Pack-walking with your Malamute
Bored with your weekends? Enjoy tramping and bush-walking? Need to get out and exercise that dog?
Packwalking is a great option for exercising your Malamute and having fun at the same time!
Packwalking involves putting a backpack on your Malamute and going for a tramp in the bush, or even just going down to the supermarket and back. If you’re going hiking, your Malamute can carry his or her own water, and yours as well, in addition to some snacks for both of you. In fact, once he’s fit and conditioned most Malamutes can carry up to 30% of their body weight, which is actually quite a lot of water and snacks.
I mean really, don’t you think it’s about time those Malamutes started paying their way? It’s about time they started helping you out a bit, rather than just lying under a tree and watching you haul sacks of dog food from the car to the house. Have they ever offered to help with the vaccuuming? No, they just laze around, shedding great drifts of fur onto your carpet and watching while you clean up after them. So now you can put them to work! (Seriously, though, they enjoy it.)
Added to which, through the Northern Alaskan Malamute Club you can earn a title for your pooch – (this is a suffix which goes on the end of his name). After the two of you earn the Working Pack Dog title, he can have the letters WPD added to his name. The requirements for this title are:
1. OPTION 1
Dog must pack a minimum of 48 km. A minimum of one trip must include an overnight camp out. Each trip must be a minimum of 16 km, or with an overnight campout a minimum of 8 km in and 8 km out.
Dog must pack a minimum of 64 kms. Each trip must be a minimum of 16 km per day.
2. Each day, your mal must begin by carrying at least 30% of it’s body weight in the pack. This weight can be reduced throughout the walk by natural use of the weight. For example, water and food can be consumed from the packs.
3. The terrain walked on must be classified as ‘natural’ (e.g. not tarmac or gravel roads).
4. The distance and pack weight must be verified by a neutral person (e.g. other packwalkers, forest rangers, etc.)
5. Get in touch with a member of the committee if you wish to pursue this title, and they can answer any questions you may have. See the Titles and Awards page of this website for more details on titles.
Here are some reasons you should take your Malamute packwalking on some of the trails in your local forest:
• The scenery is interesting and varied, a well deserved change for mal’s constantly exposed to urban streets.
• The dogs will grow much stronger in the back and shoulders from carrying the pack and climbing hills.
• The owner will grow smaller in the waist from the brisk country stroll.
• The walk provides a totally non competitive atmosphere for dogs to socialise.
• When you packwalk in a group, t’s a great way to meet other Malamute people - amazing what you find out about people after 5 hours conversation!
• Finally, lunch tastes sooo much better after a decent bit of exercise.
HOW TO TRAIN AND CONDITION YOUR MALAMUTE FOR PACKWALKING
• Start out with a pack stuffed with towels. Let her get used to the feeling of having something on her back, and let him learn to negotiate his way around trees without getting stuck.
• Start with low weights – bottles filled with water are good. Remember, his muscles aren’t developed yet, and he may get sore, just as you would from carrying a heavy pack. So build those weights up slowly.
• Don’t take the 30% of body-weight rule as gospel – some dogs are much heavier built and wouldn’t be comfortable for any distance carrying 30% (for the larger males this could be up to 18kg – don’t make them carry that much unless you’re sure they can cope).
• Start out with low weight and short walks and build up – keep it fun for both of you.
“A TOTALLY NON-COMPETITIVE ATMOSPHERE TO MINGLE, FOR BOTH OWNERS AND MALAMUTES ALIKE”
If you are new to backpacking, here are some tips to make the day go more smoothly.
• Have a third water bottle available so you can juggle the water levels in each side of the pack to keep it even. Water is probably the best ‘ballast’ to use when packwalking. As well as being consumable and easy to keep balanced, it is not a problem to jettison if your mal should decide backpacking is not for them when halfway around the walk.
• Make sure there’s no pointy or rough bits facing inwards inside the pack. You can line the backpack with a towel if this is a concern.
• Reward with your mal’s favorite tidbit when placing the pack on their back. Make it a positive experience.
• Give them some time to adjust. Invariably they will be a little perturbed to begin with, but will soon forget about the weight once on the trail.
• Remember to have fun yourself! It’s always a great escape from the office.
• Bring a collapsible water bowl and keep it easily accessible.
• When resting your dog, remove the pack from their back so they can lie down comfortably.
• If he’s getting tired, don’t push him. Empty out the water bottles, carry some weight yourself, or head for home.
What to take on a 16km packwalk:
• Decent walking shoes or tramping boots, depending on the nature of terrain.
• A pack for you and your dog
• Enough water and snacks for a 5 hour walk.
• Doggy-do bags.
• A strong leash. Don’t let your Mal wander off-lead with a pack on, as it can get caught in the bushes, or take a dunking when he decides to go for a swim in a river!
• Sunscreen, wet weather gear etc – use your common sense.
• Some friends with dogs, to make for good conversation and company