Michele hiked a bunch when she was younger.  Now 20 years later, she’s back at it with her pit bull Louise on their local trails in Southern Indiana.  We asked her a few questions about her experience of hiking with a dog.  

Louise is absolutely adorable, how old was she when you started hiking with her?

I started hiking with her when she was 6 months old – not long after I got her.  We started with mostly short trips in the woods and at local parks.  No more than a mile initially.

Pit bulls have a ton of energy, but do you still try to limit how far you’ll hike with her?  Do you have any advice on how to get your dog used to hiking?

There’s no real limit to how far we hike.  So far, the longest was 10 miles, but she seemed ready to end it after 8.  She had slowed down and was not far from me at that point.  After, she crashed with a long nap, but was ready to hit it again the next day.

As to advice… I think each dog is different – like people.  Some just love to be with us no matter the activity while others are couch potatoes.  ( I have 2 of them :D)  So for anyone that wants to take there 4 legged kid with them hiking: first I would look up their breed and see the energy levels they usually have and then look at your pet’s current activity level (couch lover or playful).  Start out small and build up from there – kind of like us.

Do you try and keep Louise on a leash or let her off the leash?  

I use both on and off, honestly.  If I know the trail doesn’t have heavy traffic, I let her off but always in sight of me and never too far that I could not get her quickly.  She is great with call backs and is good at sitting at my side when told as long as my attention is not else-wear.  She’s still learning (she will be 2 in October), and with a Pit, it’s like a toddler – they have energy and a short attention span.  So I’m always aware of what she is doing on the trail, (at home not so much).

Have you ever had any instances where this has been an issue for other hikers? 

there was one issue with her on a trail when a runner came up on us.  He was so quite that neither her nor I heard him until he was on us.  She reacted like I expected she would and jumped at him – no teeth or growls, but she almost tripped him.  I of coarse apologized and asked if he was hurt and told him my and her name.  At that point she was all wiggles and licks.  He said it was fine, no harm done and he needed a break anyways.  But I still felt bad and responsible, and I talked to Lou the rest of the hike  about how we had to work on her startled reactions.   Does that change my thoughts about letting her walk unleased…nope.  I take her everywhere I can in public leashed so I know how she reacts in most situations with humans.  With other dogs, she is happy until they are not happy and I watch that closely because of her breed.  I don’t push far on that because too many people blame the breed not the deed.

Do you have any advice on hiking with a dog and encountering other wildlife?   

Wildlife is still new for her.  So far, she just seems to watch them as they watch her, but my leash is in hand or reachable if needed.

You had done a lot of hiking when you were younger, what got you back into it? 

That is easy – at 45 I realized I was just existing.  I have 5 children and a 20 year relationship.  I did nothing but work, clean, cook, sleep, repeat.  I was very unhappy and started thinking of the stuff I did when I was a happier person.  Kayaking, hiking, camping, fishing.  I told my husband what was going on in my head. He was surprised and concerned and said “Honey go for it. I want you happy … and can I go too?” LOL

Lastly, is there anything else that you would recommend for hiking with a dog? 

I would recommend people go for it.  Be willing to learn from others.  Be considerate to hikers that don’t have a dog with them and always put your dog first.