Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Review of the new Ruffwear Webmaster Pro Dog Harness

We recently asked our ambassador Rachel Novak to put the new Ruffwear Webmaster Pro Dog Harness through the ringer with her Siberian Husky, Laika. Here's what she thought - 

Ruffwear continues to amaze me with their products and they have really outdone themselves with the Webmaster Pro Harness! This harness comes equipped with very sleek zippered pockets on both sides of the harness and in each of the zipper pockets there are smaller mesh pockets for organization. It's basically their original Webmaster Harness perfected and combined with some similarities to the Singletrak Pack. The part I really love about the harness is that all of the hardware is metal instead of plastic and there are NO buckles that can break. The harness is put on and adjusted with double back clips, which can be a bit tricky to get on and off, but 100% worth it because these straps will literally never loosen once the harness is on your dog!

I have used the Webmaster Pro Harness for quite some time now and it is one amazing piece of gear. I have literally picked up my 63 lb siberian husky over logs and the straps have never loosened... not once! With the old Webmaster Harness, the plastic clips made it tiresome for me to always readjust the straps. The straps would always come loose after some time on the trail and picking up Laika over obstacles or her pulling me down the trail. Not with the Webmaster Pro Harness! This harness has withstood some serious wear and tear and it has held up beautifully! Laika has chased after deer, squirrels, and chipmunks without causing me concern for her safety because I know that in the Webmaster Pro Harness, she is safely restrained. She can even roll around on the ground without the harness shifting - that's how good the fit is to your dog (thanks to the multiple adjustment points)!

The Webmaster Pro's side pockets are just the right size for short day adventures. On a 5 mile hike I was able to fit a handful of waste bags, my camera lens cover, a granola bar for me, a few treats for Laika, a whistle, a few band aides, and a small hand sanitizer. The pockets sit nicely against your dog's body and this harness would be a perfect transition from the original Webmaster Harness. This is also the perfect dog "backpack starter kit!" If you would love your dog to eventually carry their own gear, but they are uncomfortable with carrying any weight, this is the product for you! Once they are comfortable with carrying weight in this light pack, upgrading to a larger pack should be very easy.

Overall, this is an amazing all-around harness and pack. It comes in several sizes and is equipped with multiple adjustment points, which makes for a perfect fit on any size dog. The Webmaster Pro Harness is extremely versatile and I highly recommend it to anyone.

Pros: All metal hardware, water resistant materials, very strong components, similar to the original Webmaster Harness in fit, incredibly strong and durable (while still being lightweight)

Cons: Single color (red, but it's a very bright/highly visible color, perfect for hiking), price (a bit high, but honestly this is one of the single best products I own and I can 100% guarantee you will LOVE it and not think twice about it)

Pick up the Ruffwear Webmaster Pro Dog Harness at Backcountry K-9

Monday, June 29, 2015

Recap of the GoPro Mountain Games and Tips for Running with Your Dog

We asked Backcountry K-9 Brand Ambassador Devin Scannell to give us a recap of her successful run in the GoPro Mountain Games and tips for running with dogs. Enjoy!

After successfully finishing the Colorado Marathon on May 3rd this spring, I drastically altered my training to get ready for the Vail GoPro Mountain Games, Rocky Dog 5k Trail Race.  After running a 26.2 mile marathon, a 3.1 mile 5k seems like a sprint.  However, for the first time in years, I challenged myself to train for speed and strength rather than endurance alone.

Bella, Pat, and I traded multi-hour flat road runs for shorter, more intense trail runs and fast mile intervals at altitude.  You would think that after a marathon, a short run would be a piece of cake.  Really, it was very challenging at first.  As I quickly adjusted to the training, it was refreshing, enjoyable, and FUN to be back on Colorado’s beautiful mountain trails!  Bella didn’t complain either (although she never does).   We had an unusual wet weather spell that lasted about the entire month of May, and we encountered our fair share of ankle-deep mud.  While others stayed inside, we loved having the trails to ourselves.

