batmanimal

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#1 Great Bay Area Hike for Dogs: San Pedro Mountain

1. San Pedro Mountain  

  • Difficulty: 5
  • Solitude: 5
  • Rewardingness: 4 
  • Elevation gain: 1740 ft 
  • Distance: 6 milles
  • Time: 3.5 hours 

I loved this hike! San Pedro Mountain is right by Gray Whale Cove, but the trail is much more challenging and significantly less frequented. We showed up at 9am on a weekend, and felt like we had the whole trail to ourselves. Fabulous 360 views of the Bay Area. You’ll get the views within the first 30 minutes of the ascent, which is super motivating. The entire hike is gorgeous, and about 70 percent of the trail is shaded (very important for a hard working doggy to have shade).

You and your dog will get a real workout on this hike. I burned-off so many Egg McMuffins that day. 

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Batman and Eric go up San Pedro Mountain. 

#2 Great Bay Area Hike for Dogs: Pine Ridge Trail

2. Pine Ridge Trail 

  • Difficulty: 4
  • Solitude: 4
  • Rewardingness: 4 
  • Elevation gain: 1000 ft 
  • Distance: 10 miles (r/t to Ventana Camp)
  • Time: 5 hours

Pine Ridge Trail is one of the few dog-friendly hikes we could find in Big Sur. Of all the hikes we’ve done, this was by far the most woodsy and treacherous. The trail wraps around a mountain, so you’ll have a serious cliff on one side of you the entire time.

Suffice it to say, this is NOT a good hike for dogs (or humans) that are afraid of heights. Also, the narrow trail is basically lined with poison oak, so your dog needs to have good “Leave It” skills or it’s going to be a big mess for you. Of all the hikes, this is the one that most requires a well-trained dog. The trail is very narrow — sometimes barely wide enough to accommodate two hikers passing each other. Do not attempt this hike if your dog is at all unreliable on recall or aggressive towards other dogs or people. Seriously bad things could happen.  

OK, now that I’ve scared you, let me say, this is a wonderful hike! You get soaring mountain views, looking out on a ridge of pine trees (hence the name) framing a clear blue sky. It’s stunning. 

It’s also fairly secluded. We only started running into other hikers (no biking is allowed) as we approached Ventana Camp, encountering a few groups of backpackers making the return trip. The entire hike is 20 miles, but we turned around at Ventana Camp for a 10 mile round trip. Most of the 1000-ft climb happens in the first 2 miles, so you’ll get a good workout when your energy is still high. 

Overall, a magical Bay Area hike if you and your dog are up for it! 

#3 Great Bay Area Hike for Dogs: Mount Tam

3. Mount Tamalpais East Peak Trail 

  • Difficulty: 5 
  • Solitude: 1
  • Rewardingness: 5 
  • Elevation gain: 2,300 ft 
  • Distance: 13 milles
  • Time: 5.5 hours 

Oh, beautiful Mount Tam, with your hundreds of bikers and hikers and dogs! We got here by 8am, but didn’t beat the crowd.

Warning: This is a really popular trail, particularly for mountain bikers. On the plus side, it’s an excellent place to proof your dog against bikers — by the end of the 5+ hours, Batman would see a biker and look at me for a treat (exactly what I wanted to teach him). We got tons of training done on this trail. Also, it was beautiful! Amazing views, and a wooded trail meant lots of shade. As with all wooded trails, make sure to check your dog for ticks before you go home; I found a big fat one on Batty’s foreleg when combing him over in the parking lot. 

We kept Batty on leash almost the whole time, not so much because he’d chase the bikers, but because most people don’t like seeing a German Shepherd off-leash, staring at them as they hurtle down a mountain, and we try to be sensitive to such matters. 

The downside of this hike, for me, is not a lot of solitude, and it’s really long. Expect it to take most of your day. The upside is it’s a gorgeous hike and you’ll feel very proud when you’re at the top! And your dog will be pooped. And after your hike you can drive to Sausalito and eat a great big plate of pasta without guilt. 

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Batman on top of Mount Tam. He’s maybe 17-months-old here — he looks like a great big puppy!  

