Hiking Essentials

Running Adventure Pup means I spend a lot of time on the trail with my pups! We hike up mountains, through forests, across deserts, and around water. We’re outside in the heat, in the rain, and in the snow. Over the years we have experimented with a lot of tools and have found some we love and others we could do without. Below is a list of the tools we can’t live without! I have added some link to specific brands, but you’’ll be most successful if you find things that work specifically for you and your pups needs. Keep in mind their breed, build, limitations, and personality. Think about how the two of you interact with each other and the natural environment. 

Collars, Harnesses, & Leashes

It’s always smart to keep a collar with an ID tag & licenses attached when you are outdoors with your pup. Anything can happen when you’re on on the trail, keeping up to date contact info on your pup will help keep them safe if they get away from you. I prefer dog tags that jingle so I can hear my pup wherever they are, but if the noise bothers you, you can get a tag that slides onto the collar and lays flat. Or you could get a collar with your number stitched right in. It’s always smart to keep your pup’s license and rabies tag on them as well, to avoid any tickets or fines.

When on the trail I prefer that Link wear a comfortable harness. It’s not only more gentle on his body than a collar while on leash, it also offers more control and is a safer option when an emergency occurs. If your pup slips down a hill, or gets stuck in the river, a harness offers a handle for you to help them out, rather than just tugging on their neck. I like a harness that offers even distribution across the body. Something with a wider chest and back plate are a little more comfortable than a simple nylon strap harness. I prefer a harness with a front and back clip for more versatility and control.

I also like to carry two different leashes, a five foot leash and a longer leash. The length of the longer leash depends on the trail. If there are a lot of trees and bushes to get tangled in, I will use a 10 foot lead. But if the trail is wide open I will use a leash as long at 30 feet. A long leash gives your pup more room to roam and sniff, and helps avoid pulling. 

Hiking Packs

I think hiking packs are the item I have gone through the most. So many uncomfortable and impractical option out there, it’s been a difficult journey to find what works. 

I’m going to be real, most backpacks and fanny packs have been created for a man’s body. They sit uncomfortably on a women’s shoulders and hips. I have chronic back pain from ill-fitting packs. If you try to look for women’s hiking packs, you’ll come up with a lot of pinks and purples, but no difference in structure. It’s important to find a pack that properly fits your unique body shape, and having more than one option will help alleviate fatigue. I like fanny packs that you can wear around various parts of the abdomen and hips so I can shift it around when my body needs a break. I also like fanny packs that I can carry as a shoulder bag when I need to shift the weight. I prefer a backpack that has across the chest straps to keep the weight evenly distributed across my shoulders. I also like one that has a lot of room for adjustment, one that you can wear up on your middle back or down on your lower back. 

Other than a proper fit, it’s important to have room for all your trail needs. You’ll need your regular human things; wallet, phone, keys, etc. You’ll also need room for water, a first aid kit, any emergency supplies, treats/snacks, dog supplies, and any extra gear you like to bring along. 

You can also get a pack for your pup to carry. If they aren’t used to carrying weight, start them off with an empty pack and slowly add weight as they get used to it. Make sure the pack fits them so it’s snug enough that it doesn’t slide all over when they walk, but not too tight to rub and chafe. You’ll also want to pay attention to where your leash attaches to the backpack to make sure it works with you and your pup’s walking habits. It’s always a good option to try on different packs before you settle on one. 

Hiking Pack by Wilderdog

Clothing & Shoes

Clothing depends on the weather and environment. If it’s hot out you’ll want to consider some practical shorts and a top, but if you’re in an area with snakes, ticks, or poisonous plants you’ll want to either wear pants or high socks to protect your legs. If it’s cold or wet out, consider wearing a base layer under your clothes to keep you warm and dry. An extra pair of socks is always recommended in case your feet get wet, and bringing a light jacket can come in handy in a variety of situations. A hat and sunglasses will keep the sun, rain, and slow out of your eyes. If you get a hat with a neck flap you’ll be protected from the weather and the bugs. A bandana or neck wrap can also help with this, and soaking one in water will keep you and your pup cool on hot days

Shoes always depends on who’s wearing them. I have gone through a lot of hiking shoes. Boots, runners, sandals, you name it. I appreciate a shoe that supports my ankles and protects my toes, since I am never walking on even ground. I do not like mesh fabric or stretchy spandex material, as it deteriorates very quickly. I have also found that elastic shoelaces break after just a few outings, so I always replace them with heavy duty boot laces. I have a pair of hiking sneakers, a pair of water sandals, and two pairs of hiking boots; one that goes over the ankle and one that goes below. I like to have a few options for every season so I can switch footwear and avoid blisters and discomfort.  

Left to Right: Oboz Hiking Boots, Keen Hiking Waterproof Sandals, Solomon Hiking Sneakers

Clothing always depends on the wearer. I like a loose-fitting shirt with a comfortable neckline. I’ll bring a flannel, sweater, or jacket along in case the weather calls for it. Long sleeves protect against sun, rain, snow, wind, bugs and tall bushes. The same with pants; something loose-fitting that protects against the elements. If it’s hot out, I like shorts with high socks. I am a big fan of pockets. Even though I always carry a hiking pack, I like to have easy access to certain items, so pockets are a must. 

