The state of the world over the past few years has coaxed more and more people into doing outdoor activities. The fresh air of a trail is a safe place where both humans and dogs can exercise and find some inner peace amongst nature’s beauty. We found three cool people who make a living having adventures with their four-legged friends.
THE BLOGGER: Jen Sotolongo
Owner of the blog Long Haul Trekkers: Outdoor Adventures with Dogs, Jen Sotolongo’s focus is to share how-to’s for getting outdoors with your dog, adventure trips and training advice. She is also the author of the recently published book The Essential Guide to Hiking with Dogs: Trail-Tested Tips and Expert Advice for Canine Adventures.
Around eight years ago, Jen and her partner at the time quit their jobs and took their dog, Sora, an Australian Shepherd, on a two-year bicycle trip across Europe and South America. The adventure was documented as a travel log online. Brands started to pay attention, and Jen realized that she could make a career out of her writing.
Today Jen lives in Oregon with her Red Heeler mix, Sitka, who joins her on the trails. About Sitka, Jen explains, “You know he’s built for endurance. Especially when we go run off leash, which is my goal as much as possible, he just has a blast sniffing all the things.”
A couple years ago Falcon, the world’s leading publisher of outdoor recreation content, approached Jen and asked if she would like to do a guide book about hiking with dogs. She was thrilled to have the opportunity to promote safe interactions for dogs and their humans on the trails. “My goal with the book was to educate people about what is preferred behavior, while also providing them with information,” she says. “The book goes from even before you get your dog to finally getting onto the trail with your dog.”
Jen’s No. 1 safety tip is to not assume it’s OK for your dog to approach other dogs on the trail, even if they are both off leash. She suggests getting your dog professionally trained. “That was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made for my dog,” she says.
Get more tips from Jen at longhaultrekkers.com.
THE DOG HIKING CEO: Amity Noble
Just over six years ago, Amity Noble took her love of dog walking to the next level and started the company Dogs Go Hiking, which serves parts of Massachusetts. She had started walking dogs as a part-time job in college. A few years later she started taking the family dog, a half Lab and half Border Collie mix named Bandit, on hikes to wear him out. She discovered that getting his energy out on the trails made him a better-behaved dog. One day Amity thought to bring other dogs along to help Bandit with socialization. About nine months later she was hiring employees due to the amount of business she was getting. Dogs Go Hiking was official!
Amity’s hikers check an app in the morning to see what their day will be like and which lucky pups will be with them. The morning is spent on a two-hour hike and then a midday break before heading out for the afternoon 45-minute adventure. The group hikes are fairly structured and, although Amity points out that her crew are not dog trainers, trail manners are reinforced. Sit and stay commands are key and happen often to let bikers and other hikers pass safely on the populated trails the dogs visit.
Amity knows her dog clients are having fun. “I think they love seeing their buddies,” she explains. “They know when we pull up to their little doggie friends’ houses or when we pull up to certain parks that they know have a pond in it and they get to swim. They hear the car or they see the walker coming up, and they just know what they’re in for.”
If you’re looking for a similar service in your area, Amity says to do your homework. Dog hikers should know the area, dog behavior and dog first aid. Most importantly, verify that the company has appropriate insurance.
Learn more at dogsgohiking.com.
THE TRAIL WRITER: John Fayhee
John Fayhee has written multiple books and newspaper articles, and has been a longtime contributor to Backpacker magazine. His latest, and not yet published, book, A Long Tangent: An old man and his young dog hike every day for a solid year, documents time on the trail with his dog, Casey.
Casey wasn’t John’s first four-legged partner. In the ’90s Fayhee adopted a dog from the local shelter in Colorado named Callie. After about six months, the Australian/German Shepherd mix joined him on a two-month hike on the Divide Trail. The trip marked the start of the duo’s adventures. “I can’t even count the number of thousands of miles we hiked together,” John says.
It wasn’t long after Callie passed away at the age of 13 that John adopted Casey, a Lab mix. She was with her dad for most of the 367 straight days that are documented in his book. He isn’t sure if the book will find a home with a publisher but says that’s OK. “It’s going to be hard to find the proper place in a book store to put it. It’s part memoir and part fist shaking. It was a book I wanted to write.”
John explains: “My dog is my best buddy.” Casey is trail trained and is in an area where she can be off leash. Her human partner has to pay attention to where she is and what she is doing. Having a dog along helps ground
John. “I really go mentally inward when I hike because I’m thinking about what I’m writing,” he explains. “I don’t pay much attention to the natural world that I’m hiking through, and the dog makes me keep at least one foot in reality.”
Leslie Doucette is the owner of Chattapoochie Dog Hiking Adventures, which leads dogpack hiking adventures in the Atlanta area. She shares some of her top trail tips for safe and fun adventures.
- Check with your veterinarian to ensure your dog’s physical health is suited for the activity level.
- Make sure your dog has all required vaccinations and is current on parasite preventives.
- Start with shorter hikes to help your pooch build up stamina and strengthen his paw pads.
- Keep nails clipped to avoid dew claw injury.
- Know the weather, and hike in optimal conditions.
- Bring snacks and enough fresh water for your pooch. Most dogs need 1 to 1½ ounces of water per pound; more on hot days.
- Don’t let your dog drink water from lakes, ponds or puddles, as they can contain dangerous bacteria and/or parasites.
- Watch your dog for heavy panting, frequent resting and/or a dry nose: all early signs of heatstroke. If you see any of these signs, find a shady spot and give your dog fresh, cool water to drink. Treating his belly, underarms, neck and paws with water is helpful on hot days.
- Remove all your dog’s poop and poop bags.
- Observe trail etiquette.