Get Out There! Hiking With Your Dog


Xander and I went hiking with our friends yesterday. A very long drive up some winding dirt/gravel roads led us to a trailhead that was cleverly disguised as an unassuming wide spot on the road. Two other cars were pulled off to the side, and a younger guy with his baby/toddler and an older dog were just getting out as we pulled up.

“Is this the trailhead for Noble Knob?” We asked. We’d driven past it and had doubled back. Nice Guy indicated that it was. “How did you know this was the place?” Was our next question. “Because this is where the map said to stop.” He said with a slightly bewildered air, as if the answer was obvious.

Ok then.

The ascent was a little steep in the beginning. It was a good workout, and although it was a push, it was well worth it.

Seriously, look at this killer view.


And this one.


Although he looks like a giant white Lab, Xander is in fact half Great Pyrenees. Thank goodness he got daddy’s short coat instead of mom’s glorious long flowing one. However, he did inherit a love of mountains, hiking and long days outside.


Hiking and dogs just go together. Adventure, nature, clean air – it does not get any better.

But – this isn’t your average stroll. Preparation is a must! You are both working more than you think, so bringing supplies isn’t just a nice idea, it’s a necessity. At a minimum you need to bring:

  • Water – for both of you
  • Collapsible bowl
  • Food – also for both of you
  • Map
  • Compass
  • First Aid Kit
  • Layers – the day may start hot, then get very cold, very fast.

Yesterday, I did the carrying, but Xander is 2 years old, 100 pounds and very strong. He’s getting a backpack for Christmas and will carry his own weight next year. Yes! Your dog can share the load. On average a dog can carry 25% of his body weight.

However, it will take some training. Xander will need to learn how to wear the pack, then build up his strength carrying. It’s not good or healthy to expect him to carry a full pack on our next trip. He needs to work up to it. But by next spring he should be up to carrying 25 pounds.

Next time Xander, you carry the water!

Oh look! There's the sign! In the meadow at the top of the climb.

Oh look! There’s the sign! In the meadow at the top of the climb.

We even saw wildlife! A mountain goat that we smelled long before we spotted it. Surprising how strong it was even from so far away.

What do you mean you don't see the mountain goat?
What do you mean you don’t see the mountain goat?

Anticipate that you may encounter wildlife, and not just little bunnies or the birds that fly up and away as you approach them on the trail. Big, and sometimes dangerous animals live out there. You are just a visitor. Hiking with a friend and carrying on a conversation can deter most unwanted encounters. Unless you stumble on a mama bear and cubs, most animals will want to avoid you.

Mr. Mountain Goat up there was clearly unconcerned about the humans passing through his field, but you see how far away he is. Think ahead and prepare! Hiking sticks can be waved to make you look big and scary if you do come face to face with a big critter. Invest in some bear spray and hope you never have to use it.

But what about your dog? The big outdoors calls and you can’t resist letting your furry friend have some freedom off leash. Out there, it is essential you have your dog trained. A reliable recall is critical when hiking.

What’s that mean? If you call your dog, your dog returns to your side. This is basic trail etiquette. Not everyone loves dogs and wants your big happy guy to run up and smother them with sweet doggie kisses. Narrow trails, like this one, make for dangerous encounters if your dog is not under control.

Do you even see the trail?
Do you even see the trail?

Off to the right of that picture is a steep dropoff to a little bitty lake. Bouncy exuberant dogs are great, but not when you’re passing in a narrow spot. You must be able to control your dog. Trail courtesy says you clear the trail and let other hikers pass you by.

Oh and that wildlife? Dogs and wildlife do not mix. Another reason you must have a solid recall trained if you allow your dog off leash while hiking. An experienced hiker once told me how her well-trained dog came running back when she called – with a bear chasing it! Fortunately the bear was just as surprised to see her as she was and promptly turned and ran back the way it came. But it could’ve been so much worse.

But before you ever head out to wilderness, consider your dog. Xander is young, strong and healthy. Nice Guy at the trail head had an older dog, but she was still fit. How about your dog? Even if your dog has some health challenges, you can still take them out, but choose trips suited to their physical abilities. Don’t pick a hike that requires scrambling over big boulders unless you’re prepared to carry your dog over them.

I cover hiking with your dog, as well as other fun things you and your furkid can do together in my book Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS. It’s a holistic manual for how to find, train, and bond with your dog. Follow the link attached to the title and you can use this code “dct-ftg” (all lowercase!) at checkout for 15% off!

Pokémon Go With Your Dog – Five Essential Gaming Tips

Xander, snuggling with new buddy, Goldeen.
Xander, snuggling with new buddy, Goldeen.

