Steep Trails Make Good Dogs: Icicle Ridge in Leavenworth, WA

As my husband and I loaded the rest of our new herd of 4 into the car to take on Icicle Ridge Trail in Leavenworth, Washington, we wondered how our new pup, Paisley, would do on the trail. We experimented taking her off-leash and trained her to stay close, as she observed our other pug, Bugs naturally do the same. As we migrated upward, we passed many other dog-owners that would cheerfully light up, squealing, “two pugs!” Once in awhile, we’d hear another dog owner doubt the hiking capabilities of the pug-pack, so it was refreshing to hear a passing hiker look at our dog-family, smile, and say, “Steep Trails Make Good Dogs”.

All dogs should be active 
The thought that some breeds are made to move and others are not is bullshit. Veterinarians confirm that although some breeds are built better for physical environments, all dogs should get active to maintain overall health. As I mentioned in my very first blog, Why You Should Be Active with Your Dog, between 20%-40% of all pets who come into the vet are overweight, and among these are many obese animals.

As I watched two curly tails leap ahead of us on Icicle Ridge Trail, I knew they were in their happy place and the best part of all? I knew that by exerting so much energy, they would feel restful going into the next week instead of cooped up. In my own life, I have found that there is a direct correlation between getting my dogs outside and a decline in torn up messy surprises the following week. In this way, steep hikes that wear our pups out make better-behaved dogs at home.

All dogs should see the world
No animal was made to believe the world ends at your backyard fence, and I think we owe them other experiences as responsible dog owners. By getting outside of their home environment, dogs can expand their understanding of the world beyond the backyard. The smells, sights, and feeling of being in the great outdoors isn’t a gift solely for humans.

Dogs are pack animals, and exploring together is a way to bond with your animal and train them in real-life situations. Hiking with dogs also helps them socialize with other dogs on the trail, which can build confidence between you and your companion in different environments. According to, “They learn to be gentle around children, for example, and not to be aggressive toward other dogs they may encounter while on a walk. They learn not to bite or nip at people and how to not jump up on people who enter your home. Socialization will help you have a happy and confident dog who is trained to react comfortably and appropriately to his environment.”

We continued to the summit of Icicle Ridge and used the trail as an opportunity to blow some energy, teach good behavior, and bond together as we moved. Approaching the peak, 6 miles deep in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, was rewarding all around. As my husband and I picked up the pace as did the wagging curly tails, as we trekked the rim of the ridge. Our view opened up to reveal the Bavarian town of Leavenworth 1,800 feet below us to our right, and a mountainous valley dusted with snow and carved out by the Wenatchee River to our left. We looked as if we were shaking our heads “no” as we traveled, tranced by both views at once. Overlooking it all with our trusty companions of a different species, we felt relieved, proud, and most importantly- connected. 

What has your experience been hiking with your dogs? 

In kindness,
Madison Ford

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