Taking Your Four-Legged Sidekick On An Amazing Adventure

Hiking invigorates the body, clears the mind and refreshes the soul. Even if you’re not particularly adventuresome, after hiking once, something in the experience just makes you want to do it again. Whether you’re alone or with friends, seeing nature at its finest always feels so wonderful and refreshing. But your best hiking companion is at home, patiently waiting by your door every time you leave! Your dog. Now the question is, where and what’s the best way for me to go hiking with dogs?

Living The Southwest Dream

The Southwest is known for its arid deserts, crimson landscapes, unique mountains and other natural wonders. When it comes to hiking with dogs, this region surely has some of the best places to offer. Read through to find out some bucketlist-worthy hiking spots!

1. Grand Canyon

I know, I know. Most national parks are not super pet-friendly, and the Grand Canyon National Park is not an exception. They allow pets, but only on the paved areas and trails. However, the South Rim of this majestic Wonder of the World welcomes dogs as long as they are leashed. There are miles of paved trails along the rim with the most amazing views you could imagine. Plus you have access to all the essential services nearby that you might take advantage of during your hike, like restrooms, restaurants, post office, and of course the ice cream parlor!

patrick hendry dog adventure in little grand canyon
Dog Adventure at the Grand Canyon
Photo by Patrick Hendry

The South Rim is open year-round, 24 hours a day. There are many trails and viewpoints to explore, with different levels of difficulty! But aside from hiking, there are  heaps of other activities you can enjoy with your dog, such as seeing the sunrise from the Desert View or the sunset from Hopi, Yaki or Mather’s Points. Even after dark, you can’t miss out on stargazing or joining one of their evening ranger programs.

2. Kodachrome Basin

From the name itself, the Kodachrome Basin State Park is known for its multi-colored and red-tinged rock cliffs and formations. This pet-friendly park allows dogs on no more than a 6-foot leash. Apart from its naturally colorful aesthetics, the Kodachrome Basin boasts 67 monolithic stone spires, popularly known as the sand pipes.

A day in this park is not enough to cover all the wonderful landmarks that it offers, from the jaw-dropping Chimney Rock, the amazing Shakespeare Arc, and campground, to the different trails that you and your dog will enjoy. They have five trails to choose from: Nature Trail, Angel’s Palace Trail, Panorama Trail, Grand Parade Trail and Eagle’s Landing Trailhead. For your convenience, they have basic facilities that you may need such as parking area, comfort rooms, restrooms, telephone access, picnic tables and more. This year, they have added camper-style bunkhouses and a full-service laundromat for tourists who wish to stay longer.

3. Bryce & Zion

luca-bravo-bryce-canyon
Bryce Canyon National Park, United States
Photo by Luca Bravo

Did you know that it is possible to visit both of these parks in one day? YES! Bryce and Zion National Parks are just an hour and a half drive away from each other. As Utah’s first national park, Zion has definitely preserved its natural beauty along with its rich history. They allow dogs in the Pa’rus Trail, which runs for 1.5 miles from the South Campground to the Canyon Junction. Then you may proceed to Bryce Canyon, a sprawling reserve famously known for its crimson-colored rock formations shaped like spires. Pets are allowed on the paved trail between Sunrise Point and Sunset Point as well as all paved viewpoint areas.

sapan-patel-zion-national-park
Zion National Park, United States
Photo by Sapan Patel

Ready for an adventure of a lifetime?

After the successful launch of our tours in Charlotte NC, Happy Tails Canine Adventure Tours has expanded into the Southwest with our Coyote 8 Day tour and we are ready to take you and your canine best friend on an amazing adventure. Beyond the happy memories, this once in a lifetime experience will transform your life and your dog’s! The Grand Canyon, Kodachrome Basin, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon are just few of the places we will visit on The Coyote – A Southwest USA 8 Day Tour. If you want you and your dog to be a part of this wonderful experience, join our waitlist at: HappyTailsTours.com/Coyote.

 

 

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Today Margie, Dozer & I spent the morning Stand Up Paddleboarding with my friend Jamie and his awesome canine sidekick Keystone at the US National Whitewater Center. Jamie and I have a lot of interests in common, especially dogs and adventure activities, even though we come from pretty different backgrounds. The important thing is that we both have learned that any adventure activity, including traveling with your dog or canine sidekick, can be intimidating if not downright scary at first. Some of us start off slower and some dive in head first. There’s no right way.

dog water adventure tour
Jamie and his awesome canine sidekick Keystone at the US National Whitewater Center.

