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Enjoying the Great Outdoors with Your Dog

By Diane Morgan

 

Your dog was not born to live on a couch—he was born to run with the wind, challenge the landscape, and accompany you on endless rambles across the wilderness. Today, though, the wind has died down to a sultry breeze, the landscape has contracted a dog park, and the wilderness has shrunk to the neighborhood block. Your dog, however, yearns for a freer existence. You can help reawaken his adventurous spirit, cement your bond, and help him achieve a healthy, natural lifestyle. And have the time of your life. 
 
If you’re up for serious adventure, the great outdoors is—well—limitless. But remember that safety is your first concern. Here are ten ways that you can promote a safe, comfortable outdoor adventure for you and your dog. Nature is for everyone. Get out there!
 
1. CHECK WITH YOUR VET
 Before you hit the trail or take the plunge, take your pooch to your veterinarian to make sure he is in good physical condition and up to date on his vaccinations. Certainly your dog will be current on rabies and other core vaccines, but if you’re headed for the wilderness, tell your vet. She may recommend additional protection against Lyme disease and leptospirosis, both nasty diseases that can debilitate your pet.
 
Of course, your dog should be on flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. And if you haven’t done so already, make sure your dog is microchipped. Even the most obedient pet can be mislaid or waylaid. 
 
2. BRING A FIRST-AID KIT
 Just in case of a medical emergency, bring along a first-aid kit containing, at minimum:
 
antiseptic wipes or spray
brush and comb
disposable gloves
dog-friendly antihistamines
gauze pads and tape
gauze rolls
hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting (call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline at [888] 426-4435 before using—there may be a $65 fee)
ice pack
nail clippers
penlight or flashlight
scissors and tweezers
special medications your dog needs
thermometer 
towel 
 
And don’t forget to charge up your cell phone!
 
3. OBSERVE GOOD MANNERS
 Good manners save lives. To ensure both safety and a pleasant trip, make sure your dog has his basic obedience lessons down pat. Your dog should know these commands: recall, sit, stay, and drop it. This last command turns out to be really critical on hikes. Dogs are fond of attempting to devour or play with an unhealthy assortment of items, ranging from bear poop to dead birds, and struggling to get these things out of their mouths is not pleasant. 
 
Good manners apply to people too. If your dog eliminates on a trail or anywhere near a water source, be sure to clean up after him so that others can enjoy the beauty of nature. When meeting others on the trail, move to the side and ask your dog to sit quietly while the other hikers or riders pass.
 
4. BRING YOUR LEASH
 Leashes promote good manners too, and in most cases, your dog is much safer on the end of a leash. Unleashed dogs can get into trouble: they run into porcupines, disturb rattlers, plunge into fast-moving streams, and get irretrievably tangled in stickers. In addition, it’s getting harder to find places where off-lead dogs are welcome.
 
This is not to say they should never be off lead: if your dog is perfectly trained on recall and you’re properly supervising him (and it’s legal), you may wish to allow him freedom to run. The best-trained dog on Earth may not be able to resist the urge to chase a dashing squirrel or investigate a skunk, however. If you doubt your dog’s inclination to obey your slightest command, attach him safely to you with a leash or harness. Many dogs who pull on leashes do better with no-pull front-loop harnesses or head halters.
 
5. BRING YOUR FRIENDS
 Hiking, camping, and swimming are much more fun when you invite your friends, both human and canine. They are also a lot safer. While you may have a time of it carrying your St. Bernard down a rocky ravine after he’s broken a leg, you and Tom and Celia can do it together. 
 
6. CONSIDER DOGGY CLOTHING
 Dogs are mostly cool-weather animals, although toy dogs and short-haired or hairless breeds can suffer severely from cold weather. Cold-weather rambles mean jackets for these guys, and if there are sharp ice and rocks, booties may be in order. This is especially true if your pet is not used to traveling on rough terrain. (The Iditarod dogs wear booties, so you can be sure they’re not for sissies.)
 
7. KEEP YOUR DOG COOL
 Hot weather really does dogs in. They can suffer heatstroke in temperatures that humans find comfortable, so it’s important to learn and watch for signs of severe dehydration and heatstroke: panting, dark-red gums, sunken eyes, rapid heart rate, and a temperature over 103°F. This is an extraordinarily dangerous condition that can lead to multiple organ failure. Overweight dogs, dogs in poor physical condition, flat-faced dogs, and dogs with heavy coats are most at risk. 
 
If you’re planning a hike, even a relatively brief one, remember to bring water and a dish; there are wonderful fold-up kinds. Make sure you have enough water. You can even buy special made-for-dogs sports drinks, which help keep electrolytes at an optimum level. 
 
8. PRACTICE SAFE CYCLING
 For run-loving dogs, nothing beats running alongside a bicycle. With a special attachment that keeps your bike and your dog together without one running into the other, your dog can have the chance to run as fast as he likes. Just remember to let him stop often for a “breather.” 
 
9. BRING A LIFE PRESERVER
 Many dog love to swim. However, if your dog is venturing out into deep water, a Coast Guard–approved pet life preserver is a wise precaution. It will keep his head above water without restricting his breathing. 
 
10. HOW ABOUT CAMPING?
 The wonderful thing about camping is that you can get outside and enjoy the wild even if neither you nor your dog is fit for a ten-mile uphill hike. Small dogs, elderly dogs, and fragile dogs can have fun being outside, being near you, and having great camp-style food without leaving the comfort of the campground. You can even get your dog his own “pup tent” if you don’t like sharing, but it’s not as much fun as sharing. 
 
Great camping means great food! We all love to eat, and perhaps no one does more than your dog. For hanging around the campfire, nothing beats Nylabone Wild Healthy Edibles Chews, served up in flavors like salmon and venison. Nylabone treats will always remind your rover of home, and they help keep him relaxed even in an exciting new environment. These treats, by the way, make excellent distractions for your dog when he is tempted by some of nature’s no–nos, like toads and mud. 
 

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