So I select essential items for each hike. Number one on that list is doggy trail mix.
This homemade delight was invented by Deni. And, dare I say, perfected by me, with copious input from Cali. Perfected for our hikes, that is. Your recipe needs to be created and tweaked by your dog(s), of course.
Doggy trail mix is simply a mix of treats. The base, as in any trail mix, is some basic and relatively inexpensive ingredients. I don’t use peanuts (choking hazard) or raisins (dogs can’t eat them); instead, the base mix is about two parts Cheerios (generic are fine) to one part Charlee Bears — any flavor that doesn’t include chicken, for my girls.
To that I add generous amounts of medium-value treats. This mix changes every time. I am partial to the tiny treats from Bocce’s Bakery that my local dog grocer stocks. Cali and Orly love the Mud Pie and Duck flavors. Again, your dogs’ preferences may vary. I have also used many other kinds of dry and semi-soft treats. The key is to use small pieces or treats that are very small.
Topping off the mixture is a few handfuls of high-value treats. I often use freeze-dried liver.
The trick is to have enough good and great treats to
- Keep the dogs interested and hopeful
- Provide some variety in their rewards
- Lend scent and flavor to the other treats as everything jumbles around together
That last point might seem a little deceitful. But come on, who doesn’t eat the bits of chocolate in their trail mix with a bunch of the peanuts or raisins to make it all taste better? If it works for us, why not for the dogs?
Leave out the BEST treats
Our highest-value treat is currently a duck jerky treat that I get in big bags from Costco. It’s soft enough to break into small pieces. But I don’t put it into the trail mix because I save it for the most important use. That’s right: When we’re hiking off leash, I always carry a lot of duck jerky. This ensures that whenever I call the girls, they come running at top speed, screech to a halt, and sit right in front of me, eager for their reward. Duck jerky is truly magic. (Orly’s hiking guide uses the same stuff).
Hiking trail mix, like many human-oriented snack mixes, has crept into daily use. I mix up enormous batches and keep treat jars filled with it on every floor. It’s the default reward for training, cooperation during grooming, and recall practice outside. Each batch is a little different, and no one has complained about (or turned up her nose at) the Cheerios yet.
What else is in the backpack?
The backpack has:
- A first aid kit
- Dog water bowl
- Long leashes for swimming, recall practice, or hikes in places I don’t want to let them off leash
- Insect-repelling dog bandanas
- Bug spray
- Wet wipes & sanitizer
- Strong wire cutters in case we run into traps or snares (I hope NEVER to use them)
- Bear spray (ditto)
- Extra poop bags
- Extra leashes
- Extra sunhat
Often, the pack stays in the car while we hike so the heavier stuff is nearby if needed. But a treat bag stuffed with trail mix and/or duck jerky is always with me. Happy hiking!