Bright colors or reflective gear will ensure others can you see, and will keep you extra safe during hunting seasons. This goes for your pup too.

Food & Water

Water is a must, but I am also a big fan of carrying snacks along, for both me and my pup. Be sure to bring more than enough water for you and your pup to have throughout your outing. You’ll want to have extra, in case of an emergency. Water is necessary for hydration, but it also comes in handy when it comes to flushing out wounds or irritated eyes. I like to carry a water bottle for myself and one for my pup. I also like to keep a whole lotta backup water in the car. Be sure to get a hiking pack that allows you to carry enough water. You could get something with a water bladder and add as many extra water bottles as you need.

3 Pups Enjoying a Gulpy

Snacks are up to you, but be sure to bring something for both you and your pup to enjoy! I like bringing high-value treats along on a hike, like cheese/chicken/hotdogs. High-value treats help me keep my pup’s attention and I don’t have to compete against chipmunks, deer, smells, etc. My favorite human treat to bring along is a snack bar that doesn’t melt or freeze, and a small piece of fruit like an apple or nectarine. If I’m on a long hike I like to bring along a freeze-dried snack to provide me with more energy. 

Emergency Tools

You should always have an emergency first-aid kit on you while on a hike. There are a lot of options out there, but I recommend getting a kit that has supplies for both you and your pup. You can get a kit and add anything you need, and you can adjust your supplies depending on your outing. The further you are from your car, the more supplies you should bring along. Bandages are one of the most used items in an emergency situation, so make sure you have plenty of gauze and vet wrap.

An emergency lift is a great way to get peace of mind when you’re on a long hike. If you travel far from the car and your pup gets injured, you’ll have to carry them back to the trailhead. With an emergency lift you’ll be able to hoist a dog of any size onto your back and carry them back down the trail. 

A good whistle will come in handy in an emergency. It will help your pup find you if they’ve ventured off the trail, and it can help others find you if you get hurt and can’t continue your hike. I like a whistle that can give off a variety of pitches. Keep in mind that three sharp, high-pitched blows on a whistle indicates that you are in an emergency situation and need help. 

I recommend carrying along an animal deterrent spray on every outing, no matter how long or short. I would steer clear of bear spray (unless you’re in an area with bears) because if you accidentally spray yourself or your pup you’ll be in a whole other emergency. A simple citronella spray will deter most other animals. An air horn works better, but it will effect both you and your pup’s ears so be aware. It could frighten your pup off and if they aren’t leashed you could lose them. A citronella spray will keep other dogs away from you, as well as some wild animals. If you want to make a loud noise, I recommend using your voice. 

MountainSmith Hiking Pack
(complete with all previously mentioned gear)

The most important thing to keep in mind in case of an emergency is where your closest vet clinic is. Whenever you go on a hike, do a quick Google search to see where the closest clinic is to the trail. Be sure that they are open during the hours of your hike. Covid has greatly changed the hours of vet clinics, and a lot of clinics are not open during their normal hours. Jot down their phone number so you don’t have to worry about stumbling around the internet on your phone while on the trail in an emergency situation. It’ll save you a lot of grief in an already very stressful situation. 

The gear you carry is completely up to you. I like to be prepared, and prefer having too much gear to not having the necessary gear. Whenever you go out without an item, you’ll most likely find that you need it so it’s always best to bring all the essentials. I always recommend testing out new gear on short neighborhood walks before you take them out on the trail. That way you’ll know what works for you and what doesn’t. There are a lot of hiking companies out there, both for humans and dogs, so you’ll have endless options to chose from. Getting recommendations from friends and dog care professionals is a better option than getting them from social media or Google. Thrift stores are great places to find used gear that you can test out for less money. You can find brands and styles that work for you under a budget, and then you can spring for brand new items once you know what you like. 

Cheatgrass & All its Evil

Weeds are plants that people find undesirable in a particular location. Cheatgrass is a weed I find undesirable in any location! It’s invasive, grows like bamboo, spreads fires, and can injure you and your pets!

Cheatgrass Seeds

Cheatgrass was brought to North America by European settlers. It’s now found in almost every state, covering about 70 million acres of land, but is most prevalent in the Great Basin areas like Oregon. And although it hasn’t gone away over the last two unseasonably warm years, it normally grows at the beginning of spring and dies away in the winter.

Cheatgrass takes resources away from native plants, aids in the rapid spread of fires, and reeks havoc on wildlife. Why should you care about any of this? Because Cheatgrass can get into your pets systems and literally rip them apart from the inside out! It grows among regular grass, and can easily be ingested by your pup or cat. The seeds are small and lightweight, so if an animal rubs against them ever so slightly, it could send seeds into their eyes, ears, and respiratory systems. Seeds scattered on the ground can get trapped in paw pads and work their way between toes. If left unnoticed, these seeds will twist, spin, and wiggle their way further into an animal, resulting in open sores, infections, organ damage, and even death.

