All of my dogs start hiking in the mountains the first week we bring them home. The hikes may not be long, but they are acclimated to trails, trees, streams, and being with me from the get go.
But not Rhumb. When we brought her home as a wee new puppy, exited the car, and walked into the yard, she took off. All five pounds of whirling and running puppy. She darted from end to end, around every bush, checking every gate and possible hole under the fence. Her speed was not only impressive but awe inspiring, and her curiosity and confidence matched. I knew right then and there that taking this little speed demon out on a trail would be a disaster, because she would think nothing of leaving me, and most likely wouldn’t look back or come back.
I know Rhumb well enough that I CAN TRUST 100% that she would run away from us on a trail and not come back for a long long time. I can trust this, so lots of work to do at home first.
So winter is here, it is cold more or less, we should have snow but it seems to have melted and replaced itself with frozen mud. Nonetheless, we headed out for our favorite winter hiking area, where all of my puppies have hiked.
Rhumb was on her harness and 40′ long line, the Boyz off leash. When we got out of the car I let Rhumb drag her line for a bit, and she confirmed yet once again her need for speed. She didn’t just trot along with me and the Boyz, she took off at a full sprint, straight ahead, without even knowing the area. I am lucky that $eeker is a ‘header’ of sorts. He went out and turned her around, and then she came screaming in my direction. Pure bliss on that sexy sweet face! Dragging the line was not going to work.
She has a good recall for her age, but with the speed in which she leaves us, she can cover way to much distance before I could get the words out ‘RHUMBY COME’. And I am not a believer in trails being used as dog parks, I want my dogs close, and respectful of whatever else may be on the trail that day.
So what Ocean did for Story, and what Story did for $eeker, Story & $eeker will now do for Rhumb, a hobble of sorts. On occasion, if it is a remote trail I will tie my puppy to my adult dog, with about 4-6 feet of lead. Story is a ‘border collie anvil’ of sorts, if he doesn’t want to move, you cannot make him. And really likes to be close to me. If he goes out 10-20 feet he will always stop and wait for me. He is such a cool dog to hike with as you know it is a partnership that he cares about deeply.
So Story was put on kindercare. This still did not deter little Miss Firecracker Pants. She once again took off at full speed, and Story obliged for a bit, I’m not sure I have ever seen him sprint on a trail like that, and at 10.5 years of age, the boy was moving. When she took him out too far though, he turned into his anvil self, and brought the speed demon to a full stop. I called, they came back, her in the lead of course.
For the next mile Story stayed close, which kept Rhumb close, and $eeker took on the position of being in front and not allowing her to pass. It is interesting how the Boyz knew that we were on a ‘teaching hike’ because they fell into the position of educators, and even though I love them, I fell more in love with them yesterday. Because she was such a noodle head, it made me fully aware of what awesome trail dogs Story and $eeker are.
When Story had had enough of kindercare, I took the long line and was in charge of Rhumb. In that moment she reminded me so much of that episode of the BIG BANG THEORY where Sheldon was the FLASH, and ran all the way to the Grand Canyon to scream out his frustration, and then ran back in just 1 second. I’m pretty sure Rhumb could do that!
So, so, so glad that I use long lines with my puppies, as when we turned the corner, two deer came bounding out in front of us no more than 100 yards away. Story and $eeker both have incredible ‘distance downs’, this is from years of Treibball practice. So they went into a down, and I watched Rhumb watching the deer. If she had been off leash she would have been in hot pursuit, and I do not, do not, do not, want to create chase in my dogs.
Franny was my one dog who came to us with the ‘chase’ behavior, and it was a great deal of effort, teaching, training, and working over a couple of years to get a good solid NOW, HERE TO ME, when there was anything moving in the environment. I don’t care to repeat that with any of my dogs.
But what Rhumb did, is sit next to Story and $eeker, while they were in a down, and watch. Awesome. This was good.
Right at the three mile mark she started to settle in just a bit, a slower run, more check ins, and she was able to take the rewards I brought along. While the Boyz were getting cheese burger for helping out (kindercare is a lot of work for them, they get paid for this job), all along the trail, she had refused until the three mile mark. Too aroused for sure.
She will be a great trail running dog with my kids this coming summer, I will be working on it all winter. But for now we have lots of training hikes, lots of practice, lots of time to spend in the mountains this winter. And this is some of my most favorite training!!! Having a reliable trail dog is worth its wait in gold.
Enjoying the fresh air ~ Nancy