How to keep your dog safe outdoors

By: Brad Pattison, author of Unleashed

Author: Canadian Living


How to keep your dog safe outdoors

By: Brad Pattison, author of Unleashed
It's important to provide your dog with many different kinds of outdoor exercise, but your dog's safety must always come first.

Warm weather safety tips
If you live in a hot climate or your area gets hot during the dog days of summer, take your pooch out for walks in the early morning or evening so she doesn't overheat. And never leave your dog unattended in a hot car.

Signs that your dog is too hot include excessive panting, heavier breathing, seeking out shade, digging as if trying to find cooler ground and gummy saliva that whitens the dog's tongue.

If you're going on a marathon hike, make sure to bring extra water for your dog, and if there are cacti or nettles underfoot that could sting or prickle the skin, consider booties to protect your dog's paws.

Choose locations near streams or lakes so your dog can take a dip to cool off, but be mindful of currents, water levels and debris that could injure your animal.

Stay safe in the winter
During the winter months, it's best to avoid frozen lakes and streams just in case your dog falls through the ice. In colder climates, all breeds, but especially short-haired ones, might need a winter coat and booties to ward off frostbite.

Use common sense to decide whether the temperature is too cold outside and also look for cues from your dog, such as if he is shivering or keeps picking her paws up off the ground. A coat and booties will also protect dogs when the streets are covered in salt and other harsh chemicals, which can wreak havoc with their sensitive paws and underbellies. They'll also be tempted to lick the salt off, so if your dog doesn't need a coat and boots to stay warm, prevent her from ingesting these chemicals by rinsing her paws and belly when you get home.

No matter what the climate, when you're going off-leash, be sure to keep the leash handy in case you come across an aggressive dog or other animals. Be vigilant about everything going on around you, especially if you're out camping in the wilderness or in big, open spaces.

I once saw an eagle snatch a little dog off a Vancouver beach. That horrifying incident is burned into my brain, and I hope you don't have to see such a tragedy to appreciate that you have to be watchful of your dog and the surrounding environment at all times.

Page 1 of 2 – Does your pooch have acceptable car manners? Find out how to reform your pet into a perfect passenger on page 2.
Car safety
When you're taking your dog out in a car, she'll often get hyperactive in anticipation, thinking that you're headed for the dog park or a big nature trip, even if you're just going out for coffee. That excitement is natural, but it could lead to disaster once you get to your destination and your dog bounds out of the car in a parking lot.

As you get ready to go on a car trip (no matter how long or short), make sure your dog is leashed before you step out the front door. Don't let her charge into the back of the truck or climb into the vehicle before you're ready to go.

Maintain good car etiquette
Your driveway might be relatively safe, but with car etiquette, it's vital to maintain consistency, so your dog must learn to follow your commands wherever you are. Once you're outside, if you have time, do some sit/stay training, and once you're ready to go, invite the dog into the car.

Some people choose to buckle their dogs up in the backseat, and that is a good idea. I usually park my dogs on the backseat floor. We all know that dogs love to stick their heads out the window of a moving vehicle, so they can check out the neighbourhood news and suck up exotic new smells. But that air is also filled with insects and debris that could potentially damage or even blind a dog. It's better to be safe than sorry, so open the windows just a crack to give your dog a fix of new smells, but not enough that her eyes will be endangered.

Once you get to the park, if you're not yet confident that she'll follow the sit-stay rules, leash her up before you open the car door. That way, she won't jump out of the car, bolt toward the park and potentially get hit by another car.

Once again, use this time to train your dog to be patient and respectful of your lead role. When it's time to return to the car, leash your dog up again at least fifty yards (about fifty metres) from the parking lot. When you arrive at the car, don't allow your dog to bound into the back. Get her to sit patiently until you're ready to go and then invite her into the vehicle.

It's a good idea to check your dog's paws and fur after an outdoor trip, just in case he picked up any little sticks, stones, burrs or bugs.

Excerpted from Brad Pattison Unleashed by Brad Pattison. Copyright © 2010 Brad Pattison. Excerpted by permission of Random House Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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How to keep your dog safe outdoors