What can you do to avoid this? Keep your yard free of Cheat to limit exposure. Keep your pup on leash when in areas with high levels of Cheatgrass. Keep cats indoors if you live in a neighborhood with a lot of Cheat. Perfect recall and the “leave it” cue to keep them from munching on this horrible weed. Keep coats short, and keep fur between toes even shorter. Check your pet over after every outing, and then recheck them again several hours later. Having another set of eyes is always helpful.

Cheatgrass

I recommend checking over every inch of your pet, especially if they have long, thick, or curly coats. Doodles are the ultimate prey to Cheat. Get a good Furminator that works well in your pets coat, and then check their ears, eyes, nose, mouth (including back of throat), under the collar/harness, between toes, within the paw pad, and near genitals. Keeping coats short will help keep the Cheat off, and wearing boots and goggles will help keep the eyes and feet clean. If you see any Cheatgrass on your pet that you cannot remove, call your vet immediately. I know a lot of people reading this will be like, “A seed?! Yea right, big deal!” But after spending at least $800 on an emergency Cheatgrass removal you will definitely be singing a different tune.

Cheatgrass loves hot, dry environments, so going into the shady, wet woods is always a less risky option when it comes to Cheat. Keep an eye out for Cheatgrass and call your pup away from it before they get in too deep, and keep them on leash in areas where it’s unavoidable. Become familiar with this evil weed, and take note when you find areas without it.

Wildlife Education: Larger Mammals

Spring is around the corner, which means life is going to start blooming! Insects will begin stirring, rabbits will multiply, deer will migrate, and everyone is going to be rising from their dwellings to enjoy all the sunshine has to offer! Stay alert and make sure not to miss any of the emerging beauty or dangers. Here are some larger animals that tend to wander in the spring months.

Coyotes- Coyotes are common to see nearly everywhere in Central Oregon. They are around the size of a medium-sized dog and are often gray or brown in color. They do not seek confrontation and will normally run away when they see you, but if they have a litter nearby they will stand their ground. If you see one and it doesn’t automatically run from you, make a lot of noise to scare them off and get the attention of your pup, put your pup on leash and walk the opposite direction. They normally travel in packs, so if you enter their territory and they confront you, it’s safest to just leave.

AP Stock Photo of a Coyote

Wolves- Wolves are larger than coyotes, and usually larger than the largest dogs. Wolves are seen throughout Oregon but it is uncommon to run into them on the trail. If you see a wolf on the trail it is safe to assume it will attack you so make yourself big and back away slowly. Do not run, and do not make any sudden movements. Hopefully you notice them from a distance and can get your dog back to you and back to safety.

Stock Photo of a Grey Wolf

Cougars- Cougars are one of the largest cats in the western Hemisphere. They are a reddish-brown color and have powerful teeth and jaws. They have been spotted all over Central Oregon and have been known to attack humans and pets. Cougars usually roam in search of food, and unfortunately your dog is a perfect meal. If you see one on the trail, put yourself between your dog and the cougar, make yourself big, wave your arms, keep eye contact, and back away slowly while speaking in a firm tone.

Stock Photo of a Cougar

Deer- There are several species of deer in Oregon, the Mule Deer and Black-Tailed Deer are the most common. Deer will do their best to stay as far away from you and your pup as possible, but we do sometimes sneak up on them, and they will defend themselves if threatened. Dogs have been known to chase deer, and the deers respond by kicking with their rear hooves or rearing up and boxing, using their front legs to keep danger away. Male deer will also use their antlers as defense. Deer are more than capable of skinning a dog, breaking their bones, and sometimes killing them. If you see deer, make a lot of noise to warn them that you are near and to get your pup’s attention on you. Leash them up until the and move away from the deer. Their scent will linger so don’t unleash your dog too soon.

Stock Photo of Mule Deer

Elk- Elk are found throughout Oregon. They are larger than deer, less common to run into, and more dangerous. They have large, powerful bodies and males have long, pointed antlers. They will defend themselves if they feel threatened. If you see one, calmly collect your dog and walk in the other direction.

Stock Photo of an Elk

Moose- Moose are even more rare to run into in Oregon. They are huge, around 6” tall and can weigh up to 1500 lbs. Their antlers are used as threat displays, but can kill a human or pup. Again, if you see one, calmly collect your dog and walk in the other direction.

Stock Photo of a Moose

We share the trails with a lot of other living creatures, so be cautious and courteous. Make sure your pup is fluent in the important cues such as recall, and leave it. It’s important that your pup know to remain close to you and focused on you in dangerous situations. If they haven’t learned these cues, or haven’t built a reliable recall, keep them on leash when you’re out on the trail. A 20ft lead will ensure they are able to sniff and explore, and it will keep them close when things get too wild.

Shelter-in-Place Doesn’t Have to be a Snooze

Being stuck indoors is rarely fun, especially when your inner Adventurer starts screaming to get out! Here are some ways to avoid becoming a couch potato and to help keep you and your furry sidekicks happy and entertained while you Shelter-in-Place!

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  1. Fort Building- Believe it or not most pets love forts! They aren’t that great at helping build them, but that’s the fun part for you! Dogs, cats, rodents, birds, and reptiles can all appreciate a good fort, you just have to tailor it to their personality. A man who called himself Papa Jake has a YouTube channel dedicated to box forts, including some made specifically for nonhuman animals!
    • Have you heard? Boxes are an excellent fort building material! And most animals love playing in them! Dogs are a little clumsy with box forts so you have to be thoughtful during your build, but cats, rodents, reptiles, and birds can handle the most cattywompus of box forts. You can find free boxes on CraigsList or NextDoor!
    • Sheets, blankets, & towels, oh my! Blanket forts are a little easier for larger pups to enjoy, and other animals enjoy the comfort blankets offer. You can build it big enough to include their bed, a comfy spot for you to sit, and your tv or computer for binge watching Animal Planet. If you don’t have enough sheets or towels, you can get creative and use clothes!
  2. Getting Fresh Air- Basically the only thing we’re allowed to do is go outside for a walk. Not only does your dog enjoy this, but all your pets will love getting out! They make leashes & harnesses for basically every shaped animal alive! If you can order pet supplies from a small or local business please do! But you can easily find leashes & harnesses on Amazon.
    • Go for a smell walk! Don’t just stare at your phone and tug your pet along, instead really get into it! Explore smells with your pet! Hold your kitty up to a tall tree so she can smell the otherwise unattainable leaves, and smell them with her! Let your ferret dig through shrubs to explore new scents, and maybe just take a distant whiff! How often do you use your nose? How often do you share sensory experiences with your best friend? Just steer clear of anything they might be rolling in! Yuck!
    • Scavenger Hunt! Take a walk with your fluffy pal and bring some trinkets along. Nothing important to you, could even just be small stones. Get your scent on them, roll the item around in your hands and get em nice and smelly. Then on your walk simply place the totems randomly along your path. On your next walk allow your pet to try to seek these totems out! Keep a score of how many they find! (You can do this activity inside your home as well!)
  3. Hide n Seek- Exactly what it sounds like! Have your pet stay in one spot while you hide, then call them to you so they can seek you out! This game really only works with dogs, and in my experience rats & rabbits. Whenever I have tried playing it with a cat I come back to find them snoozing in the same spot I left them in. And forget about playing with a reptile, they prefer to be the hider not the seeker.
  4. Puzzles- Brain games are a great way to help pets pass the time and exercise their minds! Be careful when playing these games with cats… if they get any smarter they might finally take over the world!
    • Hiding treats around the house is a great way for your pet to use their nose and brains to find them! Have then stay in one spot while you hide the treats in easily accessible areas around the house! Don’t hide treats near irreplaceable family heirlooms! This works with almost all pets!
    • Use household items to create a puzzle game for your pets. Placing tennis balls in a muffin tin easily hides treats and your pet can sniff them out and figure out how to get to them! Imagine a Kong, and then get creative to make your own at home! Toilet paper and paper towel rolls are great makeshift Kongs! Fold up one side of the cardboard roll, plop some treats inside, and then fold the other end! Your pet will have to chew the roll apart to get to the goods inside! You’ll have a mess to clean up, but that’s all part of the game 🙂
  5. Energy Work- Spending quiet time bonding with your pet will greatly benefit both of you! You’re normally so distracted with work, and kids, and friends, and television, and Reddit… why not spend this time slowing your brain down and connecting with your best friend. Maybe now is a good time to master Reiki!
    • Pets, massages, and tTouch are all great ways to quietly sit with your pet, quiet your mind and deepen your bond. You can find different massage techniques and tTouch exercises on the World Wide Web. There’s something offered for every type of animal!
  6. Treat Making- This is a great way to get your kids involved in dog care! And to get them out of your hair for a bit 🙂 I prefer making easier, minimal ingredient treats, like pupsicles! But you can get pretty crazy with your treat making! There is a list on Good Housekeeping that has some more extravagant treats, but if you want to keep it simple just blend some peanut butter, plain yogurt, and bananas and add the mixture to an ice cube tray to freeze overnight!
  7. Try Something New Together- Try anything new with your pet! Anything! Something you’ve never done before, but perhaps have always been curious if your furry best friend would enjoy. My dog rarely plays ball, so one day I decided to try a soccer ball and he was all about it! He now has 3 Chuck-It soccer balls and wants to play every day! When my outdoor cat became an indoor cat, I got her a harness to take her outside for mini trips. She hated it. So much. But after a few outings, she began to enjoy being outside again! She refused to walk on the leash with me, in case one of the neighborhood cats saw, but she enjoyed when I sat in the yard and gave her a long leash so she could safely explore! The new activity you try together could range from reading your pet your favorite book to seeing if your cat enjoys slack-lining. Get into it!

