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Discussion Starter #1
Well, spring is (hopefully) just around the corner. One thing I'd really like to do this year is some hiking, or at least some aimless wandering in the woods :). Of course it feels kind of silly to go do something like that without Caeda.
I'm not sure if this is possible though, but I'd like some info to at least consider trying.

So questions for those of you who hike with your dogs: How did you manage it? Did you start on leash? How did you do it on leash if there's trees and such around to get wound up and tangled in? How did you know it was time for a trial "off leash"? Do you tend to go to the same places all of the time hiking with your dogs or do you go to new places often? Do these have any impact on how close your dog stays to you? How far do you allow your dog to go before you call them back? Do you train a particular cue for your dog to stay close? Any safety tips? How do you deal with the odd animals that will inevitably show up?

It just occurred to me that there are a bunch of really cool places around here that I know of that I'd love to go to, and of course take Caeda, but its not exactly groomed walking trails to get there. Not sure if I'll ever manage to do any hiking with Caeda, but it just occurred to me how much I would LOVE to.
 

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I think a lot has to do with the dog and how well they behave. I have an eleven year old Pekinese, Chu-Chu, that stays right at my heels. In Michigan we have a leash law just about everywhere you can hike. I carry his leash because he really hates to walk on it. If I see anyone else or another animal I slip the leash on him until they are gone. He has almost always been like that. On the other hand I have a 3 year old Shih-Tzu, Cody, that will never be able to walk off leash. He has been to obedience training and I have worked with him ever since he was little but he will not ALWAYS come to me when I call him. I don't trust him and I think that is the most important part. For him we take an extra long leash that will let out to about 30 feet and we let him have fun and explore but we are able to pull him in and get him to heel if we get near anyone else. We take both of these guys camping and hiking all summer. Cody's favorite thing to do at camp is to go swimming and yes I even keep the leash on him in the lake cause he has a habit of getting a little too brave.
 

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You could try having her drag a long line. For me, that's the best solution for a dog that isn't completely reliable off leash. I got a nice line at Bass Pro Shop that's 50' long for only $10. There's a few knots in it so that it's easy to step on and stop a dog that might be straying too far.

I like to go to a lot of different places. It's more exciting for everybody involved to explore a new place. The dogs tend to stray farther on easy terrain. Last week at the sand dunes, they didn't venture far because the sand was soooo much work to walk/run/play on.

IMO, the best thing to do is treat it as a big recall training day. Reserve some super high value treats just for days out in the wilderness and drill, drill, drill.

As for wildlife... I have Kaki to the point where I can reliably call her off every critter except deer. I guess it was just too much for her to resist. We've also never seen deer together so it was a completely new animal for her. Keep your eyes peeled and hope that you spot critters before she does.

You could also scout out these areas ahead of time without her to see how dog friendly they are. If you're going to a national park, call ahead to ask if they allow dogs(many don't).

Have fun!! Nothing makes me happier than a day(or two or five) out in the wilderness with the dogs.
 

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Yes, generally National Parks are a no-no. Plenty of great hiking at other parks, though. I go about once a week with Kit, and she's never leashed. Even in places that aren't technically off-leash, no one cares here, as long as you have decent recall. I keep Kit away from leashed dogs, when we meet them, which is pretty rare.

Certain dogs are more independent than others, probably in part due to breed characteristics. I took Kit on her first off-leash hike the day after I got her - and came home with her, too. I'm not recommending this (I was a stupid first-time owner), but it didn't end badly for us.

Kit has always wanted to stay near me. When I unclip the leash, she just stares up at me waiting for instruction. She's also very food-motivated, which can keep her very close (even too close!) while hiking. One time when she had her nose deep in a bush, I decided to hide from her. I sat down on a bench and held very still. When she finally looked up and realized I was gone, she panicked and started hunting for me immediately. She will run up ahead of me (maybe 50 yards?), but will stop and wait or find something to sniff if she gets too far ahead.

Kit has strong prey drive and will chase anything that runs. She will occasionally go off trail, if she sees something worth chasing. She never goes too far, though - deer can outrun most dogs, and squirrels tree pretty quickly. I don't hike near roads, just in case she decides to give chase. Watching an in-shape agile dog navigate downed trees, branches, and uneven terrain quickly is sort of amazing.
 

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One time when she had her nose deep in a bush, I decided to hide from her. I sat down on a bench and held very still. When she finally looked up and realized I was gone, she panicked and started hunting for me immediately. She will run up ahead of me (maybe 50 yards?), but will stop and wait or find something to sniff if she gets too far ahead.
I love "disappearing" on the dogs. If I'm feeling extra nice, I'll whistle from behind a tree/bush. But it's so fun watching them panic and use their noggins to find me. I think it's a great game that can encourage a dog to keep tabs on where you are at all times as well as teaching them how to find you if they do lose sight of you.
 

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How did you manage it? Like I managed all the other walks I taught her on a leash at 8 weeks.
Did you start on leash? yes
How did you do it on leash if there's trees and such around to get wound up and tangled in? Well I dont bring a big long leash. I have a horse lead instead.
How did you know it was time for a trial "off leash"? Maggie is not allowed off leash now she used to be but she learned the not listening idea.
Do you tend to go to the same places all of the time hiking with your dogs or do you go to new places often? I don't really do so much hiking anymore I mush, I used to go all over. Do these have any impact on how close your dog stays to you? She is on leash so she is always with me.
How far do you allow your dog to go before you call them back? On leash still
Do you train a particular cue for your dog to stay close? stay or heel. Well safety tip don't go alone.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I love "disappearing" on the dogs. If I'm feeling extra nice, I'll whistle from behind a tree/bush. But it's so fun watching them panic and use their noggins to find me. I think it's a great game that can encourage a dog to keep tabs on where you are at all times as well as teaching them how to find you if they do lose sight of you.
Oohhh, I think I'll start playing with this one a bit! I'm starting to get a decent idea of how Caeda's mind works and I think that trick would encourage her to keep her eyes on me!

She's REALLY independent, which is part of the reason I'm very nervous about trying this....even with a long drag line, though I know trying to have her close with a shorter line she'll probably respond differently. The times she has gotten out though, she has always come when we called an the longest it ever took was 20 minutes during which she came back and buzzed us twice (and that was after she kept up with some elk or deer for a shocking amount of time!). She is scary fast, I know I don't have a hope of keeping up with her (or catching her) if she was determined.

I'm not thinking national parks, we're next door to the boonies here, and there's TONS of crown land to roam, including some pretty awesome places that I've been to through my previous job, so off leas won't be an issue as far as regulations go.
 

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Oohhh, I think I'll start playing with this one a bit! I'm starting to get a decent idea of how Caeda's mind works and I think that trick would encourage her to keep her eyes on me!

She's REALLY independent, which is part of the reason I'm very nervous about trying this....even with a long drag line, though I know trying to have her close with a shorter line she'll probably respond differently. The times she has gotten out though, she has always come when we called an the longest it ever took was 20 minutes during which she came back and buzzed us twice (and that was after she kept up with some elk or deer for a shocking amount of time!). She is scary fast, I know I don't have a hope of keeping up with her (or catching her) if she was determined.

I'm not thinking national parks, we're next door to the boonies here, and there's TONS of crown land to roam, including some pretty awesome places that I've been to through my previous job, so off leas won't be an issue as far as regulations go.
Ozzie is very independent too. He's a hound dog so that comes with the package. Yet he really panics when "his" people disappear. He has such a great nose that I've resorted to "disappearing" up trees and he still finds me. I was amazed and he acts like he hasn't seen me in years, and thank goodness I'm okay!

A good way to start might be by playing what I call "the chase game". My roommate would hold the dogs back on leash while I took off running to a good hiding spot. They were rewarded with toys and/or treats when they found me. This way you could gage how worried Caeda is about finding and keeping track of you. Plus, it's a lot of fun. For an extra giggle, roommate would take off running in the opposite direction after releasing the dogs to find me so they had to go find her too.
 

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I started on leash. A long flexi-lead is really nice. When she was finally ready for offleash, having other dogs there off leash that were well trained really helped as when they were called she would come back too.

We had a LOT of practice at a huge dog park working on recall before I let her off leash on a hike. You have to know your dog will listen and stop chasing a squirrel or other critter when you call.

As a last resort you may consider getting professional training done with an e collar. I'd much rather do the training and know that I have control than have the dog be gone forever. It's controversial though and I don't want to drag this topic in that direction. Just another tool to consider and it is not to take the place of regular positive reinforcement recall training. I do use the collar on one of my dogs and she responds fantastically to it and because of training she understands what it means. It gives me a lot of comfort and peace of mind to know that if she did get off leash I still have control (not ready for fully offleash yet, still training).
 

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I've been kicking this idea around too, because I love hiking and I think it'd be really fun to take Snoopy along. I know he'd love it. He's bred to work with a hunter and range through the woods, so it'll be interesting to see what sort of distance he keeps with me offleash. Some dogs will naturally work at a closer range than others. I need to find a suitable place to try him out offleash. The normal places I hike would require a leash because while not busy, there are usually at least a few people around and once in awhile a dog.

The hide n seek game is pretty fun. Just the other day I played it with Snoopy. I stepped into the closet in our hallway to hang up my coat and he didn't see me go in there, so I decided to make it a game. When he realized I was no longer with him, he came trotting down the hall wondering where I went. He went right past the open doorway. I waited until he was into the next room out of sight and called him. He came booking back down the hall right past me again. I let him search various rooms and called him at intervals. Each time he'd change direction and come running past my hiding place, but he always bypassed the closet. When we play scavenger hunt and I hide treats for him, he's great about sniffing them out. But apparently when I disappear he only searches by sound and sight... silly boy! lol
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I like the idea of practising recall in a dog park first....we haven't got one yet though (though city council says we're getting one YAY!). She's doing pretty stellar at obedience classes, we actually were practising recall with distractions last night (all of the dogs playing) and she did pretty good.
Snoopy11, I wish our house were bigger...there's NO hiding spots in here to test her on lol. I'll have to get my DH outside with me and start with some simple, and relatively safe stuff by hiding on the other side of the house. We have tethered her outside before and just run in to get a drink and she ALWAYS starts whining for us when we go in instead of sniffing what she was going at before...I'm hoping this is a good sign that she'll want to keep an eye on us.

Sibe, I don't want the conversation to go in the e-collar direction either, but I'll just say it has crossed my mind. I consider it a good tool too, especially for the hiking scenario and with the right trainer. I do want her to be really good on her own before considering going that way, so its a backup rather than the actual rule.
 

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The only thing I can say is that Abbylynn is not ready for off leash anything. Lol! But being we hike in the woods here ... I started out using a nice soft horse lead ( from TSC )

This was easy on my hands and also larger and easier to get unwound as we did get caught up in a few trees and berry bushes ( ouch! ). Exploring is awesome for the dog!

After that I also took along a handle lead (just the handle one ... cannot remember what it is called) just to keep her close if I needed to.

Before I realized how the retractable leads were bad as they break ... we tried this and had one heck of a getting caught in everything and not much control time.

I am also careful about the plants and things the dogs like to taste ... also fleas and tick meds are number one of importance in there too. :)
 

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Do it. Hiking is the number one loved activity of this house and we try to get out into some open space at least once a week.

I have helped to train a few dogs other than my own to be reliable on hikes. Most dogs, depending on breed, surprise their owners will how well they do. My method is not scientific or proven to work for everyone, but I will share it anyways. Having well trained dogs with you helps a lot, but it won't be impossible without. Scope out the trail ahead of time and determine which would be easier to use: a flexi or a long line. In NH, a Flexi was almost always easier because the trails are quite skinny and there is always heavy brush/trees. In CO, a long line is easier as it is mostly wide open.

I start them with the leash (long line or flexi) attached and let them range out. At the range I want them to stop, usually around 30 feet is most comfortable for me, I stop and tell them 'too far' The tension on the leash usually gets them to spin around and take a few steps back towards me. If she just stands at the end of the line and keeps it tight, I would wait her out. If that method doesn't work, reel her back in. Do lots of repetitions of this until she seems to 'understand' that she is only allowed to range so far. Depending on the dog, and it sounds like Caeda would be appropriate, I introduce the recall command. I do this by having the highest value rewards possible with me. Some dogs, like Ozzie, could care less about what I have, so I use 'freedom' as the reward. It is harder if she isn't food or toy motivated outside, but it can be done. (Though a 99 cent hamburger is pretty irresistible to most any dog.)

