Dog Blog: Training for the Journey Ahead

October 31, 2017

The Patagonian summer is fast approaching here in the southern hemisphere and with that, the completion of all the final preparations for our big adventure ahead. It’s been nearly two years in the making… Darcie, my adventure dog and I will cross over 1,000 miles Patagonia’s wilderness with my two horses, aka my bigger dogs Sundance and Bandido.  

 

 

Darcie has been my co-pilot though 26 states and several countries, all the way from Alaska down to Patagonia. Much like her owner, she lives for the road, the trail, and the fresh new scents of all the rugged landscapes this world has to offer.  

 

 I named the project Patagone. The native word here in Patagonia for foot, paw, or hoof is pata, and since we’ll be traveling by all three Patagone suited the journey perfectly. The trip will take approximately four months and cover just about every type of terrain, from dry steppe to high mountain passes. I have to start considering things like sore paws, horse kicks, puma, highways, dehydration, heat stroke, and just about everything else a dog lover hates to imagine encountering. I also trained (with a few bags of treats) Darcie and my packhorse to allow Darcie to ride on top of the pack saddle in case of injury, busy roads or sore paws.

 

Through the years we’ve gone through a lot of gear and even a few makeshift solutions of our own, but there’s just some things that the trail can’t teach you. For that, I turned to Andrea, the local veterinarian here in Patagonia who has been so gracious train me on emergency care for dogs over the past few months. 

 

I started with Adventure Medical Kit’s Working Dog First Aid Kit as a base and then customized it specifically for our expedition. Together we came up with practical trail solutions that are easy to find in this part of the world and are often multipurpose, a word so dear to any traveler trying to lighten their load. 

 

Here is a detailed outline of everything I’ll be taking for Darcie along the Patagone expedition: 

 

While you can buy or even make many items that will keep your adventure pup safe outdoors, one should note that a lot of safety comes with the trust and bond you build with your dog, mutual respect, and some intense time spent in training. Commands can be one of the biggest lifesaver and preventative measures you can take in insuring your pet’s safety. 

 

Training your dog to be off-leash is crucial that he/she knows how to behave. Dogs shouldn’t be allowed to chase after or bother wildlife. One of the first lessons I taught Darcie in Alaska was our ‘safe distance’ and to ‘check back’ with me. This can be easily taught even to young pups. Start in a smaller, protected space such as a fenced yard with the dog off leash. As soon as the dog wanders off too far (always in sight of you), turn and start walking the opposite direction of the way your dog is headed and then reward the dog with a tasty treat when he/she comes to you.

 

Sometimes even hiding for a moment to let your dog frantically search for you is another good training tactic. This teaches your dog that they are responsible for staying with you, and that you’re not going to play babysitter and chase after him if he wanders off. Now, no matter where I am, Darcie always checks back with me and goes no more than 50 or so feet ahead of me on the trail. 

 

Keeping your dog with you on the trail is one of the biggest forms of safety. If they’re allowed to wander, you always run the risk of them being left to their own devices, say to porcupines or other dangerous wildlife, stepping into a foot trap or consuming poisonous materials, are getting overheated, exposing themselves to dangerous terrain or even worse, getting lost. 

 

 

Having your dog at your side drastically increases their safety, plus, adventures are always better shared. So here’s to happy trails and wagging tails~

 

Special thanks to Patagone sponsor Zuke's

 

 

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