When it comes to outdoor adventure, having a dog that only knows basic commands out on the trail with you just won’t cut it.
Your pup needs to know a plethora of extra tricks to help keep both him and you safe, and teaching him to be an adventure dog has to start when he’s young. Here are some tips for training your dog for life in the wild.
Avoid the Generic “Heel”
Getting your dog to walk beside you is one of the most daunting tasks for every dog owner, adventurous or not, but if you’re going to have your pup with you on hikes you need to go even a step further. Rather than teach your dog to heel, he needs to know when it’s appropriate to walk by your side, behind you, in front of you, and a few feet away. Commands like “move in” and “back up” are necessities on the trail.
Teach Your Dog to Stop
Many dogs respond well to “come” or “stay”, but only when they’re looking right at you. When training your pup make sure you teach him the “stop” command. This means that when you say the word, he’ll immediately pause and turn stone still. This command is useful in dangerous situations when your dog’s movement could mean the difference between getting home safely and taking a snake bite to the face, among other things.
Get Out Early and Often
You can’t teach a dog to love the outdoors without ever letting him step off the front porch. Folks who try and train their dog at home and then expect their pooch to follow commands out in the real world are in for a rude awakening. Take your puppy with you on short trips to the outdoors. Introduce him to strange sights and sounds, teach him to swim in creeks and lakes, let him mingle with other animals (start with other dogs), and make sure you engage in training while you’re out on the wild.
Command Respect, Not Love
Everyone wants their four-legged furball to love them unconditionally, and if you raise him right he will. Don’t spoil your puppy by allowing him to sleep in bed with you or eat your food. Instead, treat him like a dog and set boundaries for him so he knows he needs to follow your lead. A spoiled dog is a liability out in the wild and you certainly don’t want a pup who demands to sleep on a bed instead of the ground if you plan on spending a lot of time camping.
Take Multiple Obedience Classes
Puppy training classes are helpful for families bringing a new companion into the home, but stopping after the first class is no way to prep your dog for the Great Outdoors. You want to ensure your dog listens to your every word, so you need to invest the time and money it take to properly train him. Look for classes that focus on skills used by police and military dogs and enroll your dog before heading out on a long hike. He’ll impress everyone by how readily he follows commands.
Socialize, Socialize, Socialize
This can’t be said enough: your dog’s quality of life will mostly be determined by your ability to properly socialize him as a puppy. This is doubly true for adventure dogs. When you’re out on the trail there’s no telling who or what you might run into, whether human or animal, and your dog needs to be friendly but restrained. Otherwise you’re going to have a fight on your hands and no easy access to medical care. Start socializing your puppy as early as possible with puppy classes and trips to nearby crags so he can hang around local outdoors people. He’ll become familiar with people and animals, as well as the typical sights and sounds of the outdoor life. You’ll both be happier and safer in the long run if you make sure he’s ready to face the world while he’s still young.
Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible.