons, it is a matter of selecting the combination that fits the family situation. Remember that the home situation is the most common. The time on the trail is so small in comparison, choose the dog mostly for home use.
When I saw a Border Collie that were almost the size of the SH I got one and have never regretted that. Our BC is almost as winter adapted as the SH's were, and equally clever at pulling the pulk. But since it is so easy to train one hardly needs the chain at all.
One caution though. BC's are dogs with ADHD , they are always trying to do something useful. They can get destructive if they are not met on this. They could start herding small children, chasing cars and bicycles aso. Quite a lot of exercise, and someone training them is ideal. Agility training is perfect, but any task is OK.
When selecting the puppy pick the strong and leading dog. Shy and nervous BC are difficult to handle.
Since you have children one advise I feel is important. Always train the dog to accept that anyone may take away the food without any aggression. It is just a matter of training. Otto
Great to hear from fans of bc dogs. I agree with you about their requirements. It is worth mentioning that my current bitch Bonnie was rescued after being ignored her first year of life. She has always been a shy dog, but has learned over the years to trust strangers and gets along fine. She has been less trouble than any dog I have ever owned partly because of her shyness. I would not hesitate to adopt a shy dog again.
But SH have a strong instinct for hunting, and anything except dogs and humans means hunt. Thus one need to have them chained all the time, and this is a hassle.
A large hunting dog, on a leash, that wants to take off after game is not just a hassle, its potentially very dangerous. I've dealt with a few very stubborn coon dogs who didnt want to cooperate. Those dogs led to some pretty bad slips and falls, and a few scars. Not something I'd want to deal with when out alone, just incase something happened.
Loc: San Diego CA
I've just got to get in on this one... . Lots of good points brought up by everyone. First, I propose we just look at this from another angle; energy level of the dog.
High energy dogs include; Border collie German shorthair pointer English pointer Visla the field hounds (coonhounds, ect)
I know there are more (maybe someone else can help with the list) but the key is that these are field or working dogs; dogs that are bred to work 8 to 10 hour days. Notice my avatar; I was ready for the amount of energy that I was about to unleash (pun intended) on my family, but the rest of my family wasn't. She is almost 5 and she still needs to be worked HARD pretty much every day. The only time she is at "ease" the entire day is when we are training, backpacking, or hunting all day. By contrast, a Rhodesian ridgeback will typically be a couch potato the rest of the day with 30 to 40 min. exercise once an adult. So it is important to understand what the requirements of the dog are that you pick so you understand the training/exercise time commitments that go with that.
Second point, already been made, is don't get a dog bred to chase down game like a Beagle or Coonhound. Even though Beagle's are small, they are pulled by their nose and love to hunt (but not listen). Great if you want to hunt rabbits. Coonhounds are beautiful dogs. But again, they are like a big fast beagle. You need to be able to train the dog to NOT chase that deer or whatever if need be. It can be done with these dogs, but it is much harder. And as James said, last thing you need is a large dog dragging you down the trail after something it wants to chase. Heck, even a medium sized dog can lead to a sprained ankle if it catches you unaware.
Females over males (in general). They tend to wander less and be a little more family oriented. (My favorite dog ever was an intact male black lab.)
Don't pick one of the alphas (male or female) of the litter. Pick one from the center of the pile...NOT the bottom either. Usually a little less training drama from this zone although with the other alphas gone it may decide to fill that slot. You must make sure that the dog realizes that you and your wife are the alpha pair and will not be giving that spot up anytime soon.
Probably tooooo much info so I will stop. My gsp is a great dog...basically any dog you pick will probably work out for you AS LONG AS YOU PUT THE EFFORT INTO TRAINING AND DEVELOPING A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE DOG. That is probably the most important thing for you and your family to take away from here. So how much work are you willing to put in the first 3 or 4 years?
With Tica it was 3 hours a day for the first 2 years...now its just 2 hours. Smart and energetic means more time otherwise destructive behaviors start. A lot of intelligent high energy dogs will not listen if they sense that they are stronger minded than their owner, however they will also not respond well to harsh discipline. You have to be calm, confident, and consistent with these breeds through out their lifespan.
Loc: SF bay area, CA
skcreidc - great post.
My Heeler mix is a fantastic hiking partner, but I wouldn't feel comfortable having her around kids. Too nervy. That'd also be something to watch out for with Border Collies. Not to say they can't be good with kids, but you'd have to be extra picky. It might be a little counter-intuitive, but if you do decide to get a BC puppy, I'd suggest looking for a breeder of working stockdogs. They put a lot of emphasis on biddability and calmness when not working.
Another breed you might consider (and might not, of course, many people wouldn't) is the pit bull. Again, you have to be choosy, but given the state of the average animal shelter, you'll have a lot to choose from . Take a look at BADRAP if you're at all interested.
