Outdoor Adventures with your Dog
28th April 2020 by Emma Mathias
‘Dogs encourage us to follow our nose just to see where the experience takes us. They improve our health, our lives, and our outlook… and ask for little in return. Combine a dog’s appetite for exploration with the right equipment and you’ll be prepared for yet another grand adventure.' - Patrick Kruse, Leader Of The Pack
Bringing your dog along on your outdoor adventures gives you both the opportunity to enjoy the fantastic benefits of being outdoors - enjoying nature, exercise and quality time with your four-legged friend. There are a whole range of sports you can get involved in with your dog at your side, from hiking and running, to biking, skiing and paddle boarding. Whether you are looking to get involved in organised dog sports like Canicross or are simply looking to spend more time outdoors with your dog, we created this guide to help you take the first step.
Hiking with your dog can be the perfect outdoor activity, but there is plenty to consider before heading out on the trail.
Build up gradually
When introducing your dog to any activity it’s best to build up their endurance. Start slowly, especially when introducing rough and steep terrain, and allow plenty of time for rest stops.
Be patient with young pups
If you have a young pup it’s best to wait until they are over 6 months so you can be sure their bones and muscles are fully developed.
Consider terrain & weather
Even if your dog is used to long hikes a change in the weather can make it harder, and even dangerous in very hot or very cold conditions.
Check the rules
Some routes will require your dog to be on the lead at all times, others may have seasonal rules to protect livestock and wildlife such as ground nesting birds.
If you are planning to let your dog explore off leash you should make sure they respond to key commands, especially when it comes to recall. The excitement of the outdoors can mean a little refresher course is needed and your shorter practice hikes are the perfect place to check.
If your dog is more used to smooth pavements than rocky trails it can take time to toughen up their paw pads. Dog boots, like the Ruffwear Grip Trex, are a great option to protect paws from rough terrain and extremes of temperatures.
Stay in control
Your dog should always be within eye- and ear-shot. If the trail requires leashes, or if there is any risk that she might run into or jump up onto other hikers, keep your dog on a short leash
Leave no trace
Bring pick up bags to collect and carry your dog’s poop.
Check for pests
Unfortunately exploring the outdoors is prime territory for picking up pests such as ticks and fleas, so make sure your dog’s treatments are up to date and give them a thorough check over when you get home.
What to carry
You’ll need dog food, plenty of water, a collapsible water bowl (so you don’t have to share!), poop bags, dog boots & liners, a short leash, dog pack, safety light like The Beacon
Ruffwear Flagline Harness
Ruffwear Crag Leash
Ruffwear The Beacon
Pick your path, settle in to your pace, and follow that wagging tail along a string of singletrack. You’ll find that the simplicity and freedom of trail running with your dog taps into a kind of joy that’s pure and unbridled.
It’s a great way to explore new sights and smells together while upping you and your pup’s cardio fitness. Pull out a map and look for those wandering dashed lines – starting with the shorter ones at first and working your way up to longer mileage.
DO A TRAIL CHECK
There are a lot of trails out there, so when picking one that is right for your first run together. You will need to consider:
- Trail traffic
- Lead rules
On your first trail it’s best to keep the run short on a fairly quiet and flat dirt trail and build up yours and your dogs endurance daily.
Dogs, play close attention to this one. There are some magic words out there. Words that lead to glorious treats and extra happy humans:
All the newness and excitement of being out on the trail can be a little distracting, so be patient with your canine companion.
Even if you plan to head to off-lead trail areas, “no lead” doesn’t mean “no manners,” always carry a lead with you just in case. Bear in mind different rules may apply depending on the season to protect livestock and wildlife.
KEEP IT REAL (CLEAN)
Between brush, mud, puddles and dust clouds, dogs will undoubtedly get a little dirty on a trail run.
But one thing we do want to keep clean is the wilderness where we’re exploring. That includes picking up any wrappers from our trail snacks – and yes, even your dog’s poo.
Always carry Pick up bags, and take them home with you, hanging it from a tree is just as bad as leaving it. Dog poo can be unhealthy for other wildlife and their habitats too.
It doesn’t take much to get out to some singletrack and start cruising, but some gear can make our trail time that much more seamless.
Ruffwear Trail Runner Bowl
Ruffwear Hi & Light Harness
Ruffwear Roamer Leash
TIPS FOR MOUNTAIN BIKING WITH YOUR DOG
1. Build Endurance
This is probably the most important tip of all. Your dog has been lying around all winter dreaming of sunny days, woods full of squirrels to chase, and long days out on the trail. Your pooch is out of shape and needs to be reintroduced to running for longer durations. Even if your dog has been skiing, jogging, or other winter activities; just like us, they are different disciplines and you need to re-teach your muscles the ropes. Biking is a high-speed activity and on a different surface than snow. It’s best to start out with small rides with your dog. Give them plenty of rest on that first ride, especially on down hill sections. I like to start riding trails with long climbs. The slower pace makes it easy for Lily to keep up and get used to running for longer durations. As a bonus, it helps get me back into bike shape. Slowly work your dog up to longer rides, faster paces, and longer, fast down hill stretches of trail.