We packed up for the Vail Games on June 6th, and convoyed over the continental divide with several visiting family members and friends.  Bella had her own bag packed with her running gear, food, travel bowls and travel bed.  The Vail Games truly is a haven for outdoor and dog enthusiasts alike!  I’d never seen so many adventurous dogs in one place.  Puppies, elderly dogs, tiny dogs, horse-sized dogs, long-haired dogs, packs of dogs, dogs wearing GoPros, dogs wearing every kind of dog gear you can imagine.  In addition to the Rocky Dog Trail Run, the GoPro hosts a three-day long dock dog competition, so there were many canine athletes around for Bella to network with.  We also stopped by Ruffwear’s tent and enjoyed meeting their team there.

We checked in for the race, and Bella got her very own K-9 competitor badge.  I started to get a bit nervous, as I had actually trained for this 5k, and was hoping to place.  A total of 80 people had signed up, and looking around, there seemed to be some serious competitors.  Pat was one of the only runners without a dog, and decided that he would run with Bella and I.

We had brought along Bella’s Ruffwear Flat Out Leash and Ruffwear Roamer Stretch Leash.  From what we could see of the trail conditions, there wouldn’t be a lot of technical work, such as jumping up and down large boulders. Although we had done much of our training at altitude with the Roamer (see our blog on training with the Roamer here), we opted for the Flat Out leash as it was shorter and we felt it wouldn’t interfere with other runners and dogs quite as much.

At the start, there were hound dogs howling, malamutes crying, smaller dogs yipping.  There was even an older dog with hip dysplasia who had his own off-road doggy wheel chair (he was happy to only walk the first mile of the race). Everyone was excited to go! There was no gun, so as to not alarm the dogs.  When the dog-human duos were finally released from the start, Bella shot forward like American Pharoah out of the gate, surging forward for the Triple Crown win! In training, she typically trots along next to us, but in races she is lit up by her competitive spark. She was having the time of her life, and it her happiness helped me run a little faster.

I was glad I had done so much training in the mountains, as this course was a killer.  I am tempted to say uphill both ways (although the start and finish was in the same place, so maybe that’s an exaggeration.)  Bella looked like a sled dog pulling me up the hill in her harness.  I forgot to start my watch at the start, so I wasn’t sure of my pace.  There weren’t even mile markers on the trail, so it wouldn’t have mattered anyway!  So, we just went as fast as we could, Pat just barely ahead, encouraging us on.  The intense Colorado sun was out, and it was heating up.

For a race that short, I prefer not to drink water, but I’ve learned that sometimes you have to stop and slow down to meet the needs of your canine companion. Doggie dishes were set up at several aid stations, but Bella was too excited to drink. Pat splashed a little water on her head and back to cool her down.  Normally, Bella melts in the heat, but she kept her pace the entire way.

Before we knew it, the finish line was in sight. All three of us crossed the line together, and I couldn't believe my time.  I ran the course in 22:25, which was the best time I had achieved in a 5k since high school.   Combined with the elevation gain, altitude, and terrain, it may have been my most successful pace of all time.  I knew I was fairly close to the front of the pack, and had only seen two women finish in front of me.  We had to wait two hours for the results, at which point I was thrilled to see that I was the third woman overall!  This was my first time ever placing as an overall female finisher.  We didn't even think to look at Pat’s time since he was our pacer and hadn’t challenged himself, but we were surprised to learn that he had finished first in his age group!  We were ecstatic to both have a chance to stand on the podium with Bella and ultimately take home two medals.

There’s nothing like the feeling of achieving a goal, especially when you have your two best friends by your side.  I credit much of my success to Bella motivating me to get out and run, and for both Bella and Pat encouraging me to challenge myself more than I have in a long time!

