Yesterday Tracy and I went geocaching. Miller came along as a distraction.
If you don’t know geocaching, welcome to the wacky world of getting excited about finding tiny containers in the woods. Or you might find one on a city street, in which case you need to be super stealthy so the Muggles (the uninitiated) don’t see what you’re doing. A rule of the game is to protect the caches for others through careful searching, so geocachers the world over are trying to avoid detection as they use GPS coordinates, narrative descriptions and clues to find things hidden everywhere you can’t imagine.
There is probably a geocache not far from where you are. According to the official geocaching site, there are over 2 million hidden in the world in over 180 countries. When I introduced my friend Jenn, after her first find, she breathed, “It’s like there’s a whole world people don’t know about!” That’s the fun.
Geocaching has taken us to parts of the city we’ve never seen before. Every time we go somewhere new, we look for caches. Many are camouflaged in plain sight, which is why stealth comes into it. And a dog.
Dogs come in super handy when geocaching because you can use them as distraction when people walk by. One morning I went out with Miller to look for a cache that was on or near a piece of public art. I had to get down on my hands and knees to feel around for it, as it was a very small magnetic cache. It was a busy part of town, and I didn’t want to seem obvious, so I directed Miller to a down/stay and then felt around a bit. No success. I moved to another spot of the art piece and had him target my hand, then repeat his down, feeling around. Success! I’m sure no one was the wiser.
Out in the woods, once we reach the approximate spot on a trail where a cache is hidden, we look around before we start our search. If there are people nearby, we’ll do a little work with Miller on the spot. “Find it” works well (throwing a treat for him to scent out). Miller exercises his nose and we bide our time until the path is clear. It works like a charm.
We let Miller smell each cache we find. We get a kick out of the little treasures sometimes hidden inside and figure he might scent something interesting too. The rule is if you take something, you leave something. When our kids were younger and went with us, we had a bag of little prizes for that very opportunity, but now they’re sleep-in-until-noon teens, we don’t tote the bag along.
Geocaching has introduced us to people we never would have met otherwise. The speedy race of first-to-find can be funny. Last summer we were two of eight geocachers hurrying to be the first at a cache none of us could find. We teamed up and scouted the area in sections, sharing the coveted first to find title.
Geocaching with your dog is a great way to get out and about. You search, your dog sniffs, the outdoors is great. As many geocachers on Instagram say, #GoPlayOutside.
*Note: I’m not a certified dog trainer, just passionate about the best outcomes for dogs. If your dog needs support beyond your own skill level, please choose a certified trainer.
Image: Snail cache by Andy Rogers, Flickr (Creative Commons)