Six-Legged Adventures

by Luke "Deuce" Coop

I just returned from a multi-day float trip out west. It was an amazing experience; so much so I’d do the whole thing again right now. But, as is usually the case the real world has other plans. And besides that, I missed my dog! The BLM doesn’t allow dogs on this particular river. They have their reasons, but during the trip I often found myself thinking about six-legged adventure. Let me explain.

The Author & Izzy the Adventure Dog at Bear Cave Hollow Falls, Upper Buffalo River.

There’s a right and a wrong way to pursue outdoor adventure in The Natural State with our four-legged friends. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Know your adventure.

You’ve checked the gear, studied the maps, acquired the food and prepared for the weather. All set, right? Not quite. Consider whether the trip is suitable for your fur buddy. It’s not only a matter of her being up for the journey. Some trails, most of the ones in the Buffalo River corridor for example, prohibit dogs.

Know your dog.

There are so many temptations on the trail and water. How’s his recall? Will he stay by your side or on your boat? If you do let him wander a bit will he return quickly before you lose sight of him? The time to answer these questions is before leaving home, not while watching helplessly as he chases a porcupine or succumbs to the current sweeping him down river.

Equip your dog.

Izzy has short hair. Generally this makes my life (and hers) easier, but sometimes it means I need to set her up with extra clothing so she doesn’t get cold. She loves this jacket from Kurgo and I do too. It’s easy off/on, blocks the wind and fits well under her CFD (Canine Flotation Device) when we’re river running.

Speaking of CFDs, too many dog parents believe their fur babies don’t need flotation devices, but this simply isn’t the case. Sure some dogs are natural swimmers, but they tire from exertion just like we do, and they’re just as likely to become trapped in a river hydraulic or become hung up in a tree. Then what? We use the Ruffwear Float Coat. It’s durable, high-vis and features a handle should the need arise to pluck her from the rio. I’ve made frequent use of this feature as Iz likes to be close to the water.

Protect your dog.

Dogs drown every year because they were secured to canoes that capsized. This is tragic and easily avoided. Never tie your dog to a boat. In fact, it’s preferable to remove the leash from the dog altogether on the water so it doesn’t become an entrapment hazard.

Control your dog.

Leash your dog on the trail. When approaching inclines or declines yield to hikers without dogs. Take special care to ensure he isn’t underfoot on precarious surfaces like loose rock and exposed bluffs. Keep him in sight at all times. Too many things can happen on the trail that likely wouldn’t happen at home. Careless adventuring with fur buddies can lead to fines, injuries, missing pups and all sorts of undesirable outcomes. The good news is a few precautions, a little education and some common sense will go a long way to ensure many years of successful six-legged adventures!