2. Build Pad Tolerance
Being inside all winter and on snow, softens your dog’s paws. That nice soft carpet and smooth hard wood floors are nice and easy on your dog’s paws. The trail, however, is not. Just like trail endurance, your dog’s paws need to be reintroduced to rough trails. If I take Lily to Moab right out of the gate, one ride on slick-rock will have her pads worn raw. So, start out on semi-smooth dirt trails, work your way up to rougher and rockier trails, and allow your dog’s paws to toughen up. Once Lily’s paws are tough again, she can run on slick-rock for days and be fine. Another great option for this is a good pair of dog boots. They will help protect your dog’s paws without as much of a break in period. This is also more important with bigger breeds as they have much more weight behind each step and they can tear a pad much easier.
3. Hydration and Nutrition
Keeping a dog hydrated is very important. As they tear it up on the trail, they need a lot of water. It will help with sore muscles, overheating and prevent dehydration. Lily drinks from my hydration pack. I just squeeze the nozzle and she will drink from the flowing stream. If your dog is not good with drinking from a hydration pack, bring a portable dog bowl and extra water. Remember every time you are thirsty and take a drink your dog probably is, too. Nutrition is also important. As Lily gets into the season she needs to eat more and more calories to keep up with the high activity on the trail. I usually up the amount of food she eats by about 30%. For dogs that are active, diets high in good quality fats are key. Dogs burn fat for energy not carbohydrates. So all the hype these days about high protein dog foods really do not give your dog the energy they need to hit the trail. Protein is important for rebuilding and supporting your dog’s muscles, not for energy. Some high-protein dog foods are not agreeable with certain dogs, I mix high-protein food in with Lily’s normal food that is more balanced. This helps round out her diet. Feed your dog after activity, feeding before running can cause diarrhoea and is rough on their digestion. Dog snacks with glucosamine are great way to help keep your dog’s joints top notch. I feed one of these snacks a day to lily.
Every year, the first time I take Lily out for a bike ride she is so excited she forgets how to be around bikes. Usually, the first ride of the season I spend a lot of time reminding Lily how to behave and follow my commands when we are on the trail. It usually doesn’t take long and then she’s back at the plate. It does not take long before she knows what to do and how to listen to me when I need her to. This is extremely important since she is off leash and if she doesn’t listen to me, she could find herself in a bad situation; either getting hit by another biker, car, chasing a moose, or who knows.
5. Dog Trail Etiquette
The last thing ties in the training and ensures that everyone has a good experience on the trail, including your dog. Remember, if your dog runs around bothering everybody, it’s a good way to ruin other dog’s and your dog’s privileges on the trail to be off leash. I try to teach Lily to stay behind my bike at all times. This protects her from downhill traffic. As well as protects other riders from potential crashes out of trying to avoid a dog in the middle of the trail. When other riders approach, I use a simple command, “Lily off the trail” and she knows that it’s time to get off the trail and let other people pass. Make sure you always carry doggy waste bags and clean up after your pet. There’s nothing that ruins a trail experience more than dog waste all over the place. So do the right thing and pick it up and pack it out.
1. It is imperative that your dog responds to basic voice commands. Recall on the trail is essential for your safety, the safety of your dog, and other riders on the trail.
2. Start low and slow. Get them accustomed to being around the bike. Go to a secure area to familiarize them with the dynamics of biking and running together.
3. Although it may seem cute at the time, riding with your dog is not a game of chase. Don’t let the dog bite at your ankles (or the bike).
4. Expose your dog to other people on bikes. Make it clear it is okay to run with you on the trail, but NOT okay to chase others on bikes. Slowly riding with your dog leashed, and correcting along the way is the easiest way to do this.
5.Let the dog run where they are most comfortable. Some dogs are leaders and others are followers. Sophie prefers to run out front, but some choose to follow.
6. If your dog is a natural leader, be prepared for the “What was that smell?” stop. Keep your fingers on the brake levers, and a poo bag handy. Decide ahead of time who is going to carry the bag—you or your dog—and have a place prepared to store it.
7. Hydration is key. On these small rides, a hydration pack or large water bottle will work. The Ruffwear Singletrak Pack™ will let the dog carry their own water (and maybe yours, too).
8. You may not want to take your dog with you to the most popular riding spot in town at 1:00pm on Saturday. When traffic is heavy, the odds of unintended encounters go up.
Ruffwear Quencher Bowl
Ruffwear Stash Bag