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Hiking With Couch Potatoes And Rescue Dogs

Ruby is your basic couch potato, not lazy, just chill. As a rescue pup with a troubled past, she likes to remind us that now is her time to relax and live stress-free in a safe place (AKA the couch or our bed).

She enjoys walks around the neighborhood, but longer hikes in unfamiliar locations make her nervous as do new people. But she also has some abandonment issues and hates being left out. We have slowly been exposing her to new people and places  (sometimes rescue dogs need a little extra encouragement). Fresh air, exercise, and new experiences are good for her health and confidence. We take things slowly and always have a back up plan in case she gets anxious.

going hiking with couch potato dogs

This weekend we took a trip to Starved Rock State Park, a wilderness area on the Illinois River. It’s known for its steep sandstone canyons formed by glacial water and waterfalls. One of the few places in Illinois with hills.

Ruby is occasionally reactive with certain men and also doesn’t like when people approach her from the side. Fortunately she is small enough that I can scoop her up and move her if I sense trouble. Saturday was a  big step for Ruby (and us) as the park was crowded with people and other dogs. She was relaxed and confident and there were no incidents. We have definitely turned a corner!

stress free hiking with coach potato dogs

Hiking With Couch Potato Dogs

Here are some basic tips that have helped us reach this milestone.

1. Select Your Location Carefully.Pick a destination that matches your dog’s personality, stamina, and comfort level. We choose locations that offer short and longer trail loops. You end up where you start and never risk going too far or having to carry your tired dog back to the car. For anxious or reactive dogs, find a quiet trail with space to let others pass.

2. Be Prepared.Make sure your dog is protected against fleas and ticks, and tags are current. Bring a basic first aid kit (or keep one in the car) including antiseptic wipes, antibacterial ointment, gauze, scissors, tape, rubber gloves, and basic grooming wipes. Obviously always consult the weather forecast and take appropriate precautions.

3. Pay AttentionBe aware of your surroundings and watch for any triggers that might stress your dog out. Be ready to step off the path and wait for other dogs, kids, etc. to pass. Do not force your dog to do anything that would frighten them. Stay off your phone, stay in the moment, and stay in control of your dog.

4. Follow The Rules. Read and obey all trail regulations regarding dogs. Check leash length regulations as many locations have limits. Keep your dog leashed at all times and never leave them unattended. Dogs should have some basic training under their belts and know how to sit, stay, and come.

Tips for hiking with couch potato dogs

5. Stay Hydrated and Well-Fed. Pack water, collapsible water bowls, treats for your dog, and snacks for you. It won’t be nearly as much fun if someone (you) gets hangry!

6. Slow Down and Enjoy The Scenery. Take it easy and don’t rush your dog. Stay in control, but also let them set the pace. Smelling trees, fences, rocks, and trails are like reading a book for your dog. Let them see they story through to the end.

7. Remember, It’s Not a Competition. There will always be smarter, faster, stronger, more playful, or better trained dogs out there. Be friendly and courteous, and when appropriate, move off the trail to let faster dogs (and humans) pass, and then continue on at your own pace. Don’t compare your dog to other dogs – all dogs are different

8. Enjoy Some Good Old-Fashioned Bonding TimeStop for breaks, games, picnics, and naps. Turn off your phone and focus completely on the magic and wonder that is your rescue dog!

9. Double-Check For Unwanted GuestsAlways double-check your dog for ticks, burrs, and other unwanted guests. A post-hike bath is always a good idea especially if your dog has any skin sensitivities or allergies.

Most importantly, stay calm and have fun. Your dog will look to you for emotional cues and be happier and more relaxed if you are as well.


  1. Bouncing Bertie
    July 19, 2017 / 11:03 am

    That's grrrrreat advice and we're so pleased Ruby enjoyed her hike.Toodle pip!Bertie.

  2. Julie
    July 19, 2017 / 11:34 am

    That's very wise and timely advice Ruby, especially for my cousin WillowYou found a beautiful place to go fur walkies and I can see from you smiley face just how much you enjoyed yourself Ruby!Loves and licky kissesPrincess Leah xxx

  3. Marg
    July 19, 2017 / 11:49 am

    Glad you are getting used to different things Ruby. Your Mom is doing such a good job getting you more relaxed. You all have a super day.

  4. Edie ThePug
    July 19, 2017 / 12:58 pm

    Having had a fearful dog once, I can relate. So happy for you and Ruby that your adventure went so well. Great video Wonder Ruby!

  5. Mark Muller
    July 19, 2017 / 1:11 pm

    love your tips, it is important to follow da rules when we are out and about… such hiking adventures should make good memories for us dogs and for da humans…

  6. Debi @ RescueDogs101
    July 19, 2017 / 3:01 pm

    I love Starved Rock State Park! Haven't been there is several years, since we moved up to WI. Looks like you had a great adventure.

