Ask a dog: They’re ready for adventure at the drop of a hat. It’s humans who often need the pep talk and prep time.
And that’s in part what inspired Fern Watt to write Adventure Dogs. As the subtitle explains, the book offers “Activities to Share With Your Dog — From Comfy Couches to Mountain Tops.” And it’s chock-full of glorious photographs of dogs and people having fun together — in case we humans are a wee bit slow in getting the picture.
“All dogs are adventure dogs,” Watt explains. “People sometimes think that ‘adventures’ must be extreme or require a lot of athleticism or money or time off from work. But there are lots of adventures right outside the front door if we remember to look for them. Dogs remind us that the ordinary experience can sometimes be extraordinary. And dogs are great at showing us how to see the world in new ways.”
Watt is also the author of Gizelle’s Bucket List, which recounts a list of must-see, must-do experiences she created for her 160-pound English mastiff, Gizelle.
Watt’s latest book began with a philosophical query: What do dogs want to do for fun? She was inspired by her new pup — a rescue cattle-dog mutt named Bette — and compiled 50 everyday activities, including neighborhood walks (“sniffaris”), surfing safaris, and even canine-and-human “doga” yoga vinyasas.
The activities here are backed by research: Bette tested and approved.
Fun in the Sun — and Sand
“I used to think that if I wanted to give my dog the best life ever, I needed to spoil her with handmade designer sweaters from fancy pet boutiques, buy her the most advanced and high-tech dog toys, and treat her to brunch on upscale restaurant patios,” Watt writes. But she soon realized Bette had a whole different worldview: Simple can be wonderful — such as a day at a dog-friendly beach, like the one these two Dalmatians are enjoying.
“My goal is to try to be as amazing as Bette thinks I am. And for me, this is about taking her on as many fabulous adventures as possible. But it’s also about making time for the simple adventures that Bette loves.”
Photo by: Sylvia Schlautmann
“Sure, you might look at your dog snoring like a freight train at 3 in the afternoon and assume his athletic prowess is limited to propelling his portly body from the floor to the bed,” writes Watt. But your dog is usually just resting up, waiting for you to get moving.
For some dogs, it’s a game of fetch, a hike, or a swim; whichever, your dog is usually game. And if you want to get serious, you can join organized sports, such as DockDogs, with competitions including dock jumping, human-and-dog swim races, and more. Pooches who measure less than 17 inches from their withers to the ground compete in DockDogs’ Lap Dog class; senior dogs in the Legend class.
Photo by: Jim Zelasko
Sure, a walk is great, but if you and your pup want to ramp up your activity level, try a canicross run: It combines aspects of trail running and dogsledding — some people even term it urban mushing. In canicross, your pooch is attached to your waist with a bungee leash and will pull you forward whenever your feet are off the ground.
Watt ran a canicross with Bette: “We were running not to cross the finish line or reach a distance or time goal or even earn a medal. We were running for the joy of it. Bette’s tongue dangled from her mouth and a huge smile spread across my face.”
Photo by: Fern Watt
For the dog — and human — who can’t get enough of walking around the neighborhood, pack up the kibble in a doggie backpack and head out on an overnight or multiday adventure.
“Some people assume their dog doesn’t like to swim or play fetch or would be scared of the ocean or wouldn’t care to see snow. But a lot of dogs are scared of things because they don’t understand them — just like humans,” says Watt.
“Taking your dog to new experiences and places and having patience to let them literally sniff it out is important. Dogs want mental and physical stimulation just like humans. Plus, taking your dog on new adventures is a great way to take yourself on new adventures.”
Photo by: Jamie Sun
Surfing doesn’t come naturally to pooches, of course. But when introduced to riding waves on a surfboard or atop the water on a stand-up paddleboard, many dogs enjoy the adventure. “I really think Bono loves the feeling of dropping into a wave with the wind on his face. The same feeling the humans love about surfing!” says Ivan Moreira, human to Bono, a surfing chocolate Lab.
Dog-surfing competitions operate under rules that ensure safety: Pups must actually want to follow their humans into the water. And they usually do.
“I guess some dogs really do want to do everything with their people,” writes Watt.
Photo by: Axelle Woussen
This article originally appeared as “Adventure Dogs!” in the October 2022 issue of Experience Life.