Jamie has turned into a very active backpacker and outdoor adventurer even though he didn’t grow up doing it. I grew up on a farm, rode my first runaway horse at 5 years old, and spent most of my college career road tripping around the southwest camping in any open space, and eventually ending up backpacking and hitchhiking through east & South Africa before becoming a professional guide.

Traveling with your dogJamie and I both agreed that the key to being comfortable with any adventure activity, whether traveling with your dog or not, is to start off only as far out of your comfort zone as you can handle without making it an entirely unpleasant or traumatic experience for you, or your canine sidekick. Each of us has our own boundaries and we have to be able to take care of ourselves. Sometimes that means getting some help.

Traveling with your dog

For example, when I was 20 I planned a 3 month backpacking trip to Europe with a college friend. At the last minute he had to cancel, and no way I was going alone. Luckily my mother suggested a tour. It was a brilliant suggestion. I spent 2 weeks with a group doing a kamikaze 7 countries in 14 days. After that I was much more comfortable and confident and spent the next 3 months on my own, having an amazing time. Sometimes we just need an opportunity to get our feet wet before we dive in.

It reminds me of my days teaching skiing in Taos, New Mexico. Taos is steep and deep. Its one of the toughest mountains in the US. One day I watched a lady in her 50’s arguing with her husband about going down a very advanced intermediate run. She was still at the top with the option of taking the easy run to the left. He was about 30 feet down, yelling to her: “Come on baby! You can do it!” She kept responding that she wasn’t comfortable. I skied over to her and with my back to him asked if it was her husband. “Yes, it is.” I asked, “Do you love him?” to which she replied yes again. “Do you want to stay married to him?” i asked, to which she said yes, yet again. “Ignore him and go the other way. The runs come together again half way down.” And I skied away back to my friends.

Her husband kept encouraging her even though she was obviously terrified. She kept looking from him to me, and finally turned her back on him and skied away, ignoring his calls. A few hours later at lunch, she found me on the deck and came up and thanked me. “That was the best advice I’ve ever listened to. Thank you!” Like I said, sometimes we just need a little help. She was already pushing her boundaries pretty hard just skiing at Taos. She didn’t need to prove anything and certainly didn’t need to push so much that she’d quit skiing altogether.

That’s a big part of what we want to provide to people, a place to start. We created Happy Tails Canine Adventure Tours because we have seen the incredible benefits that result from experiencing travel, adventure, and especially traveling with your dog. We want to share that and help others. Whether you are a novice who wants to gain the skills and knowledge to travel with your dog on your own, or if you just want to bring your awesome canine sidekick on a series of fantastic Happy Tails Tours adventures, you will know how and that you can. Our goal is to help create that relationship between you and your dog so that they trust you, you trust them, and you both have the confidence to explore that relationship and the world in depth, together.

 

Full moon kayak adventure tour
Join us on an outstanding full moon adventure on the Catawba River at Tailrace Marina.

 


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In the last blog, entitled Dog Obedience Training! Do I have to be a “Dog Whisperer”?, we discussed the importance of consistency in training. And no, you don’t have to be a dog whisperer or professional trainer in order to have a well-behaved dog.

You do have to set yourself and your dog up for success. Start your dog obedience training in a closed environment, with little to no distractions. This environment is ideal to start off leash dog training. You want to keep control of their focus, which will be easier if you keep sessions short and make it fun, with lots of praise and enthusiasm. Once they are focused on you and consistently performing the behavior well, take it to the next level. Go into the living room with the TV on. Once you have success there, go into the backyard where there are more but limited distractions. Next may be the front yard. Remember to never do off leash dog obedience training in any open environment. No matter how good they are doing we don’t want to risk them running after a distraction like a squirrel or a cat.

If an environment turns out to be too much (you might barely get them to look at you let alone obey a command), take a step back to the last environment where you were successful. We do this all the way to the point where they can sit and focus on you even when outside a dog park. And remember, set them up for success. Make yourself the most exciting thing out there. If you can’t get focus and obedience, don’t keep saying a command. Give a command you are sure they can follow and then release them, and then stop for the time being. It’s time to take a break.

