Training an adventure dog requires time, skill and patience

adventure dog
Alaric all packed up and ready to go.Kayla Schultz

Adventure dogs need to learn specific skills, be in good shape and sometimes require their own personal gear. But the time and dedication it takes to raise and train them pays off when you have your perfect trail partner, river runner and/or camping companion. Let’s take a look at what it takes to raise an adventure dog.


If you are raising your dog from a puppy, it’s important to get started doing the activities you want to partake in right away. Teaching your dog to be comfortable on a leash and with voice commands is always extremely important if you plan on taking them out on the trail with you.

“One of the biggest things is taking the time to train your dog appropriately,” said Amber Pickren, owner of Gentle Canine in Durango, Colorado. “Go at their pace, and don’t risk failure just for your fun.”

Gentle Canine offers a Wilderness Therapy class, which covers foundational, outdoor, and therapy dog skillsets, and runs for six weeks. A CGC (Canine Good Citizen) class is required prior to enrolling in the program. Private lessons are offered that focus specifically on the skillset you want your dog to acquire, whether it’s improving your dog’s trail etiquette while hiking or biking, or training them to stay calm on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP).

The outdoor activities that you partake in will determine what kind of training your dog will need. For example, swim lessons are a good idea if you’re an avid rafter or like to get out on the SUP. If you plan on taking your pup on hikes, runs or bike rides, then training your dog to stay close by or follow the bike is beneficial.

“Conditioning is huge,” said Pickren. “That’s the only way you’re going to get good endurance with your animals — whether it’s running or biking or hiking, they have to be conditioned to do it.”

adventure dog
Older pups can still hit the trails, too. Just make sure you’re not pushing them past their comfort zone.Tiona Eversole
Outdoor Safety

Getting out in the backcountry always presents a certain level of risk. Adding your dog to the mix means that you must also watch out for their safety as well. If training your dog from puppy age, make sure that your pup is properly vaccinated before taking them out.

“Once they’re vaccinated, we always stress teaching them a skillset that they can perform,” Pickren said.

Make sure that you pack enough water for both you and your dog, especially when going to places that don’t offer access to water along the way. Don’t forget to bring a water bowl for your pup as well. We like the collapsible options or the OllyDog OllyBottle to save room in our packs.

Keep an eye on your dog’s energy levels as well, especially when they start to get older. Common signs of fatigue include heavy panting, slowing of pace and vomiting. Some symptoms aren’t as immediate. If you get home and your pup is limping and sore, then take it as a sign to lower the mileage or level of intensity the next time you go out.

Make sure that the terrain your dog is running through is not going to hurt its paws. For example, mountain biking on slickrock over a long period of time is extremely abrasive on a dog’s pads, and trekking through snow and ice can lead to frostbite.

adventure dog
Pro tip: During hunting season, have your pup wear bright colored items such as a vest to help keep them visible.Tiona Eversole
Gearing Up

When packing up, don’t forget your dog’s necessities. Pack extra water. For longer trips, don’t forget to bring food and snacks. A dog bed for camping trips might also help to keep your dog closer to camp.

For hikes and runs, bring a leash. Even if you don’t think you’ll use it, you never know when you might need a leash; better to be safe than sorry. If not using a leash, make sure that your dog understands voice commands clearly and comes when called.

If you are planning longer treks over rough terrain, you can try a pair of dog booties. These don’t work for every dog, as some have a difficult time getting used to them; but if you’re set on bringing your dog on these trips, then it’s a good investment.

If your dog is hitting the river or lake with you, a puppy life jacket is very important. And of course, bring a bone or some toys for your dog to play with that will keep them happy during downtime.