We love exploring new places with our pups (a 10 year-young Golden Retriever, and a 1 yr old Border Collie/JRT mix) and it wouldn’t be an adventure without them. They love to explore as much as, or even more than, we do. Because of this, they can sometimes get in over their heads since they don’t know when to call it quits. That is where we, and all other pet owners, need to be mindful of the activities that can turn from awesome to awful, and how to prevent them. We’d like to share with you our top 10 tips for keeping your adventures on the awesome side:
1. Mind the heat: Dogs cannot handle heat like humans can. Dogs can only sweat lightly through their paw pads and through panting. These aren’t the most efficient ways to cool off! Only take your pup out for long walks, hikes, or play dates in the cool morning or late evening. Brachycephalic (short faced) dogs like bulldogs, boxers, and pekingese have a harder time cooling off because they pant less efficiently than a long faced dog (think labs, goldens, poodles, etc.). Be especially mindful of their exposure to the sun and heat in length, intensity, and activity level.
2. Stay Hydrated: Keep them hydrated by stopping every 15-30 minutes for water breaks. Avoid hot pavement or surfaces for long periods of a time to minimize potential for paw burns. Try to incorporate clean water sources and shade to help keep them cool. We like to plan hikes with a water source mid-hike. It gives the dogs a good opportunity to cool down, and an excuse to take a break. Always bring more potable water for you and your pup to drink than you think you need. Animal waste in water streams can make them sick, and no body wants to get dehydrated.
3. Know your closest veterinarian: This one is especially important if you are traveling or exploring a new place. A very sad story last week reported about a dog dying from heat exhaustion while on a family hike in 90 degree weather. Know the warning signs of heat stroke (bright red gums that turn to white or blue, excessive heavy panting, lameness or reluctance to continue walking, and eventually shock) so you can start cooling them off and get them to the nearest vet without having to search for cell service. Cool your dog off by wrapping them in a large towel soaked in cold water, ice packs to the groin, and rubbing alcohol on their paw pads. If it has progressed to the point of lameness and shock get them to the vet’s office immediately while applying the previous steps in transit.
4. Stay out of algae blooms: Algae blooms are more likely to happen in standing water and manifest in large clumps of opaque green or blue-green masses. They are highly toxic. A dog that ingests algae through drinking or licking themselves may appear to be healthy, and be suddenly very, very sick. A dog recently died in Minnesota within hours of algae exposure. His people just wanted to have fun at the lake and didn’t know any different. Know the risks and what to look for in the water.
5. Lifejackets aren’t just for kids: Did you know most dogs aren’t born knowing how to swim? Despite the commonly known “doggie paddle,” you might have to get in the water with your dog to ensure they can keep their snout up, float and kick. Also, dogs are very good at hiding pain or exhaustion when they want to keep playing. Doggie lifejackets can be a good idea for dogs that beg for the ball to be thrown off the dock “just one last time.”
6. Tie-outs and ID tags: Fireworks, large gatherings, new places and bonfires can potentially be scary for dogs. Keep them on a leash, and don’t leave them unattended on a tether or underground fence. Not only does it raise the chances for heat stroke, some dogs can achieve super-doggie strength, pain resistance, and stamina when frightened. Consider getting your pet micro-chipped. It is an inexpensive form of permanent identification that can be used by vets, animal control, or a humane society if your pet loses their collar or is stolen. It can keep an older dog or other pet from being euthanized because they are deemed “homeless” in an overcrowded shelter. And yes, a lost 15 yr old, one eyed dog was just saved from euthanization by a rescue in North Dakota only to be reunited with her owners a week later. It can happen!
7. Make a first aid kit: A first aid kit is important for both you and your pup. Include items such as rubbing alcohol, gauze, saline solution, vet wrap, cotton strips for tying a tourniquet, cornstarch for helping to stop bleeding, wound spray, tweezers, gloves, and a good canine first aid book. It is also a good idea to have an extra leash, large towels or old blankets if you need to create a makeshift stretcher, a flashlight, and matches. And again, keep a list of veterinarian’s phone numbers and office locations. Remember, web service via cell phone might not be available where you are headed.
8. Clean up after your pets: It is always best to take any waste out with you if possible. If not, it should be buried, just like human waste, at least 200 feet away from any water sources. Animal and human waste can pollute our clean waters. And, frankly, it is really frustrating for non-dog people and responsible pet owners alike. Always bring extra bags, too! I know a dog that would poop 3 times on any given walk.
9. Bring a Pack: Ok, so you’re looking at this list of things to remember and bring along, and you are asking us, “Hey, Lucky Pup, where am I going to put all this stuff??” Well, adventurers, let me introduce you to the doggie backpack. Just like a hiking pack is an asset for any human adventurer, a doggie pack will help keep some weight off your back. A well fitting pack should sit over the dog’s shoulders and be snug, distribute the load, and not flop around. And, make sure your pup never carries more than 20-30% of their body weight. Start them off hiking with the pack nearly empty, and work up to more weight and longer periods of time. A pack will add to the workout, which can be great for a high-energy dog. We really like a pack made by Ruffwear that is a removable pack and harness together. It is more expensive, but you get two high quality items.
10. Enjoy!!! We are big advocates for taking your pets with you on adventures. Not only does it strengthen the pet-human bond, but it makes for lasting memories. Our pets only get to share in our lives for a short amount of time, so our Lucky Pup Adventures goal is to help you make the most of that time. Get out there and try something new! Can’t get out as much as you’d like with your furry friend? Don’t worry, we can help! Check us out at LuckyPupAdventures.com for more information.