HIKING WITH DOGS
Tips for getting your dog on the trail
OC Register — Suki Reed
Danielle Wang of Irvine with Wrinkles on Josephine Peak.
Walking the dog, can be a great motivator to get you out on the trail. Our local hills, canyons and trails offer a palette of colors, an array of scents and beautiful vistas.
If you take your dog along, keep in mind that they require conditioning just as people do; so start small and build up gradually. Some benefits for you as well as your pet can include better sleep, socialization and fitness. To get your dog in shape for hiking you need to be aware of your dogs needs.
Just as you will need to wear comfortable hiking boots, a dog needs to have the pads of their paws toughened up gradually to be comfortable on the trail. Without proper conditioning, walking on dirt, asphalt, rocky terrain and even snow can leave a dog's footpads raw and painful. Once a raw spot has developed, it can take weeks or even months to heal.
Start on short walks and gradually increase with longer ones, and be sure to trim their nails before starting your exercise routine. Another way to help keep your dog's paws conditioned, is to put on booties for half the walk and then take them off for half the walk until their paws get tough enough to go without them.
Take a look at your dog's feet before, during, and after hikes to check the condition of the pads. A solid callous is what you want. If the pads are pink or worn in any way, stop and let them heal. Be patient, it takes time to toughen the pads. Imagine how your feet would feel and look, if you had to walk 5 miles barefoot.
Hydration is also critical for dogs, so give your dog plenty of water before, during and after the hike. Larger dogs can even carry their own water supply in a well-fitted pack, but be on the lookout for straps that rub, especially on short haired breeds. If you are interested in outfitting your dog with doggy saddlebags consider sewing or buying fleece covers to keep the strap from abrading the skin. The constant friction of an unprotected nylon strap can quickly rub into a serious wound.
The cool spring weather is a perfect time to start conditioning for you and your dog, but as hot weather approaches, be aware that dogs are far more sensitive to heat than you are. Heat that is an uncomfortable inconvenience for you can spell death for your dog. In warmer weather, the best time to hike is early in the morning or later in the evening when the ground is cool. Here are some "tail trail tips" from the OC Hiking Club.
- Signs of heat stress: Profuse panting and salivation, weakness, staring or anxious expression, warm dry skin, rapid heartbeat. If any of these signs are apparent: find shade, place water-soaked bandana and/or towel on dog's head and abdomen. Then, seek veterinary care. From Jeannie Tarlton, Garden Grove, OC Hiking Club Hike Organizer.
- Carry more than enough water for you and your dog. Collapsible containers are available in pet stores for convenience. Cooling bandanas for your dog can also be purchased at your local pet store. From Jeannie Tarlton, Garden Grove, OC Hiking Club hike organizer.
- Even a warm day can be dangerous for heat stress. A lot of people think they only have to avoid walking their dogs when it is "hot." But even a warm day can be hot for a dog. From Danielle Wang, Irvine, OC Hiking Club member.
- Let your larger dog carry his own bag with water and food. It will give him exercise and purpose. Anthony Thompson, Laguna Niguel, OC Hiking Club member.
What to take?
Items for your dog: Dog collar, ID tag with your cell number on it, a six-foot leash.
Items to carry in your backpack: Cell phone for emergencies, extra water, plastic water dish or container, doggy-poo bags, first-aid kit, dog snacks, bandanna (for emergencies and to soak in hot weather).
After hike tips: Check for and remove ticks, look for wear on the pads of paws, make sure your dog has plenty of water, and feed extra food as needed.
If you and your dog would like to get out on the trail with others, join the OC Hiking Club at oc-hiking.com; membership is free.
Suki Reed is president of the OC Hiking Club.
OC Register link: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/dog-288072-hiking-water.html
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