When Caeda seems to be mildly interested in you and not completely distracted by scents, Give her the recall command and start jogging backwards. If she doesn't respond, start reeling her in while continuing to jog backwards. When she gets to you, praise, touch/hold her collar for a second or two, and then treat and release. I like to make a big deal about the release, because in reality that is their biggest reward.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Awesome tips +two :) We've been working on a "close" command a bit lately which is coming along slowly, though with your method it might speed up a bit.
Good point about the flexi Abbylynn. We have a feed store in town that carries lots of saddles and such, so I'm sure I can find a good horse lead there pretty cheap. As for fleas and ticks, we're really lucky up here, they're very rare (rare enough that the vet said the risk vs reward of a flea treatment isn't worth it). I don't actually know anyone here that has had a flea problem.
I guess I'll have to find some spots with trails for the first while, lots of the places I'm used to going include lots of beating through the bush, so basically impossible with a leash lol. I can just imagine the chaos!
We just had her in the back yard on the long line, just hanging out and she didn't seem to get the idea that it was ok to go sniff around, she kept looking back like she was saying "are you sure?". I'm pretty encouraged by that :D Of course when she gets super hyper all bets are off at the moment.
 

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I hike 3 dogs several times a week. All on leash. They learn quickly not to wrap around trees and how to unwrap. Mine are never off lead. I carry a fanny pack and clean up after my dogs. If they have good leash skills, this should be a very easy transition. Leashed dogs are welcome in some national forests.

Mine are always on lead.
 

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Just went for a 4 hour hike last Sunday with 4 dogs and a friend. No one was at the forest perserve so off leash it was. Dogs had a great time playing in the creek and exploring. The dogs along were a rat terrier, a GSD, an akita, and an anatolian shepherd. The 4 got along great and stayed close by. My anatolian always likes to walk right next to you. Sometimes this can be a pain in the butt, because she tends to lean on you and walk. The rat terrier never strays more than 3 feet and even if a squirrel runs across her path she will ignore it when given the command. The GSD and the akita belong to the friend. All 4 dogs have gone to dog obiedence classes. This helped out the most. I start out on a leash and then use a flex leash. On the flex leash I practice the recall. Then the dog will drag a long line. I have found horse lunge lines work pretty good. I have resorted at times using a big thick rope. When I see the dogs are ahead and not paying attention, I will turn around and start walking the other way. I have also played hide and seek on them. When they catch up or find me, I reward them with praise and a treat. I have found by playing these games the dogs keep a pretty close eye on you.

Next time I am going have my anatolian carry a back pack. I sure could have used another bottle of water during this extended hike. I got so thirsty the creek was looking pretty good!
 

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I highly recommend a back pack for Caeda. It helps a lot to slow down and give my Shasta a purpose to our off leash hikes (plus I don't need to carry anything). I could just be imagining it, but it seems like when we do hikes without a back pack she is everywhere all the time (not far, just back and forth along the trail). With a backpack, she is on the trail and going at a pretty steady pace after the first initial burst of "OMG THIS IS FUN!! WHATS THAT!? LOOK AT THIS!". Also, it helps tire her out a little more :wink:

A picture of when Shasta participated in our backpacking trip to demonstrate :p
 

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A picture of when Shasta participated in our backpacking trip to demonstrate :p
OH please oh please tell me where you got that pack and what its called? I've been looking for one for my catahoula mix because I think it would be an amazing thing to tire her out. There's so many different kinds and prices it makes my head spin a little and I would love some feedback on any you have!!

Sorry didn't mean to hijack the thread I just have exactly the same questions as the OP plus some more!
 

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OH please oh please tell me where you got that pack and what its called? I've been looking for one for my catahoula mix because I think it would be an amazing thing to tire her out. There's so many different kinds and prices it makes my head spin a little and I would love some feedback on any you have!!

Sorry didn't mean to hijack the thread I just have exactly the same questions as the OP plus some more!
This wasn't directed at me, but I have experience with quite a few different brands of packs. If I were in the market for a new one currently I'd be looking at the Ruffwear line of packs. Their harness system seems to be the most functional and practical.

I also second (or third) getting Caeda a pack. I think you might find it even helps on walks. As another poster said, the dogs seem to 'find a purpose' when they carry a pack and stick closer and on trail.
 
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