Sunday, March 22, 2015

Part 2: Tips and advice for prospective A.T. thru-hikers who may bring their dog

“Bobwhite” gives a huge shout out of thanks to the contributors to this post, all former Appalachian Trail thru-hikers and dog owners: Tracy “Trouble” (NoBo 2013), Brett Hessenius "M80"(AT, PCT and FT) and Diana “Bigglesworth” (NoBo 2008) for taking the time to share their perspectives on thru-hiking and whether or not to bring your dog. We wish for you (the prospective thru-hiker) to have a life changing and successful (according to your goals) hike! This article hopes to give a realistic and thorough look into the life of a long distance hiker and the extra work that is required if you want to bring your dog. We will answer questions about preparing for a thru-hike, how much it costs, some unexpected things that may happen along the way, and practical tips for how to do a long hike with a dog.

Part One of this series is here: hikingwithdogscompanion

Please also check out these links:
-The Appalachian Trail Conservancy's page on hiking with dogs
-Appalachian Trial's two part article on Hiking the AT with a dog
-Leave No Trace Ethics
-Melissa "Treehugger's" articles on Nutrition and vaccines for Dogs on a Long Distance Hike (several articles here, please scroll through her blog under this topic)

About 25-30% of people who set out to hike the whole A.T. in one stretch make it the whole way in a single year. (Many others choose to become "2,000 Milers" as section hikers over multiple years). Far fewer dogs who set out to hike the Trail with their humans make it from end to (doggie) end. (***Dogs are prohibited from the Smokies, Bear Mountain Zoo and Baxter State Park: the Northern Terminus of the Trail which includes Katahdin.)

General ethics of back country backpacking with a dog:
-Deal with your dog's poop as you would your own, bury it in a 6" deep cathole at least 70 steps away from water.
-Keep your dog leashed around precious water sources like small streams and small spring pools. Do not allow your dog to muck up sensitive water sources, the person who reaches the water source after you will thank you. If you and your dog are to swim in a larger stream, please remember to swim well down stream from the campsite, as this stream is the water source for the campsite. Never use soap in a stream or lake!
-Leash your dog whenever you see people approaching you on the trail. If someone wants to meet your dog, they will probably ask. As we all know, there are many people on trail who are not dog lovers.
-If you are staying in a campsite area with other people please keep your dog's barking to a minimum or to no barking.
-Do not allow your dog to chase wild animals. There are many animals on the AT that can seriously injure your dog (porcupines, skunk, moose, deer in the rut and bears.) In the case of black bears, your off leash dog can and will enrage a bear and bring the bear back to you (as your dog is running away from the bear back to you). This is very dangerous as it is much harder to fend off an enraged bear.
-When hiking with a dog, the hike is not about you and your goals. Be flexible and ready to drastically change your plans as you moniter your dog's health including energy level.

Tracy "Trouble" and her dog Melkie hiked from GA to ME on the Appalachian Trail in 2013. Melkie is a Golden Retriever and was 17 months old when they started the hike. Here's her thru-hike blog:

A description of Melkie pre-hike:

Melkie was always excitable and always curious. He loved people and always seemed to want to try new things or go new places. He liked other animals and was always more curious than aggressive and just wanted to play with whoever he could find. He would let me put anything on him and be proud about it as though he had accomplished something. He has worn all different kinds of hats and even learned to sit on the back of motorcycle. He was a very good natured obedient dog.
Diana "Bigglesworth" and Purple.
Diana "Bigglesworth" hiked the A.T. from GA to ME in 2008. With much thought, she decided to not bring her athletic, trail-loving dog Purple on the thru-hike. Her thru-hike journal:
Bigglesworth is the Outings Coordinator for the Northville Placid Trail Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club. She organizes and leads a variety of hiking and backpacking trips, as well as is the administrator for their trip leader training program.

About Purple:
Purple was a great trail dog and loved to hike.  He was good about following my commands, sleeping in a vestibule, and was friendly with other people and dogs.  As a Blue Heeler-Australian Shepherd mix, he was a great mixed breed for hiking.  He loved to go on backpacking trips, and he knew what it meant when I started packing the backpack.  In fact, I had to do it in secret and pull out the pack last minute otherwise he'd follow me around non-stop, not wanting to miss out!

