We have had many dogs in our day, and we’ve always been advocated of bringing them outdoors so they can experience as many of the adventures that we do. Whether it’s running, hiking, biking, SUPing, or even just some relaxing camping, it makes it just that much better with your adventure dog by your side. These are some of the tips we’ve learned from experience can keep your adventure pup as happy and healthy as possible!
1. Don’t Cheap Out on Dog Food
It falls within the theory that we say with our own bodies, that the quality of nutrition you put in will be correlated to the quality of output the body can generate. There are lots of great dog foods available out there, but there are also LOTS of low quality ones. If you’re looking for the best fuel for your adventure dog and you’re know sure which ones are good, we’d recommend finding a local pet store that seems to really know their stuff (avoid the big box places like Petsmart) and ask them for some guidance. We’ve had great success with some of our dogs feeding them Orijen and Acana (sister companies I believe), and recently we’ve switched Ndeze over to a newer company called GO, who make food specifically for highly active dogs!
We also supplement Ndeze’s regular food on days of higher levels of activity by either adding some fish oils on top of her kibbles, mixing in some wet dog food that’s a bit higher in cals, or simply giving her a peanut butter filled Kong to snack on.
2. Invest in quality gear for them
They’re trying to keep up to the high performance training you might be doing (or any training really) so we always recommend to get the best quality gear for your adventure pup, so they stay healthy and happy. A couple that would be good things to consider would be;
1) A good harness for them, no matter of their size – reason for this is even if they have a thicker neck, by the time the speeds increase to running speed, a jolt on the leash can really start to cause harm to their neck. Hands down the best harness’ we’ve ever used are made by a Finnish company called Hurrta (the simple one we use and love with Ndeze is their padded harness, though we’re interested to try their new active harness!)
2) Running leash – for similar reasons to protect them for higher speed jolts on the leash, running leashes simply have an elastic component to them that allow them to stretch. We use one from Ruffwear and it works great.
3) Winter coat – find a good quality one that won’t chafe as your dog starts to increase their mileage.
Lots of other items to consider depending on your activity of choice; maybe a flashing light for them to wear at night, a reflective vest for night time runs/walks, an orange vest for out in the forest, lifejacket, and the list goes on.
3. Understand the Differences in Physiology
Dogs are very different from humans anatomically, so you should be aware of some of these differences as you start to push your dogs physical limits. Dogs run more in spurts with rests here and there rather than a steady pace. So if you leash up your running dog and head out the door for a steady 10k run, that might push them for too long that they can’t keep up or catch their breathe, and even make them start to fear or not enjoy running. We aim to keep our on-leash runs a bit milder and shorter (1ok max and no more than 80%), then scale up a bit whenever we go run trails in the forest somewhere that she can be off leash (Ndeze can handle a good 15ish km run when she’s free to run however she wants. That’s a big difference!).
4. They Don’t always understand “It’s only one more mile”
Towards the end of a workout (run, bike, hike, etc) you might feel the urge to hold your pace or even step it up a bit. That’s a very human trait that has been programmed into our heads. Try not to let that forget about your dog who’s along for the ride and might be feeling tired. They don’t understand that they’re almost done, so just hang in there. If your adventure dog is looking tuckered out, you might have to check your own agenda and take it easy until the finish line. Best to keep your dog healthy and happy for all the workouts coming in the future.
5. Flea and tick meds are a Must
An active adventure dog will likely not only be coming out on the trails with you, but will probably venture off the beaten path more than we ever could imagine. As they push through all that thick brush, the chances for picking up flea’s and ticks are super high. So if you live in areas where these are present, do your dog a favour and get them some meds to help fight these off. And even if you’ve used these preventative measures, we still highly recommend that when you get home you check for ticks and other bugs, as well as any scraps or bumps they may have acquired on your adventures.
This is a tough one, because there is no easy way to train your dogs behaviour around a bear or snake. It’s something you just have to be aware of in your adventure locations. Know what wildlife you may come in contact with, and do some research for how to react if you run into one on the trail, or care for your dog if they have a confrontation.
Real Life Example: While hiking one afternoon, we came across the biggest pissed off rattlesnake either of us had ever seen. Somehow Ndeze snuck by it and was now on the other side of it from us. The “Oh sh*t” moment was that we never trained her to “stay over there away from us..??..??” so her reaction to us yelling at her to stay there, or pointing to go to the side, was to walk up and sniffed the rattlesnake. She was definitely within easy striking range, but I think the snake was focused on the two yelling humans, that Ndeze managed to sneak by unharmed. On our walk home, we realized we didn’t have any clue what we would do if Ndeze was bit by a snake.
–> Learn from our mistakes, do your research and prepare as much as you can before you hit a situation like this.
7. You’re dog won’t know when to carb load or rest up for that long Saturday run
As smart as they are, domesticated dogs can’t exactly make the schedule, you do. So if you’re planning for a big adventure the next day or that afternoon, think about your dog the same way you would think about getting yourself prepared. Feed them a bit extra that morning, make sure they have lots of water available to keep hydrated, keep the prior days exercise pretty light for them. It’s funny to think about but put yourself in their shoes (figuratively) for one second, every time you put them in the car, they have almost NO CLUE where they’re going. We’re so fortunate that just go with the flow with a smile on their face, but do what you can to help make sure they’re as prepped as you are for the adventure ahead.
8. They might need a rest day when you don’t
This one is pretty obvious, but always respect that your dog might need to take a day to rest, even when you were planning a workout. They are obviously loyal animals that will probably suit up and push through the pain if you bring them, but if you notice a low energy or an unmotivated dog one day, they might just need a bit of rest.
9. Plan in some Dog Fun
Sure the outdoors is a haven for dogs as much as humans, but plan out some fun times for them along the way; bring a toy, stop in the dog park, let them jump in the water. It’s amazing how much of an energy boost they can get from a bit of fun!
If anyone has any tips they want to share on how you keep your adventure dog running at max capacity, we’d love to hear them!:)