We live in Sedona, Arizona and hike out our backdoor to endless miles of trails. Oak Creek runs around the 200+ acre property where we live. When you live in the country you are constantly reminded of all the animals that you share the beautiful land with: coyotes, javelina, deer, elk, bobcats, mountain lions and RATTLESNAKES.
So what is a wonderful hiking partner and how did we get this behavior?
When Myst was one year old and had completed Susan Garrett’s recallers class, I decided it was time to take the recall to the trails. I learned that for new or very important behaviors one should up the recall reward…. Each time we set out for our hike (none of my other dogs were included initially) I went with pockets filled with steak and toys. I also use a herding whistle for out of sight recalls since I have found them to be so much more effective than voice.
These early trail experiences consisted of a lot of fun interaction with me with toys and a lot of recall to heel position for our special reinforcement. It was always party time when she flew back and jumped into her recall position. We would also do some short heeling and just spent a lot of time this first month being together and having fun.
What I found to be so interesting is that even after our first month of training and when I brought along my second Border Collie Kaffee, Myst seemed to think I was more fun than wandering out of sight to explore. She still frequently checked in on me and would come running back to heel position for her REWARD. This running back to me soon became a game…. She would run as fast as possible back to my side, then after being released run as fast as she could to catch up to and find Kaffee. I really like how she checks in and seems to be sure I am OK.
The first test came one late afternoon when we were climbing up a hill together only to run into 2 huge javelina. Myst had never seen these weird ugly wild pigs. The javelina looked at us and started running. Knowing how dangerous and harmful javelina can be with their poor eyesight, jagged teeth and unpredictability, I called Myst to my side and she came….. All the way home I gave thanks to our recallers course….. it so paid off this time.
Another day Myst was ahead of me and just standing quietly looking in front of her. When I caught up I saw a magnificent coyote about 15 feet away. She did not chase him but again responded to my verbal recall and came with me to turn in a new direction.
Since it is summer we travel to Flagstaff to hike in a beautiful wooded and open area with many trails. Myst is always in sight, always comes back to check in and mostly stays on the trails. It is such a joy having a hiking partner that checks in on me and seems to think that I am as special as all of the cool smells in the woodlands.