Malamutes hiking at MurrindindiBACKPACKING

Backpacking is an enjoyable activity for both you and your dog.  All you need is a good quality canine backpack, a healthy, fit and willing dog (& owner), and a suitable trail.

The AMCV conducts several hike events each year and welcome anyone with any breed of dog to join in, non-members included. 

The hike events on offer vary in length and difficulty from the Picnic Fun Walks which are short and suited to puppies and less fit dogs (and owners), to the 16 km 1-day hikes and the 65 km hikes that take place over 3 days which require dogs and hikers carrying all equipment needed for self-sufficiency.

The AMCV also holds several "Introduction to Activities" days throughout the year, and these are an ideal opportunity to find our more about backpacking, sledding, weight pulling and obedience with your Malamute, and try out backpacks and other equipment required for these activities.  Go to the Events page for more details on activities scheduled for this year.

The AMCV offers a Working Pack Dog title to recognise those Malamutes who have made a considerable achievement in this field. The Working Pack Dog requirements are outlined on the Working Dog Program page. To qualify for the Working Pack Dog title, dogs must carry 30% of their body weight over three or four 16 km hikes. Hiking a distance of 16 km with your dog carrying the full 30% of his body weight should never be attempted with dogs that are unfit, untrained or not in excellent health.

Malamute backpackYou wouldn’t dream of running a marathon without considerable training and preparation, so don’t expect miracles from an untrained dog. Training should begin with walking you dog with a lightly loaded pack to get him used to the feel of it, and to ensure that the pack is fitted correctly and is comfortable for the dog.

Once the dog is used to wearing the pack, gradually increase the weight in the pack and the distance of your walks. By building up the weight in this way, any problems with your dog or the backpack should become apparent before you find yourself miles from anywhere participating in a backpacking event.

It is also important that you know how to adjust the pack so that it is fitted correctly and is most comfortable for the dog. The backpack should sit over the shoulders, so that the weight is transferred down to the ground through the front legs and feet. THE PACK SHOULD NEVER SIT ON THE DOGS LOWER BACK (loin). The lower back is the weakest area of the dog’s spine as there is no support from the rib cage or pelvis, and this area should never bear any weight. If you are not sure that your dogs pack is fitted correctly, please check with someone with experience. A badly fitted pack will be uncomfortable for the dog and may rub or cause injury.

The pack should also not be too large. The pannier bags should not bang around the legs of the dog and the saddle should not extend beyond the upper section of the back.

With backpacking events for the working pack dog title, the weight carried by the dogs has to be made up of dense material such as water and damp sand in order for the required weight to fit into the pack. It is important that the weight is distributed in the pack in such a way that it does not shift while the dog is walking. If the weights can shift in the pack it will result in redistribution of the weight to the back, rather than where it should be on the shoulders, which as previously mentioned may result in injury to the dog.

Hiking at You YangsThe pack should be adjusted so that it remains centred along the topline of the dog and cannot slip from side to side. If your dog is negotiating obstacles on a walk (such as climbing over a large log), assist your dog by taking the weight of the pack. In difficult situations remove the dog’s pack and put it back on after the obstacle has been safely negotiated to prevent injury to the dog.

Dogs need to be in good health before they participate in a backpacking excursion. We strongly advise that you take your dog to a vet and/or veterinary chiropractor before you embark on any strenuous activity to ensure that your dog is in good condition and doesn’t have any underlying health or skeletal problems. Undetected health problems may be exacerbated by working activities such as weight-pulling, racing and backpacking. It is up to owners to be realistic about the condition of their dogs and how well they can be expected to cope with backpacking, and to be diligent in assessing their dog’s performance whilst out on the trail.

Our hikes can be physically demanding, and to comply with working dog title requirements the walks are conducted in areas where vehicular access is often not possible. If your dog develops a serious problem out on the trail, it may be several hours before the dog can get veterinary assistance.

Always hike in a group – don’t go off on your own. If you find yourself lagging behind, ask someone to walk with you. At the furthest point on the trail we are 8 km or more from our vehicles, and this is a long way to carry an injured dog that may not be too happy about being handled.

You know your dog best, and it is up to you to watch for signs of stress or discomfort and take appropriate action before the problem becomes serious. This may mean discarding the weight from the pack and/or cutting short the distance that you hike – either is perfectly acceptable. Notify someone else on the walk that your dog is having trouble and what action you are taking - don’t turn back without letting others know.

All backpackers must carry a basic first aid kit, and we also suggest that this include one or two sturdy dog booties in case your dog suffers from wearing or cuts to the pads.

3-day hike in Wombat State ForestYou must also carry sufficient water to last your dog and yourself for the entire walk. Never rely on water being available on the trail as it may not be suitable for drinking or may not be accessible.

Water resistant sun-screen should also be carried and applied to any areas of light pigmentation on the Malamute's nose, and may also be necessary for human use.

Remember that no one else is to blame if your dog can’t make the distance or "breaks down" during a backpacking event. As with all working activities with your dog, it is up to you to know your dog and not push the dog beyond his capabilities. It is up to you to take appropriate action before a minor problem becomes a major one. If you push your dog, he won’t enjoy these outings and he may also sustain injuries.

For more information about hiking with your dog please contact the Backpacking Coordinator.  Details of hikes conducted by the AMCV can be found in the Malamute Mail newsletter or on the Events page of this website.