The Dog Talker

Strangers often ask if I’m a dog walker and I usually just say yes to be polite and move on, but I feel that I am not just a walker but perhaps more of a talker, a dog communicator, because that’s what I do all day, communicate with dogs. Adventure Pup never just walks dogs.

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Every Adventure Outing is different and tailored specifically to the Pack. Every Hike we focus on things that will benefit the Pack as a whole, as well as the individual Pup. Every Walk we take is a learning opportunity, a chance for a Pup to grow mentally and emotionally. Every Dog Park Visit is a lesson, never just a game of chuck-it.

Each Outing we work on etiquette & basic manners, play brain games, and dabble in energy work, all while having the time of our lives!

Manners on the Trail, Sidewalk, and in the Park are very important. Adventure Pups practice sit, stay, and recall in order to respond appropriately to a variety of situations. Throughout our hike we practice random recall and “touch” (dogs recall all the way and press their adorable noses into my hand). We always practice stepping off trail whenever we encounter someone to prepare the Pack for any future situations such as horseback riders. We go far enough away where we can still see the passerby, but not close enough to distract the Pack’s focus on me. Treats are used, of course, but I have found just kneeling down and praising & petting the dogs works just as well 🙂 If I have someone that is easily tempted I will put them on leash, just in case. This constant practice gets the Pack prepared for when real danger approaches; deer, snakes, coyotes, or shifty humans.

Brain Games are not only fun, but they help dogs work out their brains. Hide and seek is my favorite game to play. Sometimes if someone lags behind to investigate a smell, the rest of the Pack and I will hide behind trees or bushes and watch them sniff us out. It’s my favorite thing to see the seeker’s face when they find us! Just always make sure you can see your dog when you try this so you don’t end up searching for them instead. We also do a little bit of nosework, hiding treats, tennis balls, or sticks for dogs to sniff out. For this activity the Pack sits & stays while I hide the object, then I release them to sniff it out!

Energy Work is usually done in a low-key, calm environment, but sometimes we take it to the trail. Most of the energy work we do on Hikes centers around bonding, but we will also do some exercises to help improve circulation & movement, build confidence, and calm overly excited or anxious Pups. We use a combination of t-Touch, Reiki, leash guidance, and simple body language. Using these techniques has resulted in the Pack being more attuned with what I am doing and where I am. When I stop, the Pack stops. When I walk off trail, the Pack follows, without a single spoken word. The Pack stays within 20 feet of me, and if they go further I stop, and they return. This of course doesn’t work 100% of the time, but the more we practice the more positively the Pack responds.

We practice similar exercises on Neighborhood Walks & Dog Park Outings. Every Outing is an opportunity to learn & grow, no matter how much time we have together.

Leg Warmers Are Still Hip

Winter is upon us! We hope everyone else is having as much fun as we are in the snow! We also hope everyone is enjoying their fashionable winter wear! Winter coats are a must for humans, but they are also very helpful with Pups. If your Pup is lacking fluff or has a wild coat that collect snowballs, a doggie jacket could become a very helpful tool for you and your Pup this winter. It will keep them warmer and dryer, and will also prevent snowballs from collecting in their fur coats.

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But what about their bare feet?! Depending on the dog’s coat, snow can collect between toes and paw pads making walking more difficult and uncomfortable. So now you’ll have to get some doggie booties. After several minutes of struggling to get the boots on correctly, your Pup can now plow through snow without snow clumping up between their toes! Dog boots are difficult for some dogs to get used to, so it’s always helpful to get your Pup accustom to them before a big adventure.

But wait… all four of their legs are still exposed! “Oh geez don’t tell me I have to get more clothing for my dog!” Yes! Get some leg warmers! I know, I know, this sounds utterly ridiculous. But sometimes when you’re out on longer treks in the snow, snowballs can twist their way further into a dog’s fur and create painful dreadlocks. You see this a lot with Poodles and Doodles, which is why dog gaiters have been invented! Gaiters are more useful than a coat, and some of them even come with boots attached! So you don’t have to spend half an hour putting booties on your dog only to discover five minutes into your hike two of the booties have gone missing.

You can also make your own doggie leg warmers out of socks! They aren’t as durable, or as fashionable, but they keep your Pup’s legs protected against the elements, and they’re cheap! Simply get some socks and cut the seam on the toe. If they don’t stay up you can get some velcro straps from a hardware or craft store to add at the top.

Not every dog needs gaiters, or booties, or even jackets. Some dogs (like my RottenChow) are made for winter and snow just falls out of their fur. But if your Pup is having to put play on hold to chew snowballs out of their feet you might want to explore your options for a more enjoyable winter outing.

 

*The links that I have provided are just some recommendations of products that I have first hand experience with, or have been told by a trusted dog pal that they are reliable, quality products. I have yet to find dog boots that I really want to rave about, but the two links are to boots that frustrate me the least. We love recommendations so if you have any always feel free to share!

