Great Dane Who Loves To Hike With His Friends Finds New Grandma On The Trail

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Alyssa Berkovitz and her dog Kernel are big fans of the great outdoors, and through Berkovitz’s off-leash dog-walking program, Wagnificent Co., they’re able to spend so much time together on trails around the Boston area.

It was on one of these hikes that Berkowitz and Kernel came across an older couple who shared a similar love of hiking.

“I saw this old couple walking through the woods together and smiling at my Great Dane,” Berkowitz told The Dodo. “Kernel does have a thing for old ladies.”

Berkovitz and Kernel began seeing this couple quite often on their walks, but it wasn’t until Berkovitz learned that the husband had passed that she knew she had to welcome the wife into her pack.

“When we saw the lady in the woods again, she said, ‘Oh, I came out here to look for you!’ So I said, ‘Okay, let’s exchange information,’” Berkovitz said. Now the lady, who goes by Grandma on Berkovitz’s social media, hikes with Berkovitz and Kernel at least once a week.

two women smiling
Alyssa Berkovitz

Despite being an avid hiker now, it wasn’t until Berkovitz got Kernel that she became an outdoors person.

“I was working on my photography business and needed some physical stimulation to counter the time I spent editing,” she recently told The Dodo. “Kernel was also a figment of my imagination at the time — I had him all picked out, named and ready in my head for at least five years before I got him!”

She thought that having a dog and being able to take him on walks would be great exercise for both of them. After getting Kernel, taking him on walks and noting how his daycare walking program worked, Berkovitz decided to try her hand at giving dogs an outdoor experience that would stimulate them physically and mentally.

“A lot of dogs I initially worked with were trained and deserving of more freedom or they weren’t trained and it felt like an accident waiting to happen,” she said. “I knew this meant I would need a niche group of dogs, but I committed to the idea in 2017 and it’s been fulfilling for us since.”

Berkovitz adds dogs to her group one at a time so the pack can assimilate and teach them the rules, and she does basic training with each one to prepare them for off-leash hikes.

“[Kernel] rarely misses a hike!” she continued. “He’s a hype man for the other dogs and acts like every hike is the first of his life. He’s incredible at helping me keep the other dogs in check if they’re not on [their] best behavior.”

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And Grandma still attends as many hikes as she can.

“She has a back injury that she had to take some time off for, but she rejoined us this week and she typically comes at least once a week!” Berkovitz said. “I have a license to take the dogs hiking in two different towns, so we switch up trails to keep it interesting for us and the dogs.”

grandma hiking with dogs
Alyssa Berkovitz

Berkovitz suggests that pet parents begin training their dogs for outdoor adventures in “low-energy settings” like their homes, and use body language rather than repetitive verbal cues to keep them attuned to what their parents want from them.

“Some ways I show the pack that we’re moving without asking them to come are by simply turning my back and walking or using short reinforcing sounds like kissy noises or claps, then marking a ‘good come’ with praise reward,” she said.

“If I do ask a pack member to come and they don’t,” she continued, “I’ll reward another pack member for coming to help encourage the other (presumably new pack member) to make the right choice.”

You should also contact a local trainer or an off-leash hiking program in your area to help you get your dog to the level where he’s ready to take on an off-leash outdoor adventure.

You can follow along with Berkovitz, Kernel and Grandma on Instagram and TikTok.

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