View Full Version : dogs and bushwhacks

doghiker 2002
06-09-2004, 11:44 AM
A question for Hundred Highest bushwhackers: Anyone hike SAFELY with a dog up the more serious bushwhacks?

I always hike with my dog except where she's not allowed, e.g., Baxter State Park. She is fine on herd paths, such as Nancy and Big Jay, and the not quite paths such as Redington-Crocker. I'm concerned with the pure bushwhacks, which I'm new to. For example, this weekend, I'm hoping to head up Vose Spur or Peak Above the Nubble. Anyone been up any of these or other Hundred Highest bushwhacks with a dog?

06-09-2004, 11:50 AM
Actually, I think dogs are better equipped for bushwacks than we are. Their shape allows them to fit between dense brush and under growth without having to clear a trail like we do. You will be suprised how fast they can move through the woods. :)

06-09-2004, 11:57 AM
I never did much bushwhacking with my dog...maybe some unintential trips. When we did, however, she was much more capable than I was. I think it was the ole' 4-legged thing, plus the lowness to the ground made her able to go under much slash that I had to somehow get over.

Audrey...are you out there? I believe she may have some more experiences than I.

06-09-2004, 01:28 PM
Depends on the dog. Most of my hiking experience is with giant size with medium to long double coat.

My last dog was very adept at insinuating himself through heavy brush. The dog at the left is not. He considers heavy brush a wall, but there's hope since he's still young and learning to be a hiker-dog. I think smaller skinnier dogs (a Border Collie sort of build) would do better, simply because they can fit more places.

I'd have to wonder if a short or sparsely coated dog would be okay. The double coat acts as a layer of protection against cuts and scrapes. I hiked for awhile with a greyhound. She'd get cuts and scrapes just looking at brush. We never once went off trail without her coming back with broken skin.

Whatever you do, make sure you have a solid recall first. There's no way to hike through thick brush with them on lead, and no way you can run after them if they decide to take off.

A good indicator might be whether your dog has shown a willingness to head into the stuff on their own when you're out.

06-09-2004, 07:54 PM
I left Moxie at home on the more difficult bushwacks. After watching him jump over a blow down and scratch his belly on a hanging branch on the landing, I decided I would feel very bad if he ended up with a sucking chest wound. At 85 pounds, it would be difficult for me to carry him out. I love my dog too much to jeopardize his safety. He does wonderful on blazed trails and quazi bushwacks, like Nancy and Redington.

06-09-2004, 09:26 PM
My dog has been on most all of my bushwhacks, and does great. I have 75 of the 100 highest and she's done 90% of them with me. I find it easier for her because she can scramble through and more importantly under the thicket and blowdown. They are actually good open route finders. Mine almost always takes the path of the least resistance.

Wait--are we talking the NE or the Daxs.

Peter Miller
06-09-2004, 10:12 PM
For a dog, especially one of the tracking breeds, there is no such thing as a pure bushwhack on the 100 highest. A trail-experienced dog will pick up and follow the scents left by other bushwhackers (and possibly their dogs), so your dog could lead you up a frequented route that is not yet a herd path. The dog could also help you retrace your route, which is a plus if the route up went well.

A pure bushwhack, in my opinion, is an excursion through rarely-to-never frequented terrain. Non-summit bushwhacking, perhaps pure exploration or bushwhacking a link between two trails. My golden retriever behaves quite interestingly on these. A lot of eye contact, as if to ask "what are we doing, where are we going?" A lot of mammal tracking. And a lot of searching for typical trail scent. If I'm going from trail A to trail B, she'll pick up the scent of B while we are still 50 yards from it and head straight to it. Always an impressive performance.

A tracking dog is a superb companion on pure bushwhacks. Sometimes it's fun to let the dog take the lead to see what you'll discover (wildlife sign, animal skeletal remains). My dog's alertness has resulted in many of my best wildlife sightings.

06-10-2004, 11:26 AM
Peter Miller of course has a good answer. When I used to hike with a dog, he would walk probably 5x as far as I did, chasing around in the woods on both sides even if there was a trail. Where there was a ledge to climb on the trail, he would often circle it in the woods. So the dog was bushwhacking all the time. Of course he was under voice command and did not stray very far. And he was 40# and was occasionally boosted.

06-10-2004, 11:52 AM
Peter Millerís observations about his retriever will ring true with anyone who has partnered with a good hunting dog to pursue upland game (mainly birds) in thick cover.


Peter Miller
06-10-2004, 10:11 PM
This is the first golden I've owned, and she's only two years old, so we're still developing a sense of teamwork.

I marvel at her ability to track a trail through deep, unbroken snow, even when no humans have passed that way for weeks. In really deep powder, though, she prefers to walk behind and step in my tracks.

The exploration-for-the-hell-of-it we sometimes do seems to unsettle her somewhat. I suspect she thinks I'm lost. It appears she's trying to locate the trail much of the time. When we do finally approach it, she clearly lets me know.

It's fascinating to be on (or off) trail with a dog who employs all her senses to assist you in accord with your perceived needs. The back and forth communication is remarkable. I can see why goldens make great service dogs.

06-10-2004, 10:11 PM
Peter-- Have you ever bushwhacked the Sentinals in the Dax. Those are as true as you'll ever get. I have a few scars to proove it.

Are the 100 highest in the NE that easy? meaning the unpaved ones ofcourse. That is a list I want to slowly peck at.

06-10-2004, 11:36 PM
I used to hike a lot with a Black Lab named Willy. He was an amazing animal and a great companion. He was my girl friends dog and the 2 of us often hiked together when she was at work. He was very well trained and intelligent, and would come to me immediately when I called him no matter whether there was a horse, another dog, hiker, etc. on the trail ahead.

I didn't get to do as much bushwacking as I would have liked to with him. One thing that always amused me was the way he acted when he reached a trail junction. He would stare back at us and read our body language to see which direction we were taking.

Unfortunately he died a few years ago. I still miss him.

06-11-2004, 09:46 PM
Originally posted by peak_bgr
Are the 100 highest in the NE that easy? meaning the unpaved ones ofcourse. That is a list I want to slowly peck at.
I would say that the "NE 100 Highest" and "difficult bushwhacks" are a disjoint set :-)

The issue is that many people who start the NE 100 have just finished the NE 4000 most of which have wide trails and anything you can't hike in shorts and sandals seems tough. There are certainly thick spots but if you circle them or ask about routes that avoid them it is easier.

06-11-2004, 10:13 PM
So, basically like the ADK 100 highest. There is almost always an easier route; its just a matter of finding it.