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691 Mountain Dogs 2012-08-17

Jake on the summit of Princeton

A news story has been making the rounds ... A German Shepard (Missy) climbed a 14,000 foot peak in Colorado. The person who brought her on the mountain, left her at about 13500 feet. He had several excuses why he left her, but the bottom line was - he did indeed leave Missy on the mountain. Eight days later, others went up on the mountain and rescued her.

sign at Grays Trailhead kiosk

From the Grays Peak

Trailhead Kiosk

Read or watch the amazing story (ABC). There are several versions of it, if you are willing to search further, but they all say the person (I am refusing to say - owner and was debating on using the term person) left the dog for dead.

For several years we have made trips to the mountains of Colorado with our dog, Jake. On his first trip, we found that his pads (on his paws) were not that tough. At one point they were swollen enough, we decided to take him to a Vet in Buena Vista. Not only did the Vet treat Jake's paws, he also gave us advice on how to prevent the injury. Back at home we did even more research and started buying mountain gear for our pup.

A few things we learned about taking Jake to the mountains ...


The dog must be fit enough for the hike, just like the owner. If possible you should train together. We found that long days in the mountains (such as doing Barr Trail on Pikes Peak - 26 miles) were as hard on Jake as they were on us. We all needed to be fit.

The dog must be under control at all time. Most of the dogs I have seen on mountain trails are not on a leash. The owners I am assuming think they are being better owners by allowing their dog the opportunity to run free. Your dog will get enough exercise just climbing the mountain, he does not need to further his exercise by chasing everything that moves.

Monitor your dog. Watch him while he is on the leash, make sure he is not injuring himself. Help him over obstacles.

It is harder to hike with your dog on a leash than it is to allow him to roam. Once again, you must train together, adapt your hiking style to your dogs, and possibly buy gear. We had to buy and use a Gentle Leader and then a shock corded leash. Walking your dog on a leash on a mountain trail probably doubles your exertion.

We used Tuf-Foot to toughen his pads. It seemed to work, but was messy and smelly.

Once Jake had an injury, we had to clean and treat his pads. The Vet suggested giving the dog a rest day between trips to the mountains.

We also used Ruff-Wear Boots and Socks. They are difficult to put on the pup, but they truly help.

The dog boots will come off. We learned to carry a backup boot. Even with the dog on a leash, they can still kick a boot off without you ever knowing it. The boots come off even easier in snow or mud.

Snow can also injure your dog's pads. The ice crystals cut into his paws. If the snow is not too hard or steep, the boots will help. In steeper or harder snow a dog can't get traction while wearing the boots, but without the boots his feet will probably get damaged. Watch your pup closely.

Be ready to turn around. As you are constantly observing your dog, if he is not doing well, then it is time to head back to the trailhead. Day over.

Carry a dog first aid kit including bandages and treatments for cuts and an anti-inflammatory drug safe to use on dogs.

Have an evacuation plan. If you cannot think of how you could get your (injured) dog out of the mountains - then think twice about taking them. By the way, we have thought of using our trekking poles and rain jackets to make a litter or as the rescuers did with Missy, put Jake in a pack. Either way, the rescue would be difficult, but we would not leave the mountain without him.

It is possible to climb mountains with a dog, but it is not necessarily easy. Control and monitor your pup. They are your responsibility.

Happy Missy is off the Mountain trails


Mountainous Dog Walking - article from 2009

Dog Tales - article from 2010


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