To those who don’t know him, Moose doesn’t immediately register as a great hiking dog.
True to his Chinese Shar-Pei breed, the quirky 8-year-old sports a grows-on-you kind of handsomeness. His wrinkled skin, sandpapery coat (Shar-Pei means “sand coat”), large blocky muzzle and wary attitude are not exactly the standard-issue kit attributed to typical outdoor types like Labrador retrievers and Border collies. But with consistent socialization and specialized training, Moose has evolved into a fine trekker. “Moose took to hiking immediately,” says his human companion, Nathan Zigler, a martial arts instructor from Phoenix. “We started slowly, and now we just go.”
But before Zigler felt safe taking Moose hiking in serpent-beset Arizona, he invested in canine rattlesnake avoidance classes at Valley-based Partners Snake Avoidance. “Moose is always on leash, but he does stick his nose in every bush he passes.
“The training he went through was with snakes in cages,” Zigler continues. “He would approach the cages and if he showed interest, he’d get a mild correction (electric shock).”
Moose was a quick study. “The training took us less than 15 minutes,” Zigler says.
Rattlesnakes are found throughout the state – a dog recently survived a painful bite while hiking in Payson – and Zigler now feels confident that Moose will keep his nose out of trouble spots.
Some Moose-approved summer trails are water-centric Black Canyon Lake on the Mogollon Rim, Thompson Trail in the White Mountains and Horton Creek near Payson. While on the trails, Zigler is frequently stopped by passing hikers who are curious about his dog’s distinctive appearance and stoic disposition. “My wife, Lanie, says he’s the strangest dog we’ve ever had,” Zigler laughs. “I also spoil him rotten.”