Keeping a dog healthy in the field is great, but your dog should not compromise you in a SHTF world. A dog that barks at everything, runs off, or is too timid to pass through obstacles will only serve to get you killed. So how do we fix that?
Training. For both of you. Take your dog to an obedience course and learn how to teach your canine battle buddy how to listen to your every command. Once you and your dog have learned basic obedience, you can focus on training geared towards working in the field.
To Alert… or Not
We want a dog that is trained to bark at very specific things, if at all. At the very least, the dog should only bark at what can be seen and should be able to follow a command to not bark. A barking dog can help to warn you of a threat, but he can also give you away to a threat.
If we expect to have a dog that carries his own gear into the field, we must get him accustomed to having a bag on him. Go for evening walks with your pet and put the bag on, increasing the weight over time. The bag should not exceed 25% of the dog’s weight unless you have a very fit and active dog, in which case, you can increase the weight to 45-50% of his weight. Evening walks should start short and then progress into longer runs and hikes.
If we are talking about having dogs with us during the end of the world, we have to assume that there will be guns fired near our dogs, and the first shot they hear cannot be the one fired in a defensive situation that causes the dog to run off scared. Introduce your pup to similar sounds and then move on to .22 blanks from a distance. As time goes on, the shots get closer and come from larger caliber guns. Having a partner helps with this. Each time the gun is fired, have the dog perform whatever task you want him to do in the real world. The reaction can be moving into a guarded position next to you, your spouse, or children, attacking a close range threat (I caution against this without professional assistance), or whatever else you feel will help in a defensive situation. My favorite is guarding the kids.
A special skill is always useful for your dog to have. We have two dogs that are battle buddies and one is trained in locating people, while the other is trained at defending the camp and my son. Other skills to learn could be hunting, scouting, or packing if you have a large dog. For all specialized training, unless you are well versed in that form of training, it is best to seek professional assistance.
Once your dog is trained and physically fit, we have to focus on how to work him in the field. Unless performing a directed task, the dog should always be very close to you in the field, if not leashed. Keep the dog moving with you and do not allow him to use the bathroom except at designated spots, as you must cover all signs of pet waste to help avoid detection and becoming tracked. Having him wear boots can help keep him from leaving tracks as well, while providing his feet with protection. Boots should always be worn on very hot, cold or rough ground.
While hiking, you always have access to water and snacks, while your four legged friend does not. You must keep this mind and keep an eye on your dog to ensure he is not becoming dehydrated or weak. Dogs can go a bit longer without water than a human can, but not by much. They also regulate their temperature by panting and are not capable of sweating, which you must take note of. If the panting becomes strained or is accompanied by a whistle, your buddy needs water NOW.
If you train your dog well and take care of him, he will be one of your best survival assets in the field to keep you from meeting a rough ending. Your dog will be willing to give his life for you, so you would do well to treat him in a manner that is worthy of such loyalty.