Here in Minnesota, the grass is turning green, the temperatures are rising, and the pups and I are itching to go on some springtime adventures. Unfortunately, we still have weeks of shelter in place restrictions ahead of us. But just because we can’t drive up to the North Shore or spend a weekend on the Superior Hiking Trail, doesn’t mean that we can’t still adventure together.
Maybe you aren’t on Instagram and haven’t become part of the #hashtag crowd, but this weekend, I was inspired by #AdventureInPlace.
No, we aren’t rock climbing our bookshelves or dangling from our apartment patio, but Glia and I went hiking and camped in our own backyard. (Sasha was not able to participate as she is quarantined with my parents right now).
Below are 11 tips for creating a great #AdventureInPlace that both you and your pup can enjoy. An adventure at home can help pass the time until you can visit your favorite hiking and camping locations again.
1. Find a Hiking Trail in Your Own Neighborhood
Over the years, as I have moved between houses, I have discovered at least one small park in every neighborhood I have lived in. Within 10 minutes of home, most neighborhoods have a forested space that feels much more remote than it is.
While Glia and I might have to make 2-3 laps in these parks to get 2 miles of hiking/walking in, these places are the perfect spaces for adventuring in place. We can still hear the birds sing and watch the sun filter between the leaves. Glia gets to sniff new smells and enjoy the squirrel trails. In these places it is easy to imagine that we have left the city behind.
How do we find these places? It’s easy. I pull up Google Maps and look for green spaces. When I find them, I click on them until I find one with at least a mile of hiking trails.
At our Roseville, MN house we had Reservoir Woods. In La Crosse, WI we had the La Crosse Blufflands. In Rochester, MN we had the Douglas Trail. And now in White Bear Lake, we have Katherine Abbott Park.
Sure, we prefer the longer hiking trails and more remote parks, but if you are stuck sheltering in place, this is the perfect time to rediscover the small parks in your own neighborhood.
2. Set Up Camp at Home
After you have finished your hike, set up camp at home. This is the perfect time to get your adventure dog used to sleeping and settling inside a tent. Whether you pitch the tent in your living room or your backyard, get out your camping gear and enjoy a campsite at your home.
If you haven’t tent camped with your dog before, check out this article from AllDogsAreSmart.com for tips on camping with dogs in tents.
We pitched our tent on our 4-season porch. We thought about camping in the yard, but the forecast was threatening snow and that’s a bit too cold for us.
3. Have a Campfire in Your Own Backyard
Now that your tent is set up, you might be ready for a campfire. Sitting outside around a crackling fire and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows is a great addition to any adventure. And nothing says summer adventure like finishing your day around a campfire.
This is also a good opportunity to make sure your dog is comfortable around a fire and has good campfire ettiquette.
4. Acclimate Your Dog to Wearing a Backpack
If your dog hasn’t worn her own backpack before, this is the perfect opportunity to start getting your dog used to wearing a pack. The best packs. like Glia’s custom Groundbird Gear Pack, have packs that are removable from the harness component. So start by taking a few walks around the neighborhood in just the harness.
You will want to evaluate the harness for proper fit and make sure it is not chaffing/rubbing your dog anywhere. It is important to look for any pressure points that could result in hair loss or sores while on a longer hike.
Once you have the fit of the harness evaluated, add the packs. Have your dog wear the packs empty for a few walks. Then start adding light items. It is recommended that your dog not carrying more than 10% of his or her body weight.
When Glia and I backpack overnight, Glia carries lightweight items like her bowl and her blanket. Below she is pictured on an overnight trip on the Superior Hiking Trail.
5. Find Out What Style Travel Bowl Your Dog Prefers
While you are setting up your at-home campsite, don’t forget to bring out your dog’s travel bowls. This is the perfect opportunity to offer your dog some options and see which type of bowl they prefer.
Will your dog eat out of the super lightweight ziplock plastic-type bowls? Or do they prefer a silicone collapsible bowl? Now’s the perfect low-pressure time to find out.
6. Try Out Some Dog Energy Bars
And while we are talking about food and water for your dog, this is also the perfect time to try out some dog energy bars.
It can be tough to pack enough commercial dog food to provide adequate calories for your dog on a multi-day backpacking trip. Dog food can be bulky. So some thru-hikers opt to bring along energy bars for their dogs.
However, I always recommend trying any new food for your dog at home first. The last thing you want is for your dog to get stomach upset (vomiting and diarrhea) from a new food while out on the trail.
Most of the dog energy bars that I have found are not complete and balanced and do not fit into AAFCO guidelines. Please do your research before adding energy bars to your dog’s diet. And consult with your veterinarian, especially if your dog has specific/special dietary needs.
7. Set-up a Scent Adventure Inside the House or in the Backyard
When you take your dog for a hike, one of the best parts for the dog is the opportunity to explore with his nose. Dogs use smell (as much or more than vision) to explore their worlds. Just check out the facts listed below:
[Dogs] have more than 100 million sensory receptor sites in the nasal cavity as compared to 6 million in people, and the area of the canine brain devoted to analyzing odors is about 40 times larger than the comparable part of the human brain. In fact, it’s been estimated that dogs can smell anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times better than people.https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/how-dogs-use-smell-to-perceive-the-world
As a result, scent work can be a great supplemental activity for dogs who are sheltering in place. Nosework stimulates a dog’s brain and gives them an activity that utilizes one of their best senses.
