Tips for bringing your dog on outdoor adventures
MANILA, Philippines – Nothing sweetens an adventure quite like having a dog along for the ride. In any outdoor trip, dogs put a smile on countless faces, brighten up photos, and bring groups closer together.
This has been my experience with Bean, our two-year-old dachshund. Any hike, rock trip, or beach outing becomes extra special when we bring him along.
Bean has climbed two mountains, swum in rivers and lakes, outrun surf waves, scrambled up limestone boulders, cruised on kayaks, boats, and even a paddleboard.
I’m no expert on pets or on outdoor activities, but here is my small contribution of insights into how you can turn your dog into your best adventure buddy and keep him safe.
PROS AND CONS
The good side. A well-trained and good-natured dog is always great company. They are a conversation-starter and help glue the team together. There is shared joy at their antics and also shared responsibility when they need some human assistance (like when climbing high rocks). Dogs are the perfect comic relief when a hike gets tough or morale is low (i.e. sudden downpour during a beach trip).
The bad side. Dogs are a lot of responsibility. They poo and pee in places they shouldn’t. They bark at strangers or noises in the night. Some breeds tire easily. Some people in your group may also not like dogs. Before you bring your doggo along, make sure you’re prepared to handle whatever comes.
If you want your own adventure dog, here are some tips on how to raise one and how to make life easier when you bring them along.
Choose a dog who fits your lifestyle. The reality is, not all dogs will thrive in all outdoor conditions. We chose a dachshund because they are small, full of energy, and love roughing it up (they were bred to hunt, after all). Most hounds make perfect adventure buddies. If you’re into water sports, labrador retrievers, with their love for the water, might be a perfect fit. Aspins too are mostly hardy.
I recommend leaving flat-faced dogs like pugs or bulldogs at home. Because of their short noses and narrow nostrils, these dogs often have breathing problems and are likely to overheat. But I’ve met some flat-faced adventure dogs too, so it's definitely possible as long as you're mindful and proactive about the risks.
Get them vaccinated. Once you have your dog, bring them to the vet for vaccinations to protect them from dangers of outdoor adventures. The most critical vaccines to get are 5-in-1 which (protection against canine distemper, infectious canine hepatitis, canine adenovirus type 1 and 2, canine parainfluenza, and canine parvovirus) and rabies vaccination.
Get them dewormed - While you’re at the vet, get your dog dewormed as well. Deworming guards them from roundworms and hookworms which they could get while outside. Bean got worms when we forgot to take him for his regular deworming (vet recommends every 3 months for outdoorsy dogs) then brought him on a rock trip in Montalban, Rizal. For days after, he couldn’t control his pooping.
Be ready to be in charge. Don't bring your dog if you're going on a trip that requires specialized skills or experience you haven't gained yet. For example, if it's your first time to go camping in the mountain, best to do it on your own first and learn the ropes. This is because you don't want to be an added burden to your groupmates if they have to help you and you have a dog that will require your attention too.
Time to get fit. Once your dog is prepped medically, help them build the stamina for your outdoor lifestyle. For puppies, do this in phases. With Bean, we started by bringing him for walks, and eventually runs, in our condominium’s common garden area when he was two months old. This way, he learned to walk properly in a controlled environment.
When we saw he could walk confidently, we brought him for longer walks – for instance, to nearby restaurants – which meant he was walking beside passing cars and pedestrians. When he got scared, we carried him. When he got bigger, we brought him to larger parks. Before he turned one, Bean survived his first rock-climbing trip in Quirino province. A few months before his second birthday, Bean conquered his first mountain, Mt Kalinsungan in Laguna.
Know the rules, respect them. Before you bring your dog to a mountain or nature park, check first if park rules allow them in. Most places do, but then impose other rules like picking up after your pet or keeping them on leash. Follow these rules because the more responsible pet owners there are, the more pet-friendly places there will be.
Help them adjust to long car rides. Most adventures begin and end with long car rides. You have to prepare your dog for this. One way is to get them used to riding cars early on.
When Bean was a puppy, we brought him along everywhere. Bean is now usually calmly sitting on my lap or is asleep during the ride. When he gets nervous about bumps on the road, we just pat him or hold him tight for comfort. He’s gone on 10-hour car rides. For long road trips, make sure to stop every now and then for a doggie pee break.
Help them adjust to people. It might not be best to bring your dog out if they don’t like humans. Most outdoor trips involve interaction with other people, like hikers on a trail or your weekend warrior barkada. If your dog has this problem, wean them into it first. Bring them to intimate gatherings with people you’re comfortable with (and who are comfortable with dogs). Then spend increasingly more time in parks or common areas.
Train them. They don’t have to learn how to play dead (though that’s great campsite entertainment) but it helps if your dog knows commands like “stay” (so they don’t chase the innocent cow passing by), “leave it” (for poisonous plants or someone’s food), and “quiet” (for peaceful nights).
Have a go bag. Have a bag ready with all the stuff your dog needs, to be added to or subtracted from depending on the trip. Poop bags are a must. Bean’s bag always has a jug of water, portable food and water bowls, his vaccination record, and treats. For multi-day trips, we pack a light that attaches to his collar, dog shampoo if he gets dirty, a towel, and a ball for playing fetch.
Know when your dog needs a break. Especially during strenuous activities like hiking or running, always be aware of your dog’s condition. There are some dogs who tire more easily than humans. All dogs also get thirsty faster. Pay attention if your dog is breathing heavy or has his tongue out constantly. If they stop in their tracks in the middle of a run or climb, give them time to rest. In some cases, you may need to carry them. After a trip, your dog will be so tired he will do nothing but sleep the next day. Let him catch up on those zzz’s.
Get a sturdy leash. A leash is all-important for unexpected conditions that could arise in the outdoors. You want to have the ability to tie your dog up to free up your hands or keep them away from something (like the camp’s cooking area). Get a leash your dog is unlikely to chew their way out of. Good options include rope-type and chain-link leashes. For the collar, best to go with harness types instead of the simple round collar as the round ones are bad for dogs’ necks when they strain against them, especially dogs with thin necks like dachshunds.
Have fun! There's nothing quite like your genuine happiness to make your own dog love the outdoors too. After you've made all your preparations for your dog and your trip, let go and lose yourself in the great joy that only Mother Nature bequeaths. Run around, swim to your heart's content, watch the stars unveil themselves on that summit beyond the clouds with your dog beside you (wondering when you're going to feed him dinner). – Rappler.com