  7. Debbie Bailey
    July 19, 2017 / 3:30 pm

    I'm so glad to hear that Ruby had such a successful trip to Starved Rock. Slow, positive introductions to new places is key for timid pups. We have on too. Keep up the good work.

  8. Two French Bulldogs
    July 19, 2017 / 3:42 pm

    Looks like it was fun to explore even though you were a little nervous. Good tips since I'm a couch potato Lily & Edward

  9. Angel Prancer Pie
    July 19, 2017 / 4:15 pm

    Great post. It's wonderful to see Ruby out and about!

  10. Lorie Lewis-Ham
    July 19, 2017 / 4:50 pm

    I think most of my dogs would be the same when it came to taking them out hiking. Thanks for the tips I should give it a try

  11. Kinley Westie
    July 19, 2017 / 5:12 pm

    Looks like ya had fun Ruby!

  12. Michelle & The Paw Pack
    July 19, 2017 / 5:22 pm

    Great post! One of my dogs is weary of strangers and can be reactive in certain situations. We LOVE hiking in out of the way locations because we run into way less people than we do just walking around our city neighborhood.

  13. Molly the AireGirl
    July 19, 2017 / 5:47 pm

    Way to go, Ruby! I loved your leap!

  14. Baymonkey
    July 19, 2017 / 6:06 pm

    We are active hikers with our pup and although he has no people issues (he is super friendly) we make sure that our hikes are not lengthy and the path is covered so that we have shade and he does not tire out.

  15. The Green Dogs
    July 19, 2017 / 6:37 pm

    Oh Ruby, I'm so proud of you! Those are excellent tips, and not just for rescues as both Pip and especially Jess are reactive dogs. I'm always careful when I take them anywhere.

  16. Jan
    July 19, 2017 / 7:04 pm

    Dogs like Ruby can be so rewarding when they show the results of your patient training

  17. Heather Wallace
    July 19, 2017 / 7:20 pm

    These are great tips. Keeping a first aid kit in the car is easy and you never know when you will need it. My favorite hack is to bring a lint roller and go over my dogs' coats before getting back in the car to check for those unwanted visitors.

  18. The Swiss Cats
    July 19, 2017 / 7:20 pm

    We're so proud of you, Ruby ! Great post, and very useful tips. Purrs

  19. Tenacious Little Terrier
    July 19, 2017 / 7:40 pm

    Yay progress! I admit we did not take our couch potato foster hiking but he was of the lazy sort and I really didn't want to have to carry him. Mr. N is always ready to go, go, go!

  20. Brian
    July 19, 2017 / 7:58 pm

    It's so nice you were having a fun time sweet Ruby!

  21. M Dawson
    July 19, 2017 / 8:31 pm

    Basically, you are NOT going hiking for you (until they get used to it) you are focused 100% on your dog and keeping them confirtable at all times – right? Ruby will look back one day and say 'Wow, I was scared of this?" before setting off to enjoy herself!!Marjorie and the Dash Kitten Crew

  22. Bella Roxy & Macdui
    July 19, 2017 / 8:45 pm

    Great advice, so happy Ruby is able to enjoy the outdoors!

  23. da tabbies o trout towne
    July 19, 2017 / 8:47 pm

    ruby….we iz buzzed happee for ewe…small stepz inn deed leed ta larger N life kinda stuff….ewe noe, { even if we iznt makin senze } N hi ta DA BOZZ!!! ☺☺♥♥

  24. Ruth Epstein
    July 19, 2017 / 8:55 pm

    Wonderful advice and I love taking Layla for long walks whenever possible and adventures to new parks but I do it when there are not a lot of dogs around as she is still not comfortable with big dogs – small ones she deals with, although I cannot complain as we have come a long long way since she was rescued so seeing how wonderful Ruby is doing is awesome, I always say the tough love and patience pays off in the long run

  25. 24 Paws of Love
    July 19, 2017 / 10:13 pm

    I loved the part where you said walks are like reading a book for dogs. So true! I wonder all the time what they are reading about. :)Way to go Ruby! I love when they take that giant leap of faith. So proud.

  26. Idaho PugRanch
    July 19, 2017 / 10:52 pm

    Glad it was a good experience for Ruby! All due to your love and patience!hugsHazel & Mabel

  27. Sweet Purrfections
    July 19, 2017 / 11:39 pm

    Glad to hear Ruby is getting better about being in different situations. I love the Wonder Woman jump in the video! It sounds like you've accomplished a lot with her.

  28. Millie and Walter
    July 19, 2017 / 11:46 pm

    Way to go Ruby! We're glad to hear you had such a fun time on your hike.

  29. Mama and da DB Boyz
    July 19, 2017 / 11:48 pm

    What great tips!! We especially like the reminders to stay in the moment(and off of you phone!).

