Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Harness Hiking & Everything Post

We are enjoying regular summer days out here right now. It is nice. I pretty much live outside whenever I can. I can easy access the WiFi for both working and studying. I wish I could say this has made me ultra-productive. I guess the best we can say is that I am "steady."

I have a little bird family again.

I can't get enough of them. I think there are 3 babies in there, but only because that is the most heads that have come up at once so far.

I can promise you there was some hissing in negotiations for this morning sun spot.

Nim is doing pretty good. I have been trying to bring up our hiking fitness together and that has been a challenge with the jobs and the studying. I am also finding that our long-line system is no longer working. I suspect he is hurting his neck a bit.

Basically he shakes, growls, and tugs the long line the entire hike. Super long hikes he will eventually give up. But I haven't been pushing us past 6 miles because he doesn't seem to be doing great after those hikes. And yes. He will actually "play" with the long line for an entire 6 miles. It is amazing. I think at 5 years old he can't get away with that anymore.

So last Friday I did some quick harness ordering and made a resolution to start changing our hiking style. Honestly, I should have started working on this years ago, but the long line system worked and I am always so desperate to get out at all, I never want to put in the hard work to change a "functional" system.

This is the Ruffwear Web Master Harness. It is one of 2 different harnesses I ordered (the second one arrived today). My reservation with using a harness (and the reason I put this off for so long) is that it gives Nim a lot more leverage to pull and he definitely knows how to pull in a harness. But, it takes the pull off his neck.

  • Color red - more and more I do color on hiking gear. Especially on the dogs. I run into too many hunters and it is safer around traffic. 
  • We ordered the L/XL. Nim has roughly a 34 inch chest at his deepest point and he is 78 pounds. We are still working out the adjustment, but this harness should work. 
  • This is not a restrictive or training harness. One point of attachment on the back.

Early this morning was our first harness hike attempt.

"Sort of" Cons:

  1. Nim still attempted to turn back periodically and bite the long line (as well as my hat, his leash, and the toy tied to my pack), but ultimately he gave up. I would like eventually to give him a toy to carry since he really, REALLY likes something in his mouth. 
  2. We had some brutal pulling sections. Notably it was a narrow section of trail in which forward was his only option, and a couple of times on the downhill. I did a lot of "red light/green light" to try and drive home that we only move when he stops pulling. You can't even imagine the patience this requires of me. And no lie - I generally love dog training and I want to be a better trainer, but I didn't want to be dealing with this at all this morning.

  1. The hike was generally quieter and more peaceful. Now when he wants to talk to the birds he has his full mouth to do so, but it also wasn't constant. 
  2. When he did pull it was on his body and not his neck. 
  3. His breathing and drinking was FAR more healthy. The shallow/panting breathing he does on his long line has been really stressing me out. If you notice in these pictures, despite it being a warm morning, he doesn't look as hot as normal.
  4. He was actually a lot more with me. Probably because he wasn't constantly tugging with me.

Anyway, I think this is going to work out, but it is going to be a challenge. Some days I just don't feel like dog training. Or maybe more specifically I just don't feel like doing the hard work that some of this requires. But I do think the harness will be more healthy so I need to suck it up and do the hard work.

I am asked often why he is not off-leash. The reason is he refuses to stick next to me when we are hiking. He likes to run way far ahead and then race back. Over and over. Anyone who has had to hike and deal with someone else's dog doing that knows how much it sucks for other hikers. It is also stressful for me to have a dog out of sight like that.

We will see though, he is definitely a lot more adult and mature these days. And I did notice on this hike he was dropping next to me quite a bit on the harness, so we might get there.


  1. It's good to see you and the pets are doing well. I hope the new harness works out well for both of you.

    1. Hi Cindy! Yes, we are doing well. I really want the harness to work out too. I think it is definitely the better thing for him. Sam