As a dog sitter, I take a pack of dogs out for an adventure every day. I find that a pooped pup is a happy pup! Sometimes these adventures take us to a local dog park, but usually we head to the trails for a hike.
On the trails, each pup has his own personality and job. Here are just a few examples of who you may find in my pack on any given day:
Riggins is my pup, and he knows the trails well and could lead most of our hikes without me. He has been known to stay behind to help a wandering pup find her way and speed ahead as the trail blazer. Riggins will check out the perimeter and, if necessary, bark warnings to those humans breaking trail rules, like going off path or causing general chaos.
Shadow is 50-percent Doberman, 50-percent Whippet, and a ball of energy. I’ve sent Shadow’s mom pictures of her on the trail and received the following text back, “Why does Shadow look so unhappy?” Why? Because she wasn’t allowed off-leash. THAT’S why! Shadow is a runner. It’s in her blood. It’s who she is. Holding her back is like holding back a canon. It can be done, but the results aren’t pretty! Shadow needs to run! And sometimes, I let her.
Someone has to make sure everyone is A-OK at all times, and that someone is Beaux. While hiking, he will happily drag his human leader from the front of the pack to the back over and over again to check in with each of his friends, one by one, and make sure everyone is still with the group.
It takes nerves of steel to balance on a rock 10 times your size, but that is where Monkey is the happiest. If there is a rock, you bet Monkey won’t be happy to just pass it. Instead, her human leader knows to walk close enough for Monkey to do her thing!
A good coach knows how to push you and still let you have fun. That’s Fredo. He is older and wiser than his fellow hikers, and because of that spends most of his time reigning over the group in a pack on the front of his human leader. He knows that the extra 10 pounds he adds only makes for a more effective workout.
You know this type of hiker. You are out enjoying the peaceful soothing sounds of nature when all of a sudden a voice pierces the silence. Someone has found you and has a TON of questions about who you are, where you are going, where you have been, what you have to snack on, etc. That’s Sadie. Don’t expect to pass by her without a proper hello.
It’s not the size of the hiker that matters, it’s the heart! Sophia is a sweet little girl with her adorable halter that also just happens to be a summer dress. Of course, as you would expect, she is a bit of a tomboy and her dress gets progressively dirtier during each adventure. No need to wash it. She will just be out on the trails again tomorrow!
I often get questions on how I hike with multiple dogs at once. Here are a few tips I’ve found that help make it less of a chore — allowing the hike to be enjoyable for me, the human, as well as the pack!
You need to expect that the first half-mile or so is going to be slow going. Most, if not all, of the dogs will be at top energy and not as willing to pay attention to you. Then there is some time needed for that specific pack to figure out how to walk together without tripping each other and you, and finally the party isn’t going to start until everyone has pooped!
If I am heading out on a new trail, I often don’t do the entire length the first time. I’ll go out for a bit and back, progressing farther the next time and the time after that. It may seem overly cautious, but if you aren’t familiar with a trail, you can’t be sure if the dogs in your pack or even you will be able to handle it. Taking it slow helps you learn the trail and be able to anticipate what you will need to conquer it.
It’s harder on a trail than on the sidewalk to get a group of dogs to “walk pretty” (next to you, head up, etc.), and do you really want to? Isn’t the point of a hike for everyone to go out and explore? Due to the additional yummy things to smell and pee on, there are times when a dog or two may fall behind and have to be tugged to get back with the pack. Not to mention a fun critter may cross your path causing a dog to pull — hard. Leashes attached to collars can cause a dog to hurt his neck when pulled, and a retractable lead while walking more than one dog and on uneven terrain is just asking for trouble.
If you are in danger of slipping, falling, tumbling, or any other “ing” type activities that will cause you harm, let the leashes go. You are of no use to your pack of dogs if you get hurt. More than likely, the dogs will stay close to you even once you drop the leashes, and if they don’t they will, most likely, not go far.
To make it easy to drop leashes, hold them with the handles looped around the fattest part of your hand, right under the knuckles. The loop of the leash will remain loose-ish even if the lead itself gets “braided” by the dogs ducking under and over each other. If you wrap the leashes around your fingers, you risk having those small bones get hurt if the dogs pull hard, and if you wrap it around your wrist or worse, like attach the leash to your body, you won’t be able to release them fast enough, and you will likely go for an unwanted ride on your stomach or bum.
Hiking with dogs is a wonderful way to get your exercise, enjoy nature, and learn more about your pups’ personality. Give it a try!
Do you take your dog out on your local trails? What kind of hiker is she? Let us know in the comments below. And please share any hiking tips you have!
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About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.