Down the River Up the Mountain - tips for adventuring with your dog
We spend a lot of time outside with your dogs - it's the whole reason we started Rex Specs. After getting myself in a few touch and go situations, there are few things I've learned to keep myself and my dogs safe and happy.
To start, I'm not exactly known for being the most prepared one in the group. More often than not I rely on things working out, being tough enough, or on my more prepared comrades! So that being said, below are my few must-have, must-do tip for adventuring with your dog.
Water - God's Brew
Dogs don't sweat like we do, instead they pant to release heat. Even the smallest drink of water can help lower their body temperature on hot day. I learned this the hard way. I took the dogs for a run on a trail I "kinda knew" but it had been awhile. The last time I had run the whole loop, I remembered there being a nice running creek at the mid point of the 7 mile loop. I didn't used carry water with me for runs shorter than 2 hours and figured the creek would be there for the dogs. After the 3 miles of uphill, we made the nice gradual decent to the creek only to find it dry as a bone. It was a hot hot day and the pups were really dogging it, I could tell they were beat. I panicked and ran the dogs back up the hill to see if I had made a wrong turn. Nope, that was the creek I remembered and it was bone dry. I slowed it down and we finished the loop but since I have sworn to, regardless of my needs, be sure to have water for my trusted companions.
Dogs don't need lots of water, in fact too much at one time during activity can cause them to throw it back up. So just carry a small water bottle. Some dogs drink from your hand but that tends to result in wasted water. A light weight trick is to carry a small plastic bag that you can use as bowl on the trail.
Leash the Beast
It's become a rather regular occurrence - greeting a towering Mama moose and her gangly calf on the trail, spotting a bear on the hill, or startling elk grazing. I've worked hard to train my dogs by command to leave wildlife alone. Usually a quick "Leave It" does the trick but it's not always that simple.
Though I love to run "leash-less," I've learned to manage a leashed team and still enjoy the run. I usually leash the dogs when we are running though areas where I've either seen moose or bears before or would expect them to like to hang out. I don't want my dogs to chase or disturb them but more importantly I don't want them to spook the animal ahead of me and send them charging back up the trail towards me. If you aren't confident that you can keep your team together then get comfortable with the leash for times when you need to be aware of wildlife.
Ruffwear makes a nice simple leash that works great for running. It could be a little lighter but is adjustable and durable.
Know the Time
We often think our animals are natural athletes, more prepared than us for the activity ahead. Unfortunately, this is not always true. Though some breeds are suited for long endurance days in the sun or cold, others are not. Plan your adventures with your dog's ability in mind. I've got a great big German Shepherd mix, Tuck, that loves to run, but he can't handle the heat and doesn't get the concept of pacing himself. On a hot day, even 6 miles might be too much for him. Start early or late in the afternoon on those hot days to beat the heat.
On below zero days, Tuck's broad paws get really cold and he'll try to stand three legs to give each paw a break from the cold snow. Where as his sister, an Alaskan sled dog, loves the cold and doesn't seem to show any discomfort.
Know your dog and learn their reaction to certain activities and environments. Adventuring with your four-legged companions is the best but we are their guardians and need to respect that role.
... and protect their eyes with Rex Specs!
-Rex Specs Co-Founder, Jesse Emilo