Planning and Preparing for your thru-hike

 Making the decision on whether or not to bring your dog:

How did you know your dog was physically capable of doing a long distance hike? Did you talk with a vet?
From Tracy "Trouble": To be honest, I didn't know! Heck, I didn't even know if I was capable of making it! I had a back up plan in that my boyfriend offered to drive all the way down and pick Melkie up if he couldn't handle it, or if things weren't working out with him hiking or if he got injured. I that gave me the peace of mind I needed to make the decision to try to hike with him. It's one thing to decide to hike yourself and it's another thing to force anyone else including a dog to hike just  because you want him to.  I felt good knowing that someone would come get him if needed and take care of him. I also took him to the vet. When I made the vet appointment I explained where we were going and what that entailed to give the vet time to order any extra vaccines or medications he might need (I was asking for 6 months supply of tick medication...) and to warn her that I would be coming in with a big list of questions. At the time I was happy with what the vet recommended and took all of her advise. However after having hiked the trail and having problems with ticks I would recommend others to do their own research and not just automatically trust what their vet tells them. I would also request an antibiotic for a just in case scenario.

Making the choice to not bring your dog:
From Diana "Bigglesworth": 
I was really torn about bringing Purple on my thru-hike or not, but I felt like it was both in his best interest and mine to leave him behind.  Once I decided not to take him, I was sad about the prospect of being away from him for a long time, but I know he would be fine staying with my mother (and at times my sister).  I know for him, he'd adjust well and it would be like a 6 month doggy vacation full of spoiling and treats.

From a physical standpoint, I had concerns about taking him, although he was very fit and healthy and loved to hike.  I just thought the sum total demands on him could be a bit too much or put him at risk for injury.  From a practicality standpoint, the truth is my reasons for not taking him were primarily selfish, although with his well-being in mind.  I knew if he came along, every day he'd be my top priority.  His safety, his meals, his rest, management of his behavior in camp - all of these things would have to be my first priority.  
The truth is that was not in line with my goals, which were ultimately to do this hike for "me" and to hike my hike the way I wanted.  Keeping him a priority and keeping my goals in needs a priority were in conflict, I felt.

The hardest part of leaving him behind was simply being away from him for six months.  Purple had been my constant companion since my first year out of college, so this would be a strange adjustment for me.  In the end, I felt it was best for both him and for me to leave him with my family for the hike.  I don't regret the decision at all.  I feel I had a more flexible, enjoyable and worry-free hike and as evidenced by his chubby physique and begging habits upon my return, he clearly enjoyed the treats and extra attention he received while on his vacation.
Bigglesworth finishing her thru-hike!

Why do you consider the AT to be an "easier" hike to do with your dog than the Pacific Crest Trail or Florida Trail? (Brett has thru-hiked the AT, PCT and FT with his service dog Willow)
Brett "M80": The AT was by far the easiest to hike with a dog in my opinion. I don't say that as to encourage a soft approach to the AT, as all long distant hikes require a good bit of planning and preparedness. Hiking with a dog increases this greatly. But, in my opinion, there is no better way to hike, than to hike with your best friend!
1) Water: You will need to haul less water for your pup and other than a few sections water won't be much of an issue on an average year. When in doubt, pack extra. There is simply no excuse for a dog to go without water on any trail....period!
2) Trail Conditions and Paw Maintenance: for the most part the AT has a very friendly tread. Booties should always be packed and your pup should be accustomed to wearing them....sometimes for long distances. If I remember correctly, Willow only wore booties a few times. If you hike Northbound, your pups pads should be in good shape by the time you reach the more abrasive rock outcrops of the Whites and such. Regardless.... always have booties on hand. (Many hikers also enjoy using paw pad wax daily and Musher’s Wax is the leading brand)
3) Temperature:  I'm not saying the AT doesn't have its heat issues, it does; and keeping your friend cool will be a challenge at times, especially in the mid Atlantic states. But this will be much easier done, when compared to the other trails I mentioned. There is lots of shade on the AT!
4) Logistically speaking it is easier. Resupplying is more convenient as is bailing if your pup should become injured or sick and need medical attention. The AT sets up much better in regards to where dogs are permitted relative to the other trails. You should have little problem here as finding a kennel facility has become quite easy. (Dogs are not allowed in the Smokies, Bear Mountain Zoo (take the blue blaze around) nor Baxter State Park)

