Tips for preparing (training) dogs for the backcountry

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Devo

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Joined
Mar 1, 2014
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152
So I have a 4 month old Husky mix that we have had for about 2 months now. Training is going really well and she seems like a smart pup. I have been on plenty of trips with dogs in my group (love having them!) and am excited to take her. I admit that I am a total rookie when it comes to being the one 100% responsible for them. I have been working really hard at getting her to look at me on command, leave toys and treats alone until I give her the ok and coming when called. She is doing very well and catching on quick. I realize that out on the trail will probably be a whole new story though vs in/around home. I am wondering if you guys have some tips for "breaking in" a pup for the trail, and tips for those first trips (be it training, what to bring, anything!). Thank you in advance!
 

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TannerT

Hike Hard, Tread Lightly
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May 15, 2013
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589
That is a big question. I can't speak to all breeds or owners. What I can speak to is that we have a 5yo Labradoodle that is full of energy and fire. She is also the best dog I've been around (Personal bias noted). She follows commands, stays close by, does not beg for people food, is great off leash...I could go on. You want suggestions not stories...

The process is going to take a while for her behavior to stick and be consistent. 1 year is a good guideline, depending on breed, to establish and reinforce behavior.
First, treat her the same at home and on the trail. This sets the baseline for both you and her, for either praise or correction. The advice my Dad gave me was 'never let a dog do once what you don't want it to do twice!' when our puppy was little she grabbed a banana peel out of the garbage and brought it to us to play with (obviously to us a no-no), we took it, redirected her energy to a toy, and praised her for chewing the toy.
Second, commands. One person at a time says her name and a one word command. You're doing good by reinforcing behavior now with treats. Keep doing that until you can take the treats away because she wants to please you...the Alpha.
Third, be the Alpha. Set the relationship straight by entering the house first. For the first year have her on a leash anytime you go out and are walking or you need her by your side. Have her walk at your side or behind you when walking. Do not reward for 'good enough' behavior, only for correct behavior. Only punish when caught in the act, or close to the site. The person that puts her in time out is the person that releases her from time out.
Fourth, feeding time and amount needs to be consistent. She won't wonder if she'll eat, she'll know when she'll eat. Extra food on hard working days is totally fine as long as there's a routine in place.
Fifth, and this is my opinion but it's been awesome with my puppy...don't feed her people food ever. Not even when you're tempted to. A few reasons: she won't beg when she's a 'little' hungry and people are eating food around her. She'll be able to concentrate more because she'll never be wondering 'Am I gonna eat some too?' I have my dog as the case study - I can leave jerky, popcorn, etc. out on the floor and she won't touch it. My 2 year old will leave food on couches or chairs and she won't touch it. It also pays off when we're out doing something and she'll 'get into' something that's not hers because I can tell her to leave it/drop it.

Having a puppy is fun, but don't let bad puppy behavior trick you into thinking it's cute...they don't grow out of it!

That's a rough draft and I'm no expert. I'd like to hear others perspectives too. Let us know how it's going.

Salud!
 

Devo

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Joined
Mar 1, 2014
Messages
152
@TannerT Awesome advice thank you! Def need to work on leash (she likes to pull) and I have been slipping her bacon and things. :oops: Reading that now makes a lot of sense and hoping stopping now will help with the begging. Really wish I would have asked this a few weeks ago!

After reading your post yesterday I started having her "stay" outside while I walk in and telling her "ok" after I come in and she has that down already. Leash pulling is going to be more work though. I think she thinks she is a sled dog. :)
 

TannerT

Hike Hard, Tread Lightly
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Messages
589
@TannerT Awesome advice thank you! Def need to work on leash (she likes to pull) and I have been slipping her bacon and things. :oops: Reading that now makes a lot of sense and hoping stopping now will help with the begging. Really wish I would have asked this a few weeks ago!

After reading your post yesterday I started having her "stay" outside while I walk in and telling her "ok" after I come in and she has that down already. Leash pulling is going to be more work though. I think she thinks she is a sled dog. :)
It's all a process man! Awesome with the order of entrance. The leash is the hardest. The advice we read and received was/is when a dog begins to pull the leash that you pull pressure on the leash and give the command to return to your side, we say 'heel'. If they continue to pull, stop, give the command, have the dog return, and then give the command to continue. For us it felt like forever but now looking back was only a course of weeks. Now when I have my puppy off leash (this is anecdotal), she can be ahead of me exploring but when I give a command (that she hears :rolleyes:), she will look to me and either wait for me to catch up or she will return to my side. It's been nice to say the least, especially when around other dogs of unknown temperament :thumbsup:.

Good luck and keep us updated! We should get a doggy play date together too.

Salud!
 

Vegan.Hiker

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2,090
I'll just add that I'd advise against letting her off leash while hiking until your recall command works 100% of the time (not 90% or 95% of the time) even in distracting or stimulating settings (like a busy park or at a backyard BBQ). I've met more than one person who lost their dog in the woods because it darted off to chase a deer or got spooked by something and darted. I'm about 95% confident with my dog's recall (he's a hound so if he catches onto a scent trail it's hard to get his attention) so I keep him on leash most of the time when I bring him hiking. So since you were asking about backcountry training, I'd say that developing a reliable recall is the best way to ensure her safety out there.
 

