Elisa Deutschmann | Trailrunning with dogs
JEANETTE: Nearly 40,000 people are following the adventures of today’s guest and her husky, Finn. They have traveled to eight countries together, and today she will share her best tips on trail running with her dog. Elisa Deutschmann from Germany, welcome.
ELISA: Thank you, thank you. Nice to be here.
JEANETTE: Yes, we’re very happy to have you here. You are an influencer?
ELISA: Yeah, that’s right.
JEANETTE: You and your dog, Finn. Can you tell us a bit more about yourselves?
ELISA: My name is Elisa, as you already have heard. I’m living together with my husky, Finn, normally in Germany. I think for two years, I started to share all my photos and adventures which I and my dog are doing to Instagram. I uploaded pictures and videos about my life, about all the sports we are doing together, and yeah, it started to get more and more popular, and I think people like it and love to see what we’re doing. That’s why we’re always out and having fun. It’s nice to see that people get motivated about it. I think it’s nice. It’s a little bit more about how everything works with him, because it’s always important to do something together.
JEANETTE: And you really are an outdoor person, and so is your dog. Can you tell us a bit more about Finn?
ELISA: It’s my first dog ever. Before I got him, I knew I need a dog which was really robust so he can do everything I do and I don’t have to bring him warm jackets or so that he’s safe and ready for adventure. So I chose a Siberian husky. I got him when he was 8 weeks old, and now he’s already five and a half. We’ve made a lot of adventures together, and it works really well. So that was the point – that was when I said, okay, I need a Siberian husky. After five and a half years, I really know it was the right decision, and we’re a really good team together. I can’t think of a life without the dog.
JEANETTE: Can you tell us a bit about the adventures you’ve had so far? You’ve visited many countries and you have been on top of mountains, you have been running down mountains together, winter, summer, everything.
ELISA: That’s true. I’m traveling a lot with my dog. To be honest, the first holidays or adventures, I was not that prepared how to do everything with a dog because it was my first dog. The first holidays we made were to some really hot countries like Albania and stuff like that. If I’m thinking right now about it, it was not that nice because it was way too hot. But I think that’s the way you learn and how you can prepare everything better for your next adventures.
After all that experience, I focused my holidays more on like Norway, countries which are colder or whatever, Netherlands, things like that. Right now it works really well. I was before really into the mountain stuff, but through my dog I became more and more into it. As you may know, we started to get into trail running and all that kind of stuff.
Of course, if you have a dog, I think your life changes a little bit. It’s not like you go to the Bahamas and make holidays there. After that, we’re doing a lot of that stuff, but for both, it’s our passion and we love to be in the mountains. It’s insane.
JEANETTE: Do you have any advice if you plan to go to a totally different country with your dog? You don’t know how it is when it comes to temperature, where to go, where the nice trails are. How do you navigate when you do research before your trips?
ELISA: After a while, I really know my dog really well and I know what fits him and what doesn’t. If we’re going to a really warm place because we have to go or something like that, then I know that my dog loves to swim. That’s a really good point, because I always can put him in the water and he can cool a little bit down.
But if it’s maybe too hot, I always search for shadows and stuff like that. I think it’s really important that you know your dog really well. That’s how I prepare it, and I think we’re a really good team, so we can figure everything out together and everything works quite well.
JEANETTE: When it comes to water, how do you do it when you’re on the mountaintop and there might be no lakes or small rivers, or you don’t have any extra water with you?
ELISA: That’s a really good question. Normally when I know where to go and I know there are a lot of rivers and mountains, then it’s no problem for us drinking the water. But I already had it once where I was really far up in the mountain, and I expanded my trip. It was not that long a plan, but I said, “Okay, it’s fine. We will find some water.” Then we were at the top and I saw Finn needed some water and we had nothing.
Then I just picked up my bottle and gave him all my water. I think it’s always important to have enough water for you, of course, but also more for your dog. It’s really important to think about it. But it was good that I still had some water.
But normally, as I said, I always plan it, and when I know I’m going to areas which have no water, I bring – I’m not sure how they call these dog bottles, where you can fill them with water – and bring that for him. It works quite well. I also know how much he needs. Of course, it depends on the temperature, shadow, all this stuff. But that’s how we can figure it out. I always try to be a really good dog mom. [laughs]
JEANETTE: When you go hiking and running, how do you prepare your dog for this?
ELISA: I start to train a lot. For a month I did my first real race, trail run race, and for that we trained half a year or something like that. When it’s hot I always go out really early in the morning or really late so that the dog is not starting to get too hot. The last race was 22 kilometers and 1,200 meters high, so I know it’s a long way.
