So here's a golden nugget about us, we also own and operate a dog walking company in Colorado Springs, CO. Vader & Leia come with us to almost every client; some of our clients request them for socialization. We have hundreds of hours of experience with on and off leash dog training. Before you decide to unclip the leash and transition to "off-leash" to let your dog run free we've got a few tips for you.
Know the basics
Hiking with your dog can be an excellent bonding experience, they throw themselves wholeheartedly into adventures. However, the quality of the experience will often be in direct proportion to the care and preparation you provide prior and during the trip.
Before testing your dog off-leash they should first be well-behaved and under control while on-leash. This means no aggressive behavior when passing other dogs and people and also no pulling towards rabbits or squirrels.
Need Help? Teaching your dog to come to you
Start in an enclosed area. We like to use a room that the dogs cannot escape from. Your dog is an expert on body language so be sure to relax and remain calm, super important! Call your dog to you. Give him a ten-second response time frame. If he comes to you, hold him by the collar and tell him how good he is. You can also use treats. If you don't take hold of his collar, he might think it's enough just to come near you when you praise him, he will leave. This distance can increase until you dog doesn't come to you at all.
If your dog doesn't come to you, take a rolled-up pair of socks or anything you can think of that WILL NOT hurt your dog but is substantial enough to reach your dog when thrown. It should make contact with him but not hurt him. The intent of this training technique is done to get your dogs attention, not to abuse. Don't use objects such as heavy books or heavy shoes. We want to emphasize that you shouldn't use objects to hurt your dog.
Once you have thrown the socks at your dog he will immediately react to this in two ways. First, you will have his undivided attention, and second, he will smell the object you have thrown and discover that it is an extension of you since it has your smell on it. You will then become a super person with incredibly long arms. When he comes to you, praise him by telling him he's a good boy/girl. Be careful when using treats for this training because dogs are intelligent and know when they are being bribed. This could result in your dog becoming picky about the bribes they take, and only coming when you have treats.
When you become completely comfortable that your dog will come to you every time he/she is called we recommend going to a dog park or any enclosed outdoor area and continue to work on recall. If your pup does not respond the way you practiced at home, go back to step one. If your pup listens and you are happy with their obedience, only then you are ready for step two, trail training.
Ease into the routine of hiking. Start with hikes of an hour or so, then monitor their energy level afterwards. If your dog is still super active, increase the time for the next training hike. Your goal is to work up to the amount of trail time you plan to do on future day hikes or backpacking trips. This slow approach also helps toughen up citified paws.
Leave No Trace: On day hikes, always pack out filled poop bags. It’s also bad form to leave 'em by the trail for later pickup. If you’re worried about a breach, double-bag on the trail, then remove any intact outer bags after you get home.
On backpacking trips, humans and canines have the same Leave No Trace rule: Bury pet waste in a 6- to 8-inch hole that’s at least 200 feet away from trails, camps and water sources. Enforcing the 200-foot rule for urination breaks isn’t practical, but be prepared to interrupt things and move away if your dog begins to pee in or next to a water source.
You have to maintain control of your dog at all times. Step off the trail to yield the right of way to hikers, horses and bikes. And having your dog on a leash isn’t enough. You also need to be able to keep your dog calm as other people and trail dogs pass by.
When you're on the trails you are the ambassador for all hikers and their dogs. Some people will find an issue with your dog in the backcountry. Others may be afraid of your dog. Be considerate when you spot someone ahead of you on the trail and leash your dog until you have passed them. Some people will want to stop and pet your dog, which is a great ice breaker to get to know another dog-loving hiker.
Permits and Regulation
Remember that most public lands require that a dog be on leash. In some counties you may be able to acquire a permit to hike with your dog off-leash if they are under voice command, so do your research on the area you plan to hike and read the regulations for that area.
• Leashes protect dogs from becoming lost and from run-ins with wildlife such as bears, mountain lions, porcupines, marmots and sick, injured, or rabid animals.
• Unleashed dogs can intimidate hikers and their leashed dogs, depriving them of peace in the wilderness.
Training Tips Reference: "Smarter Than You Think: A Revolutionary Approach to Teaching and Understanding Your Dog in Just a Few Hours" by Paul Loeb and Suzanne Hlavacek
Do you enjoy hiking and camping with your dog? Be sure to check out our survival gear, rolldogsurvival.com