Staying on the Trail


Usually, I can count on my dog, Otto, being one of the best-behaved and best-trained dogs in the pack when I go out for off-leash hikes with friends and their dogs. When we hike solo, I keep the walk lively by frequently asking him to do “trail agility” – jumping over logs, jumping up on boulders, and even running through culverts. I also frequently ask him to perform spontaneous recalls; he can expect to be asked to do one at any moment, and he enjoys the game. His recalls are impeccable. All of this solo training really pays off when we walk with friends and their dogs are all over the place.

However, we recently got completely shown up when hiking with a newer friend, another woman about my age who also volunteers a lot at our local shelter. She has two dogs, a sharp little blue Australian Cattle dog and a large yellow Lab, and she’s somehow managed to train them to perform a behavior I’m really jealous of.

It’s one of the several times a year that ticks are really bad here in Northern California, and Otto is often covered with them after one of our off-leash jaunts, as he loves to run ahead of us and criss-cross the trail, sniffing for birds and woods animals. I usually go over him quickly before putting him in the car after a walk, and then do a very thorough exam once we get home, looking for the tiny ticks and combing burs out of his fur.

My friend has another solution. She’s taught her dogs to stay on the trail even when they are off-leash and bounding ahead. I don’t know how she did it, but at the moment, I’m green with envy.

I’m comforting myself with the knowledge that Otto has a BLAST running back and forth across the trail, and leaping up and down embankments trailside . . . but I’m thinking on our next hike, I’m going to have to ask my friend exactly how she taught her dogs to refrain from stepping off the trail.

Have any of your friends trained their dogs to do something you are jealous of?