‘Tailed’ travellers
Darina Buyanova, Victoria Linko and Andrey Larichev
The “Adventure Dog” tourism project founders

‘Tailed’ travellers

Going on vacation, many people beat their brains about their four-legged friends. The “Adventure Dog” tourism project offers a non-standard solution to this problem an offer to take the pet to the hiking tour. The project founders Darina Buyanova, Victoria Linko and Andrey Larichev have been organizing tours for dog owners for three years. EcoTourism Expert asked them to tell us about the peculiar features of such trips.

- Please tell us about your project. What is an “Adventure Dog” project?

- First of all, these are trips when you don’t have to think about where to leave your dog while you are travelling on your vacation! We give you a chance to take the dog along with you while travelling in the mountains, in your weekend tour or in your road trip to Teriberka! We show people how to relax and enjoy their trip with their ‘tailed’ pet accompanying them.


- How did the idea to organize tours for dog owners come to you?

- It came spontaneously. We got acquainted at a dog-friendly event held by our mutual friend. We liked each other. I think it was in September or October 2020. On March 1, 2021, we created the project’s accounts in social networks and had our first groups. The response was tremendous! It seemed that dog owners were just waiting for the “Adventure Dog” project to appear! And for the third year, we have been giving an opportunity to people and their four-legged friends to have adventures together.

- What travel destinations (cities, regions) are you currently developing? Do you specialize in hiking or do other activities as well? If so, what kind of activities?

- We have several directions that everyone can do. For example, we organize weekend tours and go to dog-friendly hotels and glampings. So far, they are in the Moscow Region, St. Petersburg and Karelia.

The heart of our project is mountain hiking! Basically, such tours are held in the Caucasus. We have routes along Arkhyz in Karachay-Cherkessia, in the Elbrus region in Kabardino-Balkaria and along the Digorsky Gorge in North Ossetia. We also arrange hiking tours in the Crimea.

Now, the geography of our project is expanding. This year, we will offer a trip to the foot of Mount Belukha in the Altai Mountains.

We also considered Kamchatka as one of the destinations where we could offer a mixed tour combining trekking and road tripping. But so far, we have abandoned this option, since it is very difficult and expensive to get to Kamchatka with a dog. Not all of our customers are ready to transport their “tailed friends” in the airplane’s luggage compartment. In addition, Kamchatka is quite far from Moscow and St. Petersburg, and our “adventurers” mainly live in these cities. Therefore, we are focusing on the Caucasus and Altai mountains for the time being.


- Can you name the most unusual destination that your tourists can go to?

- Perhaps, the “adventurers” can go to our most unusual destination this season. This is the Karelia-Khibiny-Teriberka road trip. The tourist will travel the entire route by car. In Karelia, they will have a chance of visiting the Ruskeala Mountain Park and enjoying the Karelian traditional cuisine like Kalitka with potatoes, trout pie, calaqueitto fish soup. Have you ever tasted it? It’s very delicious!!! There will be a track in the Khibiny Mountains to the top of the mount where they will enjoy a fantastic view of the mountain range. And in Teriberka, they will go to the Barents Sea to watch dolphins and, if they are lucky, whales. In fact, they will visit three tourist points in one trip.

- Is it possible to join the tours with a dog of any breed? Or are there any criteria for selecting participants?

- No breed discrimination! The most important thing is that your dog is healthy and vaccinated! For the trip, it is also important that a four-legged fellow traveller’s growth zones are closed, which occurs at the age of 12 to 18 months depending on a breed. There are no restrictions for weekend tours, except for the quarantine after vaccinations in puppies.

- Do you go through routes of varying difficulty? Are your hiking tours suitable for beginners?

We can say that our tours are aimed at beginners. 57% of our customers, according to the latest survey, have no experience in hiking.

- Who are the guides in these tours, are they dog lovers, too? Perhaps, there are guides with cynological or other specific background or skills?

So far, there are only 4 people in our team. And all of them have dogs. Our business implies that we should be informed as much as possible about the today’s knowledge of humane cynology. This is true. This requires constant learning. You know how it happens with people - you see a person and immediately understand what he is. The same is true about dogs.


- How many days do your trips usually last? How is food and accommodation organized for tourists?

- On the average, our hiking tours last for six to seven days. This year, we arrange a hiking tour in Georgia. It will last for about eight days as the route is rather long.

We have both autonomous and radial trips. During an autonomous trip, we go from point A to point B with our equipment and backpack. We stay overnight in different places in tents. During radial hiking tours, the travellers stay in one place. For example, in the Elbrus region, they stay in a campsite in tents. In the Digorsky Gorge, they are accommodated in rooms. The conditions are slightly more comfortable there, especially for those who go hiking for the first time.