Tips for Running with you Dog

  • You will both have good days and off days.  Some days, your dog will be pulling you every which way after rabbits, or maybe dragging behind in heat. Some days, you will both feel great and be on top of your game. Be patient, be willing to compromise.
  • Invest in a harness, so you don't strain your dog’s neck.  We use Ruffwear’s Front Range harness.  
  • Decide what kind of leash you will need. Having a leash that goes around your waist is great for hands-free, on-leash running. A little elastic is nice to absorb some shock. (Tip:  If you see another dog, rabbit, or anything your dog may chase, grab the leash firmly with your hands to avoid jarring to your midsection!).  In an area that allows dogs off-leash?  Invest in a small, lightweight leash you can clip around your waist, just in case.  
  • Think about hydration for your dog. Is there clean water where you plan to run? Streams? Water fountains? Anything dry and over 3 miles, I bring extra water for Bella and a small Rad Dog Pocket Bowl in my own hand-held water bottle. Ruffwear’s low profile Singletrack hydration pack is invaluable for longer runs, and comes with water bladders. 
  • If you plan to run a lot, it is nice to invest in running shorts that have small pockets meant for energy gels and whatnot. I frequently stash Bella’s Rad Dog Pocket Bowl and poop bags in my shorts with pockets. If not, tie a few bags around your dog’s leash before you head out.
  • Avoid feeding your dog a large meal right before or after running.  Bring a few small and easily-digestible treats for long runs. Treats with glucosamine are good for joint health.
  • If your dog isn't used to running with you and is a little out of shape, slowly build miles and intensity.  This will also help paws toughen up if they aren't used to rocks or running long distances.  Check for paw abrasions regularly. We use Musher’s Secret for small irritations and cracks, both in the summer and winter.  This product is also a great preventative barrier for salt, snow, sand, and whatnot when running.
  • Don’t feel like running today?  Most likely, your dog does!  Use her needs and wants as inspiration and motivation to get out when you are dragging.
Tips for Running with other Humans
Bella is easy, but it has taken me some time to adjust to running with a human partner on a regular basis, especially since my running companion is also my significant other. I’m the slower runner, and I used to have low-confidence running with Pat.  Plus, I enjoy having some me time.  Here is what I have learned:

  • Communicate what works and what doesn’t.  Pat does usually run up a bit, and will occasionally run back down the trail to meet me, then back up again.  Sometimes, he sprints ahead and back several times while I'm huffing along.  I don't mind this, but I had to tell him that I hate it when he walks up ahead to wait for me, because sometimes I still can’t catch up at a run. It’s discouraging to me, so he doesn't do that anymore. 
  • Make sure you have a clear understanding of your running route before you split up.  Or, make sure the faster person waits at major trail junctures. We once went opposite directions in the mountains accidentally, and the sun was setting. It caused a lot of panic as we didn’t have our phones. 
  • If you need a run to yourself once in awhile, it is ok.  Just communicate that to the other person rather than avoiding them. 
  • Be open to running with a partner.  They can challenge you to achieve what you thought you couldn't possibly do before.  They can offer encouragement and also see areas where you are improving that you didn't notice. 
Tips for Running with Yourself 

  • Running is largely a mental game
  • Set goals for yourself.  Make them meaningful to you and where you are on your journey!  Try not to set time or place goals right away.  Everyone is different. Maybe you need a race or fun run to be motivated.  Maybe, you need to change up where you run. Maybe, you want to run an entire mile in your neighborhood without walking. 
  • Like anything, it takes practice.  If you can consistently keep up with whatever type of training you are doing several times a week, you will start to see results, and it will get easier!  
  • Try not to compare yourself to where others are. Focus on your own goals.
  • Have a mantra or something or someone great you think about when your thoughts turn negative on a run.  
  • Try to have fun!  I ran around the same mile and a quarter loop several times every day for about four years until Pat and Bella came along.  Running in new places and mixing up the types of training I do has put the fun back in running for me.
  • Don’t forget, your dog will love you for taking her out for a jog!  She doesn’t care what your speed is, or how long you can run for.  She just wants to spend time with you. 
My next personal goal?  Running 13,000’ Mount Audoubon with Bella by the end of the summer. We’ll keep you posted.  

