When I was nine weeks old, I couldn't go very far. My mom wanted to make sure my hips were protected and my paws wouldn't get too sore. By the time I was eleven weeks old, I had tough paws and muscular back legs. Since my mom lived by National Forest land, we were able to go hike on logging roads every day in the middle of nowhere! After hiking, my mom would take me to work with her. I would stay in my crate at the sporting goods store until my mom had a lunch break, then I would go walk during her lunch hour. She would always make sure I was so tired before I went back into my crate. After work she would take me on another walk. By the end of the day I was so tired that I could hardly keep my eyes open.
My first real hike with elevation gain was a four mile hike past a blue waterfall and into a marshy lake. We saw deer, kids, and fisherman. I made it all the way to the top by myself. I didn't want to get left behind. My mom gave me treats and fed me halfway so that I had more energy. Two miles in, we reached the top of the mountain. My mom helped me to go swimming in the lake. She always went in first and called me to her. She knew I didn't like water all that much. (Not yet!)
|Lupine Lake, Montana|
|11 weeks old|
I am now a great hiker and can go farther than my mom and dad can. I think I have become the cheerleader my mom used to be. I always go down the trail first and wait about ten feet ahead until my mom and dad catch up. When they finally get there, I sprint ahead to wait again. They really need to get in better shape!
Here are some of my mom's best tips for teaching a young pup great hiking traits. They worked great for me! They'll work great for your pup too!
1) Do not be the overly paranoid owner who is constantly worried about how far your puppy is from you. As an owner, you are a leader. You need to lead in the direction you want to go. You do not want to follow your puppy to go pick them up and bring them closer.
2) Only call your dog when it is absolutely necessary! What does this mean? It means DO NOT call your dog unless your dog is in a dangerous position where its life is at risk. There is a time and an age to work on recall. A small pup can learn a basic command, but it needs to be in an enclosed area with postive praise and precise rewards.
3) Watch your puppy carefully and know the pup's limits. You want a hike to be a fun and loving experience. If your puppy is sitting down a lot and laying in the shade after going over a mile, it's probably tired. Overworking your pup is not the answer to getting an in-shape mountain dog.
|Too tired to walk|
4) Every pup has a check in signal. Kootenai's signal involves her turning her head and waiting for me to acknowledge her. I usually say, "Okay." Her head turn is a check in to see if she is doing what I expect her to do. My "okay" tells her that I see her and that she is behaving acceptably. Not all pups use the same check in. Some dogs will come all the way back to touch an owners hand. Some dogs will sit on the trail. Other dogs will walk behind you a few steps. Watch your pup carefully. They are trying to do it right...you just need to acknowledge the check in. This check signal will continue throughout life if acknowledged.
5) Take your pup out off leash as often as possible. I know many trainers believe that you should leave a dog on leash until the dog is fully trained. I tend to disagree with this statement. If you are in a location where the pup could be in danger (near cars, raging rivers, road bikes) then your pup should be on a leash. If you are in an area like a fenced in park or National Forest area, let your dog off leash! The dog's stress level significantly decreases and the dog is able to please you! This is what every dog wants to do. The biggest mistake is leaving your young pup on leash until they are six months old. Don't make it exciting to be off leash. Make it normal!
|Big Mountain, Montana|
Those are some of my mom's best tips for those of you wanting to raise and active and agile hiking pup! Hike with you later!