_ I've been meaning to tell you how much our puggies have changed since walking with you. Over the holidays we were visiting a lot of different households where, in the past, the puggles were not necessarily praised for their manners and calm behaviours! But this year... what a difference!!! They're so much more relaxed and happy, Chris and I are overjoyed!! I'm so grateful you came into our lives!
It's not me (well, maybe a small part) - it's the trails!
I love trail walking with my canine companions. And I wish all my dogs were trail-ready. Before I take a new friend on a trail, we go to High Park. Some dogs will explore and check back in. Others share their discoveries alongside. Occasionally, a new friend will get too carried away with roaming.
And so I ask all humans of the dogs who hike with me whether their dogs are trail-ready. I always hope they are; but dogs can get lost on a trail. And human voices cannot carry far enough or may not be heeded. I walk such a dog, a bright, energetic fox terrier who finds a scent and follows it. In our trail walks, she will have to be on lead, followed by a romp with other dogs in an enclosed off-leash area. Her human is working hard to improve her dog's recall. And when the time comes, they will both accompany me on a test trail walk.
So it's vital to inform your walker/ hiking guide of your dog's habits and tendencies. Trail walking may commence immediately or may become one of your primary goals for your dog.
My Frida has been hiking with me since she was a puppy. She acts as canine guide and companion and was born to this work. When the hike works, everything is in sync, dogs, human, earth, sky, all.I am wishing this for you and your dog.
_A copy of a letter sent to a dedicated owner of two pugs who may be sharing our trail hikes.
"Starting January, I will be adding a fox terrier to our hiking group. That's around Ossington and Dupont, right near you, I guess. A few questions - what are your dogs' recall like? Are you comfortable with my letting them off leash if we're on a trail? The dogs I walk (except for one who has just been re-homed and is learning) will wander a bit, but will generally stay within viewing range and return when called.
The dog who has just found her new home cannot go off-leash yet, as I worry for her safety. Having one dog like that on our hikes is no problem, but I've decided that dogs hiking with me should be able to be off-leash. They love to run in the forest and open spaces, and I feel city dogs need this. I think this is one important aspect, and the other would relate to the nature of the dog. It's hard for me to walk aggressive dogs. The pleasure of the walk is really vital for all the dogs in the group, so I seek dogs that get along with others. I do walk some dogs who have certain difficulties, but they hike alone with me and my lab Frida (and the fee is slightly more).
And lastly, what time would be best for your dogs and how many times a week are you thinking of? Trail hiking is such a joy really and I must share this - this weekend I am boarding a Springer Spaniel who arrived crying and unsure and unable to settle. I was wondering what to do, really. But as always, my voice and ways are gentle and when boisterous, still gentle and loving, and I decided to go on three hikes a day with the Spaniel (and my Frida). The dog also suffered intense anxiety on the drive to and from the hike.
Well, he just loved crashing through the forest! It was such a joy to watch him relax in a natural element. This is his second day here. He has stopped crying; he is learning how to play (with his mouth and front paws rather than attempting to mount other dogs); and for the first time, he sat beside me in the front seat without barking, panting, and crying! He sat there, alert and curious. I am so proud of him! I tell you, it's the hike!
On our weekly hikes are a Golden, a pug/french bulldog, Chihuahua, until mid-December a Bernease/Border Collie/Shepherd mix, a fox terrier, a Boston, and my lab Frida. I take out only 3 at a time (plus my Frida) so our walks so I can attend and relate personally to all the dogs hiking with me.
To get started, I come over to meet with you and your dogs, at which time I also take your dogs out for a short walk in a nearby park. I am not concerned whether they heel while walking. I want my Frida to walk beside me when we're on the sidewalk, but on the trail, that's not important. Recall is.
Also there are some forms on my site which you could fill out for me - one is for boarding, so that one is not necessary.
I think your love for your dogs shines through in your brief letter about them and I really value that!
Thank you for your patience in reading all of this. I look forward to learning more about your Beau and Belle "
Janice is the founder of and primary caregiver at Happy Trail Dogs Service. She is also the founder of an arts-related non-profit and worked in the fitness industry for over two decades. She is an artist, editor, writer, and mother of two wonderful women and a glorious lab named Frida.