When I think of the word “comfort zone,” I think typically of physical space. The environment where I’m many comfortable. how close someone can get to me before I feel like they’re in my personal space.
With humans and our dogs, we also have comfort zones.
One of the things I’ve had to find to terms with as I’ve embraced off leash hiking with Baxter is his large comfort zone.
I’ve written before about my independent dog. some of the dogs we hike with need to have their owner in view whatsoever times or will walk best beside their owner. That is not the case with my dog.
In fact, I’ve come to learn that my dog’s comfort zone is defined not by space, but by time.
If Baxter dashes into the woods, I check my watch. I know that roughly 10 minutes later, he will reappear beside me. typically it’s less, but I’ve discovered that 10 minutes is typically his maximum.
The realization that it’s time not distance that matters many to my canine came from another member of our hike group. He talked about a pal and his husky.
The husky would take off, and the owner concerned learn that in 5 minutes, the canine would come back. That was when I started viewing my watch. sure enough, Baxter always came back at practically exactly 10 minutes.
Understanding this part of my dog’s behaviour provided me terrific reassurance for hiking.
I stopped fretting when he went off trail to delight in the sniffy woods. I even was able to be calm if we encountered a deer or another animal the dogs felt compelled to chase.
And I stopped tromping through the woods anxiously calling my dog’s name. I didn’t feel the need to pause the hike to stand on the trail and wait on my canine to find back.
For me, it’s essential that my canine have the freedom to make his own decisions and choices.
Off-leash hiking allows him to run and sniff and play and, in my opinion, be a dog.
And it’s extremely gratifying to see the bond I’ve developed with my canine when over and over he selects to come back to me. See my post: how to train your canine to be off leash.
Hiking one Saturday this fall with five other dogs, there were three instances throughout the two-hour walk where I had no idea where my canine was.
Once, he was gone just a couple of minutes, reappearing on the trail in front of us, practically saying, “You know, if you cut through the woods here, you end up back on the trail and save yourself some walking.”
Twice, he came charging up behind us after a merry 10 minutes of selecting his own adventure. one of my hiking mates asked me once if I wished to stop and wait or go back and look for him. I said, “Nope. He’ll be along shortly.” sure enough, there he was.
I’m not sure how Baxter always discovers me. He appears to have some hound in him, so I’m sure he can sniff out our trail. plus we’re a chatty, barky bunch, so if he listens, he can typically pinpoint our location.
Because Baxter has such a large range, it’s essential to be thoughtful about where we hike. I tend to like much more remote places where there’s no chance he’ll find his way to a road or even where we’ll encounter numerous people.
In purchase for my canine to find his way back to me on his own, I need him to not be caught by someone who assumes he’s lost. (This has occurred once.)
He also tends to range farther, and I tend to worry less when we’re on a route we hike regularly. In new environments, he’ll stay closer—though he never loses his overconfidence. once he’s much more familiar with a particular trail, he’ll explore and I’ll let him go.
Understanding my dog’s comfort zone has made hiking much more pleasurable for both of us. He can sniff and run as he wants, and I can walk as I want. and occasionally, we’ll even do those things together.
How would the rest of you?
What is your dog’s comfort zone like? how about your own comfort zone? let us know in the comments.
Julia Thomson is a blog writer at Home on 129 Acres where she composes about her adventures of country living and diy renovating. She and her spouse live on a 129-acre farm in Ontario, Canada.
Off-leash hiking with your dog
Get your canine to pay attention off leash