Something alot of people might not know, pits have been used a good bit as hog hunting dogs in the south. They aren't known much for their nose, but as a hold dog to keep the hog contained until the hunters get there.
A friend of mine has a pit, that is one of the sweetest dogs I've ever been around. That dog will not even eat food put infront of it, until it is told to. I have saw her throw a piece of a hamburger infront of that dog, and him sit there looking at her with those "puppy dog eyes" (pun intended :P) waiting on her to tell him to get it. They may have a bad reputation, but are still very trainable.
I've also been around a couple rottweilers that were just big teddy bears. My neighbor had one when we moved to our new house, that we were a bit worried about. After he got to know us, he told us that if he was ever in our yard just call his name and say firmly "go home" and he would. One day I put that to a real test. I saw the dog dropping a present in our yard. I told him to go home, and he stopped right where he was at, walked back into his yard, and finished his business. I was pretty shocked at how well he listened especially in that situation.
For what its worth, the only two dogs I've ever been bit enough to bring blood by were a blue heeler and a chiwawa (both owned by the same person, several years apart).
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By OttoStover
Always train the dog to accept that anyone may take away the food without any aggression. It is just a matter of training.
That is absolutely true in probably 99 out of a 100 dogs, maybe even ten times that many, but there are exceptions. I know, I had one that was not trainable (as it pertains to food).
The breeder I got Tucker from warned me. He was 2 months old at the time, and she warned me that he was extremely "Alpha", especially about food, and she told me he always would be.
I ignored her. I too believed "it's just a matter of training". Most of the time that's true, but there are exceptions. Tucker was one. On his last day when I fed him he barked at the chickens and the burros because he could hear them from inside the barn, just like he always did. He could barely walk or see, I had to lead him to his food bowl, but he woofed his food down just like when he was a pup. Only I, and those he knew very well, could ever be in the same space with him and food. If he had even a bit of old bone stashed somewhere and anything got near it he go Tasmanian Devil on them.
To be fair to Tucker, he never bit anyone or anything. He would charge and bark, and if you didn't back off he would nip you on the heels, but he never bit and tore. If you didn't know him he'd scare the pee out you, I don't care who or what you were. If there was no food involved he was all love and cuddles.
I've warned people, way too many people, about him and I've heard "Don't worry, I know how to handle dogs" way to many times.
I'll say this too, a smart dog is just that. The idea that you have to spend half your life training a dog is ridiculous. Aussies, in general, are very smart. Tucker was no exception, he was also very strong willed. Some traits you just can't change or train out of a dog. You aren't going to train a Beagle not to chase a rabbit, and you're not going to train an Aussie not to run. At least not one that's worth a darn.
As I said, Tucker was exceptional in many ways, for example he knew his job was to guard and protect our livestock and the pasture we keep them in. He could have gotten out any time he wanted, but he never left it. And no other dog ever went in there for long. The only exception was females in heat. He even gave his food up for them. Shoot, he became a slobbering derelict whenever one was around, but he never left the pasture.
Annie, is of a completely different character. She's a bit alpha too, but not about food. With her, it's attention. She'll cut off our other dog, "Little Dog", when we go outside or come home and interact with them, but she loves Little Dog and in no other way does she try and dominate him.
Annie still will not follow me into the pasture though. It will probably take me a few more weeks to get her to follow me in there
If you buy a dog from a good breeder they will tell you about each pup you're looking at. That is a lesson I've learned the hard way. It has nothing to do with your ability to train a dog. Annie is spot on as described. If anything, she's a better dog than the breeder expected, but what they did tell me was accurate. So my advice is that if a breeder tells you a specific pup has certain characteristics you'd be well off to listen to them.
Loc: Texas Hill Country
Originally Posted By OttoStover
The time on the trail is so small in comparison, choose the dog mostly for home use. Otto
I absolutely agree with Otto on this. The most important quality in a dog is livability. If he or she drives you nuts around the house, you're certainly not going to take them into the woods with you.
Since James brought up Rottweilers in another post, I'll add a comment about them here.
I've had Rotties for the last 16 years. They are wonderful dogs but are not a good choice for a trail dog. As others have said, large dogs overheat easily and rotties are no exception. I've only had one that actually liked to go on hikes (as opposed to just walking) and after 15 minutes in, we never saw any wildlife at all. His breathing was so heavy it's like bringing a locomotive along with you. He wasn't in really in duress or anything, but he had to move a lot of air to keep from overheating when wearing a black coat in the summer sun.
My current rottie's one ambition in life is to grow up and become a lap dog. A 130lb lap dog, but a lap dog nonetheless. The problem is, rotties scare the hell out of people. Even if he or she is well behaved and on a leash, folks just plain wig out when they see one.
Besides, he throws up every time we put him in the car, thinking that he's going to the Vets.
Good luck finding a dog and let us know how it turns out.