Trainer Tips–What do your dogs really want to do?

6February 2014

As a trainer, I am familiar with all kinds of dog questions.  One of my favorites is, “what does my dog want to do?”  As in, if my dog could do anything, what would it be?

Your dog wants to run and play, but also wants to be with you.  Dogs enjoy the experience of traveling with the pack.  The best form of exercise for your dog is a well-balanced pack hike.  Notice the way I worded that sentence.  There is a very large difference between a hike where your dog runs wild, and a well-balanced/ organized hike.  You want to be organized, but not overly-so.  Basically, a dog should earn everything from you as the owner, including the right to be let off leash while on a hike.  If you do not trust your dog or cannot control your dog, they have NOT earned the right to be off leash.  In that case, your dog should be secured to a long line (a 20-30 foot leash).  Do NOT use an extend-leash.  The extend-leash always has tension on the line, and encourages the dog to pull.  While on a hike and lone line, your dog should NOT be pulling you.  The purpose of using a long line is to teach a dog how to be off-leash but stay within a certain distance of you.  If you allow your dog to pull on a long line, this lesson will never be learned.

A great pack hike is also fun (and good exercise) for the humans.  You get to see and explore some of the amazing sites Maui has to offer that are right in your backyard.

Athena with Toby, Nekita, & Caravaggio at Kapalua Coastal Trails.


Important things to remember when going on a pack hike…
Make them wait and calm down.

Before the dogs even get out of your car, they should be made to sit and wait.  My dogs are required to do this EVERY TIME.  The reason for this (and it’s important) is because whatever the mind-set your dog is in when he is let out of the car, that is what he will take into that environment.  So if you let your dog out while they are crazy and bouncing all over the car, they will take that crazy into the outside environment.  This is a very difficult mind to control or even be heard by at all.  But, if you take the extra few minutes to make your dog sit and wait to be released until they have calmed down, they will go into the new environment much more relaxed and not be as apt to run off or offer other poor behaviors.

Make sure the pack gets along.

Go with someone (dogs) that your dog already knows and gets along with, or someone you know you can trust.  My dogs are well trained and familiar with how many dogs behave, good or bad, and know how to properly react.  I often use my own dogs to help train others.  The pack hike is one of my favorite activities to bring new dogs into, especially if they have issues dealing with other dogs or running away from the owner.  Using the Such Good Dogs pack is great because my dogs (and other dogs I have trained in the past I also use) know how the hike works and are obedient.  They will run through the field or woods or whatever, but come back to me and check in often.  They are not allowed and have learned to never wander too far away.  I will usually use a long-line (20-30 foot leash) for dogs that are new to the pack hike or particular area.  This ensures that this dog will follow the rules, because he is secured with a leash.  This keeps the new dog from straying too far from the pack.  Dogs who are off-leash have earned the right to be so.  Remember…Safety First!  If you don’t trust your dog, have them secured to a long line.  If you don’t trust someone else’s dog, don’t hike with them.

Good Exercise.
There is a difference between just plain physical exercise and mental activity.  Both of these things are very important for your dog.  Many times people like to just let their dogs run around crazy in their backyard or at the dog park.  Yes, your dog is getting some physical exercise, which is important, but they are doing so in a chaotic, undisciplined way.  It is much more important for your dog to engage in mental activity than just plain physical exercise.  Your dog will actually be more tired, and more satisfied with more mental challenges.  Furthermore, a dog who is more mentally focused is less likely to ignore their owner, and get into bad situations with other dogs.  The best way to protect your dog is to TRAIN HIM!

Below are some of the many pictures I have from various pack hikes.  You will see my dogs many times, as they are always a part of this type of dog training.

I love this picture.
Notice that the two further back are on leash,
they had not yet earned the right to be off leash.


Hiking near West Maui Kennels.


Lipoa Point.
Amazing Maui and my dog(s).
One of my favorite things about some of these hikes is posing with my pack for some amazing Maui pictures.  This is a great goal for you to have and work towards.  Then you can proudly display some amazing pictures of you and your pet and show all your friends on the mainland how much fun you have together.  Below are some of my favorite amazing pictures with dogs.
Nekita at Honolua Bay.

Irie, Caravaggio, & Nekita

Beck at sunset.  Honolua Bay.