Man’s best friend can enhance your outdoor experience tremendously, as well as simply offer you companionship. The information below is designed to give you actionable advice, tips, and various things to consider in order to keep both you and your dog safe while outdoors.
General Outdoor Safety
When you enjoy the great outdoors, you want to make sure you remain as safe as possible. This becomes even more true when you have a canine companion to take into consideration. Hunter safety measures should be taken before and during, in addition to being brushed up on continually. When you go outdoors — especially in unfamiliar areas — you are taking on a new set of risks for you and your dog.
You will also want to consider what type of bag you need to carry the necessary first-aid and other safety gear. From daypacks to mountaineering packs, you will want to be sure you have the right gear to be prepared for your trip.
Before Heading Out
Prior to hitting the road, you will want to make sure to take into consideration the following items regardless of the type of outdoor activity you’re planning.
- Get a Health Checkup: Make sure you get a checkup prior to going out on a physically demanding outdoor venture (especially if it has been a while). The last thing you would want is your dog (or you) needing immediate medical attention while in a remote area — especially if it could have been avoided;
- Use Flea and Tick Preventative Medication: The more you are outside, the more you become exposed to the bane of the outdoors existence: fleas and ticks. You should pack flea and tick spray, or consider a flea and tick collar for simplicity. If you are trying to stay natural, you can also make your own repellents, or order a natural solution for flea and tick control. Although ticks and fleas may seem like minor issues, ticks can cause a variety of unpleasantries for your dog including anemia, paralysis, Lyme disease, rocky mountain spotted fever, and various other diseases;
- Remember Your Pet’s Medications: If your dog needs medication, you will need to make sure that you bring enough for the entirety of your trip. You will also want to bring back up just in case;
- Get Your Dog Microchipped: There are many reasons to get your pet microchipped, and they become even more true when you’re exploring the outdoors. Microchipping can help you prove ownership of a lost and found pet. Collars and dog tags can become too loose, tear, or fall off — microchips are permanent;
- Recognize the Symptoms of Common Health Hazards: You should research and prepare yourself for symptoms of common dog health problems. Correctly recognizing and identifying some sort of health issue can save your pet’s life by attending to the type of care they require immediately. You will also want to be aware of the following dog health hazards:
- Blastomycosis: a fungal disease that is contracted through the respiratory tract. Symptoms include: fever, depression, weight loss/loss of appetite, blindness, coughing, seizures, and enlarged lymph nodes;
- Cyanobacteria poisoning: microcystins and anatoxins are the two toxins present in cyanobacteria. Microcystins attack the liver while antitoxins go after the nervous system. Symptoms include: weakness, loss of appetite/loss of weight, jaundice, tremors, seizures, paralysis, vomiting, and diarrhea;
- Exercise-induced collapse: a disease that is prevalent in labradors, but possible with any breed where some amount of exercise causes excessive fatigue and sometimes collapse;
- Gastric dilation-volvulus: a condition where the stomach fills with air and builds up enough pressure to stop blood flow. Symptoms include: restlessness, retching, salivation, enlarged abdomen, tenderness;
- Grass-awn migration disease: a disease that stems from a bristle-like growth that sticks to your pet. Symptoms include: skin inflammation, redness, sores, excessive coughing or sneezing;
- Tick-borne disease: ticks carry various diseases that are passed onto a pet when they are bitten. Symptoms depend on the disease that is passed by the tick. It is also common for animals to simply be allergic to ticks or fleas.
Like the section above, no matter what outdoor adventure you are choosing to partake in, there are some general supplies that you should keep on deck at all times. Keeping a small emergency bag stocked can make this a simple, get-out-and-go process.
