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Geocaching and Your Dog
Come out, come out, wherever you are!
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In September 2001, Sandi Pearce hid a small box in a park near her home in Dublin, Calif. Since then, more than 38 people, many with dogs, have searched for—and found—the box. It was just one of the 15 similar boxes that Pearce has hidden since she and her Border Collie, Katie, took up geocaching, a relatively new adventure game.

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt in which players follow global positioning satellite (GPS) coordinates listed on the geocaching Web site, and search for a cache, a term used to denote something hidden away for later. In geocaching, the “something hidden away” usually consists of a weather-resistant container holding a logbook and a mishmash of plastic toys, coins, key chains and other small items for trade. Pearce, who began caching in 2001 after reading about the activity in the newspaper, filled hers with dog-related items and hid it in an area where she and Katie like to hike. 

“It immediately appealed to me,” said Pearce. “It involves being outside, geeky tech toys and a cool Web site. And I can take Katie with me.”

Taking their dogs along while caching is a practice enjoyed by many of the game’s participants. Sharon Lum, who caches with her mixed-breed pound rescue, Zoe, says she enjoys having a hobby she can participate in with her dog. “Before I discovered caching, I biked more,” she said. “Now some of that time is spent hiking for caches with Zoe, and I think she likes that.”

Geocaching uses navigation technology originally developed by the military. A GPS receiver collects signals from multiple satellites above the Earth. Based on the signals, a person’s position on the planet can be triangulated (within a range of 6 to twenty feet) and reported in latitude and longitude coordinates. In 2000, when the Clinton administration made the signals available to civilians, geocaching popped onto the outdoor-activity scene. Now, according to the geocaching website, there are about 122,615 active caches in more than 210 countries.

Caches are hidden both in urban and rural areas. Several require moderate hikes and a few even require climbing, swimming or boating. Each cache is rated for difficulty, based on how hard the cache is to find and on the terrain in which it’s secreted. There is no official dog-friendly rating in the cache descriptions, but many cachers will put notes about dog-appropriateness in the online log. (See sidebar for a glossary of caching terms.)

Lum sometimes uses snowshoes or cross-country skis to go caching. “Zoe loves the snow,” she said. But, she warns, “one thing to remember when cross-country skiing with dogs is not to use metal-edge skis, as dogs, being dogs, can suddenly run or stop in front of you, and you can injure your dog.”

Lum, who has logged more than 1,000 finds, credits Zoe with discovering one cache of her own, near Lake Tahoe. “There was snow around, but only about a foot or so deep in some areas, and none in others. We searched for about a half an hour at the coordinates, [then] decided to go back to the cachemobile, which was about a quarter of a mile away. As we were walking back, Zoe walked right up to the cache, which was nested next to a rock, pointed to it with her nose and then looked at me to say, ‘Okay, Mom, here it is. Can we go home now?’”

Carleen Pruss, of Lincoln, Neb., also caches year-round. She says her black Lab mix, Molly, likes the snow, but snow requires extra preparation. She reminds us that dogs can’t yell “Hey, I’m getting frostbite!” and suggests taking your dog on some short winter excursions to check his cold tolerance before setting out on a full-fledged caching session.
 
Pruss has been caching since late 2001. Currently, she is secretary/treasurer for the Nebraskache Geocaching Organization and an editor for Today’s Cacher e-zine. She offers these tips for caching with your dog:

• Know your dog. A dog who pulls on-leash or is easily distracted in urban areas likely won’t cache well in urban parks. For rural hiking, know your dog’s physical fitness level. Know if your dog is willing to cross a stream; if not, can you carry him over it? How will your dog behave if he encounters people or other animals (or cow patties)? It is better to ask these types of questions first and then plan accordingly.

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Submitted by Anonymous | November 22 2009 |

Although www.geocaching.com does let members mark their caches with attributes depicting whether a place allows dogs, not all of these are completely suitable for your canine companion. There is a great list of dog friendly caches at www.pawsawhileoc.com. Dog friendly businesses can also link with caches in their area to give dog owners an idea of what restaurants, dog washes, inns, hotels, pet stores etc they can visit with their buddy. They also have some great articles and tips for enjoying this new sport with your dog.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 6 2011 |

Actually this site is now www.dogcacher.com. It is a great place to not only find out about geocaching with your dog but to find other dog friendly activities such as hotels and inns, restaurants, boat cruises, train rides, dog parks and dog specific event. It is a fun social networking site where you can meet other dog owners who geocache with their dogs as well.

Submitted by Heather | October 19 2010 |

Just got a GPSr and can’t wait to try this out! I’m even designing a dog backpack for Cooper to wear when we go. Dog’s need a job and he loves wearing his backpacks and carrying his own water! Get one out and he’s bouncing off the walls to go. There's nothing like a 75lb. weimaraner that's ready for a hike.

Submitted by Cache At Night | June 22 2011 |

If you are going to take your dog out at night or into the woods it is a good idea to have an illuminated dog collar. Remember it gets dark in the woods long before sunset.

Submitted by NN | July 15 2011 |

Please, please don't haphazardly recommend something like vaccines—especially like Lyme—one *known* to cause far more detrimental complications than protection to the point that even vet schools won't recommend them. After the puppy shots, most regular dogs only need the rabies vaccination, and even that is primarily in order to be compliant with the law as opposed to maintain immunity. Mine has been titered every year to measure her immunity, and she is still more than covered after seven years since her vaccinations.

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