OMG it’s everywhere! Herds roam parks and streets hunting the elusive Vaporeon, snapping up common Pidgeys and Wheedles, hoping for a Pikachu. These Poke-Zombies stare at their phones and bump into strangers as they stagger about.

It doesn’t have to be like that! If you’ve been living under a rock you haven’t heard, Pokémon Go is a free game app that is played by getting out and walking around. A refreshing change from huddling in dark basements chewing Cheetos, gamers now have to get some fresh air and exercise to play this game.

Your objective is to catch as many Pokémon as possible. As you walk around in the real world, Pokémon – little critters that like to fight – pop up on the game’s map, generated using GPS and your phone’s camera. Aim your camera and the game superimposes an image of the little monster in the display. You catch it by throwing a Pokeball at it, swiping the ball on the screen with your finger at the animated creature bouncing at you.

I am not a video gamer, but this app has me hooked. It’s easy and fun. I walk twice as far now when I’m out and about because I’m hunting Pokémon. Because I walk with my dog, this means we’re both getting more exercise. Yay! Right?

If you need just a little more incentive to get you and your dog outside and exercising, give Pokémon Go a try. But please, for everyone’s sake, be careful! People have walked off cliffs for crying out loud! If it’s you and your dog, you’ll have to be doubly aware, for both your sakes.

No! Tentacool shall not have my Xander!
Tentacool! Get away from Xander!

Keep these five tips in mind when you and your furry BFF are out on the Poke-hunt.

Safety. Safety. Safety. Always stay aware of where you are, and who is around you. Be aware of where your dog is and what he’s doing, as well as what people are doing to your dog. I’ve had people swat at, and startle, my dog when they thought I wasn’t looking. Then they found out my bark was worse than my dog’s.

Pay attention to your dog, not just your phone. These are public, sometimes busy places. Is your dog okay with this? Make sure it’s fun for him too, not an exercise in anxiety. If your dog isn’t used to being in crowds, start by taking him to less busy places first and gradually build to longer times and more crowded spaces.

How’s the weather? A beautiful sunny day is a great day for a walk, but Pokémon flourish in well-populated places that are often paved. Sunny days mean hot walkways, which can be uncomfortable or dangerous for your dog. Provide lots of breaks in the shade and water on hot days.

Can your dog walk that far? Confession time – more than once I’ve spent 2-3 hours out playing Pokémon Go with my dog. Xander is a young, healthy Great Pyrenees mix that regularly goes on long, strenuous hikes with me. A slow amble along the waterfront is a pleasant day out with Mom. This exact same activity would be torture for my 9-year-old Lab, Golly who has hip dysplasia. Be mindful of how much activity your dog can do. Golly loves short walks on even ground, exactly what my local shopping center – a Pokémon rich environment – can provide. This helps keep her in shape while not putting too much stress on her body. Plan your Pokémon Go sessions with your dog around their physical abilities, not yours.

Keep it clean. Encourage your dog to eliminate away from the most heavily traveled areas by taking them to grassy areas or curb strips frequently. Try to avoid letting your dog urinate where people would sit or linger like benches or low walls. Pick up solid waste and dispose of in trashcans. You could face a fine if you don’t pick up after your dog.

Want to double the fun? Make it a game for your dog and training time too! This extra time with your dog provides ample opportunity to train. Don’t be a Poke-Zombie; give your dog a fair division of your attention too. Wondering what to do besides hunt Pokémon?

  • Practice behaviors like Sit, Down and Stay by posing your dog, like I did with Xander. Then take pictures of your dog and the Pokemon together to brag about on Facebook.
  • Teach her something new.
  • Practice with distractions to teach her to focus and pay attention to you.

It’s no fun for her if you just drag her along at the end of the leash while you play on your phone. Make sure you’re paying at least as much attention to your dog as your game to help build the bond between you.

Want to learn more about how to train your dog? Check out my book Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS. I teach you how to understand and communicate with your dog, so you really can be best friends forever. Follow this link and use the coupon code dct-ftg at checkout for 15% off!

Talking About Dogs on Pet Radio Show!

Good Dogs!
Good Dogs!

I was interviewed on Pet Radio last week! We had a lovely conversation about dog care, understanding dog behavior and how to train your dog. Give a listen by clicking here.

I’m in the second half of the program, starting 22 minutes in. A big thank you to Robert Hudson for the opportunity to talk with all his listeners. Check out his Oregon Dog Life, and Pet Radio Show  websites and give his Facebook pages a like here and here.

For more about how to understand your dog, establish clear communication and develop a lasting bond, check out my book, Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS. Click on that link and use the coupon code ‘dct-ftg’ (all lower case!) at check out for 15% off!