How much does a typical 5 to 6 month long continuous hike of the A.T. cost?
"Bobwhite": I thru-hiked Southbound in 2011. The Fall months of a Sobo hike are "off-season" for the Trail, so some hostels have closed and the resources around Fontana Dam that Nobos use were closed for the season. This saved some money. My friends were 18 and 21. They had limited resources and a lot of self-control in town. They would not eat out often or stay in hostels (meaning they also would NOT shower bc even a shower costs money on the AT). They ate the same limited diet for 5.5 months: peanut butter and honey on tortiallas and cold oatmeal (they did not have stoves so they wouldn't spend money on fuel and therefore ate all cold meals). They each spent around $2,000. And this is a good illustration of what $2K will get you on the trail. I had more means from the start and I was able to eat at restaurants in town, pay for showers and I stayed in about 8 different hostels along the way. I had a pretty varied diet that included chocolate every day. I spent $4K for my trip on trail food and town days. This number excluded my travels costs and gear. Please keep in mind that you WILL eat triple or more that amount of food you are used to eating. Convenience type trail food and snacks do add up quickly especially when you are good about getting enough protein. When you get to town all you want to do is order two meals at once at the diner and then go back to the diner and eat more a few hours later. Be realistic about how disciplined you are with your money when you are really hungry (in my case HANGRY).

IF YOU BRING YOUR DOG: please keep in mind their extra costs which would be around $1,000 on top of yours. Consider pet insurance and how much of a buffer you will have if they need to go to the vet during the hike. Consider that they will eat 3 to 4X the amount of food they normally eat and they too need high protein treats.

"Trouble":  I spent around $6000 while hiking the AT. That is a lot more than most people spend partly because of the added cost of hiking with a dog and partly because I liked to make frequent town stops in order to carry less weight. 

"Bigglesworth": I'm guessing I spent about $4,500 - $5,000 which includes transportation at beginning and end, lodging, food (trail and town) and maildrop postage, medical, gear replacement (mostly 5 total pairs of shoes and upgrading to a better sleeping bag), and miscellaneous items. That doesn't include other real life expenses such as ongoing car payment, health insurance out of pocket while unemployed, etc.
The biggest things I'd say about saving money for a thru hike are:
#1- do it, or your hike will end prematurely unless you have someone to bankroll you,
#2- don't underestimate your expenses: gear will break, you may get hurt, you will want food and lodging in towns occasionally, etc., and
#3- keep non hike funds separate and don't compromise here. I had a bank account for my hike and once the money ran out the hike was over because I wasn't going to dip into my real world bank account. Fortunately, because I'd saved and built a fairly good budget for my hike, I wasn't tempted to compromise on this. Admittedly, as a 32 year old at the time with a solid career, I could afford to fund a trip that wasn't extravagant but did include some comforts along the way.

Special training for your dog for a thru-hike

Were there certain kinds of training you wish you had worked on more before you left for your hike, that would have greatly helped you once you were underway?

"Trouble":  I wish I had taught him to hike either in front of me or behind me on a leash prior to starting. Every trail we had ever been on at home was wide enough that he could be right beside me while on a leash. You can imagine the awkwardness and frustration of trying to hike on the narrow trail of the AT with a dog who thought he was supposed to stay beside you but couldn't because there wasn't enough space. Within the first week of hiking I had to leash him while hiking because he had rolled in pooh (by the way that is another hazard on the trail that I'm not sure you can train a dog for) and I didn't want him to approach other hikers and contaminate them. Once he was clean again I let him off leash and only put him on at road crossings, water sources and when I had to because of regulations or other approaching hikers. He was leashed throughout the entire Shenandoah's and by that time we had learned a good system with him hiking in front of me on the ups and behind me on the downs.
In hindsight, I would have taken him into town with me a lot more prior to hiking because it took awhile for him to get used to town stops.