Happy Running!

--Devin, Pat, and Bella

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Beginner's Guide to Canoeing with Your Dog

We recently asked our brand Ambassador Sheila Goss to share her expertise canoeing with her dogs. We're ready to hit the water!

“There is one thing I should warn you about before you decide to get serious about canoeing [with dogs] . You must consider the possibility of becoming totally and incurably hooked on it”.
Bill Mason,  Path of the Paddle

I made the “with dogs” addition to the Mason quote, because we have admittedly become incurably addicted to paddling with our dogs . We are avid canoeists, and advocates for safe and fun outdoor adventures with dogs. We share with you a few pointers, to help you and your dogs have a great paddling experience, one you will want to continue for many years.

No way…you put TWO dogs in your canoe with you? Oh, we've heard that one before. We started out with one dog, who took to canoeing like a pro. He paddled with us for a few summers as a “solo dog”. Then when we adopted a second dog, we faced new challenges. Well, yes, we now put 2 large lab mutts in our 16’6” canoe, and off we go… paddling a few days every week, from mid-May to end of October. We do multi-day canoe camping trips, day trips, picnic paddles, and love exploring new waterways. You and your dog can too!

We enjoy canoeing as a relaxing activity, which gets us out in the beautiful lakes of northern New England. We have tried kayaking with the dogs, but prefer paddling a canoe, as it is more suitable for our tandem adventures. Most of the tips we offer would be quit suitable for kayak use, as well.
If your dog can happily ride in a car, he can be a good candidate for canoeing. Canoeing does not provide the exercise that hiking, skijoring, or running may, but we have found our dogs love the peaceful movement of the canoe. They get to see wildlife, explore islands and beaches, camp out with us, and swim to cool off.

If you are deciding which canoe to use, select a stable, family-suitable canoe. Aluminum canoes can get very hot, so we suggest avoiding them. Be sure to have a covering on the floor of the boat. Your dog will need to adjust to the movement of the canoe, and if he slips or slides, he will be uncomfortable, insecure, and will not be able to settle down. We have used yoga mats, backpacking pads, foam mats…all with varied success. We found that on many of these mats, once water gets under them, they will slide. Our preferred solution is a section of good quality indoor-outdoor carpeting. This material can be cut to fit nearly the length of our canoe, protects the interior from the dogs’ claws, and also is easy to clean, dry, and roll up for storage.

Be sure that you are confident paddlers before you take your dog out in the canoe. You do not have to be expert canoeists, but even on quiet waters, you are going to have a miserable (and dangerous) time, if you and your dog are both uncertain and inexperienced. Select a quiet, calm body of water, with an easy access launch site, for your first excursions. Choose a time of day when there are fewer other boaters or dogs around; the smoother the water, and the fewer distractions, the more successful your initial trips will be.

Your dog does not have to be a good swimmer to have a safe trip. In fact, for all dogs, we suggest the use of a dog life jacket. This jacket can provide thermal protection in cool water, provides a nice handle should you need to lift your dog out of the canoe or the water, and makes your dog visible to other boaters, should he end up in the water. Neither of our dogs is a skilled swimmer; should we capsize, I would prefer to deal with a guided, floating dog, than one who is struggling. We periodically have our dogs practice swimming while wearing their life jackets, so they gain confidence in the water.

Do not forget to wear your PFD! No matter how strong a swimmer you may be, should you need to assist your dog in the water, lack of a PFD could be detrimental to your health. According to the American Canoeing Association, 85% of canoeist who drown were not wearing PFDs. Consider that, and the fact that there would be added exertion required in trying to help your dog!

