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adventures with dogs

#MyDogIsMy: Adventure Buddy - Trust is the Most Important Thing

Ruffwear Ambassadors Stephi and Nala love to travel, hike, paddle board, ski, camp and adventure together. You can find them at @aussieventure_. Their story has been translated from German to English.

"If she wants to try it and enjoys it, it's great, and if she doesn't, it's fine."

Nala the Australian Shepherd outside in the snow.It was clear to me right from the start that Nala, my Australian Shepherd living in Austria, was not going to be a dog that waits for me at home and goes for a walk just three times a day. She was to be integrated into my everyday life. Nobody would have dreamed of what would become of this.

In our first winter together, I started taking Nala on hikes in the snow and walks with my skis on. This allowed Nala to get used to being around my skis and be prepared for any outcome. After these activities went well and I could see Nala took great pleasure in exploring the snow-covered landscape with me, the two of us began to go on short ski tours. To protect Nala's health, especially in the first few months, I carried her on the descents. Equipped with ski goggles, the little lady was able to enjoy the view from my rucksack. It was, and still is, my top priority that Nala's health and well-being come first. Even today, I still give Nala a piggyback ride if the conditions are too extreme for her.

Stephi and Nala head up the mountain.

Today, we live in a ski resort in Austria and spend the entire winter in the snow. Nala accompanies me to work every day and has become the ski school office's favorite mascot. When work is not in the office but on the slopes, Nala stays at home and spends time with her best dog friend Majah, a Samoyed.

In our free time, there is nothing the two of us don't do together. We go hiking and stand-up paddling, ride motorcycles, longboards and, as of this year, one-wheelers. In winter, we go skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, or set off on a ski tour. I try to challenge and encourage Nala's stamina, dexterity, and confidence on a daily basis. 

No matter what new activities we try out, you can feel our complete trust in one another. For example, Nala is not a fan of water, but loves to go stand-up paddling with me and is usually the first one on the board. I always make Nala feel safe and she trusts me. I also trust Nala to stay calm and listen to me. It’s allowed us to learn to ride the One-Wheel to the office together, with Nala sitting between my legs and enjoying the ride.

Stephi and Nala skiing together.

I’ve been skiing and snowboarding since I was very young and have also taken part in races, so I understand that not everything the two of us can do together is safe for the inexperienced. For example, the edges of the skis and snowboard are sharp and could injure a dog’s feet and legs if you’re not careful. Also, you can’t underestimate the other guests on the slopes and the dog's behavior. That's why we have practiced certain commands so that we can react appropriately in tricky situations. To further reduce the risk, I also make sure that I only take her with me on slopes that are less busy and only outside the main visiting times.

Nala the Australian Shepherd in her Ruffwear harness.

If you don't want to miss out on taking your dog with you on your winter vacation, I recommend activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or sledging. These activities make it possible to explore the beautiful winter landscape together in a sporty way.