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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Canicross Hikes 2008: Willow River State Park

First overlook

Second overlook

Second overlook traffic jam

"On by" double beagle moment while crossing the bridge

Zodiak resting at the falls

Melanie and Annie

Rebeca and Lilly at the base of the falls

Chad and Katsu

Me with Zodiak

"On by" stroller moment

The second official day of summer brought beautiful, bright blue, sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 70s to low 80s today. There was a nice cool breeze to help with mosquito control, making today's Canicross Hike as close to perfect as you can get.

From the trail head we walked along the river then up a steep grade where the overlook views of the river valley below were spectacular. The trail then descended to the bottom of Willow River Falls where we rested the dogs, let them take a dip and ate a quick lunch before continuing down the trail. Once we hit the three mile mark we turned around, with the dogs in need of another rest at the falls as the temperature climbed. There were many good training moments along the trail to include a pair of beagles and a double wide stroller with more young kids in tow. All dogs did a wonderful job at "on by" which basically means, whatever it is, just continue to move by it without stopping or sniffing it.

Zala had been my trail companion for the previous hikes and now it was time to see what Zodiak could do. Being the typical boy puppy, he did show his age (9 mos) initially by wandering off into the woods or weeds or onto a deer trail, etc. But after the first couple of miles, he was eager to be up in front of the bunch. The blisters on my feet and my sore legs can attest to his pulling ability. Canicross hiking works muscles not often used.

Imagine having a dog attached to your waist, pulling as hard as they can while you are trying to resist the pulling and keep your pace to a hike instead of a run. This is where good training is essential and it all takes time. "Easy" is necessary to teach the dog for going down hills so you get to see the hill while on your feet. At times, the line must be taken off of the harness and attached to the collar for some steeper hills to ensure that you do stay on your feet. At times like this, obedience training comes in handy. The dogs pick up on things so much faster when they have other dogs around them showing them how it all works. This certainly helped Zodiak today.

After a total of nearly 6 miles, all pooches and people were ready to call it a day and we will all sleep well tonight.

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