Dogs and the Great Outdoors

Proper safety for any furry friend's excursion

Photography by Corbet Deary

Photography by Corbet Deary

I savor many memories of Rusty, a German Shepherd mix I owned as a teenager. And I can recall my first meeting with this dog well. Having watched him tree a squirrel, there was no doubt in my mind — he and I would make a perfect team.

But there were a couple of obstacles standing in the way of the ideal friendship. First, I wasn’t too sure how attached our family friend was to his dog. And the second stumbling block? I wasn’t overly confident my parents would allow me to drag yet another critter home.

Well, it took a lot of begging and pleading, but by the day’s end, Rusty was in the vehicle and I anxiously awaited the opportunity to introduce him to his new home.

Within days, we embarked upon our first excursion. The hunt couldn’t have gone any better. Success was immediate, and we had taken the initial step to my parents accepting him into the Deary clan.

The memories are priceless. Not only were we hunting partners, we literally became best friends. That said, I certainly understand the importance of including one’s four-legged companion in their outdoor excursions. But I’m also aware that preparedness was an important element of the fun times we enjoyed amongst Mother Nature.

Some dogs are obviously bred with navigating the woods in mind. These dogs are natural athletes. They are lean and sport an endurance surpassed by none.

But just because your dog isn’t a hound is no indication he or she shouldn’t be allowed in the woods. It does, however, deem an awareness of their abilities and limitations of even greater importance.

outdoors2We should be conscious that dogs are no different from humans in a sense that they must be prepared physically before embarking upon a strenuous outing. It’s a given that some breeds have more physical limitations than others. And regardless of their capabilities, steps must be taken to ensure their safety upon entering the woods.

As for physical preparedness, it would prove most wise to start your pet out with short, easy walks. With time, they’ll become more fit and physically capable of handling the rigors awaiting deeper in the forest. Those who choose to ignore this important step are setting their dog up for pain and failure. If for no other reason, a long journey is apt to cause injury and severe soreness to the pads of their paws.

Nutrition should also be considered before embarking upon an extended journey with your furry friend. Traversing mountainous terrain or extended walks can prove exhausting for both the dog and their owner. Enough can’t be said about the importance of nutrition. Low-quality food that is full of fillers will quickly be disposed of through their G.I. tract. But, a food containing quality ingredients will certainly lead to better performance and stamina, sustaining them for a longer period of time.

It is also essential to take steps to ensure your pet has ample water. Hydration is most important even during the coldest times of the year. In fact, a lack of fluids lends to an array of medical issues, not allowing their systems to perform like they should.

Although in the heart of the winter months, that’s no indication the hiker and their pal should ignore the importance of parasite control. Of course, the chances of tick or flea infestations are
minimal right now and the odds of battling mosquitoes during the cold days of winter are practically none.outdoors3

However, springtime temperatures are only weeks away. And with the change of season comes an influx of pesky critters posing potential harm. As we all know, ticks abound in our neck of the woods. And, I suspect, we all understand that these annoying animals are carriers of a handful of diseases. Our pets are not immune to these ailments. In fact, tick-borne disease is very common in dogs.

And how about those bloodsucking mosquitoes? Don’t let their stature fool you. Mosquitoes transmit heart worms to dogs. This is a very serious disease. And unfortunately, we live in an area endemic to these microscopic parasites that breed and thrive in your dog’s circulatory system.

Regardless of ticks or mosquitoes, it only takes a single bite from one of these vectors to infect your dog. And it is essential to have your pet on heart worm and other parasite preventatives before introducing them to the outdoors.

I’ll be the first to agree that spending time with your pets amongst Mother Nature lends to hours of joy. And with a little common sense and preparation, you and your four-legged companion can look forward to countless hours of fun to come.

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