The backcountry can be an unforgiving place for man and beast alike, but as masters of man’s best friend, it’s our responsibility to keep our furry friends safe from unexpected dangers of the outdoors. Here are some ways to protect your pup in the great outdoors this summer.
Visit Your Vet
First things first, you need to make sure your pup is up to date on all shots and physically ready for the arduous strains of the trail. Be sure to ask about shots like leptospirosis, that a veterinarian will suggest for most dogs spending time outdoors. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you if your dog is ready to take on the type of trails you want to tackle.
A short 1-3 mile hike could be just what your dog needs to get his or her feet wet. Starting small—especially if you have a puppy or rescue dog—will allow you to better gauge your dog’s comfort level and ability. From there you can slowly build to those harder, more exciting jaunts.
Brush up on Obedience Training
My husky mix is very prey driven, so when she sees anything from a butterfly to a buck, she goes after it full sprint without blinking an eye. When she’s in this mode, calling her back is nearly impossible, so we’ve been practicing training at home. Now when she sees another animal, she expects a yummy treat and looks to me before bolting. By practicing commands at home and on walks, you’ll have an easier time once you take your pup in the wilderness.
Pack a First-Aid Kit
You can start with a regular first-aid kit and add dog-specific items as you see fit. Hydrogen peroxide is important for inducing vomiting if your dog eats something toxic and Benadryl can help with allergic reactions. A styptic pencil is something that didn’t occur to me until she began leaving our wilderness-romps bloody with cuts. The pencil works to stop bleeding by sealing the cut. A multi-tool is also important for yanking out porcupine quills or removing a hanging dewclaw.
Protect their Paws
Imagine walking around outdoors barefoot, climbing up jagged rocks, stepping on thorny bushes and walking through freezing water—eventually your feet would harden, but it would be pretty painful in the interim. While dog paws are naturally accustomed to the outdoors, your pet can get sharp items lodged in their paws, paws can crack, or become sensitive to snow and ice if they are new to these types of adventure. Booties are great to have on hand in an emergency, if you and Fido are taking a hike somewhere with extremely hot or rough ground, or just if your dog has sensitive paws!
Apply Tick Repellent
If your dog will be spending time in the woods, he or she is in danger of ticks, which quickly burrow themselves into your dog’s skin and carry disease. I use a topical treatment called Vectra 3-D, which works to repel ticks and fleas for a month. Keep tweezers on hand in case you find a tick burrowed in your pup’s skin and need to dig it out. For dogs with long coats it’s important to search your dog thoroughly after a hiking or camping trip for ticks.
Pack Creature Comforts
Whether we’re hiking for an hour or six hours, I always make sure to have enough food, water, and treats to keep my dog comfortable. I keep a collapsible water bowl in my bag and ensure if we’re going on a longer hike, I either pack enough water for both of us for the day, or have a potable water filtration system on hand. You can also pack your dog’s favorite toy for them to enjoy on the trail.
Hiking with your best friend is just one more reason to hit the trails this summer. But before you get too far, make sure you and your dog are prepared for a safe and comfortable experience. Happy hiking!