Walking In The Woods With My Dog

I don’t get up in the woods a lot, but when I do, I love taking my dog for walks in the hills.  I love having him off leash and having just a great time with all the great smells and “woodsy-things”.  What do I need to know to keep the whole thing safe for my dog and myself?

It might just be me, but I love the opportunity to have my Sheppard and Springier Spaniel up in the woods; up a back road; hanging out with us at a rustic cabin.  They love going out and are very good at staying nearby and listening to my commands.  We have a great time and everyone is kept happy and safe. 

Please understand that this is not something you can do right away with your dog.  It might be something you may never be able to accomplish with your dog.  In order to accomplish this, you must take on a specific and possibly lengthy process in order to assure your success.  As I stated earlier, some dogs are just too high strung or too easily distracted to engage in this activity.  Let’s look at some of the things we must do.

Before we even think about getting up to that backwoods cabin, we must perform a good amount of work back at home:
  • You must work on on-leash and off-leash recall/come.  Your dog must be able to return to your side when you command him from up to twenty yards.  You must be sure that he can do this while there are natural distractions commanding his attention and even when you can’t directly see him.
  • You must be able to have your dog sit and stay while you walk thirty yards away.  He must stay there until you release him and he must run straight to your side.
  • You must gain off-leash attentiveness control where your dog is walking near you without a leash and always change their direction, based on any change in your direction.
  • You must practice the “drop” or “leave it” command with your dog so that he will not place anything harmful in his mouth.
  • Your dog must be able to instantly sit and give you focus on command.

These are a lot of things to accomplish, but they are the minimum needed to assure a safe walk in the woods.  Now, let’s think about our walk in the woods.  Here are some things to think about:
  • Before you take your dog for a walk, go out alone first.  Follow the course you plan to take, looking for poisonous plants, areas where you may experience animals, areas of standing water, steep inclines, tight spaces, etc.  Pick a path that minimizes these issues in order to maximize your ability to keep your dog as safe as possible.
  • Place a leash on your dog before you start.  You don’t have to hold the leash, just let it drag behind him.  If you need to step in quickly, it gives you one more tool to safely control him.
  • As you walk, always scan the area for anything that might distract him or draw him away from you.
  • Keep your dog engaged and focused on you by calling him to you, having him stay as you walk a short distance down the trail and calling him to you, encourage him to walk next to you by patting your leg as you walk, etc. 
  • If you see that your dog is tiring, finish your walk.  You don’t want him to just stop or “decide to take a shortcut home”.
  • Never let your dog wander off in high grass or through thickets.  This just increases the possibility for fleas and ticks.  Oh, by the way, make sure that all the proper flea and tick medicines have been applied.  Also, consult with your vet if any additional medication might be needed for the area you will be visiting.
  • Take your own water for the walk.  Standing water is not good and you are never sure what might be upstream in that pretty country stream.
  • Have your dog return to you immediately and hold the leash if encounter a person or animal on your walk.
  • When you return from your walk, check your dog for any fleas, ticks, burrs, etc. 
  • If he still has some energy, play fetch around the cabin for a few more minutes before you come in.

Once you and your dog get back inside the cabin, you will probably see him take a long and very happy nap.  If you have any further information or clarification, please contact Your Great South Florida Dog Trainers.


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