Family trip: how to take your dog on an outdoor adventure

Ashlyn Oswalt and Trapper the dog love hanging out. Check the DoC website to find places where dogs are allowed. Photo / Provided

If your favorite whānau member is the family dog ​​(we totally get it), you’ll want to involve them in your vacation, too. Ashlyn Oswalt has the best tips for dating your pooch.

From camping trips to water sports, dogs can thrive in outdoor activities with a little training, encouragement, and plenty of treats. If you’re ready for your dog to join you outside, here’s how to get started.

Before you start

It’s important to keep your dog’s energy level and abilities in mind when choosing your activity. Some dog breeds aren’t suited for hobos or water sports and are better companions for short walks and cuddles on the couch. Age matters too – puppies under 18 months old are limited to short walks and older dogs are prone to joint problems. If you’re unsure of your dog’s abilities, talk to your veterinarian about the best approach.

My rescue dog Trapper, a husky/lab mix, is an energetic dog who has been conditioned to outdoor activities since he was a puppy. I always get into new activities with slow exposure and positive reinforcement, and as he gets older we take more breaks.

It’s important to understand your dog’s limits and how he behaves when he’s tired, scared, or uncomfortable. Knowing these signs well in advance can save you from stressful times when help is scarce.

Make sure your dog understands basic commands and you are confident in his recall if you choose to hold him off leash (in the appropriate areas). The trapper is always on a leash, but has a good command of “leave” and “wait”, which comes in handy outdoors.

Before you go on an adventure, be sure to recreate yourself in dog-friendly areas. Visit the DoC website and select “dog-friendly” when searching for outdoor activities, or call the local DoC office for more information.

Tramping Tips

Trampling is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors with your dog. There are many options available – from short walks to multi-day walks. If you use the DoC website, most listings include information on elevation gain, water access, and walking time.

On hot days I stick to walks that have a water source along the way and are partially shaded. The trapper tends to overheat and needs frequent breaks from exposed walks. Dogs can only regulate body temperature by panting, so if you notice excessive panting or drooling, it’s a sign that they’re too hot and need a water break. Like humans, dogs can suffer from hyperthermia, so watch for these signs early to avoid a problem.

When preparing your dog for a longer ride, gradually build up his endurance. Most tramps include elevation gain, so add some hills to your rotation and increase your walk duration. If your dog carries a bag on your bum, use it on walks around the neighborhood and fill it with water bottles so he can get used to the extra weight.

Finally, know your dog. Be prepared to take frequent breaks and turn around if your dog isn’t coping, just like you would a human companion. Dogs that refuse to go further are not trying to annoy you – dogs know their limits and will act if they are not comfortable going further.

Camping holidays

With a basic tramp under your belt, you can have overnight or multi-day tramping experiences.

Think about your dog’s luggage. For overnight passers-by, Trapper carries his own food, harness, treats, and poop bags in his orange backpack. Although he doesn’t have to carry it himself, it does help shave a few grams off my own bag.

At home, Trapper eats raw meat, so we switch to quality kibble on the trail. Test food at home for a few days before leaving if it’s new.

Where will your dog sleep? Trapper sleeps in our two-person tent, at our feet on an old packable down jacket that serves as his bed. Whatever you decide, try your arrangement in the garden, rewarding them for their calm behavior in the tent.

Dogs are not allowed in the DoC huts, so be sure to bring a tent. Some cabins have kennels, but if your dog has never slept there, you risk a miserable night for all campers involved.

Nautical sports

What’s cuter than a puppy on a SUP? Trapper does stand-up paddleboarding with us and luckily he’s never been an enthusiastic swimmer, so sitting quietly on the SUP suits him.

When we first started SUPing and kayaking, we invested in a life jacket with a handle on top, to pull him out of the water in case he fell overboard. We also stuck to shore in calm waters on our first twelve trips, making sure we could touch the ground if we went too far. We never did, and I attribute that to Trapper’s understanding of “leave” (used when we see him observing a bird or a floating stick) and our quiet nature. Treats help here too.

Lots of short trips can make kayaking or SUP a hit, so bring your boat to your next swim session and go for a 10-minute paddle with your dog. This will help build positive experiences.

Winter sports

Winter can be an amazing time to try new sports with your dog. Some ski areas allow dogs on the slopes, and Snow Farm in Wānaka offers well-groomed cross-country ski trails. Since most dogs aren’t used to snow, invest in booties or a jacket if you’re planning long sessions or if their breed is prone to cold weather. Again, slow down and give your dog breaks to create an enjoyable experience.

Enjoying the outdoors with your dog can be an amazing way to bond and see New Zealand from a different perspective. Knowing your dog and his limits is the first step to having a great time outdoors, and giving yourself time to properly prepare for your adventure will mean a more fun time outdoors. Once you’ve taken your dog on an outdoor adventure, you’ll be hard pressed to stop.

For more travel inspiration, head over to newzealand.com/nz.

Check traffic light settings and Department of Health advice before traveling at covid19.govt.nz

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