This is a great time of year to get out and enjoy the beautiful Fall scenery and weather. One way to do that is to take a hike with your dog, you'll both love it. When planning a hike, here are some tips to keep in mind.
1. Go prepared. Be sure your pet is up to date on vaccinations and flea and tick medicine, and microchipped before you head out. Take note of the nearest emergency vet.
A few things to consider bringing include:
2. Find a dog-friendly trail. Be sure the trail you are planning to hike is dog-friendly. Some may not be. Check our Hiking and Walking Trails page or try Animal Planet’s top dog-friendly trails for help finding a dog-friendly trail. Make note of restrictions. If rules dictate your dog has to be leashed, then do so. If you aren’t sure of the regulations, call the ranger station, national park or state agency in charge of the trail you’re about to hike.
3. Know your dog's limits.
Hiking can be a wonderful preventative for any number of physical and behavioral canine disorders and running up trails and leaping through streams is great exercise for that one in every three dogs that is overweight. But just like us, a dog used to being a couch potato can't be expected to easily complete a five-mile loop trail. Have your dog checked by a veterinarian before significantly increasing his activity level.
If necessary, go for short walks and gradually increase distance and time to get you both ready for the trails. Keep in mind that there may be changes in elevation and terrain along the way.
It is important to stop frequently and offer your dog water throughout your hike. Don’t feed your dog a large meal before a hike; instead, feed a portion of his/her meal and supplement treats throughout the hike.
Avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day and keep walks to a reasonable pace and distance. Know your dog's tolerance for heat and exertion. Watch for signs of overexertion, such as excessive panting, drooling, weakness or bright red gums. Also look out for hypothermia, frost-nip, injury to paw pads, lameness and exhaustion. If your dog's body temperature reaches 109 degrees fahrenheit, it's susceptible to heat stroke. Look for your dog's tongue hanging from the side of their mouth and whether it's rounded at the end; this may be a sign they are overheated. Rapid or heavy panting is another important indicator. If this happens, place your dog in the shade immediately and wet the armpits and chest area.
Note that many dog owners wait until their dog is at least a year old before taking her on a strenuous hike to give the puppy’s growing muscles, bones and joints time to mature. Also, avoid strenuous hikes with small or old dogs.
4. While on the trail, keep your dog under your control at all times. Most trails require your dog to be on leash. If you’re hiking a trail that allows dogs to be off leash, make sure your dog is always within distance of voice command. If he’s not trained well enough to return upon your calling, then it’s best to keep him on leash. Keep a very close eye on an unleashed dog to be sure he stays on the trail and away from dangerous areas such as cliffs, thorny weeds, etc.
Avoid poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. Look for leaves of three, or do a quick internet search ahead of time to know what these plants look like. It is a good idea to teach your dog a good "Leave it" command ahead of time and use it when necessary during your hike.
5. Always be respectful of other people, dogs, horses, bicycllists and wildlife. If excessive barking is a problem you might need to work with your dog before bringing him on the trail. Loud noises can spook small children, other dogs and horses. The last of which can be dangerous for all parties involved, including you and your pet.
Be aware that not all other dogs on the trail are social. Like people, pups’ personalities vary widely. Some love making new canine friends. Others are more wary. The person who’d be able to advice you best is the owner. Even if your dog is friendly, ask before approaching to make sure the encounter doesn’t escalate to aggression.
Always pick up after your dog. Bag it or bury it away from the trail and water sources.
After the hike be sure to check your pet for fleas, ticks, burs, wounds or cuts on paw pads, etc. A bath or hose down is a good idea, especially if they've been in water.
With a little planning and preparation, both you and your pet can enjoy the great outdoors together.
Sources: http://www.petfinder.com/dogs/living-with-your-dog/banfield-hiking-tips/ ; http://www.active.com/outdoors/articles/4-tips-for-hiking-with-your-dog ; http://news.discovery.com/adventure/activities/8-must-read-tips-for-hiking-with-your-dog.htm ; http://wilderness.org/blog/hiking-dogs-make-your-trip-easy-fido-and-environment
Healthy oral hygiene is important for our pet for multiple reasons. Clean teeth are not only cosmetically pleasing; they also promote good smelling breath and better long-term health.
If poor oral health causes an infection in our pet’s teeth or gums, it can spread to their kidneys. This is especially true in cats. Older cats often suffer from kidney failure, which can be caused by an oral infection spreading to kidneys. Valvular heart disease can also be caused by poor dental hygiene. Bacteria from a pet’s mouth can travel to its heart valves, causing them to change shape and become leaky.
Original article by Marybeth Bittel, Tails Magazine
When I was a young music student growing up in Chicago’s western suburbs, my family adopted an Airedale puppy we named Beethoven. I picked Beethoven out at the shelter because all the other puppies rushed forward to greet me, while he hid shyly in the corner. Most trainers agree that’s not necessarily the ideal benchmark for selecting a furry friend, but we got lucky. Beethoven matured into an outgoing, even-tempered, fun, and affectionate family member who sternly guarded our front yard one minute, and romped through our sprinkler the next.
