Dogs are the ultimate outdoor companions – and these days, some cats are getting in on the act, too. If you love to hike or camp, your pet is probably right there with you – or would like to be.
Daily outdoor fun is a way of life for people with retrievers, terriers, spaniels, herding dogs and even plenty of dogs on the small side, who don’t seem to know they are considered part of the lapdog brigade. You may even find that the reverse is true – you take up an outdoor lifestyle to provide your pet with activity and mental stimulation.
Whether you’re new to exploring the outdoors with your pet or an old hand, the following tips will help you and your four-legged friend have fun and stay safe.
What To Bring
No matter what you’re doing or where, the following items will stand you in good stead: first-aid kit, water, collapsible water dish or pet-friendly water bottle, tick removal device, poop bags, and a cooling pad, coat or bandanna.
For some animals, anything over 65 degrees Fahrenheit is hot, and they begin to wilt. Others can tolerate higher temperatures, but once the thermostat hits 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s too hot for most pets to be doing strenuous activity, especially if they have a short snout or heavy coat. Even on short hikes, offer water frequently.
Start puppies, small dogs and cats with short hikes of a quarter-mile to a mile. Be prepared with a backpack, sling or other carrier made for pets if the going gets tough or the temperature rises.
Work up to longer distances gradually, and keep loads light. A young dog’s musculoskeletal development isn’t complete until he’s 14 to 24 months old, and excessive weight-bearing activity can contribute to orthopedic problems such as hip dysplasia.
Be aware of your pet’s limitations. He’ll go beyond them trying to keep up with you, so make sure he doesn’t overdo things.
On- or off-leash, your dog should know and always respond to the cues “come,” “sit,” “down,” “stay” and “quiet.”
Getting wet is a major part of outdoor fun. Whether your pet has been in the ocean or a lake or river, he’ll need some attention to his ears and fur afterward.
Rinse fur thoroughly with fresh water to remove salt, sand and slime from his coat. Towel-dry down to the skin to prevent mildew stink or hot spots.
Keep ears dry, especially if they’re droopy. The warm, dark interior of the ear is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria if it gets and stays wet. Dry ears and add a couple of drops of ear cleaner after every swim.
Know the rules. Some states require people with dogs to present rabies certificates or other documentation at camping areas.
Parks may restrict people with pets to certain campgrounds or campsite areas. National parks may not allow pets on trails. A nearby national forest can be a better bet with a pet.
The camp-ready pet has been treated with flea, tick and heartworm repellent, and he’s on a leash to make sure he doesn’t wander far when bears or mountain lions are on the prowl. In the tent, he has his own blanket or pet bed.
You’ve all had a big day of swimming in the lake, spotting deer on hikes, and collecting rocks, shed antlers and other treasures.
Now you’re chillaxing at the campsite as the sun goes down. Toss your dog some hushpuppies or your favorite equivalent while you’re sitting around the campfire, and rest up so you can do it all again tomorrow.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com.