Have Dog. Will Hike.

Raise your hand if you have a dog.

Now, raise your hand if your dog is your child who you clothe and snuggle and frame printed pictures of and give them as Christmas gifts for your entire extended family.

More hands than I expected…I’m in good company!

As with my soon-to-be step-children, I like for my dog-children to make memories and have all the fun times.  I drag the kids out at 4am to watch hundreds of hot air balloons launch.  I drag the dog-kids out to hike 20 miles in the Adirondacks.

(both groups enjoyed these things immensely, btw)

Some people think it’s crazy.  I call them cat-people.  Others can relate.  Regardless, over the last few years of outdoor adventures, and outdoor adventures with my dogs, Mark and I have learned a few lessons.

So should you decide to venture out with your pooch (or feline, believe it or not, there are adventure cats, too!) consider these few lessons and rules for the safety and maximum enjoyment of you and your fur-child:

DOs and DON’Ts when you adventure with your pet

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Stacie and Dax on the trail to Mt. Colden

DO take them with you!!

That’s obvious.  As with most adventures (the car, your office, the hair dryer) things can be scary for your dog at first, but after they settle into the unfamiliar it becomes…familiar!  The only way to settle in is to actually get out and let them learn how to explore with you.

DO be respectful of others.

Yes, plz.  There are respectful actions like making sure your pet doesn’t completely invade someone else’s territory, or summit snack, and picking up poopies.  And then there’s lawful actions like keeping your dog leashed at all time.

This is unpopular.  Considering your dog is the most friendly, children’s-hospital-therapy-guide-dog, you’d think well certainly the law doesn’t pertain to you!  My friends, it does.  And here are two reasons why:

  1. My dog isn’t friendly.  Sad to say, but this is the case.  We keep our dog, Dax, leashed and muzzled because at this stage we don’t trust that he won’t have a panic attack at the next dude, snowshoe, or dog that crosses his path.  And I’m too heartbroken to NOT bring him to his most absolute favorite place on earth OMG.  If your friendlier than friendly dog ran up to my nervous wreck, it might not end well for either of us.
  2. What happens when we bend the rules for “good” dogs?  Isn’t “good” subjective?  Someone else in my situation might be clueless to the fact that Dax can’t be trusted, and might call him “good……enough” and let him loose in the woods to come across any man, woman, child…or dog.

Leash your pets, friends.  I promise, they will still love you and your adventures for eternity and beyond.

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Dax on Black Mountain

DO know your buddy’s limits.

Hey.  I’ve seen as many little dogs way the heck out in the wilderness as I’ve seen big dogs.  And I’ve seen some big dogs needing to be carried out on the shoulders of their owners.  No one knows what your dog is capable better than you…well, and your vet.

I mentioned earlier that Dax went on a 20-miler with us.  Actually, it was 22 miles.  Does that sound like a lot, because it is!  But Dax worked his way up to that distance, like Mark and I did.  Dax trains for half marathons with me.  I know Dax, and Dax can, and happily does (!), 20+ mile hikes.  Know what your dog can do, and start there.  They need to build strength and endurance, the same as we do!

DO be prepared.

This is not a surprise to you, your dog is going to need stuff when he’s out running and climbing and marking every tree, rock, and rodent he comes across.

  • He needs water.  And he can carry it himself in one of those sturdy packs most outdoor stores carry.  Consider this pack.  We just use the Kurgo harness and are happy with it.  Currently I carry the water.  😐
  • He needs snacks.  When you are getting hungry, he probably is too.  We bring extra helpings of his normal dog food, but there are treats made specifically with energy boosters.
  • In the winter, protect his paws from the cold and snow.  Mushers Secret Paw Protection is a weird name for a wax you rub on their paws.  It prevents snow from building up in-between the pads and insulates from the cold.  I don’t know how it does these things, but I do know that it does these things.
  • A first aid kit you might already carry for yourself should include the items you might need to patch up a paw, like gauze and tape.
  • For the ride home, we have a towel for wet and dirty paws//belly//BODY, and another helping of food.
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Dax after a hike, ready to nap

Don’t force it.

If Shadow isn’t meant for the outdoor-life, you should learn what he is meant for.  Maybe it’s the hospital-therapy-dog life, or the companion-at-your-feet life.  Years ago I had a Golden Retriever named Oliver.  He was my hiking dog, swimming dog, my everything dog.  After a bout of cancer, we lost Oliver, but soon after we gained Arnie!  Another Golden Retriever, but one who wanted nothing to do with walkies, and only mildly enjoyed the water.  He was a lazy couch dog who preferred to lie in the sun and watch the adventures.

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Dax on Buck Mountain

Friends, just remember, you can’t go wrong if you always try to be responsible and respectful.  Happy adventuring!

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