Trail dogs are sometimes a controversial subject but only because those who don’t have them are jealous. How can they not enjoy the constant stress of having lost them, the Russian roulette of them running in front of your wheels on a committed drop or the worry that you’ve pushed them too hard before they spot a rabbit and career off at warp speed and leave you shouting into the woods?

No dogs were hurt in the shooting of this guide although one may have been mildly irked at intervals. As much as Rufus loves to carry ‘in-the-spokey death sticks’ NEVER let your trail dog play with or chew sticks, get a safe toy instead.

For those who are considering making the tremulous steps into the world of trail dogging (hold on, that’s not right) here are a few tips to maintain your dog, keeping him in tip-top condition.

Check the pads

In the summer months, trails are occasionally dry, perfect to rub away at your little buddy’s feet. If your dog hasn’t done much running on hard surfaces, his foot pads might be as soft as a plus-tyre sidewall and really suffer on big rides. Introduce him gradually to longer rides, you’ll feel terrible if he comes home limping. Just imagine the pained puppy dog eyeballing you’ll get when you’re trying to enjoy your dinner. Heartbreaking.

These pads are made for running, and that’s just what they’ll do, just not too much until they’re worn in.

Don’t overuse it

You’ve got a dog, now it’s time to get it out on the trails, but hold up, wait a minute! Like you after a winter of guarding the sofa, your dog is going to struggle with big rides straight out of the gates. Young dogs can suffer later in life if they are over-exercised when they’re young so it’s worth reading into when you should start and see how much is too much exercise. Small dogs have a higher cadence to keep up, powered solely by fury, and larger dogs can suffer from all sorts of health issues including bad hips and clinical laziness. Keep it sensible while you find your boundaries and you’ll have many happy years of adventure together to come.

Preparing to take the ‘enduro line’ and go for the overtake, dogs are pretty good at finding the easier line but not so good at telling you when they’re in pain.

Keep it well lubricated

Over the long wet winter months when streams are full and you maybe don’t stray too far from home, it can be easy to forget that the summer will come. The puddles will dry and the days will get longer and hotter, he’ll be divining for water before too long. Life is about sharing and carrying burdens for others so, top up your water and get a folding bowl – your dog will make it up to you by crapping on the trail for you to clear up.

Not a drop wasted! Awesome party trick and emergency water dispenser, efficient it is not!

Don’t lose it

It’s been a goodly while since our dogs vulpine ancestors roamed the plains hunting moose before finding their way to their dens across the tundra wastelands. They can get disorientated with trails choice, distracted by digging/hunting or just latch onto someone they think is a better hunter/gatherer than you are. The least you should do is write your name and number on your dog and get him microchipped. Failing that, you can try trackers or maybe just give him a cheap Nokia and tell him to only use it in emergencies.

If you don’t want to lose it, write your name on it. Collar, tag and neck warmer: models own.

Need help financing your dog? Is it time to go professional?

Every parent needs to embrace that one day their kids will be cooler than they are, this also applies to dogs. If you want to be a social media sensation it’s time to get the pooch on board the good ship HMS Hashtag and get posting. If you had aspirations to be a sponsored athlete but you never quite made it, here is your opportunity to live vicariously through your dog. Yes, that’s right, dogs have sponsors now. Check our Rubythetraildog on Instagram for inspiration on how to become a superstar.

Rufus deploys the aero wings for the win! He knows that good looks and full commitment bring in the big sponsorship deals

Keep it clean and dry in between uses

Longer coated varieties may thank you for your exploits by bringing back samples of the forest substrate in their fur so you can re-live that musty woodland smell when you’re home and dry. To stop the redecoration of your home and car with the oh-so-trendy splatter effect you may need to engage in some hurried towelling – not necessarily a delight when you’re as bedraggled as your dog. You can invest in some fancy ergonomically designed doggie dressing gown or you can dig through your closets for the requisite pile of skanky dog towels that all owners gradually amass.

Wet dirty dog seeking clean floor in comfortable home to make his own. Likes long walks and muddy puddles. GSOH a must. Vegans need not apply.

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Words: Photos: Trevor Worsey