But then came the Fourth of July. Fireworks went off at random intervals around the clock. We discovered that when it came to loud noises and ear-popping explosions, Beethoven was absolutely terrified.
At first we wondered how this could have happened. After all, we’d never left our beloved boy outside while pyrotechnics peppered the sky. He hadn’t been exposed to extreme noises as a puppy. In all likelihood, Beethoven’s fireworks aversion, like so many pet fears and phobias, was just one of those things that took hold when his sensitive hearing encountered a sudden trigger he could neither see nor anticipate.
So we did what numerous pet parents do when their cherished companion is struggling: we cuddled him, coddled him, and cooed comforting words of reassurance. We also sat, feeling helpless, watching him cower and hide as the problem held steady each year. In fact, through all the years of Beethoven’s life, he never overcame this disabling sense of distress, no matter how soothing or supportive we attempted to make his surrounding environment.
When my husband and I began working with abused rescue dogs, we noticed that most arrived with an array of deep-rooted anxieties acquired over time. One Bichon was terrified of rotary fans. A Shih Tzu mix became a jittery mess during thunderstorms. A sweet and docile Foxhound routinely hid from houseplants. These fears ran the gamut, but they had one thing in common: They were exceedingly real to the dog, and they had a great impacts on the entire family.
We began working with local animal behaviorists, and that’s when we learned an invaluable truth: The way we, as caregivers, react to our pet’s anxieties can actually perpetuate the patterns.
Why would this be? As Abe Mashal, owner of Marine Corps Dog Training in St. Charles, explains, “Dogs form extremely solid bonds with their humans. That means most canines are highly attuned to any type of interaction with their human ‘pack’ members.” So when something a dog is doing earns our attention—whether that attention takes the form of praise, pampering, or peevish irritation— the behavior is often unintentionally reinforced.
“Reinforcement,” a common term in the world of animal behavioral training, is really just another word for strengthening. In reality, a reinforcer can be anything that strengthens a behavior.
So for those of you thinking, “I never reinforce my dog’s non-stop barking! I scold her on the spot,” see if these examples sound familiar:
“Every interaction with your dog has the potential to teach and reinforce, merely because you’re paying attention,” explains Sara Swan, owner of Narnia Pet Behavior & Training in Plainfield. How can you tell if this is happening? Simply observe over time. Dogs continue to engage in behaviors that provide some sort of payoff. If you’re dealing with a fear or anxiety response that’s ongoing—such as Beethoven’s abhorrence of fireworks—some kind of inducement is likely contributing to the pattern. In Beethoven’s case, his reactions earned him almost round-the-clock nurturing.
Fortunately, we as dog parents can leverage these same dynamics when it comes to re-programming undesirable behaviors. Let’s say your 80-pound “lap dog” excitedly jumps on you whenever you come home from work. When you withhold the coveted attention—immediately going back out the door, or turning your back on him—many pups gradually begin to seek out a different behavior.
The same thing can work with a fear response. If your pet is terrified of your Swiffer mop, for example, try propping it against the family room couch and just leaving it there. Then, simply act like it’s no big deal and go about your daily routine, even if your pup exhibits an unsettled reaction. Very gradually, over time, as your furry friend begins to approach the mop with quiet but tentative curiosity, reward that calm behavior with brief praise or a small treat. Keep it up, and eventually your dog can learn that “mop = calm = good.”
Helping your dog manage his stress is one of the keys to having a happy and healthy pet. If your animal companion has specific challenges beyond what you’re comfortable handling, always reach out to a certified animal behaviorist who can help you develop targeted interventional techniques that will work on your pet’s unique needs. It will not only help with unwanted behaviors, but strengthen your bond, as well.
Safe, Drug Free Ways To Soothe Your Pet’s Stress
The Thundershirt. The ThunderShirt leverages the age-old principle of swaddling an infant to promote calming reassurance. Simply fasten this snug, stretchy shirt around your pet’s ribcage. During anxious episodes of panting or hyperventilation, it provides ongoing sensory feedback that suppresses this common panic response. ( Thundershirt.com )
Music or ASMR. As a musician, I can attest firsthand that deep, resonant tones often work wonders on a nervous pup. You can also try leveraging something called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is promoted by many hypnotists and human sleep therapists. ASMR is a subjective, perceptual phenomenon characterized by a distinct calming or scalp- tingling sensation in response to quiet, seemingly mundane sound triggers. Certain pets appear especially receptive, and may even be lulled to sleep. To gauge effectiveness, try playing low, calming music or ASMR audio with your dog in the room. Use a meditation CD, or visit YouTube to access ASMR recordings by reputable “ASMRtists” such as The Waterwhispers.
Calming Sprays. Help create a relaxing environment for your pet by using a calming spray on their bedding or by plugging in a calming spray diffuser. Many cats and dogs experience reduced anxiety and stress after being exposed to these non- sedating sprays, which use soothing scents such as lemongrass, cinnamon, and lavender to encourage relaxation.