I have recently introduced Tug to carrying a pack over the past few months, she is 20 months old and has pretty much reached full size. She is now filling out muscle wise. I was keen to build her up slowly to carrying weight. Although she has been pulling weight since she was a puppy, the way the weight is distributed carrying a pack in comparison to a good towing harness means the weight is carried in a more vulnerable position. If overloaded or weight is piled on too quickly before the dog has built up the muscle or their bones have not finished growing fully you can damage your dog’s back and put your dog at risk of developing arthritis.
So how much weight can your dog carry?
A good rule of thumb is around 10-15% of their body weight. So if your dog weighs 25kg they shouldn’t be carrying more than approximately 3.5kg. The health, fitness and age of your dog also need to be taken into consideration. If you have any concerns at all, speak to your veterinarian. I have found my vets to be incredibly supportive and helpful as they love the idea of a pet who has a job. If you think about a wild dog, they have a purpose in the pack scenario, whether it is hunting or caring for young. Dogs are like us in this respect, they need to feel valued and part of the pack. Giving them a job often gives them focus and calms them down not to mention it tires them out faster.
What do I have on this adventure?
This item has caused a bit of a debate in the past over whether Tug should be wearing a transceiver or not. In a rescue scenario should myself and Tug be avalanched and rescuers arrived on scene then they would not necessarily be able to determine between myself and Tug as to who or what they were rescuing. This debate obviously brings into question the importance of a dogs life versus human life which anyone who considers their dog a friend would understand this is not an easy question to answer or have to consider. If I were out with a group of clients for example Tug would not be wearing an avalanche beacon as in a court of law if I rescued my dog before one of my clients this would bring into question my duty of care.
In this scenario Tug was wearing a transceiver because the reality is that we were too remote for rescue to be effective. Should we become avalanched and she was caught I could find her and in the event of Tug stumbling across someone if I were buried they could use her transceiver to locate me.
The map Tug carries has our route marked onto it. This for me acts as a spare map should I lose mine and as a rescue aid should something happen to me and someone come across Tug.
Tug is carrying the 2 water bottles that come with the Ruffwear Palisades pack, they are durable and handle warm water that has been boiled and freezing conditions quite happily. They also come with a sip attachment which us humans can use. I don’t always carry spare water for Tug if we are in temperate environments; whereas our stomachs are not great at dealing with microbes, viruses and bacteria in water, dog’s bodies are much better at protecting the dog from these nasties (there is always risk though). The water bottles she is carrying are only half full this is due to the weight issues and building Tug up slowly to carry heavier loads.
Although we are in the snow and have water at hand we can melt it is much quicker to pull out the water bottles if necessary. Temperatures did drop to -20 celsius and the water freezes but I know that all I need do is put it inside my jacket to unfreeze it should we need clean water or water is frozen and Tug can’t access streams. This means I don’t need to pull out my stove and expend precious fuel in melting snow. I fill these bottles up again when I do use the stove.
Tug carries her own food, just like us her body burns a lot more calories in the cold than in warmer environments and I do supplement her food with what I make for myself so she gets extra fat on top of her normal kibble. I’m a fan of Adventure Food expedition meals at the moment and some of their meals have a relatively low salt content compared to other brands, these ones I will mix into Tug’s food.
Tug carries a small knife, unfortunately not because she’s a feather stick making guru, (though she loves stealing and chewing them) but as a spare should I lose mine (a knife-less woman is a lifeless woman and all that).