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An Overview on Dog Friendly Hiking – A Success Story

Dog Friendly Hiking

The difficulty of hiking with Boats

Karen called me and was very frustrated with her two year old Standard Poodle, Boats. Dog friendly hiking wasn’t happening because Boats barked at other dogs and pulled on the leash.

Her dog was out of control. When she interacted with Boats, also wanted to jump and bite her. Boats was perceived as dominant and out of control.

When Karen tried to walk Boats he pulled her so hard. She felt she was completely loosing control of him. Boats also barked at almost every dog he saw. This was not only during hiking but also in their yard.

I came to her house and realized that Boats was anxious, and we needed to implement strategies to get Boats to calm down.

Karen and her husband, Sam, decided to purchase our largest program. As a result, the difficulties with Boats gradually began dissipating.

Training Boats to listen well to create dog friendly hiking

The training program was definitely a stepping process. We began with getting Boats to listen to commands in the house. After that, we progressed to the yard. Then, to the neighborhood. Lastly, to parks, so the owner’s could hike more easily.

Prepping commands for hiking 

I determined that we needed to teach Boats the following:

  • Sit Stay
  • Loose Leash Walking
  • Target
  • U-Turn
  • LAT (Look at That)
  • Watch
  • Emergency Come

We began with simple commands such as getting Boats to be able to sit and stay when he was excited and to “target” (touch) the owner’s hand away from a trigger such as when he wanted to jump on me.

The owners also learned about withholding wants until Boats showed good behavior and this helped a ton. Karen was worried about not meeting Boat’s needs. I stated that it was important to meet his needs and for him to communicate them in a healthy ways instead of just jumping and biting.

Loose leash walking was a big one for Karen. We decided that walking Boat’s on a front hook harness was best because that helped prevent him from being able to pull her down. We began practicing in the home.

Having Boats learn to turn around and walk in the opposite direction would help him when he saw another dog. This is also something we worked on at home, and I called it a U-turn.

LAT or “Look at that was a prominent command. We first taught it at home with treats that Boats wanted to pull towards. Next, Boats learned to notice something that he wanted and to choose to look at his owner instead of pulling and barking on the leash.

To teach LAT, we shook a treat bag. When Boat’s look at the treats (trigger) the owners said the command “look” and clicked while Boats looked at the trigger. When he heard the click he then turned back to the owner. He was then given treat. This worked very well for Boats. It helped prevent barking and pulling.

The emergency come command was helpful to get Boats to listen if he got away from the owners during a leash walk. It was also helpful in the yard. The owners gave Boats a very special treat when he listened to this command.

Generalizing commands to the outdoors

The commands were then generalized to the outdoor environment. At first, the biggest change was in the yard. Karen commented how Boats was barking less and coming when she called him instead of ignoring her. This relieved much stress for her.

Because we wanted Boats to be calm when he saw other dogs, Karen enrolled help from other dog owners.

We practiced in Boat’s yard with dogs standing or walking in the distance. When Boats saw the dogs, we worked on loose leash walking, LAT, target, making a u-turn, etc. Karen was super committed and began working with numerous dogs per week.

Next, we got Boats to listen outside of the home on walks. We did some sessions near Country Side Vet Clinic in Middlefield to help get Boats to listen in other environments.

We also did sessions at Mineral Lake Park in Middlefield. This is where we created the largest shifts. We wanted to hike around the park. Here we saw dogs and other distractions such as birds and lawn mowers.

We practiced LAT, target, loose leash walking, etc. so that the owners could get Boats to listen. By our last session, Karen was walking Boats, he was listening and walking loosely on the leash at Mineral Lake Park. It was so exciting!

Recently, I saw Boats hiking with Sam on the headwaters trail in Middlefield.

Both Karen and Sam are very pleased with how they are able to get Boats to be more calm and listen on dog friendly hiking trails.

Dog friendly hiking trails in Geauga County

We are blessed in Geauga County with many hiking trails:

Johanna Teresi, a dog trainer in Middlefield, Ohio helped with training Boats

Johanna Teresi began dog training when she was a little girl at age eight. Her passion grew as she got older. She began attending dog training seminars when she was in high school.

As a result, Johanna, has tons of knowledge due to her years of experience. In 2019, she is now 41 years old and has had experience training many exotic animals including parrots, porcupines, a cavy and more.

She lived in Utah for awhile and spent large amounts of time hiking with her dog, Seiki. She dreamed to hike with her dog off leash in a safe manner and accomplished just that. Utah was filled with dog friendly hiking trails.

After, a divorce, Johanna moved back to Ohio to be closer to her family. She now lives in Middlefield, OH where she helped with Boat’s training.

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