  30. Dolly theDoxie
    July 19, 2017 / 11:51 pm

    Starved Rock is not some place I would ever think you would take Ruby, I'm very impressed, I've never even been there. Mom has only been once, she would like to take me some day, but not in summer, too crowded and hot! Love Dolly

  31. MattieDog
    July 20, 2017 / 12:49 am

    You go Ruby and what a great, calm and patient endeavor of love on your behalf! Every pup deserves our best and you've certainly done that – Ruby will just keep on learning how to explore, and continue loving you! 🙂

  32. The Island Cats
    July 20, 2017 / 1:12 am

    We're glad to hear Ruby is making progress. Those are some great tips to follow.

  33. Sandy Kubillus
    July 20, 2017 / 3:09 am

    You must live near Chicago since Starved Rock is not too far from there. I live in Waukegan, an hour north of Chicago. Always good to know a neighbor. Loved your tips. One other one that I might add is to build up your dog's endurance by slowly taking longer walks. I have older dogs and they frequently hurt themselves over what seems to be nothing, and then they hold up a leg and are reluctant to walk. Always have a backup plan,although sometimes just reassuring them helps.

  34. TheGirlWhoFacedTheWorld
    July 20, 2017 / 3:40 am

    Great motivation for people with overweight/old/slow dogs!! Even THEY can do it! 🙂

  35. Emma
    July 20, 2017 / 10:48 am

    That's so sad. We love going to new places with new sights and smells, and people too. One never knows what happened in the past I guess. Hopefully she will get better and better.

  36. Groovy Goldendoodles
    July 20, 2017 / 2:39 pm

    I have to be careful with Harley when it comes to adventurous walks. He is known to turn around and head back home if he's not happy with the terrain or the distance. LOL Great tips, but I think I'll leave the hiking for me and Jaxson!

  37. Jenna,Mark Drady
    July 20, 2017 / 3:48 pm

    Great tips, now if you could just pass some of that over to my lazy pups, then we are good to go!!! BOL!

  38. Talent Hounds
    July 20, 2017 / 5:11 pm

    Kilo the Pug has a lot in common with Ruby. He gets reactive and nervous with some strangers and dogs but is small enough to scoop up. He is terrified in parks but doesn't mind hiking with no one around or by the water. Great tips thanks! He also gets too hot easily so I have to watch that. XS

  39. Sammy Sam
    July 20, 2017 / 10:54 pm

    Yeah Ruby and your patient and understanding peeps. Good advice for the rest of us too.

  40. Jeanne Pursell
    July 21, 2017 / 7:15 am

    We went through many of those same experiences with LadyBug. You have lots of good tips here. Glad Ruby enjoyed her hike.

  41. Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat
    July 21, 2017 / 4:43 pm

    Yay for Ruby! And you, for recognizing her fears and having the patience for her to work through them! I've never heard of this park before … but I'm only 3-4 hours away, so I should check it out. I love the Great Lakes so I might as well make a weekend trip of it 🙂 I know the pain of loving someone who's fearful. It truly hurts me to see Bear scared of everything – but I haven't been very successful in changing that.

  42. KB Bear
    July 22, 2017 / 12:06 am

    I'm glad that Ruby is making such progress. It sounds as if you had a wonderful hike with her. I love her Wonder Woman leap!!!

  43. Kelley Caton
    July 22, 2017 / 2:42 pm

    There's something special about getting outside with your dog. I'm the couch potato, but always feel so much better after a walk with the dogs. So why don't we do it more often?

  44. Bobbi and Gracie
    July 22, 2017 / 4:31 pm

    Awe Ruby!! It's great that you are making progress! I loved your slow-mo leap 🙂 I'll bet you really enjoyed your adventure…

  45. meowmeowmans
    July 24, 2017 / 3:31 am

    Such great advice! We are happy that Miss Ruby enjoyed hiking!

  46. Cathy Armato
    July 24, 2017 / 10:08 pm

    This is such important information, I'm so glad you shared it! Ruby looks so cool doing her Wonder Woman imitation – Go Ruby!!Love & Biscuits,Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  47. Denise Gruzensky
    July 25, 2017 / 12:54 am

    Congratulations on your successful outdoor adventures! We love being outside and your rules for a good experience for everyone involved are PAWfect!

  48. Three Chatty Cats
    July 26, 2017 / 2:34 pm

    Great leap, Ruby! And great tips too. Our pup is too old to go hiking now. In fact, the hubby had to carry him home on a walk one evening recently. He'll join you in being a chill couch potato.

  49. Lola The Rescued Cat
    July 26, 2017 / 10:42 pm

    Yay for you, Ruby! We are so proud of you and you are definitely coming a long way. Paws up!

  50. Pawsitively Intrepid
    August 24, 2017 / 3:05 am

    This is a great article and offers some wonderful tips for hiking with a dog (whether or not they are a rescue!). Happy to hear that Ruby is making good progress.

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