While my main reason for hiking is to do a factory reset of Self, there are in fact a few reasons why I hike with dogs. I’ve been asked by some why I would want to share my Me Time with one of the very things from which a good deal of my stress emanates. I am Mom, and by virtue of that title I am taking care of everything and everybody 24/7. This includes the several dogs that live here. Much like with raising kids, you do need a break from them every now and again. While I do sometimes hike sans dogs (gasp!), most of the time one or more of them are with me.
True, it does take extra prep and planning to take dogs along, and truer still there are times when I wish I’d left them at home. But there are very real reasons why I choose more often than not to hike with my furry, slobbery charges. Here are a few of them:
*Dogs don’t talk. There is no bickering in the back seat, no one fighting over anything, no one telling me how to drive, no one asking me for anything.
*Dogs are always happy to be with you. A few years ago I wrote a blog post about taking two of my kids hiking on a day that I desperately needed some time in the woods. It was not a good time. Dogs don’t complain, they don’t constantly ask for food, bicker with a sibling, or ask “When can we go home?” 2,567 times in the span of 30 minutes.
*Dogs need a change of pace. Dogs enjoy getting out and experiencing different things, too. They don’t benefit from always staying at home. They want some new smells, new sights and places where they can roam and explore. A dog that never goes places can become fearful of new experiences.
*Protection. While they are not my only source of protection, the dogs do serve a purpose in this way when in the outdoors. Mine is a guarding breed, and it is in their nature to be wary of strangers. They are at their best when they have a job. Part of their job is to guard myself and my family. Their size and appearance can be imposing and because I am a woman out in the woods, it helps to have such a deterrent.
*Motivation. Because I have issues with depression and chronic fatigue, knowing the dogs need their exercise as much as I do helps to get me up and going.
*Companionship. We all need companionship, and things are sometimes more fun if you have someone to share them with. My family does not enjoy hiking as much as I do, so it is nice to take along someone who is excited to go. As much as I like my alone time, sometimes it’s the last thing I really need.
*Exercise & Conditioning. The dogs need it and so do I. Hiking through scrub, watching out for large tree roots, fighting our way through sugar sand, elevation gains. All of this keeps you on your toes and provides a better overall workout than just walking on concrete, in my opinion. While my dogs are Mastiffs, they are a more athletic Mastiff and do need proper exercise to keep them in good physical condition. It also teaches them to stay together, stay on the trail and to watch me for cues.
*It’s fun. I enjoy watching the dogs sniff and explore. Just allowing them to be dogs for a little while brings me joy. Sometimes we pass other hikers and sometimes they even want to chat about the dogs, which are not the most recognizable breed for most folks. Anytime we can introduce someone to the breed and they walk away with a smile and positive experience is a wonderful thing.
Do you hike with your dog(s)? If so, what are your reasons why you spend time outdoors with your furry friend?