Hiking with your Pooches

 I absolutely love hiking with the girls.  They have the best time chasing squirrels and chipmunks, and I have the best time watching them.  And the bonus is that we all get a GREAT workout.

Things to consider when you take your dogs hiking.

Find a forest where you are allowed to have your dogs off leash.  Check with state/federal parks for places where you can take your dogs.  If you are in a large city, this may mean that you will have to drive quite a distance to find something suitable.  No matter where you go, respect the area.  Always leave a forest exactly how you found it.

Sharing the Trail
Be prepared to see other hikers, other dogs, mountain bikers, dirt bikers, people on quads, people on snowmobiles (in the winter), and people on horses.  So make sure your dogs are under good voice control before you venture out into a forest.  When you encounter other trail users, get your dogs out of the way and let people pass you.  When my dogs hear an engine, they're pretty good at running to me.  We stop by the side of the trail and let people go by.  Be aware that horses spook easily and may injure themselves trying to get away, so be extra careful.  Bottom line: share the trails, be polite, and be friendly.  

Let Them Run
Let your dogs run around.  They will chase chipmunks and squirrels and bunnies.  They are not likely to catch them.  Don't call your dogs, just keep hiking.  Let them keep track of you.  My dogs run around through the trees and I don't see them, but if I stop to tie a shoe lace or get some water, they come running.  They get the best workout when they run like that.

Consider the Weather
If it's going to be really hot, don't take your dogs on long hikes.  It is usually cooler in the forest because of the shade, but avoid hiking during heat waves in the summer.  In the winter, pick clear sunny days.  Be aware that your dog may need a jacket if it's really cold.  Also, consider the conditions you will be hiking in.  If your dog is used to lawns and concrete, they may not do so well running around in the desert hot rocks and gravel, so they may need shoes or an adjustment period.

In the summer I bring 1 Liter of water per dog per hour of hiking.  That means that I'm carrying 4L of water for the dogs for a 2 hour hike.  Plus water for me.  Give them a bit of water often, as opposed to a big drink less frequently.  I give them water about every 20-30 minutes, depending on the temperature.  In the winter we don't bring water, because they don't get as hot and they eat the snow.  I don't bring food.  I feed them before we head out, and again when we get home.

Your Dog's Physical Condition
You may have to ease your dog into hiking if all they get is leash walking.  Off leash dog parks are a great transition.  Also start them with short hikes.  Always pay attention to your dog.  Winded is good, exhaustion is bad.  Water breaks will help.  You may need to let them chill for a bit and give them a breather.  You can hike with puppies too, but on short hikes and not in extreme weather.  

Have Fun
Our dogs pick up on our emotions.  Your dog will have more fun if you have fun too.  Also keep in mind that your dogs are less likely to try to protect you and be aggressive towards anyone else you may encounter on the trails.  So relax, breathe, and enjoy.  It will be good for both you and your furry companion(s).

So find areas near you and go explore.  You'll have a blast! 


Training the Small Dog

Small dogs are easier to handle.  They make smaller messes.  They are less destructive.  If they get out of hand, you can just pick them up and carry them off with you.  When they jump on you, they don't ruin your favorite suit.

But a Toy Dog is still a dog.  Don't let the word 'toy' in the title throw you off.  And like all dogs, little dogs need training too.

For example, we were at the dog park today splashing around in the creek.  I was skipping rocks and Millie was stalking them and trying to catch them.  It has been her favorite game lately.

A lady brought her small dog.  It was fully grown, very cute and very friendly and playful.  BUT.  This dog, we'll call her Lucy, was completely out of control.  She got all wet and muddy and then proceeded to jump all over me - getting me all muddy and wet.  Her owner kept calling her name "...Lucy...Lucy...Lucy...Lucy..." (as per my last post), but Lucy didn't respond.  Just kept jumping up, trying to play.  I told Lucy to "stop" and "off" and "no" sternly.  Nothing.  Lucy was completely non-responsive.  I got out of there as fast as my now water logged and muddy sandals could carry me, with Lucy still following me and jumping all over me.  

Now I know Lucy was friendly.  I know Lucy was trying to play.  And I was by no means wearing my best clothes to the dog park.  But I did not appreciate getting all dirty.  I did not appreciate a dog jumping all over me like that.  

Why was Lucy not put on a leash right away?  Why was she not controlled? Why does Lucy not know that no means no?  Does being small give a dog license to jump all over people?  I'm pretty sure the Lucy's owner would have been PISSED if one of my 85+ pound dogs jumped all over her.  Even if they were clean and dry.  Even when all they wanted to do was play.

The sad thing is, I see poorly trained small dogs all the time.  My friend has one that is 5 years old and still not house trained.  Not cool.  She had the hardest time getting someone to take care of that dog when she was out of town.  I wouldn't do it.

Don't let your small dog develop bad habits.  Train it to respond to you, to come when called, to know the meaning of no, and to potty outside.  I house sat a Pomeranian named Peanut that was trained like that. Coolest dog ever.  He played well with dogs of all sizes, sat for his treats, played fetch and heeled like a champ.  But Peanut grew up in a house with two big labs.  His owners knew better.

Training is great for both you and your dog.  It ensures that you and your furry friend speak the same language.  It causes fewer problems.  It causes less stress for both of you.  Well trained dogs are happier dogs.  Period.  

So while I was walking at the dog park today, watching my girls play and my pants dry, I thought fondly of Peanut.  And out of the corner of my eye I saw a dirty, muddy, and wet mess run through the bushes.  When I turned the corner I saw Lucy's owner still calling "...Lucy...Lucy...Lucy...Lucy...Lucy...".  She finally pulled her leash out of her bag.  I think it was time to go home.  Now all she had to do was locate Lucy and put a leash on her.  

Yeah, Lady.  Good luck with that!