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How We Road Trip with Reactive Dogs.

Updated: Oct 8, 2023


How we road trip with reactive dog

It’s not news to anyone that Manzo and Piper mean the absolute world to Louise and I. Without them, we wouldn’t be here, helping you with your dogs. I know if you are reading this that you understand how a little fuzzy four-legged creature can walk into your world and quickly become your whole life. Most of you also already know that we love to be out in the woods or up in the mountains. Manzo and Piper can have a hard time staying calm in public places as they can be reactive to unfamiliar dogs and people. While they have come a long way, their behavioral needs have led us to tweak the way we explore nature when we bring them along. They have age and behavior related limitations, and if we are being honest, Piper was never really interested in trails that had any amount of elevation gain. Our Red Pointy Dogs still love exploring new places, splashing in ponds or rivers, practicing their Parkour in new places, and sniffing everything extremely thoroughly. We know that many of you feel like adventuring in the mountains with your reactive dogs is something that is just out of reach. Or maybe you feel like your senior dog’s trips into the mountains are behind them. We thought it would be fun to share with you how we explore the mountains that we love dearly with the dogs that mean everything to us.


taking a trip with our reactive dog

What to Bring

We recently decided to take the day off, (well a half day if we are being honest!) so we headed up north with the pups. There are things that we always bring along with us on these trips. Tons of treats, including some high-value ones, harnesses and leashes, Piper’s muzzle, plenty of water, and most importantly, several dog towels. Our dogs normally ride in their crates for safety but this time we decided to let them hang out on the backseat, so we also brought their big dog bed and a little seat separator just in case. We got pretty lucky with the weather for our purposes. With temperatures in the mid-60s, drizzling with heavy rains in the forecast, this meant that there wouldn’t be a lot of people. It was also early September on a Wednesday so it was too early for the leaf peepers. All in all, a random dart throw of a date couldn’t have been better for what we had planned!

reactive dog parkour on a road trip

Picking a Good Spot

We headed up to the Kancamagus highway, one of our favorite places to explore. We stopped once along the way to let the dogs stretch, sniff, and switch spots. Proper seating is essential to a good road trip of course. When we turned onto the Kanc, we kept our eyes peeled for a good spot to stop. When we take a trip like this, we aren’t looking for the usual scenic spots and picnic areas that most people keep their eyes out for. Instead, we are looking for small, little used pull-offs, quiet trails with long entrances, or random unmarked access roads. There’s never a guarantee that you won’t see other people, but these less traveled places are a great way to relax with your reactive dog while exploring new spots. We like to do several small stops so they get a big variety of different smells and we get plenty of different forests and views to take in. This start-stop type of outing is great for their senior bodies as well as it gives them time to rest in between.


Beginner's Guide to Dog Reactivity

reactive dog adventure

Our first stop is almost always to swim. The popular swimming spots along the Kanc, in the Swift River, are complete no-go’s for a lot of dogs. But if you keep an eye out you will find lots of pull-offs with paths leading down to the Swift. It was a wet day so we had to be careful on the slippery rocks, this is where a good harness comes in handy! Sometimes these less traveled spots make for a more difficult path leading to swimming holes but that’s half the fun! Manzo thinks the splash in the river is by far the most important part of these trips. We let Manzo and Piper dictate how long we stay and where we go on these trips. Once they had their fill we dried them off and headed to the next spot.


Next was an old favorite of mine. The Oliverian Brook Trail. We stopped here to walk for about 20 minutes and didn’t even touch the trail! (Which is beautiful in itself if you are looking for a challenging hike.) The unique thing about the parking lot is there are 2 spots right by the main road, then a nice dirt road down to the bigger parking lot. We parked by the road and let the dogs sniff to their heart’s content until we got to the trailhead. Then we turned around, did a little training while a car drove by, and did Parkour on the way back to the car. This is Piper’s favorite stop style!

reactive dog training on a road trip

We drove for a little while longer, stopping here and there but not getting out. We took advantage of the quiet day by driving way under the speed limit, and pulling over if anyone came up behind us. Then we spotted an amazing place, or so we thought. Turns out it was a tiny side path to a huge mud pit so we decided to do a little bushwhacking. That led us right to a pretty steep drop off so we decided to head back to the car. Some might consider this a waste but we just think of it as an adventure!


A Day Well Spent

The dogs were pretty tired at this point so we decided to look for one last spot to explore. Louise spotted what looked like it might be a good place so we turned around, found a safe spot to park, and headed over. From the road the spot didn’t look like much but when we got closer we realized it was a wide, well-cleared, unmarked path into the woods. Score! The dogs had an awesome time and found lots of bear poop. They were very proud of how well they performed the important task of scat seeking and we were very proud that neither rolled in any! We continued down the path for a way before deciding to turn around and head back to the car. The dogs were sure to point out that none of the bear poop had moved and they were rewarded handsomely for their diligent work. We packed up, grabbed some lunch in Lincoln, and headed home. Two tired dogs and two humans with their cups filled.


riding in the car with a reactive dog

What about you?

What does an adventure look like for you and your dog? It would mean a lot to us if you would comment below to share your experience! And, if you have an older pup or maybe one who, like our dogs, is limited by their behavior, share that too! We’d love to help you brainstorm a fun way to adventure with your dog because memories like this last a lifetime.


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