It is advisable to have your dog well versed in basic obedience commands, such as sit, stay, down, and “hup” ( for getting in or out of the boat ). We had each of our dogs work on these skills in the boat while on dry land, before they ever went onto the water. This included having them sit, stand, and lie down while we rocked and wiggled the boat. This training has saved us from disaster more than once, as we encountered heavy waves. Each of our dogs began his canoeing career by sitting in the same canoe compartment with the stern paddler….the dog was secure, easy to hold, and there was less chance of unexpected motion from the dog. The dog then “graduated” into riding in his own section, once he had demonstrated reliable canoe behavior.

We do not allow the dogs to bark while in the canoe. We paddle near some amazing wildlife, and would not want our dogs to harass the loons, beaver, herons, moose, or other animals we may see.
We do have a standard routine for getting in and out of the boat. Dogs go in first, one at a time, upon command…then we go in. The dogs are taught that we decide when they enter and exit the boat. Upon landing, we reverse the process. Most capsizings happen within 10 feet of shore, and keeping a strict routine can help prevent this. The dogs only get in and out of the boat when we decide it is safe for all of us.

Our dogs get very excited when they see that they are going in the canoe! If your dog has trouble settling down, you may want to take him for a run, or a short exercise session first. It is also a good idea to let him take care of any potty business before he gets into the boat!
On longer paddle trips, we try to stop periodically and let the dogs out to run around a bit, to stretch and complete any unfinished “business”. Be sure to clean up after your dogs, as we are responsible for them, and for keeping our waters clean.

We like to keep short leashes on the dogs while they are canoeing, for guiding them at the launching sites (where there may be broken glass or other hazards), and in case we do go into the water in an unplanned manner! We have used traffic leads, and regular leashes coiled up with gear-ties, secured to their jackets. It is crucial you do not have any hanging lines that could cause entanglement if the boat tips. We have just begun using the Ruffwear Quick Draw Leash, and it will serve wonderfully as a canoeing leash. It stays wrapped over the dog’s regular collar until needed, so it is both safe, and handy.

We always carry drinking water for our dogs in the boat, using the OllyDog Olly Bottle or the H2O4K9 bottle. It can get hot in a canoe in the summer, and it is important that we, and the dogs, keep hydrated. Yes, they can lean over the gunwales to access water…but we do not always want the dogs drinking from the water we may be paddling across. It also can become quite the “tippy-canoe or puppy, too” experience if your dog suddenly decides to drink the lake.

We also carry a canoe bag with essential safety gear, which includes a dog first aid kit. Unfortunately, as we mentioned earlier, even in remote canoeing areas we have found bottle caps and broken glass on launching and landing sites. In this kit, we always have a few cordura musher’s booties; should we have to bandage a paw, the use of a bootie will help keep a bandage in place.

One of the most important elements to having a successful dog paddling expedition is your attitude! Have fun… remember that this activity may be a bit unsettling to your dog.  Go slowly…start with short trips, so your dogs can earn your praise while he practices his canoeing skills. Take Photos! You will want to look back some day and realize how far you and your dog have come, and laugh at your adventures (and misadventures!). Canoeing is a “lifetime activity” for our dogs. Once their skijoring and kick-sledding days are over, we know that they will continue to enjoy canoeing with us, a shared activity we all love.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Crash Course in Backpacking with Your Dog

We asked our ambassador Devin Scannell to share her thoughts and tips on backpacking with your dog based on her experience frequently backpacking with Bella in the Rockies. Whether you're just getting started or are a seasoned vet, you're bound to learn a new trick!

Thinking about backpacking with your dog for the first time? What could be better: just you and your best friend, out under the stars, living in the moment, unplugged, with no signs of civilization. With some planning, preparation, and trail-smarts, you and your dog will have an unforgettable trip.

Planning Ahead

1. Check dog regulations for the area

If you are planning on backpacking in a state park, designated wilderness area, established trails, county open space, or National Park (there are a few that allow dogs!), basically anywhere there could be regulations, I recommend calling ahead to a ranger or park station to verify dog regulations.  Nothing is worse than being ready for an adventure, only to realize that dogs aren't welcome, or not realizing regulations and being ticketed by a ranger.