 

outdoor dog obedience training
“Every adventure I take with my puppy Miah turns into some sort of training trying to get her to pose just right. Sometimes, having a little help from others can make the scene so much more mesmerizing.” Photo by Wyatt Ryan

 

Eventually, you will be able to get focus and obedience even inside of a dog park, which can be a good place to do more off leash dog training. But remember that even in a dog park, you have to pay attention to your dog and what’s happening at all times. Too many people go to the dog park and are on their phone or distracted talking to other dog owners rather than making sure the dogs are all ok.

Positive reinforcement or reward-based training is great in dog obedience training, meaning that they obey the command and they get a reward, be it a treat, love, and attention, or the opportunity to play with you like with a tug toy. Play is a huge part to success.

 

Full moon kayak adventure tour
Join us on an outstanding full moon adventure on the Catawba River at Tailrace Marina.

 

Most importantly, keep sessions short, fun and positive for both of you. Training is as much about building and strengthening your relationship with your dog as it is about them following commands. Make sure that you stop the session before your dog loses interest and then reward them with a good play session. Training sessions should always start and end with play. Then training itself becomes a reward and they look forward to it. It’s all part of setting them up for success.

Lastly, dogs learn at different speeds and in different ways just like people. Don’t get discouraged and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even the best and most successful trainers still take seminars and ask for help from others. To achieve success in dog obedience training, we can’t let pride get in the way.


More On Consistency As A Keystone To Successfully Traveling With Your Dog

Dogs generally prefer and thrive in situations where they feel safe, and one of the things that creates a sense of safety and security is consistency and familiarity. It’s the same for us as humans, especially for children. Consistency can be experienced in many different forms. It could be as basic and specific as being fed at the same times every day, to following the same route on a walk, to having the same people and dogs to interact within our lives, or even an old blanket to sleep on.

animals_dogs_margie

When we are traveling, consistency can be more of a challenge. For this reason, people often prefer to stay at the same hotel chain where rooms, policies and property layouts are often familiar. Or we eat at the same chain restaurant where we know the menu and layout. Some of us even have our favorite (or lucky) suitcase, briefcase, etc.

dog in restaurant

For dogs, their sense of safety is based in a large part on the consistency of the family or pack. To put this into context with regards to my 12 months 20,000-mile motorcycle journey with Max, I was the constant, the keystone of his world. As long as I was there, he was ok. The only other constant was our motorcycle, which by default played a huge role. To demonstrate my point, in the summer of 2000, we were visiting a friend in Boise, Idaho. We planned to spend the afternoon at a local minor league baseball game and decided to leave Max at my friend’s girlfriend’s house with her dog, 5 blocks from his home. Max had never been there before. We left in the morning, drove about ten miles around Boise on errands, and then went straight to her house, where we picked her up and dropped off Max in a backyard with an 8-foot fence made of block walls. 3 hours later we returned and he was gone. My friend was devastated, but I suggested that before we panic we head to his house. When we got there, Max was lying calmly but attentively in the driveway next to my motorcycle. It must have taken some serious determination to get over those walls because the only thing he had to jump on to get a boost up was the Rottweiler’s back. My friend’s father said he had been sitting there for two hours. I don’t know how he found his way there, but he knew that if the bike was there, I would be back, and he just hung out.

You being that keystone, along with a few other tips, is what your dog needs in order for traveling with them to be a success. In other words, as long as you are there and cool, calm and “in charge”, the rest is no big deal. It’s very much like if you were to travel with your child. In my travels, I have met many people traveling with young children, from toddlers to adolescents, and the one consistent thing was always that the parents were there, guiding and supporting while also giving them the opportunity to learn and explore. Those children have never failed to impress me with their confidence, maturity and the ease with which they interact and communicate with others regardless of age, culture or language barriers. Dogs like Max and those of many travelers of all kinds are equally impressive in their balance and calm. To the point, Cesar Milan talks in his books about the healthy balanced dogs that he often sees with the many homeless in Los Angeles

