Four legged adventure partners can be the most fun and likely your favorite. But getting your fur baby to become an “adventure pup” can be an adventure on its own. Trainer and author Maria Christina Schultz knows this all so well and has dedicated her life to getting dogs out and adventuring safely.
Growing up, Schultz had always longed for a dog. When the time was right, she got her first dog Riley, an Australian Shepherd. At the time, Schultz was really into rock climbing … and Riley would join her.
“He would be scrambling up the back of boulders while I was working up the face of one.” Schultz tells ASN. “It was everything I had dreamed about as a child.”
But after a while, her shoulders got injured and she was having issues with her hands. She knew it was time for another outdoor sport. Schultz, who lives in central Virginia and spends a lot of time in the Shenandoah Valley, became intrigued with the sport of standup paddleboarding.
“SUPing was starting to be popular on the Wet Coast, which meant that nobody was doing it on the East coast.” Schultz tells ASN. “I thought, there is a bunch of water here and both Riley and I love the water. This is something we could take up together, because whatever sport came after climbing had to involve Riley. I didn’t get a dog to leave him at home.”
Schultz started with a training plan to introduce Riley to the board. Determined to make him love it, she rewarded him with treats, Kongs, meals and love on the board which she had first in her living room.
“I taught him to sit on the board, stay on the board and it then became place where good things happened,” says Schultz. “That worked and the very first day that we went to the river, Riley hoped right on. It was my first day paddling too and we totally learned that sport together. We made a lot of mistakes along the way, but we learned to trust each other and that was the coolest thing that happened.”
The two of them got a lot of attention that first summer.
“People didn’t know who we were or what we were doing,” says Schultz. “But when I told them my story the conversation usually ended with ‘well I could never get my dog to do that’ or ‘my dog would never stay on the board.’ I would always think to myself, ‘your dog could probably do that with a training plan.'”
That is what inspired Schultz to write her first book, How to SUP with your PUP. Since then she has become a certified paddleboard instructor and certified dog trainer (often combining the two in her courses.) She also now has another younger pup named Kona who is equally stoked on adventure. (They are all ambassadors for Ruff Wear.)
We asked Schultz to give us some basic tips on training an adventure pup. Here’s what she had to share:
“Whether it is an 8-week-old puppy or a dog you just got from the shelter, you are training your dog the moment you get them – whether you realize it or not. It all starts there and building a confident dog. Sitting politely when asked, staying when asked, coming when called, walking politely on a leash. Another import command for adventure dogs is ‘climb’ or ‘place.’ That basically means to teach your dog to sit down in (or on) an object. This command is perfect for kayaks, paddleboards, bike carts, or sitting in tents.
“Then we can teach them other things like wearing backpacks and ‘leave it’ (e.g. Don’t put your nose in that dead skunk on the trail.)”
“Many people think that socialization is taking your dog to the dog park and letting their dog interact with other dogs, but it is so much more than that. It is putting your dog in different environments, situations and exposing them to other people, other sounds and other dogs. Socialization is all of that, because it helps to build a confident dog. Taking dogs out and wearing off the novelty affect of being in a new place helps them manage their load.”
“It took Riley a week to learn to paddleboard. Kona took around four months. But it only took Kona about a week to figure out the bike cart, but for Riley it was almost 6 months. Every dog is different. Many owners have too high of expectations. You have to work with them from where they are at. Remember, adventure dogs aren’t just born.”
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