Range rovers: Field trips put dogs back in the pack
The monthly outings include popular hikes and beach romps
Patty likes spending time with friends. Isabella is outgoing and well-socialized. Libby has really "come out of her shell," thanks to social outings.
These descriptions might seem suited to a group of young children. But this is how Erin Gerwig described a few of the dogs that participate in her monthly field trips.
"Coogee, an Australian Shepherd, is by far the best behaved and mild-mannered pup we know," Gerwig said. "She is easygoing and because she is a herding dog she helps keep the other pups in line."
Gerwig has been offering "doggie field trips" for a couple years now. "Human tours abound on the island," she said. "Dogs like the same stuff ... they really enjoy hiking and going to the beach."
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Leslie Wrona, left, and Erin Gerwig take the group for a hike up Makapuu point. Raring to go are Coogee, left, Betsy, Sam, Libby, Hoku, Patty and Isabella. CLICK FOR LARGE
Seven dogs embarked on a journey to the Makapuu Lighthouse recently. Like many people, the dogs appreciated being in the great outdoors, enjoying the sights and lush surroundings. But first they needed to settle down a bit.
"Things are a little chaotic at first, even if the dogs know each other," according Erin Gerwig, owner of Dogwalker, etc.
"They all want to sniff, they have to say hello. And, everyone needs to use the bathroom right when we get out of the car," she said. "It's like having a bunch of 3-year-olds running around."
Once they settle down, though, they enjoy the ambiance and socializing.
Gerwig said the idea of the field trips came from her regular dog-walking routine -- she normally takes several dogs at the same time, from three or four different households. Other dogs walking with their owners would often stop to mingle with her group, she said.
"I saw how much more happy they were -- they love to socialize. They are pack animals and really enjoy the company of other animals. It's great to watch them interact with each other."
Personality plays a role when choosing participants for each trip. "Some big dogs are shy. Some little ones are so bossy," she said.
Libby, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, is a high-energy pup who loves hunting for mice and mongoose while hiking. "She wasn't very well-socialized in the beginning, but the tours have really made her come out of her shell," Gerwig said.
On the other hand, 11-year-old Coogee, an Australian Shepherd, is easygoing. "She is the oldest attendee, but keeps up with no problems."
Differing personalities must fit into the "everyone must get along" motto set forth by Gerwig. She invites clients' dogs that are mellow or interact well with other animals.
"This allows us to take a large group and not worry about fights or anything like that. We don't want to put anyone in danger. The dogs kind of tell you what they want to do. They are always happy ... they never show up in a bad mood."
Just like people-based tours, snack and water breaks are part of the outing. And normally a long hike will end with some splashing in the waves at the beach.
Gerwig started her pet-sitting company about six years ago, focusing primarily on in-home services. "It's an alternative to a boarding facility," she said. "Pets are stressed when their owners leave. The pets are able to stay at home where they are most comfortable."
Regular routines cut down on stress, she added. "They are not thrown in a room with a bunch of strange dogs. There is no risk to exposure of fleas, kennel cough or anything like that."
Gerwig and her staff of 15 provide services including dog walking, overnight pet- or house-sitting and periodic visits to walk dogs and provide food and water while owners are away. The ratio is five dogs per sitter.
Owners see immediate results once their dogs have proper exercise. "An animal may act out badly when they are bored," Gerwig said.
"Oftentimes my clients don't have time for these activities during the week but can afford to send their dog out for some fun. Many of my clients don't have children, so their pet are like their children."
Exercise and socialization are not the only benefits. Gerwig helps implement training and discipline. "We see so many people walking their dogs who are getting pulled down the street. We teach the dogs leash manners," she said. "We want them to have good doggie manners. They have to have good manners if they are going to hang out with us."
The Hawaiian Humane Society offers free monthly hikes for dogs and their owners. Call 356-2217.