With the autumn breeze, a sweatshirt, and our Lucky Mutt by our sides, October is prime time for hiking in the midwest with our dogs. We wanted to put together some fun training ideas and safety tips for making your fall hikes more fun, safe and enjoyable.
Training and Behavior Tips
Having reliable heel, sit, leave-it, and attention cues for your dog will allow you to be prepared for most situations you will come across while hiking. Of course, these are commands that we train in our group and in-home training classes, but this is where we get to put our obedience training to the test in real-world situations. A heel command will allow you to move to a side and pass people without your dog jumping on newcomers. It will also set your dog up for a more successful pass if your dog is one that does not like to meet all new dogs. If you see a group coming by, we usually like to move to the side of the trail and allow them to pass by with our dogs waiting in a sit stay by our sides. If your dog sees deer, a squirrel, or anything nasty left behind by other animals, having a leave-it command is very handy. While we go into nature to take it all in, there will be distractions for your dog, and to maintain their focus it can be good to have an attention cue to re-connect on a hike. Also if your dog is walking nicely with a loose leash, passing people nicely and just showing good behavior, be sure to reward those situations throughout the hike. They need to know that they are doing awesome so that they understand that this is the behavior that is expected and the behavior that means more fun! These commands will help you and your dog have a more safe and enjoyable experience while testing obedience skills in real-world situations!
Other Things to Keep in Mind for Autumn Hikes
An area that is easy to forget about is hydration in the crisp autumn weather. Since our dogs and puppies do not have their tongues hanging out sometimes, we forget that they still need hydration. Without this hydration, they can become fatigued and have early onset hypothermia due to dehydration. So if your dog does not want to drink because of fun atmosphere of hiking, adding a little no sodium chicken stock to the water can help get them to drink the water their bodies need to keep going safely.
Another thing to think about in some areas is that fall is hunting season. You never know if a hunter might mistake your dog moving in the bushes for an animal that they are hunting. So to help with prevention, putting a bright vest or dog jacket on your dog can be a great safety feature. It can also help you see them if they are off leash and it's getting a little dark out. We love the Kurgo Reflect & Protect Active Dog Vest is fantastic because it is bright and has LED lights built into the back!
Many of the parks require dogs on-leash at all times, so be sure to follow those rules. Sometimes we become too trusting of our dogs, but you never know what they might chase after. So keeping them on a leash is always the safe and smart option. Remember this can be a great time to practice your training for loose-leash walking!