It’s a well-known fact that dogs make the best adventure partners. And if you’re like us, you and your pup have big plans together. But it’s up to you to get your canine companion into shape for the types of outdoor trips you want to bring them on and help unlock their biological potential. Here are six things to keep in mind when training your dog for ultimate adventuring.
Build Physical Stamina
If you want to raise the bar from casual walks to longer outdoor adventures, you must do so gradually, says Tracey Hagan of Pawsitive Purpose Dog Training. You also need to wait until your pup is done growing—usually 8 to 18 months; something your vet can confirm—before taking her for higher-impact activities. Then you can try pushing the mileage—gradually. “See what your dog does,” Hagan says, noting that you should always check her body language for signs of fatigue. If she’s panting extremely hard, refusing to move forward, or showing signs of an injury, give her water and rest. This goes for running, swimming, and biking alongside you.
Don’t Forget About Mental Fitness
Just like humans, dogs need mental stimulation to build their intelligence and trail smarts. Puzzle toys, feeder balls, licky mats, and wading pools are a few popular toys you can use to challenge your dog. “There’s all kinds you can get, but I like making them on my own,” Hagan says. “It’s cheaper and it’s just as fun for the dogs.” She has tried everything from burying treats in a sandbox to hiding food in a two-liter bottle to teaching them to herd yoga balls into the corner of a yard. She says mental games can also help curb bad behaviors, such as barking, digging, and whining. Scent walks—slower-paced ambles where you allow Fido to sniff as much as he wants—are another way Hagan suggests mixing things up.
Provide a Healthy Diet
As your dog gets stronger, healthy eating is essential to his growth and development. But all pet food is not created equal. In the wild, your dog’s ancestors consumed all the delicious and nutritious parts of their prey—meat, organs, bones and all. That’s why ORIJEN diets include whole-animal ingredients in nourishing ratios: the first five ingredients in its foods are always fresh or raw animal protein from sources like beef, poultry, fish, or eggs. From nutrient-dense recipes designed to support puppy development to the protein-rich Original Dog Food, ORIJEN nourishes your adventure dog the way nature intended.
Teach a Few Important Skills
At the trailhead, you don’t want your dog leaping out of the car as soon as you open the door. Hagan says “come” and “wait” are useful commands in all types of scenarios, but her favorite exercise is targeting, which she teaches by holding a treat in her fist and having the dog touch his nose to her hand. “I use that to bring the dog away from things maybe they shouldn’t be going toward,” Hagan says. Every dog is going to have a threshold for how many distractions she can handle before she stops listening to you. An effective way to train dogs to listen better in overwhelming situations is to gradually expose them to more-intense sounds and sights while you condition them. Start the training inside before moving outside. Hagan also plays sounds on YouTube and turns up the volume as dogs stop noticing it, all the while teaching them different commands and rewarding them with treats.
Make Time Every Day
A five-minute walk is better than no walk at all. But if you’re planning to take your dog on a day hike or longer trip, she’ll need to work up to it just as you do. So you’ll need to dedicate more time and patience in your day to your pup. Hagan says the mental activities require less effort on your part because you can leave her with a treat dispenser or other puzzle toy. It’s the physical training that will take more time. Aim for physical activity a few times a day. Just think of it as you and your dog getting fit for your adventures together.