Brett "M80":  As far as miles per day, allow your pup's strength to build up and IMO, keep him leashed. Your dog shouldn't hike anymore miles than you do on any given day. For most dogs, the best way to control this is with a leash...just my two cents. In any case, if you allow your dog to slowly adapt to the demands of the trail, he will be out hiking you in no time. Of course, much of this can and should be accomplished before hitting the trail. Willow has done 40+ mile days with no problem. On the AT I wasn't capable of those miles. I think our mileage ranged between 15 and 27 miles per day for the most part. We also took a lot of zeros, making sure to smell the roses if you will. To some degree, a dogs motivational level has as much to with its mileage potential as does its physical capabilities. Some dogs just get bored with hiking, as do many humans :) Have a great time out on the AT. It simply is an amazing trail and for many of us, it offers up a potentially life changing journey. Oh, and don't fall trap to listening to the negativity regarding dogs on the trail. Take "good" care of your pup and be respectful to other hikers and you won't experience any negativity from others on trail. 

The best advice I could give to anyone considering taking their dog on a thru-hike is to always keep the best interests of the dog the top priority.  Never compromise this.  The second bit of advice I would give is be too "conservative" with your dog around others, especially as you get to know people, so that everyone may enjoy the experience.  This includes following rules such as leashing a dog where necessary.  Lastly, remember that a dog may respond very differently in the woods than in other environments.  I can't tell you how many times I've had a dog owner shout up a mountain "oh, he's friendly" as he is growling at me and showing teeth and they have no control of him.  A dog coming up on a stinky backpacker with a giant pack and poles in their hands may not react in as friendly a manner as you think.  So, know your dog well, and be ready to make adjustments if things don't go exactly as you had expected.  And definitely don't make a thru-hike the first long (multi-day) hike your dog goes on!

-What is your dog's personality? Does he/she like people? Really like people? Maybe in a potentially annoying way? Or does your dog not trust people? We are always in training mode with our Cooper because he is generally anxious around strangers. We would not do a long hike with him in the "bubble" of peak Nobo AT thru hiker season because he just doesn't have the personality to be around so many people in the shelter areas who are seemingly coming in from no where during the late afternoon and evening. It would just really stress him out. (He's a rescue dog with a broken past and we have come a long way with him in the way of interactions with strangers but we have to be realistic about what he can handle.)
-What are your dog's manners around food- esp other people's food? Can you do some training with your dog so he/she will not be constantly begging from your fellow hikers?
-How is your communication with your dog? Are you the leader- always? Are you bonded enough to your dog that you can interpret what he is communicating? (I'm really hungry- I'm sick- I'm not able to walk 15 miles today like we did yesterday- I'm anxious....)
-Does your dog have a strong prey drive? On an AT thru hike you are walking everyday through the home of bears, moose, deer, porcupines and skunk. You do not want to be in the back country a couple of days from town and your dog just got kicked in the ribs by a deer during the rut, sprayed by a skunk or quilled by a porcupine. Be realistic about how good your dog's recall is and evaluate the risk of having your prey-driven dog off leash.

A very tired Melkie!
Cooper on leash (attached to Bobwhite's hipbelt) in bear country on the AT
Research and preparation for yourself for your thru:
Trouble:  I read everything I possibly could! Trailjournals, whiteblaze, I joined several groups on Facebook and chatted online with others with dogs. Overall, I'm glad that I prepared. Some of the info was really useful and some stuff I thought was useful turned out to be wrong or exaggerated. I think if you are planning on hiking whether it's with a dog or not, the more research you do the better off you are even if you only end up using 25% of what you learned. That 25% might be what gets you to Katahdin! I carried AWOL's guide that lists all the local vets along the way.

How many dogs were able to do the whole (excluding the above mentioned sections) Trail that you saw in your year?
Trouble: I know of two other dogs who hiked the whole trail that year. Amazingly one of those other dogs went on to hike the Florida Trail that winter and then the PCT the following year. But the reality is that very, very few dogs make it the whole way. Maybe 10% 
Bigglesworth:  In my year I only know of two dogs who went the whole way with their owners. I think several others attempted to hike all the way with dogs, but most of them did not complete thru-hikes. A few sent dogs home and did complete their hikes without the dogs. There was a little bit of everything, I guess.
Melkie's Katahdin photo (Katahdin in the background). Dogs are not allowed in Baxter State Park so this is near the very end of Melkie's 2,000+ mile hike!
Trail life, trail community and town days:

Trouble: I started out with just me and my dog but the AT is a very social place and soon I was hiking with others who thankfully loved Melkie. Those other hikers made a lot of sacrifices for Melkie and I. In order to stay wherever I stayed they often paid a higher price staying at a hotel over a hostel. They often hiked with my dog with me trailing behind. At Mahoosic Notch one of my hiking partners carried Melkie's pack so that he could handle the big jumps.
Surprisingly most hikers absolutely loved him. I say that because I had read a lot of negative reactions on whiteblaze before I started hiking and expected a lot more negativity than I actually received. Because I had read so much negative stuff I tried to stay away from most hikers at first and if I stayed at a shelter I hung my hammock a good distance away leasing Melkie to the tree at the foot end of my hammock. Most hikers really missed their own pets at home and would ask to cuddle, play with or feed Melkie. I did have a few negative encounters though and I will admit at the beginning of the trail those were mostly my fault. If you are going to hike with your dog and have your dog off of a leash you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times. What I mean by that is that you have to notice from a distance when someone is approaching you and either leash your dog, control your dog or be very sure that those hikers approaching you will appreciate your dog. Also I tried to keep my dog out of the water sources or at least downstream of the water sources but I'm sure at the beginning where there were a ton of water sources that I wasn't as vigilant as I should have been. It is more work to hike with a dog especially at the beginning when I was just getting the hang of things myself.

I have a couple stories of hikers with good dogs, but sadly I have many more hiking and backpacking experiences that are negative that relate to dogs.  Even in the case of "good" dog owners and "good" dogs, it can be a chore to constantly try to keep a dog safe, comfortable, and well-behaved.  For me, I'm a big dog lover, so I love seeing them, meeting and petting them, and hiking with them.  But I believe a lot of dog owners don't expect enough from themselves or their dog.  I don't want a dog on my gear, or in a shelter, or getting me wet when I'm dry, even though I may think the dog is awesome and cute.  That may sound mean, but to me it is on the dog owner to recognize that their dog's behavior is their responsibility, and if they can't control their dog and know and follow expected trail or camp etiquette they need to reconsider taking the dog on a thru-hike or even other trips.
Most thru-hikers I personally met - with and without dogs - were awesome people who I absolutely loved being around.  Do some people get an attitude of entitlement out there - yes - but that is true of hikers without dogs as much or more often than those with dogs.  I think most people who set out to thru-hike with a dog have good intentions.  I think it can be more demanding on the dog owner than they realize.

Shelter and Campsite Use (in the backcountry on the AT) 
Trouble: By far my hammock was the best most comfortable place to sleep with my dog. On the rare occasions where I stayed in a shelter due to extreme weather I would secure an end spot to keep my dog away from others. The first few times I would put my extra tarp down on the ground (under the overhang of the roof) and Melkie would sleep leashed there in front of me while I was on the platform. I never liked this as I felt bad for him sleeping on the ground yet I felt obligated to keep him away from other hikers. After the trail had thinned out quite a bit ( by mid
VA) I sometimes would stay in the shelter because it was a group decision (read that the hikers I was with were the only hikers at the shelter) but by then I had confidence that Melkie would not touch or step on anyone's gear. Even then my hammock was preferable because it was a simple way of keeping him in one place during the night.
What were some of the more trying/stressful and just some of the extra logistical (not necessarily trying) things that came up with your dog on your long distance hike?
 TroubleSeveral things come to mind here.  My dog rolled in pooh three times along the trail, two out of three of those times were stressful. It sounds like a petty thing but when you are exhausted as it is you still have to take care of your dog. 

Dogs aren't allowed in the Smokies and I had to make last minute changes as to who was going to take care of him. I really didn't want him locked up in a kennel as he had never stayed at one before and would rather he was treated like a family member in someone's home. I ended up totally lucking out and while doing laundry at Fontana Dam asked the locals if they knew of anyone who might be able to take care of him. One of the guys at the laundromat said he would love to take care of him and it worked out perfect. 

Things like dog food can even be an issue. Prior to the trail I fed my dog a high quality expensive dog food and other than a few food drops at the beginning I planned on buying food along the way. This meant buying cheap dog food sometimes just from gas stations. Everything I had ever read about switching your dogs food goes against what actually happened along the way as I had to switch him from brand to brand. Luckily Melkie was good with it and never got sick or had an adverse reaction but things could have been very different. In general he ate three times his usual amount while hiking and I fed him as much as he wanted while in towns.
We were in NY during an unbearable heat wave. If it weren't for the kindness of a section hiker we had previously met who invited us to stay for the duration of the heat wave Melkie may not have completed the trail. I noticed that he didn't do overly well in the extreme heat and we were just fortunate enough to have a break during that time. I'm adding this only to show just how many things could happen that can derail a hike.