2. Pack for any possible weather 

We frequently backpack in high elevations in the Rockies, with some of the fastest-changing and most intense weather conditions you can imagine.  Wherever you are going, monitor the weather forecast, but also prepare for any known weather conditions that you could possibly encounter in the area.  For example, at elevation in Colorado we could easily face large hail, high winds, driving rain, snow, and any number of hypothermic conditions, even in the warmest months.  Realize that your dog will need layers and protection from the elements just like you do.  We suggest a warm layer, waterproof/windproof layer, and booties. Keep these items in a dry-sack in your dog's pack.

3.  Be prepared for emergencies

We are haunted by the story of Missy, a shepherd mix that was left behind on a 14,000' peak in Colorado in the middle of a snowstorm because she had injured her paw, could no longer walk, and was too heavy to carry (Don't worry, she was rescued by a group of hikers. Custody of Missy was given to a member of the rescue party.)

We always bring a bootie or two in case of paw injuries or unexpected trail conditions.  Our favorite first aid supplies are vet wrap and Tefla pads, made for horses. Tefla pads are essentially the white, non-sticky part of a band-aid, only much larger.  Vet wrap is great because it doesn't stick to fur.  We bring along a small roll of each, which can be cut to size for animals or humans.  Vaseline or antibiotic ointment are also good to have for chaffing, burns, or abrasions.  

If your dog's nails are a little overgrown, trim them slightly before you go, to help your dog strike the ground correctly.  If your dog hasn't previously toughened his or her paws on rocks or gravel earlier in the season, booties are a must.

Make sure your dog is in shape to take the physical demands of the trail.  Train with a few shorter day hikes before a big adventure.  At altitude, take elevation into consideration: your dog needs to be acclimatized just like you.  Check out this site to familiarize yourself with the signs of elevation sickness in dogs if this applies to the area you are backpacking in.  If you suspect altitude sickness, head back right away.

4.  Plan food and water

Bring more than you think you will need, and don't forget the trip back home.  Bring treats/trail food to supplement and add calories. Carefully study available water sources along the trail before you go. We suggest keeping a water bottle reserved just for your dog in his/her pack.  That way, you can fill up at an untreated water source for your dog, save water purification tablets/filters for yourself, and not risk contaminating your own water with a dirty bottle.  

Packing List/Gear Recommendations

 * Backpack: you'll have to decide if you need a large, multi-day pack or want to get a slightly smaller pack for more varied uses.  Don't overload: your dog should carry no more than 10%-12% of his or her weight.  If in doubt, you might have to carry a few of your dog's items the first day. 

 * Travel Bowl

 * Water bottle/water bladder: so you don't cross contaminate human water.

 * Food:  In plastic bag/large ziplock.

 * Paracord: for hanging food.  This is probably already on your own packing list.

 * Treats/trail food: We like Zuke's Power Bones, Natural Balance Glucosamine bites and freeze-dried, whole duck hearts.

 * ID Tags

 * Leash: We like a leash like Ruffwear's Flat Out leash for securing your dog to trees, boulders, or other tether points.

 * Booties: We use Ultra Paws, they stay on and have a good price point.

 * Poop bags

 * First aid kit (see "be prepared" above)

 * Clip Light: such as Ruffwear's Beacon Safety Light, which is waterproof.

 Dry Sack (optional): To keep your dog's stuff dry in case of rain or an impromptu swim. 

 Bear Bell (optional): We use this reflective model.

 Travel Bed (optional):  insulates your dog from the ground, protects sleeping bags from digging/sharp claws. We've listed this as optional, but this is a really nice item to have.

 Pack towel (optional): Clean up wet dogs before cuddling in the tent for the night, keep your own sleeping bags dry.

 Bandana (optional):  Soak in water to cool on hot days, spray a little bug spray on it as a bug deterrent.