We started with some shorter uphill runs, like 5k, stuff like that. It was really cold, but after a while, we also started to run more at lunchtime, stuff like that, because I knew the race would be at the same time. So I looked at when it is and that my dog feels really comfortable doing the race and it’s not something new. He was really used to the long distances and everything after the half year. I think that’s really important. It’s not like you take your dog and say “Okay, now we are going for a 20k run,” because he’s not known to that. It’s super important that you train your dog for that and that you do it step by step.
Also, during the race, I made some breaks. He got some water, and I was always looking for him. That’s also not that easy because if you’re going for a race with a dog, it’s not only about you that you have to take care of. It’s also about your dog. When the race started, it was a little bit too warm, so the first 5k I was really afraid and took it super slow and had a look at him.
But after a while it starts to rain, and then the temperature goes down. Then I also saw on him that he was really into it and feeling good. I think it’s important that you really have a good connection to your dog. It’s not only a dog, it’s my best friend, my everything, and I really can see when he’s doing well or when he’s doing not well, when he needs water, a break. That’s important, and that’s how I prepare everything for it.
JEANETTE: What kind of equipment do you need for doing this?
ELISA: I’m always using Freemotion harness for Finn because it fits him really, really well, and he’s been using it already for 4 years, so I know it works. I don’t change it so much because I think that it fits good is really important, that he can breathe and run really good. Then I’m using the running line, super simple, and the running belt. Everything is super light and comfortable, and that’s really important if you go for long, long trails.
But he’s not always running on the leash, because when I’m up on the mountain and running down, it’s super important that he’s not pulling too much for me, because otherwise my knees or other stuff are destroyed after a while. So he has to run behind me. That’s also something which I trained really, really early with him. Because it’s a Siberian husky, it’s not like a border collie, which is doing everything you want. So we had to train a lot for it. After a while it worked, and now he’s running behind me and sometimes I put the leash away.
JEANETTE: Can you tell us a bit more on how you trained him to walk behind you? Did you use a treat behind your back? What did you do?
ELISA: It was quite hard at the beginning. I was not used to how to do it. [laughs] I tried everything, but after a while I recognized that a pole is really good, because I’m always running with poles uphill. I just used the pole and said the German word “run behind me.” In English, it means that.
So I used it and I put my hand to the back, and the pole was in the back, and then he had to have the distance between me and that. That’s really important because I’ll also be out a lot on skis in the winter, and there I also use it so that he is not coming too close to the skis. That works really well. I just can say that’s a good way to use the poles, and always try it so he’s a little bit away.
JEANETTE: When you’re out running in the mountains, sometimes you can meet some animals. Not all animals are just as nice. Cows, for example. How do you handle them?
ELISA: Cows. [laughs] I’m really afraid about cows because in Germany we have so many on the mountains. They’re all running free. Especially when they have small baby cows, then they start to get really angry if they see a dog. When I see cows, Finn is always on the leash. That’s super important. But I had one time a problem that a cow was too close, which was attacking me. Then I let him loose, of course, because otherwise we were both in trouble.
But another really good thing which helps is that cows are afraid of noises. I use my poles and throw them through the track or whatever, and if they hear a noise, they go away. That’s maybe a good point. But always be careful because if they have small cows and they see a dog, they’re not that friendly anymore. [laughs]
JEANETTE: Are there other challenges people might face when they’re running with a dog?
ELISA: I think there are always some challenges which you never know. For example, trees which fall on the track or other dogs. My dog is super happy with other dogs, but of course, it’s not always a good connection. And as I already said, you always have to think about two, so that’s also maybe a point. You have to think about it.
JEANETTE: And you also have nature. Things get stuck to your dog’s fur, or maybe insects as well? I don’t know, do you have experience on this?
ELISA: Yeah, that’s true. I had it. It was in Albania. Finn was laying a lot in the sand, and there had been some – I’m not sure how they’re called, but some super small horrible things. They were stuck everywhere in his fur, and we had to pull them out of his fur. He started to bleed and everything, so it was not that nice.
But I think all what happens, you get more and more prepared for everything that comes. It’s a good way to do it. [laughs] Or not a good way, but a way, and you learn about everything. That’s good.
JEANETTE: For the summer and the future, what are your plans?