 

 

The Retractable Leash

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Last week I was sitting at my favorite food truck pod with my sweet Pup Link. People came and went with their dogs, sometimes coming over to say hello to my Pup. Each dog calmly came over to get and give a brief sniff and then they trotted away with their human. After about five dogs stopping to say hello, in walks a beefy pitbull. He was large and had a big smile on his face, scanning the area for dogs. He saw Link and immediately began walking toward us. Behind him was a small woman, gripping his retractable leash with both hands and being dragged across the gravel as if she was wearing roller skates. She grasped the handle of the leash and held her thumb tight against the leash lock, her other hand was wrapped up in the thin cord, turning white from the lack of blood flowing to it. She kept shouting, “Stop! Heel! Stop!” but the dog continued to drag her toward me. I stood up and asked, “Does he want to say hi?” The woman’s face filled with relief and she allowed her hands a break and let her dog have some extra leash to say hello. The dog calmed and they began to walk away, but then another dog popped into view and the woman was being dragged off again, this time she dropped the large plastic handle and it hit the ground, shattering into pieces and retracting itself all the way back to the dog, who began fleeing in terror into the parking lot, the broken plastic handle clattering behind him.

This is honestly not the first time I have seen this happen. Retractable leashes were  invented in order to provide control over the dog while allowing it more room to roam, but instead they tend to provide little control and absolutely no guidance. Your dog is able to walk about 20ft ahead of you, sniffing and eating whatever they find, wrapping around trees or poles, and hopping into the street in front of an oncoming bicyclist if they so desire. The inventor of the retractable leash has said, “It is usually desirable that the dog should have a certain freedom in running about, but it is difficult to prevent the animal from running on the wrong side of lamp posts or pedestrians, thus causing much annoyance to the owner, who is constantly required to adjust the length of the leash in her hand, and frequently the leash is dropped and the dog permitted to run away. The objects of the present invention are to obviate and overcome all these difficulties and annoyances due to the usual form of leash, and prevent the leash from becoming tangled as the dog runs about.” This directly translates to: “I hate dealing with my dog and just want to zone out while I walk him.” Her description is odd, considering the retractable leash allows more room to run about and go on the wrong side of posts and people, and you are CONSTANTLY adjusting the length of the leash. It is also very easy to drop, and even easier to break! 

The truth is, people only use these leashes because it is comfortable for them to hold. If you remove the large plastic handle you would be left with a thin cord that would slice into your hands, similar to walking a dog on a fishing line, and nobody wants that.

I always recommend a 6ft nylon leash. You can shorten it as much as you’d like, and no dog needs to be more than 6ft from you while on a leashed walk. You can drop it without the fear of it breaking or retracting after your dog. You can adjust your grip and hold the leash in a variety of ways depending on how you and your dog walk together. And the best part is, you are in control. Even if your dog is a puller, a flat leash provides the most control and support. I prefer the simple slip lead that tightens when the dog pulls, which usually prevents the dog from doing so. But every dog is an individual and needs what’s best for them AND you. Try out a few options to see what’s best for both of you, but leave that retractable leash on the shelf!

 

*When researching retractable leashes I discovered that there are A LOT of injuries to both humans and animals when using one of these leashes. I know when the handle is dropped it could retract and injure the dog, but I had no idea how many issues this leash actually had with injuries. They’re even illegal in some areas because of the amount of injuries! Here is a link to the Animal Hospital of North Asheville, if you’d like to read about the potential injuries causes by retractable leashes. Whatever you do, don’t Google Image search it!

I borrowed the image fromDogTime.com, which also has an informative article about retractable leashes 🙂

What You Talkin’ Bout Human?

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When you bring home your first Pup you do whatever you can to set him up for success: spoil him with toys & treats, get him the best dog food on the market, and help him learn basic commands so you can show him off to the world! The toys, treats, and food you pick are all very important to your Pup’s health and well being, and we all know training is essential! The words you use to train your Pup are very important, regardless of your training techniques. Dogs love consistency and ease, so it is important to be on a routine and to be direct with your pooch. It’s a neat party trick to train your dog commands in German when it’s not your native tongue, but what happens when you leave your Pup with a babysitter and they have no clue how to sprechen sie Deutsch? It’s nice to have a dog to chat with while you’re out on a trail, but once you start gabbin’ your Pup starts to tune you out, then when you need him to pay attention he’s already started ignoring you. The easiest way to train your Pup is to find a balance between the words you would normally say and words that are universal in the dog training world. Below are some examples of verbal cues Adventure Pups use in the day to day.

  • “Here”- come here
  • “Sit”- sit
  • “Stay”- stay
  • “Free” or “Ok”- to release from a sit or stay
  • “Down”- lay down
  • “Off”- don’t jump up
  • “Leave it”- walk away from what you’re doing
  • “No bite”- do not bite
  • “Gentle”- play more gently
  • “Easy”- play more gently
  • “Hey”- heel
  • “Yes” or “Good”- to mark desired behavior
  • “Ah Ah”- do not do that
  • “Load up”- get into the car
  • We try to save the word “No” for extreme circumstances when other verbal cues don’t work, such as preventing a fight, eating something they really shouldn’t, or approaching something dangerous.

