Jump to content

Issue 53 has been released! Download your own high definition PDF copy with a TrailGroove Premium Subscription or read online in standard definition here.



The Making of a Trail Dog….or…Hiking with Canine Friends………Update!!


Gary M
 Share

Recommended Posts

When I wrote The Making of a Trail Dog back in December of 2014, over a full year of training had finally started to show some real progress towards rehabilitating Truman from his past as a wild and very aggressive street dog.  Most of that time had been devoted to correcting Truman’s bad behavioral habits.  His first real outings as a trail dog last fall went fairly well.  He showed some promise, although progress was tantalizingly slow.  Truman still displayed aggression and what I would describe as “hesitation”.  He seemed unsure of exactly what to do on the trail. 

I’m not much of a winter hiker, so I waited impatiently for the spring of 2015.  Would Truman remember what he had learned from the previous year, or would he regress back into an almost uncontrollable and dangerous dog unfit for the trail?

Well, this part of the story at least seems to have a happy ending.  Truman picked up in the spring right where he had left off last winter.  In fact, he performed even better than I had hoped.  The careful attention and daily training my wife and I provided seems to have paid off.  Truman took right to the trail this year, and his aggression has been mainly controlled.  He just seems to have finally given in, trusted us, and learned to relax for the most part.

Thankfully we have been able to forgo the use of the muzzle and remote training shock collar from last year, and instead now rely on a training whistle to divert Truman away from any aggressive behavior.  As mentioned last year, I strongly recommend the use of a whistle as a remote training aid for any dog needing help with their behavior.  A whistle allows for behavior diversion, whereas punishment has a very negative effect and leads to other problems. 

I’ve noticed Truman’s behavior at the trailhead has greatly improved.  He has learned that the combination of his leash and a car ride results in a fun day hike, and his aggressive defensive fear behavior has greatly subsided.  Previously he became easily distracted, and at times would want to wander “off-trail” into the woods.  Now he does a much better job of following the trail, and no longer is looking for trouble at almost every turn.  When we meet someone on the trail, Truman no longer displays his old aggressive behavior.

As a result of the improvement in behavior, I’ve finally been able to get some decent photos of Truman on the trail.  Last year, I had to be very cautious in my actions, and it was difficult to take the time and effort required for quality outdoor photography.  It’s rather tricky to take a picture while keeping (at least) one hand on a dog leash.  Now I’m back to enjoying one of my favorite things about being outdoors; taking lots of photos!  

One issue which I had not really previously noticed is stamina.  Truman seems to get tired more quickly than my previous (Newfoundland) trail dog, Maximus.  As noted last year, Truman displays some behavior tendencies with which I do not have much experience.  I feel this is mainly due to genetic differences in breeds.  Truman is a natural guard dog.  He has great explosive power but seems to lack natural long distance stamina.  So we have to specifically exercise and work towards staying physically fit and able to handle the demands of the trail.  The extra exercise doesn’t hurt me, either! 

Throughout the spring and summer, Truman’s performance continued to improve.  By fall, the results were unmistakable.  Truman had developed into a TrailGroove worthy canine trail companion.             

Today, Truman loves to hike the trails and of course totally enjoys his post hike snack of tacos or a hamburger, followed by a bath and a long nap.  He is very sweet natured at home, and is totally devoted to my wife and myself.  We’ve had Truman over two years as of this writing, and the improvement in his behavior has been nothing short of remarkable

However, I still cannot claim a total success.  Truman still has some real aggression issues when he is around unfamiliar dogs.  This goes back to his first years as a street dog, where he was in a daily struggle to survive.  At times he will still flinch when we affectionately pet him, a lasting reminder of past physical abuse.  Unfortunately, Truman cannot be trusted to hike without a leash.  I very much doubt he ever will, again as a result of past abuse and a lack of early canine socialization.  Overall however, the prospects for Truman are very good.  We’ll be taking lots of hikes together and continue to enjoy the thrill of the trail. 

 


564a4a1f67399_HillsdaleTruman015.thumb.J

Truman on the trail, October 2015

 

 

 

564a49f19abd7_SmithvilleLakeOctober20150

Truman taking a break on the trail, October 2015

 

 

 

564a485888ebf_June2015006.thumb.JPG.b032

Truman (on the right) enjoying some play time at home

 

On a sad personal note, my other rescue dog Maximus died unexpectedly this past August.  Max was a wonderful dog, and a fantastic trail companion.  My TrailGroove avatar is a photo of Maximus from back in 2011, cooling off at Kill Creek, Kansas; and it will remain so for now as to honor my long time canine trail companion.  My evaluation of Truman is probably somewhat negatively affected by my unfair comparison with Maximus.   

I know non-dog lovers will not understand my feelings, but I have not really gotten over the loss of Maximus.  I don’t hike as much as a couple of years ago when I first realized Max was starting to show his age and needed to retire from hiking.  The trail just is not as much fun without Maximus along.  Perhaps this is the ultimate test for a canine trail companion; do they make the trail experience better?    

  564a48a6051eb_June2015009.thumb.JPG.fa6b

Maximus (June 2015) in his old age playing the role of King of the back yard

 

A very helpful training technique was to hike with Max and Truman leashed together.  In this way Maximus greatly helped in the rehabilitation of Truman; his confident, friendly demeanor helped calm Truman and served as an excellent example.  So I try to tell myself that in a sense Maximus lives on today every time I take Truman on the trail.  It’s easy to say, but hard for me to actually accept. 

