10 Things I Learned Turning a Puppy Into An Adventure Dog

We got Lucy almost 6 months ago - and we're taking her camping for the first time tonight - so it seems appropriate to reflect on what I've learned in these first months of dog ownership.

Lucy in the green

1) Your adventuring may take a backseat, for a while. Puppies can't be left alone for very long, so skiing was abandoned for snowshoeing and long walks.

Lucy meeting Smudge

2) Sleeping in is a thing of the past. Sleeping generally has taken training. First, sleeping in the crate. Then, sleeping through the night in the crate. Now we're onto sleeping on (her) chair. She learned to sleep in our bed (good intentions fell prey to bad habits) and tonight's adventure is sleeping in the tent.

Take any chance to sleep

3) Adventure Dogs are trained, not born. Lucy was terrified of crossing streams and hated the rain. Lots of praise, lots of (smelly) treats and lots of down time made her love it. This applies to every new situation - including meeting other dogs, little kids, and different kinds of humans.

Crossing streams

4) Don't push it. Dogs are really good at letting you know when they've had enough. When Lucy would sit down repeatedly (and not out of stubbornness), we turned around. It's not fun dragging (or getting dragged) up a mountain. It's also not good for dogs under a year old to exercise too much (hard on the joints) and since you're the adult, you have to decide when your dog needs some help or has had enough.

Lucy and Mat

5) Off leash trails are a blessing - once you've established good recall. Make sure you have appealing enough treats to bring them back when something more interesting presents itself, and if you've got an excitable, food-oriented dog (just us?), leash them up when there's even a remote chance of running into children or picnickers. Also leash up when it's legally required, because by being a good dog owner you're ensuring there will continue to be great places to go with man's best friend.

Lucy in Whistler

6) Invest in a jacket, and a light for the collar, but don't spend too much at first. Save the Ruffwear for a fully grown dog or you'll be going through gear weekly. We tried booties for the snow, but she shook them off. Instead, we would check her paws periodically, and carried her/turned around when they get too cold or icy.

Hiking a dog in the snow

7) You have to get outside, no matter what the weather. Stay lazy through winter, wind up with a lazy dog. Also a destroyed house.

Hiking a dog in the rain

8) You will get dirtier than you thought possible taking a puppy on a hike. Designate some dog clothes now. Your car will get dirtier than you thought possible taking a puppy on a hike. Those sling things? Probably a great idea. Learn from my mistake and do it before your car gets so dirty that it seems like a lost cause.

Lucy in the Delica

9) More conversations than you thought possible will revolve around what she may have dug up and eaten in the woods, and what impact it will have on her bowels. For longer trips or trips into the backcountry, get a pet first aid kit.

Dog swimming at Buntzen Lake

10) It's the best thing you'll ever do. In 6 months of dog ownership, I've explored more local trails, seen more pre-8 am hours, and talked to more strangers than I have in the 6 years prior. Maybe my attempt to turn her into a mountain dog turned me into a mountain woman instead. Thank you (not-so-little) Lucy.