ELISA: For this summer, we want to make some longer trips, Finn and me. For that, we have to prepare a little bit, go for longer hikes, and also prepare what to pack and how much food and how much water is there. I really love to be out with the dog. Being outside on the mountaintop is just amazing. Also, Finn really likes it. But for that, we have to train and have to think how much food, stuff like that. I just can say it’s amazing to be out with a dog, and maybe everyone should do it. Sleeping over on a mountaintop, stuff like that, and connect really more to your dog.
JEANETTE: What does it mean for you to have a dog on all these adventures? I guess it would be cool doing it by yourself, but having a dog, what extra joy does it give you?
ELISA: I think it’s so nice. I really like to be sometimes alone in the mountains, but with a dog, you’re never alone alone. That’s super nice because you never feel alone, and it’s just nice to have something and someone with you. We have made so many adventures and such nice memories, I can’t think – or if I think if I had done it without anyone or without my dog, it would not be the same. I’m really happy about it.
JEANETTE: Does it make you feel extra safe? Or is it like if I go camping with my dog and it’s dark and they start barking, maybe I would get a bit scared as well. [laughs]
ELISA: [laughs] Yeah, maybe. But I think it’s just nice to have him with me. Of course, if I’m sleeping outside, I know that he always will wake up if something happens. It’s not like I’m alone and whatever, a cow is coming. He feels earlier than I can feel something. Also when the weather is changing. He’s super afraid of thunderstorms, things like that, so he can hear it when I can’t see it already, so that’s also nice. It helps me also. So it’s not only that I have someone; he’s sometimes really helping me and showing me what to do. That’s nice.
JEANETTE: If there is a thunderstorm or something else happening and your dog gets scared, how do you handle it?
ELISA: That’s a big problem because nothing happened to him, and I don’t know why he’s so scared about it. But if he hears some crazy noises, he always wants to go away and search for holes and stuff like that. Sometimes when it’s a little bit too much – because I know it’s not that big, but he’s so afraid of it, so we search for a place where he feels okay. And I’m next to him, and that also brings him a lot. But that’s the only way I can do it, because I can’t run down the mountains in 10 minutes when rain is coming. [laughs] That’s not possible always. So searching for a place where he’s feeling safe.
JEANETTE: You do trips alone, and you also do competitions. What’s your favorite?
ELISA: I think both have something really nice. I like sometimes to compete. It’s nice to see how everything works for you and your dog. But of course, adventures are also so nice, and I like sometimes to stand there and have no time pressure and enjoy it. I think it’s important that you have a nice balance between both, and also it’s nice for my dog just to run free and not have to pull, and having an amazing life. So both sides have a good side.
JEANETTE: When you are out running, hiking, sometimes you meet other dogs as well. Do you have any tips?
ELISA: Oh yeah, I tried a lot out. It always depends on how your dog is, but I recognized my dog is feeling everything I feel. If I start to get nervous because I see a dog, he really feels it. For me and my dog, what works the best is stay there, do nothing and then go, and nothing ever happened. Everything is happy and friendly. But yeah, it always depends on your dog. I think it’s really important that you know that your dog is feeling what you’re doing and that there’s a nice balance between both sides.
JEANETTE: Would you ever consider having another dog? Or is it enough with one?
ELISA: Right now I’m still studying and I have to do a lot, so I’m happy with one. But sometimes I really can see that the Siberian husky like Finn, they really want to play always, and sometimes I feel he’s a little bit tired or sad because another dog is not there. So I go really often to dog beaches, stuff like that where dogs can play together, so he has contact with all the other dogs.
So I think that’s important, but right now I’m doing enough – I’m also a lot in the air with paragliding, and I want my dog to feel the best and not just stay at home. I think that’s important, if you have a dog or want to get a dog, that you have enough time and it’s not just “okay, I have a dog and it’s next to me.” It takes a lot of time, and it should take a lot of time, and you really should want the dog and want to spend all your free time / spare time with him. I’m thinking about it, and right now I have enough with one. [laughs] But you never know what’s next.
JEANETTE: If you and Finn had to do another activity, another kind of sport, what do you think that would be?
ELISA: That’s a good question. Right now I’m really dreaming of going paragliding together with Finn. [laughs]
JEANETTE: Wow, is that even possible?
ELISA: Yeah, it is. I have seen a lot of movies and talked to people which are doing it. But the problem is that Finn is – not heavy, but he is a Siberian husky, so he’s not a small dog. I have to prepare a lot for it. I think it would be really cool because we can go together on the mountain and then just fly down. But I think if this doesn’t work, we’re doing a lot of trail running and a lot of ski mountaineering in the winter, but not that much mountain biking stuff. So maybe that’s something we could try next.
JEANETTE: Good luck on all your adventures.
ELISA: Thank you so much.