*= We consider these must-have items.  We bring the optional items as well, but you could do without and be ok.

On the trail


Wildlife can pose a serious threat to your dog. During times when bears are going into and coming out of hibernation, they are especially ravenous and active.  We keep a bear bell on Bella in areas where bears and mountain lions are known to be active.  To be honest, the bell can get pretty annoying on a long hike, but it's better than dealing with your dog being injured in the wilderness. Know the hazards you might face specific to the area.  For example, in Colorado, we wouldn't expect a rattlesnake encounter at high elevation, but they are abundant in Fort Collins and the Poudre Canyon area. Porcupines are around as well. Be prepared and have a plan if your dog faces a wildlife-related injury. Realize that your dog's food is the best meal a bear, skunk, raccoon, or squirrel could hope to get. Even in daylight hours, if you are exploring a little ways away from camp, it is a good idea to hang your dog's food in a sapling to avoid undesirable wildlife encounters.  If your dog is a wanderer, nighttime would be a good time to keep him or her on a leash.  Keep in mind that many animals are more active at night, and your dog is more likely to get into trouble with wildlife. Bella usually stays pretty close at night, but we keep a light and bell on her collar, so that if the light is obstructed in some way, we can still judge how far away she is by sound. Finally, do what you can to keep your dog from harassing wildlife. Remember, you are visitors in their house!


It's not the most pleasant thing to deal with on the trail, but we treat dog waste as we would human waste when backpacking. Check regulations in your area, but generally speaking, if you are in a wilderness area, dig a cathole and bury waste at least 100' away from trails/camp and at least 200' from any water sources. On the trail or in more populated areas, pick it up in a baggy, double-bag it, maybe even triple bag in a sealing plastic bag, and pack it out in your dog's pack.

Leave the trail just as nice, if not nicer, than it was when you've left it. Any trash, treat bags, etc... pack it out!  We've probably all been guilty of a faux pas at some point in our lives of dog-ownership and accidentally left a baggy of dog waste along a trail.  Pay it forward the next time you see someone who made the same mistake, and pack out their bag for them.  Dog waste is a big reason some areas end up being closed to dogs.  Let's keep the trail nice for everyone, whether they own a dog or not.

Decisions, decisions

As a parting thought, I'd like to offer this friendly reminder to respect the power of Mother Nature. When in doubt, turn around and head back to safety, for the sake of you and your dog. When in the high peaks, we always keep in mind this quote by mountaineering legend Ed Viesturs:

"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory."

Remember, always engage in outdoor activities with your dog at your own risk.

New Outdoor Gear from Hurtta

We've been quietly excited for the past 8 months after learning about the new Hurtta gear and getting our hands on it at the Summer Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City last year! We think  you're really going to dig the new backpack, boots and harness.

The Hurtta Trail Pack is a  versatile dog backpack for hiking, backpacking and training. It features a comfortable load dispersing harness, easily removable Saddlebags for rest and swim breaks, internal organizers, a handle to lend your dog and hand over obstacles and 3M reflective for visibility. The harness can be used separately for walks and control in the car.

The weatherproof Hurtta Outback Boots with Houndtex protect your dog's paws in difficult conditions and challenging outdoor activities. The boots are easy and quick to put on and stay firm on the paws thanks to the flexible velcro fastening mechanism. The flexible Softshell material, ergonomic design and pliable, non-slip rubber soles make the boots comfortable and unobtrusive to wear. The Outback boots are sold in sets of 2 to get the best fit for dogs whose back feet are smaller than the front. Check out video for help with measuring.

Finally, the sturdy, padded Hurtta Active Harness might become your new everyday harness. Easy to put on and the adjustable collar and chest strap ensure a comfortable fit. 3M reflectors improve visibility in the dark and the back is equipped with a handle for better control of your dog in difficult places. The Active Harness can also be used as a safety harness in the car.

