Russ Smith and his canine friends just want to haven fun!

Six mornings a week, the Tiverton, Rhode Island entrepreneur and several dogs of various shapes, sizes and ages, pile into a large van to enjoy a three-hour-long outdoor trek in the country to enjoy some fresh air, exercise and what the critters do best – play and have a lot of fun!

“I pick them up – door to door – in my van,” begins Smith, a former lawyer who developed the doggie day care business two years ago by word of mouth from friends who learned about the unique service and wanted their dogs to join in the fun and adventure.

“When the dogs pile into the van and they look for their buddy,” Smith said, adding that the during the past two years, some of the canines have bonded with each other and formed friendships, just like their human counterparts.

Smith says the idea for the hiking group was started by his dog, a golden retrieve named Sienna, a loveable canine that loves to hike along woodland trails and play with other canines.

“I call her our ‘den mother,’” Smith said. “She shares me with all the other dogs.”

Smith says the business started as a part-time venture on weekends and eventually blossomed into a full-time venture. He takes a maximum of nine dogs per day that allows him to provide optimum care and comfort.

“All of the seats in the van have been removed and the dogs sleep on heavy quilts,” the doggie day care provider said.

“My personal feeling is to see them (the dogs) happy and to bond with the other dogs,” Smith said, adding that the outdoor canine adventures allows dogs to socialize and to get ample exercise in the great outdoors.

“I try to send them happy and tired,” Smith said, adding that the treks usually cover about six miles each morning and help the dogs to socialize and to become better canine citizens.

Smith gathers the dogs early in the morning and travels from Portsmouth, Rhode Island to Dartmouth to pick up the dogs, which numbers between three to nine dogs depending on the size of the pack joining the group.

“I plot my route just like a school bus,” he quips.

Smith says that since he started the doggie day care service, he’s enjoyed the companionship of more than 100 different canines of all breeds.

He’s traveled with Labradors, golden retrievers, German shepherds, Shetland sheepdogs, miniature schnauzers, Shih tzus, an Airedale, a pug and numerous mixed-breeds, including a photogenic labradoodle.

“The little dogs have so much spirit,” Smith said, adding that the dogs range in age from 8 months to 14 years.

According to Smith, one of the most popular spots that the dogs enjoy on their off-leash adventures is Destruction Brook Woods in Dartmouth, a remote spot that offers hikers and dogs opportunities to enjoy a refreshing swim.

Another favorite hiking spot is Weetamoo Woods in Tiverton, a rustic 750-acre park that offers more than 5 miles of scenic trails for Smith and his well-mannered dogs to enjoy.

Smith shares that while many of his canine companions like to jump in the pond, a few of the older dogs or those that are not fond of swimming, prefer to just trot along and observe the scenery and enjoy the sunshine, provided it’s a nice day.

“We go out in all kinds of weather,” the entrepreneur shares. “Most days we are out there.”

According to Smith, all canine participants in the outdoor hiking group must be fully vaccinated. All dogs are fully insured. Dogs are charged $25 per session; two dogs from the same household are charged $40.

Before accepting a dog into the hiking group, Smith visits with the dog and its owner. He tries to learn about the canine’s habits and behavior and whether or not the dog will be a good fit for the hiking group. Smith says that most of the dogs are well-behaved and stay in the pack, but occasionally a dog will run from the group and won’t be allowed to return.

“A lot of people realize that it’s good for the dogs and it’s a nice experience to hike off leash,” shares Smith. “The dogs get to be outdoors and have fun. It’s good for their physical and emotional health.”

For more information about the canine hiking group, contact Russ Smith at: russsmith@gmail.com.