 It's not really your own hike when you hike with a dog, it's your dog's hike. If you hike with a dog you may never be able to do the big miles. Except for that one day (maybe because I'm such a slow hiker) I didn't have to adapt my miles but I always had to be willing to.
Most of the time I was amazed by how clean he kept himself. Even when he rolled in mud, he was clean by the time he was dry. The mid just flaked off! The three times he rolled in pooh were a nightmare! I used the microfibre cloths and soap to clean him up and then had to pack out a wet, contaminated cloth. It was gross! I didn't ever bath him properly but did use a hose a couple of times in town to clean him up and as we hiked up the trail it became easy to let him swim in the bigger lakes.
What kind of stressful moments or injury/pain did you experience on your thru that would have been more stressful if you also had your dog there to take care of?
Bigglesworth: There were a few times where it would have been hard to manage a dog, especially early on.  I had one Urgent Care visit that would have required a dog sitter just for me to get the medical attention I needed.  There were also some rest days I needed and wanted to take at motels or hostels, which would have been hard or impossible to do with a dog.  Of course, there are parts of the trail where you can't have a dog.  I would have had to work out arrangements for him then, too.  One of the big things that would have been personally stressful for me would be managing him in camp at night.  Although he was a good dog, the truth is he would have begged if I didn't prevent him from doing so.  Hungry hikers don't want a dog begging for their dinner.  He does get dirty and carry more grime, wetness, potentially ticks, etc., and no hiker wants that on their gear or in a shelter.  And even with the best intentions, a dog is much more likely to accidentally step on a sleeping pad and destroy it or damage someone else's gear while simply being playful or seeking attention.  I didn't want to have to manage that normal dog behavior

Town Days (you will go into town about every 4-6 days on the AT to resupply)
Trouble: Melkie learned trail etiquette faster than he learned in town etiquette. What I mean by that is that he was just so excited to see so many people in town that he would bark and carry on at first wanting to meet everyone.  It took several town stops before he learned how to behave. In general I was very lucky during my first few town stops, even though I wasn't hiking with anyone yet there were friendly hikers everywhere and it seemed at every store I had to go to there was someone offering to watch Melkie while I shopped. Once Melkie had the trail routine down to perfection (I'd say by Damascus,VA) I had no problems just leaving him outside attached to my gear. Overall I didn't have very many problems staying at places but you should be aware that it may cost more with a dog. 

Does or did your dog have any health problems as a result of the hike?
Trouble: During the hike it became obvious that the tick medication prescribed by my vet wasn't working. I was picking 10 to 20 ticks off of him during the height of tick season and I was scared he would get Lyme Disease. My vet was really good about it when she got the relayed message and sent an antibiotic and more tick medication (for free I should add). It fixed the tick problem and my dog is fine. However, this winter a large tumour was discovered in his spleen. My vet says it's not related but I can't help wondering if all that extra tick medication didn't harm him in some way. I hope I'm wrong. Other than the tick problems Melkie was the picture of health. He didn't get the paw pad problems that sent so many of the other dogs home. 

What would you say were the "keys" (mental and physical) to you and your dog successfully walking the AT from GA to ME?
Trouble: I think that Melkie absolutely loves trail life and if he didn't I would have had to send him home. He adapted to all of the changes really well and even learned to climb the ladders on the trail. If he hadn't been willing to try new things I don't think he would have made it.  He was healthy and remained healthy the entire time, most of the dogs I knew of on the trail  were sent home due to injury. I don't think that is something I could have planned for or predicted, I was lucky. 

Thank you for reading.  I hope you will be able to find even more stories to learn from: as former thru-hikers are your best resource in preparing for a thru. Happy Trails!

This blog post of interviews was compiled by Marie "Bobwhite," the owner of Groundbird Gear: Quality custom-made dog gear designed with long distance hikers in mind.


  1. Thank you for these useful hiking tips. I look forward to reading part one of your series.

  2. Thank you! This was super helpful for me (who is thinking about bringing their pup on the trail) I have a 3 year old doggo who I'm thinking about bringing with me. What backpack/Booties would you suggest for a 50 lbs Blue Heeler?