Hiking with my Vizslas
Penny Fenton wrote this post to the vizsla listserv about hiking with her vizsla Maggie and Annie the GSP. Thanks to Penny for giving us permission to add it to the Vizsla Home Page.
Our vet suggested that in general a dog should be able to carry about 25% of their body weight. Our rule is that they have to carry their own food. On a short 3-4 day trip it's never been a problem. But we did a 40-mile 6 day trip in the Seven Devils Mountains of Idaho when Maggie was 2yrs old and we did carry her first 2 days worth of food because we thought it was too much for her. While they can carry quite a bit of weight on the trail, the problem we have always run into is that the dogs can't pace themselves like humans can. They don't have any idea how far they have to go or how hard it will be and they expend a lot of energy running off trail, up and down, etc. We figure they cover 2-3miles for each trail mile that we do. The extra weight puts a lot more strain on their feet, legs and back. If they plodded along in the trail like we do, they could carry LOTS of weight. But I've never seen one do that and I don't have the energy when I'm backpacking to keep them at heel.
We carry lightweight small polar fleece blankets or a foam pad to keep them off the cold ground on short trips. On long trips we let them share our bags because there isn't room to carry anything extra and they do need some insulation from the ground. They can't really carry their own since there's no way to balance the load and they are likely to get them wet running through creeks, etc.
One thing we have found that is definitely unique to Vs and other shorthaired breeds is mosquitoes--not a problem with a Lab or Golden. Sometimes in desperation when they were REAL bad, we have resorted to wiping a little repellant off our hands onto the top of their head (where they are vulnerable) but I'm sure that is not a good idea to do routinely. I understand that Avon Skin-So-Soft lotion works very well (Thank you to the list members who told me about this product). We will give that a try this season. I'm sure it is much safer than the standard repellants we use for ourselves.
One more thing we do when backpacking with dogs is carry pain pills for them (Phenylbutasone). Our vet suggested they are safer than aspirin or Ibuprohen for the dogs. While you don't want to drug them up so they don't know how bad they hurt, you also can't afford to have them come up lame and refuse to walk out at all. Its just part of the first aid kit.