#4 Great Bay Area Hike for Dogs: Grey Whale Cove

4. Grey Whale Cove  

  • Difficulty: 2 
  • Solitude: 2
  • Rewardingness: 5 
  • Elevation gain: 150 ft 
  • Distance: 4 milles
  • Time: 1.5 hours 

Grey Whale Cove is a walk above the beach. It’s about 10 miles north of Half Moon Bay, and overlooks Montara Beach. As a result, you’re going to get crazy gorgeous views. A nice and easy hike that you can do year-round — since it’s by the ocean it doesn’t get too hot or cold here. 

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Top-5 Great Bay Area Hikes for Dogs (and their humans)

Of the many, many things on the list of Things I Now Do Because of the Dog, “Hiking” is probably the most beneficial. It’s at least as good as “Wake up by 6:45am everyday,” and far better than “Carry liver snacks on my person at all times.”

I’ll be posting my Top-5 Bay Area dog hikes separately on this blog. I rate all hikes on a scale of 1-5 across three aspects:

  • Difficulty: How many Egg McMuffins are you going to burn-off here? (1 = A walk in the park; 5 = Strenuous. You’re going to burn-off, like, 5 Egg McMuffins)
  • Solitude: How peaceful is it? (1 = Watch out, hikers and bikers coming at you; 5 = You might have the place to yourself) 
  • Rewarding-ness: Super subjective opinion regarding the quality of scenery and views. (1 = Marginally better than looking at a brick wall; 5 = Gorgeous, awe-inspiring views). 

I’ll also include elevation gain, distance (round trip), and how long it took us to complete the hike (your time may vary). 

Gear: Batman sports a 4’ Mendota slip lead with a clip on the end that we clip onto his backpack (this one, by Ruffwear) like a handle. His job is to carry everyone’s water and his own first aid kit (Note: there is no human first aid kit — we’ve thought of every possible contingency for the dog, but if anything happens to us, we’re just going lay there and possibly die).

I should add, the one downside of having your dog wear a backpack is that every other hiker you encounter will have something to say about it, such as:

"Hey, that’s not fair! Your dog’s doing all the work! Har har har!" 

"Now, that’s smart! Why didn’t I think of that?" (Answer: Because you have a Pomeranian)

"Free steak for every biker that dog eats!" (OK, this wasn’t directly related to the backpack, but an old dude did say this to us once on Mount Tam.) 

Anyway, on to the hikes!  Below is one hike that missed my Top-5 list, but worth mentioning. 

6. Lafayette Ridge  

  • Difficulty: 3
  • Solitude: 3
  • Rewardingness: 2 
  • Elevation gain: 1300 ft 
  • Distance: 4.5 milles
  • Time: 3 hours 

Lafayette Ridge is a decent East Bay hike, and could be a great hike for some people, but not great for me. Here’s why: I hate spinning, and this was the hiking equivalent of a spinning class. You’re basically going up and down, up and down, up and down the whole time (lots of small hills, one after the other), and you’re sweating a lot because it’s hot and there’s not a lot of shade, and you don’t actually see any views so you have to imagine them. 

The hike itself was reminiscent of interval training, another thing I don’t enjoy. On the plus side, the trail is nice and wide, easy on paws, and there was a lot of parking. Also it’s like a 10-minute drive to the Walnut Creek Container Store, which is one of my favorite places in the world, ever. 

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Eric, photobombing Batman on Lafayette Ridge

Inflatable Unicorn Horn for Dogs

I ordered this (obviously amazing) Inflatable Unicorn Horn for Cats last week. I then took apart two party hats to gather more elastic string and customize the horn to fit Batman. Was the time and effort worth it? You be the judge. 

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Unicorndog

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On a related note, when I googled “unicorndog,” I found one freaking amazing gif.

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Inflatable Unicorn Horn for Cats box. Spyke’s facial expression seems to belie the claim that “Cats love it!” 

Batman’s stay at Wag Hotel

Went out of town, and poor Batman had to be boarded. By “boarded,” I mean I put him up at a dog hotel that cost as much as a 3-star hotel for humans. His room included a “wagcam” so I could watch him from the road. It was oddly relaxing.

He was happy and healthy when we picked him up. His report card was glowing (“I made a friend named: Everyone!”). What a good boy. They also gave us photos of his adventures in the play area. Worth the money. 

 

Batman vs. the Fly

I am so Jealous

I was getting Batman some water at the park. A woman and her three Yorkies, each dressed in pink and purple sweaters, were on the other side of the fence. The Yorkies were all barking at Batman, but he ignored them. (Small dogs mystify Batman, so he generally ignores them.) 

