The History of Dog Travel

by • June 22, 2017 • 61 North, HighlightsComments (0)941

Science and history inform the dog-loving Alaskan

Humans love dogs – science and history prove it.

Don’t believe me? Ask Barbara van Asch, et al., whose genetic research shows that over 1,000 years ago, the first peoples of Alaska were interacting with and breeding dogs suited for traveling by sled. Or, read research by Heidi Parker, et al., tracing the genetic history of modern dog breeds to the migration patterns of humans. By creating a “family tree” of sorts, she was able to trace the inception of certain dog breeds to movement of peoples throughout history.

Sarah Zerkel, and her puppy Zonks, enjoy the Near Point Trail. Both science
and history tell us this: As long as humans have traveled, canines
have accompanied them. COURTESY SARAH ZERKEL

Both studies used biology and genetics to confirm known historical records regarding the presence of dogs with humans throughout migrations. All that is to say, both science and history tell us this – as long as humans have traveled, canines have accompanied them.

But, as enamoring as this factoid is, thousands of years of history offer little in the ways of practically moving, traveling, and being active with Canis Familiaris.

For instance, before I became the proud parent of two puppies, hiking used to go something like this: Pick trail. Fill up water bottle. Put snack bar in backpack. Drive to trailhead. Enjoy scenic hike. Eat snack bar. Return to car. Drive home. Repeat.

Now, it goes more like this: Pick trail. Check trail conditions. Too much mud? Find new trail. Off leash allowed? Find new trail. Decide on trail. Wrestle dogs to get harness on. Put harness back on dog who wiggled out of harness. Pack water bowls and baggie of dog food. Load dogs in car. Avoid car wreck when dog crawls in lap. Park car. Let dogs out. Chase dogs as they run opposite direction of trailhead. Begin hike 1 hour after idea came to mind. Walk silently for 10 minutes. Witness dog relieving self in middle of trail. Realize you forgot plastic bag. Run away like nothing happened. Reach end of trail. Watch dogs cool selves off … in a puddle. Return to car. Put wet dogs in car. Drive home. Wipe paw prints off seats, self and floor. Consider never hiking again. Repeat.

If you’re tired just reading that, you should see the epic nap that ensues directly after.

The truth is there are a lot of struggles inherent in taking your dogs places. But, if colonists could migrate with their furry friends across the high seas to the New World, I’ll be damned if I can’t pony up and cart mine across town and up Near Point without crisis.

After all, we live in a state as suited for dogs as a rawhide wrapped in bacon. Take for instance our over 500,000 acres of dog-friendly walking in Chugach State Park and our seven designated dogs parks in Anchorage alone. With this bounty of canine compatible activity we can bet on Alaskans taking to the trails with their dogs in tow this summer. Despite the struggles, I know I will.

You see, I think our ancestors and those of our dogs were on to something. And, as my dogs continue to mature and enhance my outdoor experiences, I can only come to one conclusion: We humans were meant to move and travel and our dogs were meant to do it with us.

For more info about where to take your dog in Anchorage, visit









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