Animals_bob_cat_lake_dog

It’s important to remember that any way and anywhere that you can create consistency, you will be helping your dog to adapt and stay calm, even at home. Pretty much everything that follows in this series of travel tips is, in one way or another, based or focused upon this concept of consistency. Again, be as consistent as possible with the simple things, such as feeding times, scheduled walks, and of course, your vehicle if it is safe to leave your dog in while doing activities that they can not join in on. For years the back of our truck has been our dog’s favorite place. In New Mexico, they would happily hang out in the back of the truck all day other when they needed to pee or went off to chase rabbits, coyotes and prairie dogs. If you are backpacking or otherwise depending on transportation from others, a portable crate or kennel, even a super lightweight mini pop-up tent, kennel or kids dollhouse is a fantastic tool that I will talk more about later. Dog’s love dens, thrive when they have a safe place of their own where they can go that will minimize sensory overload, and need a place where others have to respect their privacy.

dog back of the truck

Traveling with a dog or multiple dogs is one of the most fun and rewarding things that you can do. We’ve been through 10 countries with our dogs and have traveled by car, boat, plane, and motorcycle. It’s not difficult to do once you get the hang of it, but there are some important tips to learn in order to do it effectively, safely, and have a great time doing it.

 

1. Consistency

Dogs need as much consistency as possible in order to be comfortable. Over the years I’ve tried to get our dogs as accustomed to change and inconsistency as possible without stressing them. Just like us, the more gentle their entry into travel and the younger, the easier it is to adapt. Some of the key things that I found make the biggest difference to them being comfortable are consistent feeding times, frequent and consistent walks, good training and plenty of exercises – both physical and mental.

 

2. Mental Excercise

As my friend Matt from @TheZenDogLA says, mental exercise trumps physical exercise, meaning when they are stimulated in a positive way and have to think, they get tired without always having to be exhausted physically.

 

 

3. Obedience Training

General obedience training and training tricks are great ways to improve your bond with them, stimulate them, tire them out, and have fun. Plus a dog that is well behaved is welcome almost everywhere, and if he/she can entertain with some cool tricks, you’ll both make a lot of new friends. My friend Andres had a dog called Rocket Man. He taught Rocket Man to speak on a secret cue phrase. So when Andres would be in a conversation, he would look at Rocket Man and say “What do you think Rocket Man?”, and Rocket Man would start talking (in a dog of course). Everyone loved it.

Training obedience is also a huge safety issue, always, but especially when traveling. A dog with a great recall and great sit and stay won’t find itself in traffic or chasing something it shouldn’t. It will be welcome in restaurants, bars and at people’s homes, and is much easier to deal with if it gets hurt or needs to go to a new vet. I always take all of my dogs to the vet together, even if only one needs treatment. That way they get used to the smells and Vets and it isn’t always a negative experience. Plus the dog being treated seems to appreciate and benefit from the emotional support.

 

4. Make it clear that you are in charge

Training also helps with consistency and makes a dog comfortable. As a pack animal, the safety of the pack and of each member depends on a good leader. When a dog knows that the human is in charge and taking care of things they can relax. When they don’t feel that the leader is competent then the dog gets nervous and that is where behavioral issues often start. The key is to understand how dogs think and communicate, because they aren’t going to learn how we do it.

To let them know that we are in charge, we have to be in charge of and provide food, water, shelter, make sure things are safe, and be clear about our place. There are a number of great ways to communicate this. One is being in charge of the food, and so in our home (or car/ hotel/ motorcycle), our dogs don’t eat until we give them permission. Another is making sure that our energy is calm and this relates to safety. It’s pretty difficult to feel comfortable following someone who isn’t calm and stable. Few people would vote for or feel confident following a leader who’s always frantic, stressed or reacting irrationally to people, situations, and events. Dogs are the same.

 

Our dogs will transform our lives and our friends @keendogtraining in Charlotte get it. That is why they are so dedicated to helping clients to have really well trained, happy dogs that can go everywhere with their owners and enjoy life together. We had a great time with Katrina and her clients on our inaugural trip on April 21st of 2018. Now they have put together a fantastic 31-day event called the Charlotte Scavenger Hunt #cltscavengerhunt which is a special destination every day of the month of May. Check it out at cltscavengerhunt.com

So before you travel with your dog, especially on an extended adventure, make sure that you are clear about your relationship and that your dog is also.

Keep reading our blogs for more tips on traveling with your dogs safely and how to find great destinations, hotels, activities and the hidden gems that dogs will drive you to find that you otherwise may not have.