Then a Doberman passed by, and Batman barked and lunged at him. I told him to knock it off, and put him in a down stay. 

The woman complimented how good Batman was. Considering that he had just barked and lunged at that Doberman, I wondered what her definition of “good” was. But I took the compliment and told her we were still doing a lot of training. 

She chuckled and said, “Oh, I never train my dogs. I have three dogs! It’s too much work!”

I looked her right in the face and said, “I am so jealous." And I sincerely meant it. 

I can’t even imagine what life would be like if I didn’t have to train my dog, if my main concern before going to the park every morning was color-coordinating my dog’s sweater — it would be amazing, and not just because Batman looks fantastic in a sweater.

I would have so much free time! I could learn a new language! Teach myself how to play guitar! Take pictures of all my shoes and tape them to corresponding shoe boxes

Oh, what a life I would have. As it is, we have CGC class on Tuesdays, Precision Heeling on Thursdays, practice and training and exercise every day, and my shoes are tangled up in one giant Rubbermaid bin on the floor. 

Guess those guitar lessons are going to have to wait. 

When does it get easy?

After being in the Bay area for a few days, I decided not to take Batman to SF for the weekend, and instead opted to head back home. The thought of checking-in to a new hotel, navigating an unfamiliar neighborhood, finding the best walking route for him to potty, dodging all the hobos and mumblers and yappy dogs of SF along the way — it didn’t sound like a fun adventure anymore. It sounded pretty damn stressful. So we went home to regroup. 

Batman has been a little edgy over the last two weeks, and I think being on the road so much is a contributing factor. Or maybe it’s just hormones. My friend reminded me that, at nearly 18 months, Batman is like a moody, hormonal teenager. This is a pretty fair assessment. 

My question is, when does it get easy? When can I relax a little? Batman is such a good dog and has a super temperament, but I wouldn’t call him an “easy” dog. He really keeps me on my toes. Some days it feels easy, but lately, it feels hard. It feels like work. I hate that feeling. 

For example, going on a walk. Batman was pretty good about loose lead walking in DC. Now, he’s all over the place. So we have to go back and train that again. 

Also, reactivity to other dogs. I really thought this was a brief phase that passed months ago, but over the last two weeks, it’s flared-up again. So I have to work on that, too.

I just wonder where all the training and socialization went, exactly. Did it just vanish? Did a Golden Retriever come by and steal it? I’m not talking about a puppy class or two, I’m talking about hundreds of hours of classes and private lessons and socialization, and continual exposure to new and different people, places and things; I’m talking about countless hours of me “being more interesting than X,” and engaging him with fetch and tug and a psychotically cheerful voice. 

I have to keep the faith that all of this work is going to pay off at some undisclosed point in the future. I have to believe that my dog is suffering a temporary bout of amnesia, which his breeder tells me is not uncommon at his age. Still, I get the sinking feeling that we’re backsliding, and I can’t help but feel a little disheartened. For now, I’m putting our competition goals on the back burner and working on the basics. Again. 

I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m sure (well, like, 98 percent sure) I will, and one day — someday — it will get easy. Or at least easier.  

I will let you know. 

Traveling with Dogs: Packing Tips for Dogs on Special Diets

Batman and i are traveling again this week, and will be away for 4-5 days. Because of his allergies, it takes a bit of planning to get all of his meals together, but saves a lot of time and grief later. I have a pretty good routine established for preparing his meals in advance of our road trips.

Materials: Food and supplements, scale, styrofoam meat trays (preferably all the same size), plastic wrap, Sharpie, Ziplocs.

The Process:

1. I make all his food, and portion each meal by weight on a styrofoam tray.

2. I add his herbal supplements, probiotics, enzymes, and anything else that doesn’t have to be added fresh, and Saran wrap the tray. 

3. I Ziploc the correct portion of Sojos (dehydrated veggies) and place the baggie on top of the wrapped tray. 

4. I take a second styrofoam tray of the same size and use it as a lid for the meal, like a clamshell, and wrap the whole bundle. I label the day and meal contents with a Sharpie, noting what still needs to be added. When you’re 4-5 days in, this really helps jog your memory. 

5. Finally, I pack everything up in a soft cooler with freezer packs on the bottom. If all your trays are uniform, it packs up a lot neater.

And that’s that. Time to hit the road!