Puppy Goes Hiking

This entry is part 17 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

Just a fun post of a day out with Mindy!

We went hiking at Turkey Run State Park. Mindy wore her Gentle Leader, which we don’t generally use but which she’s supposed to be desensitized to, just in case it’s ever needed in the future. I figured the best way to desensitize her is to put it on just before something really fascinating and fun, so this is her second walk/hike with it. She’s already used to it, because who can fuss about a (properly-fitted) Gentle Leader when we’ve got a whole woods to explore?

I took a leisurely tack, letting Mindy pick her own path through the often-rugged tangled of rocks and fallen trees. We’re not teaching formal guide work, but it can’t hurt to let her practice evaluating her route. When she got partway into a steep V ravine and realized she didn’t have enough traction to continue, we backed up and she took a high path through while I clambered below. I dropped the leash and asked her to wait, and she did. Good girl.

And some say service dogs never have fun….

Most impressive to me was Mindy’s willing descent of a ladder! The trail has ladders down a steep cascade, just off vertical but with sturdy 2×4″ rungs. I have previously asked my dogs to navigate the cascade on their own, but Mindy preferred to follow me down the ladder, head-first! So I braced myself below her and coached her down rung by rung.

A family was waiting behind us for the last ladder, patient as Mindy was slow, but she was a little distracted by them above her and in particular I could hear the little boy getting upset about the dog on a ladder. I think he started to upset Mindy a bit, and when she missed a step and caught herself, I called it and just scooped her under one arm and carried her down the rest of the way. (Her last weigh-in was 46 pounds, by the way, but she was perfectly still for our descent, which was very helpful!) But still, she had navigated most of it by herself, and I was most impressed. Even when we reached the bottom, she shook once and then was fine, no lingering stress. I credit all those donut games we played!

No photos of the ladder descent, as my one attempt seemed awkward and I wanted my hands free to keep both Mindy and me safe. But it happened, I promise.

On the hike out, I met a woman and her two grandchildren who asked a lot of good questions about guide dogs and service dogs, and who learned a bit about clicker training and TAGteach. Mindy’s always helping to educate!

About Laura VanArendonk Baugh CPDT-KA KPACTP

Laura was born at a very young age and started playing with animals immediately after. She never grew out of it, and it looks to be incurable. She is the author of the bestselling FIRED UP, FRANTIC, AND FREAKED OUT. She owns Canines In Action, Inc. in Indianapolis, speaks at workshops and seminars, and is also a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member.
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