Jen Sotolongo, owner of Long Haul Trekkers chats to us about her life experience and love for dogs, how these four-legged wonders can literally roam the globe at your side and how you can go about reaching this objective. Whether it be trail running, hiking, backpacking, or paddleboarding, Jen takes her dog Sitka everywhere. Long Haul Trekkers is an award-winning multi-media brand featuring a blog and shop that Jen offers for the adventure dog and their human.
It all started in 2015 when my partner (at the time) and I quit our jobs to go cycling around Europe and South America with our dog Sora. The blog began as a travel journal, offering reassurance to family and friends that we were ok. It has since evolved into the resource I wish I had had when I first began getting outdoors with my dog.
As we traveled and continued blogging, brands started to take notice of us, and sometimes even paid money. I then started to look into blogging as a means to a lucrative end in addition to all the rest. I turned the blog into a proper business.
The blog has evolved immensely since then, and is now an adventure dog blog where I write about tips on getting outdoors with your dog, adventure trip itineraries and training tips for these outdoor experiences.
It can vary depending on what your goals are with your dog and why you have a dog in the first place. For me, my dog is my whole world - I am an ultra-runner and he is my training partner, he is my adventure buddy and comes with me almost anytime I travel. For this reason, it is so important for us to be a team and to really understand each other. This is why we are always training to maintain and build our relationship.
Having experienced first hand how the bond can grow and develop between someone and their dog when there is this mutual understanding actually led me to become a dog trainer. I think many people don’t really communicate with their dogs in a way they understand and simply expect them to understand our commands without actually teaching them what they want. Working on profound and real communication with your dog is key to developing the bond that can (and should) exist between these two beings.
I grew up with cats - who I love - but I always wanted dogs. My first dog was Sora (although technically she belonged to my partner) and I realized that I had a totally preconceived idea about what having a dog was actually like. I learned that a lot of common dog culture is simply not ideal for a dog’s wellbeing.
I have always had pretty challenging, reactive dogs in my life and they were definitely not the type I could take to the cafe or hiking where other dogs would roam freely into other dogs' spaces. It was incredibly stressful.
I have learned that the societal norms that we have built around dogs and dog ownership are not one size fits all and they are not always what is ideal for dogs. I have also learned how to use my voice. Although I am an introvert and try to avoid confrontation, I have learned that I have to speak up for my dogs as they will be the ones held accountable if there is a fight for example, which is me if I failed to advocate for them.
My dogs have given me my voice and this has translated to all other areas of my life. I am more direct, care less about what others think and will do what I have to do to make sure that my dog is safe.
Currently I offer three programs; basic obedience, basic obedience (with a focus on building off-leash recall using an e-collar) and the third is an adventure dog package (helpful skills for the trail and outdoor adventures). I recently launched my dog training business and am still figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
My approach to dog training is relationship and mindset change. We do teach basic obedience skills (sit, down etc…) but the main focus is on mindset shift on both dog and dog owner using tools such as treats, leashes, prong collars, e-collars, slip leads…or whatever the dog needs to achieve those goals. Often problem behaviors are caused by a lack of structure so I work alongside the owner to show them how to build new habits with their dogs.
In general, many dogs can be adapted to trail running. There are certain breeds that lend themselves more naturally to trail running of course such as the herding breeds. The more athletic dog will make a more suitable trail running partner but many dogs can adapt. Some breeds, like brachycephalic, or flat-nosed dogs are not the best running companions as they are not able to take in sufficient air to cool down.
It is ultra important to condition your dog, however athletic, before embarking on a long distance run, in the same way that the owner would have conditioned themself at some point in time. My rule of thumb, which applies to people and dogs, is to add no more than 10% in mileage each week.
Do your homework and do not get a breed just because you like how it looks, or because your friend has one…Choose a breed that is right for you and your lifestyle. If you are a runner don’t get a French Bulldog, if you are a homebody and don’t exercise a lot, don’t get a Border Collie.
Talk to shelters or breeders to really understand what you are getting yourself into and what exactly the dog needs. If you have children, make sure the dog is well suited.
Understand that dogs are not just for decoration. They need exercise, enrichment, affection and time - not simply food and water. They will be destructive and miserable if you do not give them the time that they need. If you don’t have the time to commit, then it’s probably best to wait to get a dog!