The tourists cook on their own. As a rule, if they come to some Caucasian republic, the tourists are treated with something from the national cuisine. For example, in Digoria, it can be an Ossetian cheese pie, and in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia, they taste khychins. By the way, Karachay and Balkarian khychins differ in way of cooking. The Balkarian ones are more like pancakes, and the Karachay ones are more like meat pastries.

During the trip, the food is quite varied. This is not a standard buckwheat with stewed meat. Andrey prepares very tasty lentil soup, buckwheat casserole or borshch. We dry all vegetables, meat and other products using dehydrators. So, most of the food we buy and cook on our own.

- Ensuring safety is always important for travel organizers. You have to think not only about the safety of tourists, but also of their pets. Is it hard to foresee everything?

- Our hiking tours do not have categories of difficulty, but they are held in mountainous areas. This imposes several obligations on us and on the travellers. Firstly, we must register the group with the Emercom. Secondly, tourists are advised to have an insurance certificate in advance with the possibility of evacuation by helicopter. An insurance certificate is not included in the price of the tour, so it is purchased separately. In addition, we always take a first aid kit. They are different for people and dogs.

We also have practical knowledge of first aid and rescue operations in case of emergency. The fact is that Andrey and I have been mountaineering since 2015. I have the second category and Andrey has the first one. We had our training in the Caucasus and Kazakhstan.

- How is the preparation for the hiking tour going? Do you give consultations to the travellers joining your group?

- 1.5 or 2 weeks before every hiking tour, we call the participants of our hiking tour. We instruct them on packing a backpack, tell them in detail about the route, discuss the behaviour of their dogs. This is important in order for the first acquaintance to be comfortable for all “tailed” travellers. Basically, our “adventurers” are experienced and responsible dog owners. They bring muzzles and give advice to other teammates on how to communicate with their dogs.

Your dog doesn’t have to be friends with everyone! Every dog also has a ‘private space’ that are important to take into account. There are dogs with their ‘soul’ wide open, they are comfortable with every person. Some dogs are introverts, like people are.


- What difficulties did you have to face in the hiking tours?

- Sometimes people are psychologically unprepared for a lifestyle and stress they face in our mountain hiking tours. During the first three days, they always adapt to new conditions. Usually on the first day in a group, one or two persons want to finish the hiking tour and ask to be brought back. It is important to understand the reason. As a rule, this is a shock from physical exertion, a backpack, the weather (rain, fog or heat), or simply from non-standard environment. Just stress. In this case, Darina or Vika provide psychological assistance to the tour participant. They talk with the tourist and accompany him or her to the place where the tourist stays overnight. The rest of the group continue their hiking tour with Andrey.

The most important thing is to reach the first place where they stay overnight and have a good sleep. By the third day, the travellers get used to the hiking tour and are proud that they did not give up.

- Do you have a large community? Tell us about the people who travel with the “Adventure Dog” team? What do they do while travelling? Are your groups large? Are they regular customers who try to take part in the maximum number of hiking tours?

- Perhaps, our community consists of thousands of travel lovers. People from other countries also write to us asking us to come to them and arrange some similar hiking tours. In general, we consider Europe as a potential place for our trips. There are fairly simple multi-day routes that perfectly fit the format of our project. I think that next year, we will implement this idea.

The number of travellers in a group depends on the specific features of the particular tour. As a rule, a group is from six to eight people. For example, there were 16 tourists with us in the hiking tour in the Mount Elbrus region. Up to 35 people took part in our weekend hiking tours.

Of course, there are regular “adventurers” who took part in 6-7 hiking tours. Our programme is designed so that tourists can travel with us every year and discover new destinations. For example, one year a traveller can go to the Elbrus region and prefer Bolshoy Thach the next year, and a year later, a traveller can go to the Altai Mountains. Thus, a traveller can go to the mountains with us for 10 years and enjoy mountain hiking. And after that, we’ll offer something new in future. In theory, travellers can join our hiking tours all their lives.

To be honest, we are happy when some people plan to spend one vacation a year with our “Adventure Dog”.

- What are your plans for the development of the project?

- We are going to have more people in our project team and offer new travel destinations. For example, this year, we offer a new option - a road trip Karelia-Khibiny-Teriberka, as well as hiking tours to the foot of Mount Belukha in the Altai Mountains and from Khevsureti to Tusheti in Georgia. In September, we plan to hold an educational forum for people who want to travel with their dogs. This is a new direction in our activities. We have already come up with a name, we have accounts in social networks, we are preparing a good and interesting programme and approving the speakers at the forum. And we are designing our own merch now.