07 Mar How to turn your rescue dog into a hiking dog
So I’ve written a blog about adopting a stray dog already, but there might be a lot of things you’ll have to do and consider before you can take him or her with you on your outdoor adventures. Some stray and/or rescue dogs aren’t socialized as well as they should be. Some rescue dogs have been in shelters for a long time and won’t be used to walking on a leash, or walking long(er) distances at all. So considering all that, this is how I’ve turned my rescue dog into a hiking dog…
Get to know your dog and give him or her time to adjust
In case you’ve adopted a pup, it won’t be a long or difficult process. They are able to adjust pretty fast. But in case you’ll adopt an older dog it might take a long time before your dog feels really secure and at ease with you. Especially when he or she is from abroad. Give your dog all the time he or she needs. This might take a few weeks, but it might also take months or even a year to feel really at home.
Be familiar with the challenges of your dog and practice with them
When you know your dog, you will be able to tell what is challenging for your dog. For Zara that’ll be traffic, unfamiliar people/dogs and crowded places. When we have people over we make sure she has a place to retire to and I make sure to always be right next to her. Even if I have to sit on the ground, I’m always by her side because it relaxes her. We also ask everyone to give her space.
To practice with unfamiliar dogs we visit dog parks from time to time. I love the fact that the dogs are allowed to be off leash there. Zara can choose whether she wants to get to know other dogs or just walk away. It really helps her getting more confident. I know this won’t be the case for all dogs, so again… get to know your dog.
We live in a really small town with just a handful of cars, bikes and people passing when we walk Zara. This way she gets her everyday practice with traffic. We will be practicing traveling with public transportation in the future as we see this as a basic skill she has to have. As for crowded places… I really hate crowded places, so we just skip them.
Hiking commands for your dog
So after you’ve taken your time to get to know your dog (and vice-versa) and practiced getting over his or her challenges you are ready for some proper hiking!
Let’s start with a list of commands (and explanations) I find really helpful while hiking. She knows a lot more, but these are the commands I really find essential:
- Sit – I think this speaks for itself.
- Lay down – Again… and also nice when you’re taking a break.
- Stay – It’s really important your dog knows to stay at his or her place. Think about waiting at a street crossing or if you just want to take a picture… there are many reasons why you would want your dog to stay right there, so make sure your dog knows this command.
- Come here – Sometimes it’s better to let your dog walk off leash, but make sure your dog will come back immediately if you call to prevent accidents and such.
- Go ahead – When we’re hiking Zara likes to walk in front of us. On some (mountain) trails my husband goes at the front, Zara following him and I’ll be behind her. Sometimes she stops to see if I’m following when I’m catching my breath. It’s nice to be able to tell her to go ahead so I wont stumble over her when I’m picking up my pace.
- Up – We love our mountain trails, but sometimes you really have to climb! Zara is a marvelous jumper, but she waits (most of the time) for us to tell her it’s okay. If I say ‘Up’ she jumps on anything you’re pointing to, including yourself haha.
- No – I don’t want Zara to go to the edge of a cliff and I also don’t want het to eat anything that we didn’t give her. So ‘no’ means ‘don’t you even dare!’ and she knows it.
- Knowing his or her name – If I wan’t Zara to come back to me I usually just call out her name. It’s just the most effortless way to call your dog I guess. Though as mentioned before, ‘come here’ is important to have as well. Sometimes when I call Zara, she just looks at me like ‘Yeah?’ so in that case I’ll just follow up with ‘come’ or ‘come here’.
Hiking skills for your dog
Next to knowing essential commands and walking off leash, it would be nice if your dog is able to walk at a fixed spot (at your side and in front or behind you). Some trails are really wide and wherever your dog likes to walk would be just fine. But if you’re on a trail that’s really narrow, you won’t like it when your dog is only used walking right next to you. Try taking breaks when hiking too, so your dog gets used to taking a break and drinking and/or eating something just about anywhere.
As it comes to gaining some hiking stamina we practiced with 30 minute walks at first. After a while we took her on 1 hour hikes, increasing the hikes every once in a while with 30 minutes and so on.
Practice makes perfect they say, so practice (and praise!) a lot. When it comes to training my dog I always use positive reinforcement (clickertraining) seeing as it’s so effective and fun.
Camping with your dog
I will be writing about how we got Zara used to camping in the future, so stay tuned!