My wife and I will eventually adopt or rescue another Newfoundland dog.  It’s a real challenge, but something we love to do!  I’m sure I’ll take this new dog out on the trail; starting the training process once again.  Perhaps I will use Truman as an aid to help in the training, and the cycle will be complete.           

 

 

Kansas River August 2015 021.JPG

Truman, spring 2015

 

Happy Holidays from Kansas from Truman and his family!

 

Gary Meyer

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member
Aaron Zagrodnick

Thanks for the update Gary, pretty interesting to read about overcoming all of the challenges! In my experience I think it's always a work in progress. Sorry again to hear about your loss, though.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Aaron said:

Thanks for the update Gary, pretty interesting to read about overcoming all of the challenges! In my experience I think it's always a work in progress. Sorry again to hear about your loss, though.

Thanks again, and thanks to all of those who read the story of Truman and Maximus.  I just love having a canine companion while out on the trail.  

For me at least, it will be hit or miss depending on the weather till early next year.  Again, Happy Holidays to TrailGroove readers everywhere.

 GaryM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Very nice to hear of Truman's progress and very sorry to hear of the loss of Maximus.  I find it somewhat interesting to hear how our trail dog stories somewhat overlap.  I've chatted with you before about our aggression issues with our rescue dog, Diego, and my work at trying to make him a trail dog.  We also lost a canine family member a couple months ago although he wasn't a hiking dog.  He is greatly missed though and like your Max, a super friendly, loved everyone he met kind of guy.

Diego's progress is mixed and honestly, I don't put as much time into him as you do with Truman.  It's not a matter of desire but practicality.  Work, kids and other obligations preclude daily training.  We have made tons of progress, however, and have reached a point where he can walk past a person on a trail and never even flinch.  Other dogs remain problematic but he has made progress there.  As long as the other dog is leashed and we can put some space between them, we do ok.  Loose dogs are becoming an increasing problem as it seems to be the "in" thing to walk dogs off leash in our area parks.  Which would be fine except that there are leash laws and the dogs are not quite as well trained as the owners seem to think.  When they come charging at Diego, he thinks he's being attacked and immediately goes on the offensive.  So far no serious injuries but it worries me.

On a positive note, we had a scary moment in a local park last week that turned out well.  We were walking along and his collar fell off.  Long story, completely my fault.  He was not pulling or anything, it just wasn't on correctly.  We switch to a pinch collar for walks and I didn't hook it correctly.  Once the collar fell off, he walked ahead a few steps before realizing something wasn't right.  He looked to me and I called him back.  He came right back and immediately sat (as he's been trained) and I reattached the collar.  I'm really glad that there were no people or dogs around but I was very happy at how well he listened even though he was not under any physical control.  Like your Truman, I don't think he'll ever be able to be trusted off leash on hikes.  It is nice to know he will listen in unusual situations!

Good luck with Truman!  He's very lucky to have a patient and loving family!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

17 hours ago, J-Squared said:

Very nice to hear of Truman's progress and very sorry to hear of the loss of Maximus.  I find it somewhat interesting to hear how our trail dog stories somewhat overlap.  I've chatted with you before about our aggression issues with our rescue dog, Diego, and my work at trying to make him a trail dog.  We also lost a canine family member a couple months ago although he wasn't a hiking dog.  He is greatly missed though and like your Max, a super friendly, loved everyone he met kind of guy.

Diego's progress is mixed and honestly, I don't put as much time into him as you do with Truman.  It's not a matter of desire but practicality.  Work, kids and other obligations preclude daily training.  We have made tons of progress, however, and have reached a point where he can walk past a person on a trail and never even flinch.  Other dogs remain problematic but he has made progress there.  As long as the other dog is leashed and we can put some space between them, we do ok.  Loose dogs are becoming an increasing problem as it seems to be the "in" thing to walk dogs off leash in our area parks.  Which would be fine except that there are leash laws and the dogs are not quite as well trained as the owners seem to think.  When they come charging at Diego, he thinks he's being attacked and immediately goes on the offensive.  So far no serious injuries but it worries me.

On a positive note, we had a scary moment in a local park last week that turned out well.  We were walking along and his collar fell off.  Long story, completely my fault.  He was not pulling or anything, it just wasn't on correctly.  We switch to a pinch collar for walks and I didn't hook it correctly.  Once the collar fell off, he walked ahead a few steps before realizing something wasn't right.  He looked to me and I called him back.  He came right back and immediately sat (as he's been trained) and I reattached the collar.  I'm really glad that there were no people or dogs around but I was very happy at how well he listened even though he was not under any physical control.  Like your Truman, I don't think he'll ever be able to be trusted off leash on hikes.  It is nice to know he will listen in unusual situations!

Good luck with Truman!  He's very lucky to have a patient and loving family!

J-Squared.......

Thanks so much, and good to hear from you on this subject.  

I've had similar experiences with my dogs, and other hikers with their dogs being unleashed.  People have to realize that some dogs take exception to another canine running up to them in an almost aggressive fashion.  I make a real effort to not intimidate or even bother other hikers or their dogs while on the trail.  It would be nice if others did the same.  Also as you mentioned, many areas have leash laws.  

I just consider it a part of accepted trail etiquette.  Perhaps "Trail Etiquette" would be a good future TrailGroove Magazine article!

Gary M   

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

Every good dog needs a job. Being on the trail is very good for their mental health just like humans.  I used to hike solo a lot and having a trusty dog along is the perfect amount of company. I avoid places I cannot take my brilliant Border Collie Ruby Begonia.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...