We love dogs. And, assuming our demographics are on point, we know a lot of our readers love dogs, too. But sometimes, no matter how much we love them, our dogs can become a chore at the crag, on the river, or on the trail.
So we reached out to the most adventurous dog owners we know (all sponsored by the folks at Ruffwear), and asked them how they keep their dogs fit, enthusiastic and obedient in the great outdoors
Karluk – The thru-hiker
Whitney LaRuffa understands distance hiking – and so do his dogs. All told, LaRuffa has hiked more than 6,000 miles with his canine companions. He’s dialed his systems so expertly he now tours the country giving talks about his backcountry experiences with man’s best friend.
His youngest companion, Karluk, has already hiked the entire Tahoe Rim Trail, the Timberline Trail, and 300 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. But not before some substantial prep work.
In addition to basic obedience training, LaRuffa trains his dogs to return to the singletrack or stop on command, and to freeze at the sight of wildlife. It’s a slow process, he says, which starts short hikes with the use of a harness and short leash.
On long hikes, LaRuffa loads his dogs with packs that carry no more 25 percent of their body weight, and takes care to bury or pack out his animals’ waste. For a complete look at his method for backpacking with dogs, check out his website.
Cajun – the B.AS.E. companion
Most dogs can sit, stay and heel.
But when your owner is professional free solo climber and B.A.S.E. jumper Steph Davis
, the usual repertoire just doesn’t cut it.
Found abandoned and starving by a cell tower
at less than a year old, Cajun was raised from a barking, rebellious pup. After years of training, she’s become a near-perfect crag dog
trained to wait at the base of long climbs or to run to bottom of B.A.S.E. jumps
(see a video
).So what happened?
“We started carrying spray bottles of water everywhere,” says Davis, “and squirting her every time she bit, chewed, or barked. It worked like a charm!”
Paired with “nonstop” positive reinforcement
and strict enforcement of crag etiquette
, this strategy has transformed Cajun from a liability to an invaluable backcountry partner (that can reportedly handle fourth-class slab better than most humans
Riley and Kona – the paddlers
When Maria Schultz first took her dog Riley out on her paddleboard, there was a lot of splashing, a lot of running, and not a lot of actual paddling. But she’s since gotten so good at training her dogs for the activity that she’s written a book with her tips and tricks.
“Any dog can be a paddling dog,” says Schultz. “You just have to teach them to sit and stay.” The real trick is conditioning dogs to be comfortable on the paddleboard itself – a feat Schultz managed by bringing the board into her home and playing with the dogs on top of it.
“Everything should be fun for your dog,” she says. “Everything should be a game.” When your dog is ready their first trip on the water, break up short paddles with games of fetch on the shore.
Even dogs with strong swimming skills should wear a life jacket, says Schultz. These jackets are often brightly colored and have attached handles, features that will come in handy when you have to spot your dog in rapids or pull them back onto your board.