Journey Dog Training has a great article on how to start nosework at home with your dog. If you don’t want to click on a new link, a basic nosework exercise is to hide treats/dog kibble around the house and set your dog loose to go find all the small treasures.
Planning a full adventure day? Hike in the afternoon, pitch your tent when you return, go on a nosework adventure by hiding treats in the living room or the backyard, and then settle down with a relaxed dog around the campfire.
8. Take a Drive Around the Neighborhood with the Windows Down
While we are on the topic of adventures with scent, another way to give your dog plenty to sniff and smell is a drive with the windows down. If you have already walked as much as you and/or your dog want to, then consider getting in the car for a drive around the neighborhood.
Make sure that your window is only cracked enough for your dog to smell and not for your dog to jump out the window. Also, ideally, your dog should be buckled in with a harness. Great car harness options are the safety tested Sleepy Pod harnesses (Note: this link opens in Amazon and as an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases).
9. Listen to the Adventure Dog Podcast Together and Dream of New Adventures
To be fair, you might get more out of this activity than your dog. But while you are at home, you might have the perfect time to start planning your next big adventure with your dog. You could even listen to this podcast while relaxing in your tent with your pup.
You can find the podcast on most podcast players, but here is a link to the official Adventure Dog Podcast website.
The podcast is created by Nathan Berry and is all about adventuring with dogs. Currently a new episode is released every other week and most episodes feature interviews with adventurous humans and their equally amazing dogs.
10. Embark on a Training Adventure
Another great way to exercise your dog’s mind (and sometimes even body) is training. I am a fairly goal oriented hiker. I like to set goals for how often and how many new places Glia and I are going to hike. Since we can’t check many new hikes off of our list right now, it is the perfect time to set some training goals instead.
Whether your take part in an official challenge, like the #train20challenge or start working on your dog’s skills without an official goal, training with your dog now can make them an even better partner on the trail once you can travel again.
While all dogs should know the basics – sit, wait/stay, come/recall, and loose leash walking before they hit the trail, there are several other commands that can come in useful on trail.
Glia exclusively hikes on a leash, as she is dog-reactive. And while we have spent a long time working on behavior modification to help her respond appropriately when she sees another dog, her recall is still not 100% solid.
Since we hike on-leash, we have found it very helpful to train a few directional commands so that Glia crosses over, under, or around objects in the same direction I do.
While you can train these on the trail, they can be fun commands to train in the house also. We worked on “under” and “over” by having Glia crawl under or jump over our coffee table. This command comes in handy when we cross fallen trees that Glia would normally go under (she is a lot smaller than me), but that I need to crawl over. A simple word “over” has Glia jumping up to cross the log, meaning that I can keep a waist leash attached as I follow her and don’t have to unclip to navigate the obstacle.
And her “back-up” command is great at helping her untangle herself from around a tree trunk. It took a little bit of persistence to train her to back up the way she went into the brush, but this skill is very useful when she pounces after things on the side of the trail.
Be creative and think about what commands would help you and your dog on trail. And start training them inside your home today.
11. Teach Your Dog to Wear Boots, a Muzzle, Rex Specs, and/or other Safety Gear.
And while we are talking about training, the perfect time to start teaching your dog to accept different safety gear is inside the house.
Dog boots can be needed on hot, rocky, or otherwise abrasive terrain. They are also necessary for some dogs in cold and snowy conditions. Here in Minnesota, Glia wears boots when temperatures dip into the negatives. Our favorite boots are her DogBooties.com boots. They are easy for me to carry in my pocket and have ready whenever she needs them.
Another item to consider is a muzzle. A soft fabric muzzle can be a good addition to many dog first aid kits. A hurt/wounded dog is often a bite risk. And getting your dog used to a muzzle when they are feeling well and it is a positive experience can really ease some of the anxiety your dog could feel if you ever need to apply a muzzle when they are injured.
Here is a link to Amazon, where there are a lot of cheap fabric muzzles available for purchase. (Again, as an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases).
For tips on getting your dog used to wearing a muzzle, head on over to the Muzzle Up Project.
Another fun item of gear for your dog are Rex Specs. You might ask – Why does my dog need goggles? One of the main reasons dogs wear goggles is for protection from UV light. Another is to protect dogs that are prone to eye injury when running through rough brush. Read more about reasons your dog might benefit from Rex Specs here. Rex Specs also offer plenty of training tips to help your dog get used to wearing goggles.
The image above is another Amazon link. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
There are plenty of other dog safety gear items on the market. From dog life jackets to carrying slings that help you get an injured dog out of the backcountry, consider what gear would be helpful for you and your dog. Then start working on helping your dog associate positive, happy emotions with these items, so you can use them easily if/when you needed to.
Want more ideas for activities you can do with your dog at home?
Have you read our 11 suggestions and are still looking for more? Check out this article by Long Haul Trekkers that lists 20 Indoor Dog Activities to Get Your Pup Adventure Ready.
And as always, we would love to hear from you. How are you and your pup staying busy during your period of sheltering in place? Do you have any great suggestions for adventuring in place? Drop us a comment or a link to your Instagram images of a fun #adventureinplace below.