All About Marie

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Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Hiking with your Dog


Dear Marie,
I've just adopted a two-year-old shepherd mix from the animal shelter.  We've named her Bonnie.  She is lively and lots of fun and has already settled nicely into my home (and was already house-broken before we got her).  I can’t say enough good things about her, and to anyone who thinks that pound-pets are rejects, you've just not given these guys the chance they deserve.   My husband and I are avid hikers.  We’d like to take Bonnie with us but this will be a brand new experience.  We've never hiked with a dog before.  Do you have any tips that you can give us?
Thanks.
Jeanne, Jerry, and Bonnie

Congratulation on adopting Bonnie!  I completely agree that shelter pets make great companions and I wish there were more people like you giving dogs like her a second chance.  More and more often, animals at shelters have been given up due to economic reasons rather than for anything else.  So just like Bonnie, a pretty significant number of shelter dogs are already trained and essentially turn-key pets. 

As far as hiking goes, always check to see if dogs are welcome on the trails you plan to visit.  Generally, dogs are allowed on leash in most areas, but there are some environmentally sensitive locations that prohibit dogs.  I’d hate to see you make a long trip for nothing.

You’ll want to make sure Bonnie is physically ready for hiking.  To do this, walk with her in your neighborhood two to three times a day, gradually increasing the distance.  Even though she won’t protest, if you take her out on a five or ten mile nature hike without working up to this distance, she’s going to suffer physically.  Dogs mask muscle aches and pains, so you won’t know she’s in any discomfort; but that doesn't mean she’s feeling fine. 

This time of year there are a lot of fox tails and burrs in wooded areas.  These nasty little plant parts can end up in ear canals, nostrils, between toes, or wound up tightly in fur.  They can cause ear infections, ruptured eardrums, and skin injuries.  Be sure to thoroughly check Bonnie’s ears, nose, toes, and coat after every hike and remove all burrs and fox tails before they create problems.  This is also a good time to check for ticks which tend to latch on under tails, behind ears, and in the warm parts of the abdomen, especially around the inside tops of legs.  If you haven’t already started using a product like Frontline, I would definitely recommend it, especially since you will probably be hiking through tick-infested areas.  

The warm weather creates some other safety issues.  This is the time of year that snakes are most active.  It is not at all uncommon to spot rattlesnakes sunning themselves on trails.  Keep your eyes peeled at all times and make sure Bonnie is always under your control.  If you spot a snake, give it plenty of space and do not let Bonnie pull or tug you.  This is where voice training your dog really becomes important.  You should be able to tell her to sit and stay and know that she will do it immediately.  I understand there is a great temptation to let dogs off leash when one is out in nature, but doing so will put Bonnie at risk so please don’t give in.

You’ll also want to make sure Bonnie has plenty of water.  Carry a collapsible bowl with you and bring along extra water.  Remember, dogs cannot cool themselves the way humans do so watch for signs of over-heating and get Bonnie into the shade whenever possible.  I recommend hiking with dogs in the early morning or early evening when it is still relatively cool.

Of course it should go without saying that you must clean up after your dog.  Carry bags with you and be responsible.  Sometimes there are only trashcans at trail-heads which means you might end up having to carry a full bag during your hike (and I know that is not something to look forward to); but no one likes seeing these bags on the sides of trails, or hanging on tree branches (obviously left by people who intended to get them on their way back), and it is this type of behavior that leads to trails getting closed to our canine companions.  

That said, hiking with dogs is a lot of fun and I suspect the three of you will have marvelous adventures.  Enjoy.


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