We’re pretty straight forward in our verbal cues, but we have made some adjustments in order to better fit with our natural vernacular. I have personally never used the word “heel” in my natural speech. What are some of the verbal cues you share with your Pup?

Buckle Up!

As a child of the 80’s, strapping your Pup into a car with a seatbelt was never something I considered… until I got a precious Pup of my own. If you know anything about me it’s that I love my dog more than anything. I try to keep him safe wherever he goes, including in the car. During one of Link’s first car rides, I noticed how he would walk across the back seat, from window to window. It drove me nuts! I just wanted him to grasp the seriousness of being in a car, and how dangerous backseat surfing can be! But alas, he is a dog and doesn’t understand this concept. So I decided to help him by getting him properly set up for car rides!

Note- some dogs may not be able to be restrained in a car for a variety of reasons, just do your best and drive safe 🙂

  • Seatbelt– There are a few variations of seatbelts. Some have a loop where the seatbelt goes through and then clicks in, like it would for a human. Some have a buckle that clicks directly into the seatbelt of your car. And some are simple tethers that can clip into a harness much like a leash, and then attach to the seatbelt or can be attached to a removable headrest. Make sure you have a durable, padded, fitted,  comfortable harness. You want something that would supply even support in the event of a crash. I got a brand new Kurgo harness and seat belt from the Humane Society Thrift for $5. The harness has a chest plate to distribute weight evenly, and he can comfortably wear it outside of the car as well. Personally I don’t like the direct to belt buckle style restraint and I prefer to attach his tether to the headrest. It’s just less likely he will tangle himself if the tether is above his back rather than by his legs.
  • Hammock– Car hammocks are a great way to keep your dog from flying into the front seat in the event of a crash. It cradles them, much like a normal outdoor hammock does to a human. The combination of the seatbelt and hammock keep your dog in one place throughout your drive. Hammocks are also great in the event your dog gets car sick… trust me.
  • Crate– This is the best way to keep your Pup safe in the car. Crates should be kept in the trunk area when available (not in a closed trunk of a sedan! but in a trunk of a hatchback or suv!) Crates should be strapped down securely to prevent them from moving around too much, and in the event of an accident the car will be secure and not tumbling around the car with your dog tumbling around inside. Impact Dog Crates make awesome crates for your car and truck beds! If you drive a hatchback and have a Malamute, a crate might not work for you.
  • No Dogs in Laps– It is so dangerous! Hawaii is the only state that has outlawed this activity, but most states (including Oregon) have laws against distracted driving, which includes your dog riding on your lap. Also, if you’re in an accident, your dog will be smashed between your body and the steering wheel or airbag! Eeek!
  • No Dogs in Front Seats– Much like sitting on your lap, your dog could be smashed by the airbag when sitting shotgun. If you don’t have an airbag, your dog could then be slammed into the dash, or even worse, thrown through the window. If they must sit shotgun, make sure they are securely and properly restrained. 
  • Loose in the Bed of a Truck– Please, please, please restrain your dog when letting them ride in the back of your truck! You don’t even have to get in an accident for your dog to be hurt. If someone cuts you off and you slam on the brakes, what do you think will happen to your dog? If you hit a pothole (all of Oregon is a pothole) your dog could slam into the truck or fall out the back. Crates are the best, and in my opinion the only way to transport a dog in the bed of a truck. But in all honesty I’d rather have you let your German Shepherd ride on your lap than in the back of your truck.
  • Head out the Window– Warning, this is a rule I can’t follow. Sticking your head out the window isn’t very safe. Rocks and debris hit your windshield all the time, imagine if something hit you in the face going 60mph. It would have the same effect if it hit your dog in the face. They could get cut and scraped, or worse they could get an eye injury. I can’t follow this rule because I know how fun it is to stick your head out the window! To me it’s the same risk as riding a rollercoaster, and I can’t deprive my dog of that fun, but I do roll windows up when we drive faster than 40mph, or when we’re off-roading.
  • No Unattended Dog– I talk about this so often. Don’t leave your Pup in the car. Hot and cold weather drastically effects the temperatures inside a car. All the windows down could result in your dog leaping out a window to chase a squirrel. Just try your best not to do it, and if you must leave your dog in the car, please be safe about it!

 

I am going to share a story that happened to me recently just to give you an idea of how important car safety is for your dog. Don’t worry, it’s not one of the many horror stories I have from working in vet clinics. No one was hurt during this very lucky event.

