It’s hard to believe it’s been 9 months since starting the dog walking-dog hiking business. I have watched my business grow not only by the numbers, but also in maturity. I’ve learned so much about handling dogs in groups, both on-leash and off. I’ve watched these dogs, most of whom hike with me every week and many of them who hike with me more than once a week, grow in sociability, maturity, and obedience.
When I first started out in January 2018, I remember trying to herd the dogs in and out of the car, attaching leashes, getting tangled up, getting pulled across the trailhead parking lot. Now after weeks and months of practice, I’m able to open the tailgate of the vehicle, ask the dogs to sit and stay, and can attach their leashes and have them hop out of the car one by one. It’s pretty amazing to see the progression. We are sitting for group pictures a lot better than we were at first, too!
It’s not to say that everyday is a perfect day: some days are more chaotic than others. We definitely have our moments in the mud. But on the whole, things are running really smoothly and the dogs know that I’m their pack leader, the other dogs are members of their pack, and that we all should stick together.
I love it when we come up on a group of people who expect the dogs to “rush” them and lose their doggie-minds. Honestly the dogs could typically care less about other trail users and either move out of the way (of bikes) or move right past people stopped on the side of the trail. This happened today: a group of adults and children on the side of the trail stopped for a picnic. 5 out of 6 dogs moved right past the group of people without paying them any attention, even with the children screaming about the dogs, laughing loudly, and jumping around. One dog stopped to say hi, and then we all were quickly and efficiently on our way. I was impressed with them (the dogs, not the people).
The majority of people who see our pack moving along the trail are seriously as impressed as I am. We’ve gotten so many complements on what a good group of dogs we have. It warms my heart to hear these comments, because we really do work hard to be respectful trail users and respectful of others.
I’ve also come across a handful of disgruntled trail users along the way: people who complain that our hike group is to big, we are in the way, that “something bad could happen.” Well, I have this to say: before you judge us as “bad dogs” (which we are definitely NOT), take a moment to actually watch us move as a pack. I guarantee that if you slow down a bit, watch us, and display the same trail courtesy that we give to you, you will not be disappointed in your interaction with us. The people whom we interact the best with on the trail are those who display mutual respect. We will gladly move out of the way of passing mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners. When the passing trail user gives us a moment to do so, it makes things that much easier for everyone.
And as far as the poop factor: we always pick up after ourselves, but I can’t say the same for others out there. Wow, we are picking up SO MUCH POOP the last few days that does not belong to us! Now that the weather has cooled off a bit, we are able to hit some of the trails closer to the city. And the POOP! I have made it a project to pick up more than our fair share of poop at our favorite trailheads in the foothills. It seems that people over the summer who were using these spaces didn’t find it a priority to clean up after their pets. We are currently running a 2 for 1 deal in these areas (we pick up 2 for every 1 that we put down). So if you see poop bags on the side of the trail: NEVER FEAR! We will get those bags on the way down from our hike… it’s just too much poop to carry with us for the entire hike and we’ll retrieve it on the way out.
Enough about poop… let’s talk about something positive!
Strut Your Mutt is coming up next weekend, October 13th. I’m fundraising with the CAWS (Community Animal Welfare Society), the same organization that I am writing grants for. Charlotte and I are looking forward to strutting next Saturday with hundreds of other fun dogs and their humans. If you have the day free, consider coming down to Liberty Park. The event runs from 10a – 4p and the actual walk starts at 12p. If you can’t make the event but you still want to support CAWS and Best Friends Animal Society, you could always make a donation here.
As always, happy trails! If you’re interested in having your dog join our pack, please contact me at email@example.com or visit us on our Facebook & Instagram pages @allgooddogsslc. Thanks!