Shop Hurtta gear at Backcountry K-9

Friday, April 3, 2015

Foster Dogs and a Lifestyle of Adventuring

Our Brand Amassador Krista Rodrigues has been fostering dogs for six years and we recently asked her how she brings her foster dogs into her outdoor adventures. Enjoy!

Fostering a dog awaiting adoption is everything you might imagine: fun, rewarding, educational, challenging… We have been fostering for six years and we would not be who we are and have the bond we do without having been a foster family.  There are a whole host of sub-topics to this wonderful experience but my favorite part of fostering is bringing the pups into the great outdoors and I'll try my best to focus on that!

Like with one’s own pups and experiences, there is a learning curve (for all involved!) and embracing that helps make fostering fun for everyone.  My favorite phrase is, “set them up for success.”  We do so by making the transition as easy as possible.  For example, we make lots of potty runs, establishing a pattern as early as possible; keep excitement low during initial pack interactions; get outside often, establish boundaries quickly; and acclimate her to the crate for a safe place when she is alone.  It sounds like a lot but it’s all interconnected!

That learning curve carries over into outdoor activities. The biggest adjustment for me is that fosters are leashed whereas mine are generally off leash.  Working on leash training right off the bat helps.  So does the right gear.  We have collected so much over the years: long leads, slip leads, bungee leads, backpacks, head haltis, front-clasping and traditional harnesses, etc. that all help enhance both pup and handler’s experience and meet any situation.  We've also learned to test a foster’s enthusiasm for hiking and manners on a smaller peak before tackling the bigger ones.  Like with my own dogs, I match the adventure to what I anticipate will be most enjoyable.

The White Mountains of New Hampshire are a rooty, rocky, ledgy bunch and we have finally found a system that seems to fit hiking its peaks with fosters.  I fit the dog into a harness (we have the Ruffwear Web Master), hook her to a tough bungee lead (I like the durability and price point of the Ultra Paws Tow Line) attached to my waist.  It gives her plenty of room to get ahead for rocky pitches but is also easy to reel back in.  The bungee absorbs the energy when she lurches ahead (another danger I hated about leashes) and, being hands free, I have my hands for balance, etc. without the fear of losing her.  There are lots of methods out there and what I've learned is an added benefit to fostering is improving my own adaptability and creativity.

The little added effort is worth its weight in kibble; taking your foster dog on adventures is so much fun!  They are so excited, whether they’re hitting the trail or digging on the beach.  It brings them closer to you and your dogs, tires them out, builds confidence, and is a fantastic means of positive PR and socialization.  Do you know how much people love to see a set of well-mannered dogs merrily making their way to a summit donned in backpacks?!

My biggest piece of advice, and this is true of any experience shared with a four-legger, is to be calm and focused on success.  So much of how a dog acts is derived from the energy their comrades and handler project (another great reason to involve them in excursions, we exude happy energy!).  Celebrate every victory – this is an empowering experience for everyone involved.  If nothing makes you happier than being outside with your pups, fostering will only enhance that as you bring a formerly “unwanted” dog up to a mountain summit or onto a canoe for the first time and blow her mind!

Backcountry K-9 Brand Ambassadors

It's with great pleasure that Backcountry K-9 can announce it's new team of Brand Ambassadors! From the White Mountains to the Rockies to the Sierras, our ambassadors and their canine companions are extremely active - hiking, backpacking, camping, paddling and road tripping. They're helping us put new gear to the test to make sure it can stand up to anything you and your dog can dish out.

Meet our ambassadors and read more:
Devin Scannell, Patrick Walker and Bella Sheila Bergin Goss and Gryphon
Devin Scannell, Patrick Walker and Bella Sheila Bergin Goss and Gryphon
Rachel Novak and Laika Krista Rodrigues, Tybee and Tango
Rachel Novak and Laika Krista Rodrigues, Tybee and Tango
Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd and Thor
Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd and Thor

Backcountry K-9's Brand Ambassadors