Last week Link and I took a road trip to Southern Oregon. We drove 3.5 hours south and  all around Southern Oregon without any incidents. We drove the almost 3.5 hours home before exiting the highway at Knott Road. We were driving along Knott, which is single lane both ways, with a double yellow in the middle and a bike lane in both directions. The road curves, but isn’t necessarily windy. There’s high desert landscape on either side. It’s peaceful, and much more enjoyable than the busy main road through town. I was  listening to a crime podcast and Link was snoring in the backseat. I drive a 4Runner, and he usually rides in the very back, but I wanted him closer to me, so I could talk to him as I drove. We were going the speed limit, and I was looking ahead of me as we approached a curve in the road. Traffic was coming in the opposite direction, and cars were driving in front and behind me. Suddenly I see a small Honda Civic coming into my lane from the other direction. I assume he’s just an impatient driver trying to zoom around the person in front of him, but then I noticed he wasn’t trying to swerve out of my way. He was coming directly at me, aiming for a head on collision. I slammed on my brakes, saw he wasn’t swerving, and then I swerved at the very last moment. I braced myself for a collision, but it never came. He narrowly missed us. I swerved right off the road, into the bike lane, and down an embankment, praying to Dog the 4Runner didn’t flip (as 4Runners are specifically designed to flip). All I could think about was my dog, my best friend, and how I needed to get the car to safety. Somehow luck was on our side. We didn’t flip. Instead we sank into the soft dirt of the embankment and stopped. I turned and checked Link over. He was shaken up, but his seatbelt and harness kept him safe and in one spot. He didn’t slide across the seat and hit the door. He didn’t slam into the back of my seat. He was locked in. I can’t explain how relieved I was. I didn’t care about anything else. I didn’t care about the car being stuck, or how my hands wouldn’t stop shaking, or how incredibly hot and thirsty I had suddenly become. All I cared about was that Link was ok. It turns out the Honda Civic belonged to a young man that had worked very long hours that day and he had fallen asleep at the wheel. He drifted into my lane, passing the woman in front of him and smashing off both her and his own side mirrors. I’m assuming that’s what woke him up in time to swerve out of the way of hitting the driver’s side of my car. I am fairly certain to this day he has no idea how close he was to losing his life. I think the only words I said to him were “Are you ok? You ran us off the road, that’s my car with my dog inside. Don’t worry he’s ok.” I am not by any means a great driver. I try to do my best, but I’m not rally racer. I truly believe if I didn’t have Link in my car my reactions wouldn’t have been that fast. I also believe if he didn’t have his seatbelt on, my life would be very different right now. We were very lucky that day. Always buckle up, no matter what kind of mammal, fish, or bird you are. (THANK YOU SO MUCH TO THOSE 3 PEOPLE WHO STAYED WITH ME UNTIL I GOT MY CAR OUT!)

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Feeling Cheated?

Summer in Oregon is amazing, right? The sun is shining, the rivers are glistening, and the cheatgrass is blooming.

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Oh cheatgrass… the bane of my summer existence. But it doesn’t have to be so bad. Below are some tips to help avoid getting cheated, but first let me explain what cheatgrass actually is, for those new to Central Oregon.

Cheatgrass’ entire purpose, much like any living thing on the planet, is to reproduce. It can become a nuisance to pups once the plant dries out and drops its tiny barbed seed pods, which can get into paws, eyes, nostrils, and burrow its way into fur or skin. Cheatgrass usually reaches its prime in summer and early fall and it is quite invasive. They contain teeny tiny barbs that enable the seed to work its way deep into skin and fur, and even into mucus membranes. The barbs are one-way, similar to porcupine quills, causing them to be near impossible to get out.

  • familiarize yourself with cheatgrass and know what it looks like, in all stages of its life. take note of what trails you see it on and where you don’t.
  • check your pet after every outing. you should check your pup’s entire body over, paying extra close attention to ears, eyes, nose, mouth, under the collar or harness, between toes, and paw pads. yea, everywhere.
  • haircuts and grooming. keep those coats trimmed and brushed to limit the amount of fluff for cheat to grasp onto. keep the hair between the toes nice and short, as this is the most common place for cheat to hide in.
  • have a second set of eyes check your pup.
  • make sure your pup isn’t munchin’ on cheat. most dogs enjoy a nibble of grass here and there, but double check to they aren’t ingesting cheat as it can get into the lungs and abdomen and cause serious infections.
  • keep your dog on leash in areas with a lot of cheat, just to keep them from venturing into it.

If your pup has been attacked by cheatgrass, look for signs of infection such as fatigue, loss of appetite, and swelling. If you notice your pup sneezing, shaking its head, scratching its ears a lot, excessively licking, specifically on paws and in between toes, you may want to swing by the vet clinic. Look for any redness, swelling, or drainage. You can remove cheatgrass yourself if it hasn’t gone too deep, but some cases require the barbs to be surgically removed.

Certain dog breeds are more susceptible to cheat than others. Long hair can hide cheat very easily, make sure your pup is free of dreadlocks to avoid cheat burrowing into them. Curly hair seems to just suck up cheat, doodles are an excellent target. Wire hair is thick and hides cheat well.