Devo

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Messages
152
I'll just add that I'd advise against letting her off leash while hiking until your recall command works 100% of the time (not 90% or 95% of the time) even in distracting or stimulating settings (like a busy park or at a backyard BBQ). I've met more than one person who lost their dog in the woods because it darted off to chase a deer or got spooked by something and darted. I'm about 95% confident with my dog's recall (he's a hound so if he catches onto a scent trail it's hard to get his attention) so I keep him on leash most of the time when I bring him hiking. So since you were asking about backcountry training, I'd say that developing a reliable recall is the best way to ensure her safety out there.
Probably my number one concern as far as on the trail. Very good advice, being born in August she will only be 10-14 months old next summer. Do you think that is going to be too much to ask at that age or does that just depend? I imagine next year I will have her on the leash most of the time but its good to know what I should be aiming for! I don't want to expect too much from her or too little I guess. :)
 

TannerT

Hike Hard, Tread Lightly
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May 15, 2013
Messages
589
Probably my number one concern as far as on the trail. Very good advice, being born in August she will only be 10-14 months old next summer. Do you think that is going to be too much to ask at that age or does that just depend? I imagine next year I will have her on the leash most of the time but its good to know what I should be aiming for! I don't want to expect too much from her or too little I guess. :)
All dogs are different but if you work with her this winter you'll be in a good place come next spring/summer. Huskies are smart (pro) and a little stubborn (con) but they do want to please (double pro) and they are loyal (pro).

sent from an undisclosed location
 

balzaccom

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Sep 30, 2014
Messages
389
This thread should be required reading for anyone who is thinking of taking a dog on the trail!

I've posted a link to this conversation on our website, suggesting that!
 

Artemus

I walk
.
Joined
Jun 25, 2012
Messages
4,381
That is a big question. I can't speak to all breeds or owners. What I can speak to is that we have a 5yo Labradoodle that is full of energy and fire. She is also the best dog I've been around (Personal bias noted). She follows commands, stays close by, does not beg for people food, is great off leash...I could go on. You want suggestions not stories...

The process is going to take a while for her behavior to stick and be consistent. 1 year is a good guideline, depending on breed, to establish and reinforce behavior.
First, treat her the same at home and on the trail. This sets the baseline for both you and her, for either praise or correction. The advice my Dad gave me was 'never let a dog do once what you don't want it to do twice!' when our puppy was little she grabbed a banana peel out of the garbage and brought it to us to play with (obviously to us a no-no), we took it, redirected her energy to a toy, and praised her for chewing the toy.
Second, commands. One person at a time says her name and a one word command. You're doing good by reinforcing behavior now with treats. Keep doing that until you can take the treats away because she wants to please you...the Alpha.
Third, be the Alpha. Set the relationship straight by entering the house first. For the first year have her on a leash anytime you go out and are walking or you need her by your side. Have her walk at your side or behind you when walking. Do not reward for 'good enough' behavior, only for correct behavior. Only punish when caught in the act, or close to the site. The person that puts her in time out is the person that releases her from time out.
Fourth, feeding time and amount needs to be consistent. She won't wonder if she'll eat, she'll know when she'll eat. Extra food on hard working days is totally fine as long as there's a routine in place.
Fifth, and this is my opinion but it's been awesome with my puppy...don't feed her people food ever. Not even when you're tempted to. A few reasons: she won't beg when she's a 'little' hungry and people are eating food around her. She'll be able to concentrate more because she'll never be wondering 'Am I gonna eat some too?' I have my dog as the case study - I can leave jerky, popcorn, etc. out on the floor and she won't touch it. My 2 year old will leave food on couches or chairs and she won't touch it. It also pays off when we're out doing something and she'll 'get into' something that's not hers because I can tell her to leave it/drop it.

Having a puppy is fun, but don't let bad puppy behavior trick you into thinking it's cute...they don't grow out of it!

That's a rough draft and I'm no expert. I'd like to hear others perspectives too. Let us know how it's going.

Salud!
Fantastic write up Tanner.
 

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Jon Carbaugh

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Jul 8, 2015
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@Devo congrats on the new pup! I have 2 Huskys, 8 and 9 years old. They are great dogs to have. I am not an expert trainer but i have done tons of research for many years to help train my dogs and I am very happy with the rsults. @TannerT gives excellent advice and guidelines.
Having experience with them, I would emphasize the same as @Vegan.Hiker , the work on your recall command. Huskys have very high prey drive, couple that with very high energy and very high stamina and you have the potential for a disastrous situation. They can chase a deer for miles before realizing it and by then it could be too late because you cant keep up with them, and they can't find their way back. I don't buy into the tales that they are untrainable to recall. It just takes countless hours of steady and consistent training. Even with all the training in the world though, just know that you can have circumstances that stack up againt you out there, and one time out of a thousand she doesn't come back. You need to have confidence that you can grab her attention from whatever it is that has her running. We have ours on the leash all the time. Just a tough personal choice we made after chasing them through the neighborhood on several occasions. They just get in a go-go-go mode and its hard to get thier attention, even when they have nothing to chase.
And they are bred for pulling, that's as natural as breathing to them. Our first, Skye, gave me tennis elbow by pulling on me before she was a year old using a harness. They still want to when we go out initially, but it only takes a couple of little stops and corrections to get them to chill out.

Good luck, I'm sure she'll do great! We look forward to hearing how she's doing. Please be sure to post some pictures of her on the "Dogs of BCP thread". :)
 

sweelmaestro

New Member
Joined
Jul 8, 2020
Messages
1
Sorry for chiming in to this thread so late, but I just had to share this in case it helps someone out. I wish I had gotten this advice years ago.

Training your dog really is the only long-term solution, OP.

I love my dog so much but it constantly did the things that irked me most. It would chew on things that it shouldn’t or jump up and down out of the blue.

Whenever I put on the leash, it would pull on it. Whenever it was out of the house, it would continue digging on the ground - I wish I could tell what it was looking for down there. The same goes for all the nasty urine.

All the things it did left me feeling depressed as if I failed it monumentally.

But since I discovered Brain Training 4 Dogs and applied the system offered, it now behaves the way a beautiful dog I always expect of. I highly recommend it.

Here's a link to their site. Good luck! :)
 

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