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How to Become an Adventure Dog

Every dog has an inner explorer just waiting to get out there with their human. If you’re preparing to embark on that journey together, we’re here to help with some useful tips and essential gear for getting both you and your pup adventure-ready.

This guide will help you build a strong foundation to work toward whatever activities you have ahead, whether that’s hiking, biking, running, camping, paddleboarding, backpacking, or whatever else you can dream up together.

Ready? Let’s get started.

Woman and dog taking a water break on the trail

For the Human: Things To Consider Before Going Outdoors With Your Dog

Before heading out the door, there are some key things to brush up on and consider to set you both up for success.

  • Research any parks or trails you plan on visiting to confirm they’re dog-friendly and know what the lead regulations are
  • Have current identification tags (with up-to-date contact information)
  • Look into what wildlife you might cross paths with so that you can be prepared
  • Check weather and trail conditions, and find out there are any potential hazards you’ll have to navigate (Is there snow in the forecast? Lightning? Is there an algae bloom at the lake you’re headed to? All good things to know.)
  • Be mindful of other trail users and recreators – that means picking up your dog’s poop, keeping your dog on lead in on-lead areas, and having reliable recall and trail manners in off-lead areas
  • Check with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is physically ready and whether there are any special things to account for with your dog specifically

Woman and Tri-pawed dog hiking on a desert trail

For the Dog: Useful Trail Skills

Basic trail skills go a long way to build up both your and your dog’s confidence and help you communicate when you’re out there. They’re essential for navigating sticky situations, like encountering wildlife or giving space to other trail users.

Here are a couple of our favorites that get used on repeat no matter the activity. Start by practicing them at home and then build up to using them in more challenging (read: distracting) environments. It helps to make it fun reinforce with plenty of praise, play, or treats.

  • Come (or your recall word of choice): for when you need them to come back to you, whatever the reason; critical for off lead
  • Leave it: for when they’re getting into or going after something they shouldn’t
  • Look: for when you need to re-direct their attention to you
  • Wait: for when you need to pause on the trail, catch up to them, or, of course, snap those Instagram-worthy pics
  • Stay close: for when you need them to heel and be closer, great for giving others space or working through a tricky part of a trail

For more training ideas, check out Ruffwear Ambasador and certified dog trainer, Maria Christina Schulz – she shares tips from her journey training her puppy into an adventure dog.

Man and dog walking on the beach

What to Pack & Gear to Get You Started

No matter what activity you choose, having the right gear can be a game-changer. Things like a lead (even when exploring off-lead) and collar with up-to-date ID tags are a must-have.

Other gear that’s useful across activities:

Depending on what you’re venturing out to do, you might explore a lightweight dog harness for running or biking, dog boots for hiking rugged terrain, a dog jacket for different weather conditions, a dog life jacket for water activities, or a dog pack when there’s more gear to carry.

Woman pouring water into a bowl for her dog next to a lake

Start Small, Work Up From There

It’s hard to resist a dog’s enthusiasm. That wagging tail and best-day-ever vibe they’re putting out makes it tempting to push those early outings too long or jump right into something more intense like a week-long backpacking trip or long-distance running.

If it’s something completely new, start small and keep things fun so that you’re both jonesing to get back out there the next time. It helps your dog get accustomed to the activity at their own pace, which might be different for our own.

Each endeavor fortifies that foundation that you can then build from. What starts as short hikes or runs can lead to multi-day treks or mountain biking.

Man skateboard with his dog running next to him

The Golden Rule for Exploring with Your Dog

As you start to dig deeper into our other content around How To _____ with Your Dog, you’re going to stumble across variations of our golden rule: hike your dog’s hike, run your dog’s run, bike your dog’s bike… and so on.

Your dog will surprise you with what they’re game to explore with you when they trust that you’ve got their experience top of mind.

Stay in tune with them. When you’re out there to enjoy it from your dog’s perspective, there’s no telling what fun lies ahead for you and your sidekick.

Woman hiking with two dogs

Ready to Get Out There?

Sharing time outside with your dog just might be one of the greatest joys out there (we might be biased). With a little prep, training, gear, and perspective, you’ll both be adventure-ready for the long haul. You’re bound to discover things about each other as you share experiences together, and we can’t wait to hear what you discover next.

Let us know how it’s going @ruffwear_europe on Instagram and Facebook, and @ruffweardogs on TikTok.

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