- Canine First-Aid Kit: One of the most crucial supplies to be sure to bring is a first-aid kit. You canine first aid kit should be catered to the risks associated with your specific hunt, but according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) all pet first-aid kits should contain the following:
- Absorbent gauze;
- Adhesive tape;
- Alcohol wipes;
- Artificial tear gel;
- Cotton swabs;
- Disposable gloves;
- Hydrogen peroxide (3%);
- Ice packs;
- Liquid dishwashing detergent;
- Oral syringe;
- OTC antibiotic ointment;
- Saline eye solution;
- Scissors with a blunt end;
- Styptic powder;
- Veterinary contact information.
- Collapsible Dog Bowls: Dog bowls can take up a large amount of space in a backpack, especially if you have a larger breed dog or one that notoriously drinks more water. Collapsible dog bowls are great space savers that come in a variety of different sizes. You can also get reusable, collapsible water bottles to carry water for your pet too;
- Dog Food: How much food you bring should depend entirely on how much and how often you are supposed to feed your dog based on their breed. It is better to bring more than their normal diet since you are generally doing more physically taxing activities;
- Leash or Harness: Some areas require animals to be on a leash. Other times, you could be in areas that are marked trapping areas and you will want to keep your dog close. You should make sure to bring a leash or harness that fits properly, and possibly a backup;
- Bedding: Dogs can sleep pretty much anywhere, but if you are in extremely rough terrain, or it cools down significantly at night, you will want to make sure to pack bedding so that your dog isn’t miserable through the night after exhausting themself all day;
- Toys: Hunting is a full-time job for some dogs, so you want to make sure they get the chance to relax and be a dog at the end of a long hunting day.
Leave No Trace Principles
When you go out into the outdoors, there are certain etiquettes and principles that need to be followed. The impacts of hunting, camping, and fishing on the environment are eye-opening. According to the Center for Outdoor Ethics, the seven principles of leave-no-trace are to:
- Plan Ahead/Prepare: Last-minute trips generally consist of lack of planning, not enough resources, and damage to the land. You might have forgotten firewood or a trash bag, and these items are pretty crucial for helping leave no trace. You should research the area, pay attention to the weather forecast, account for the number of people joining you, and their expertise in both the outdoors and your chosen activity, as well as an overview of the land regulations or restrictions;
- Travel/Camp on Durable Surfaces: When you go outdoors, you can come across some pretty breath-taking, natural pathways, waterways, or other trails. The goal is to avoid making any damages to the area, so you should only camp and travel across designated areas;
- Dispose of Waste Properly: You need to consider both your human waste, as well as your canine’s waste. You need to pack out everything you packed in, and if you see other waste that is not yours, dispose of it anyway;
- Keep Things the Same: While a souvenir might be a great option for Disneyland, this is not true for the outdoors. Leave the area the way you found it. If you cleared out an area of rocks and debris, do your best to replace the removed items. Engraving your initials, paint/graffiti, or other ways to memorialize an area are often destructive of nature, so avoid altering anything if possible;
- Minimize Campfire Impacts: Campfires are a staple of camping, but you want to be sure that you are using and making them safely and considerately. Use existing pits or fire rings to maintain your fire. Have some method to extinguish the fire readily available. Avoid fires that are uncontained, and research the burn protocol for the area;
- Respect and Consider Wildlife: You are entering the home of various types of wildlife when you go outdoors, so it is important to be aware of the wildlife, give them space, and respect their home;
- Be Considerate: Just like you want other visitors to be courteous of you and your time outside, you need to do the same. Avoid taking up unnecessary space, being overly loud, letting your pet walk through other campsites, and avoid swimming near fishing spots, etc.
Camping and Backpacking With Your Dog
Many choose to bring their dog camping, hiking, or backpacking with them for companionship, protection, or even just for the good exercise and beautiful experience. If you choose to do so, there are a variety of things you should consider and look into prior to make sure that you are prepared while remaining safe. This should consist of what gear to bring, and doing research to ensure that dogs are allowed in the area.
Dog-Friendly Campsites and Trails
There are various campsites and trails that allow dogs, and there are also those that prohibit them. Whether the protocols are in place because of dangerous wildlife in the area or to preserve a sacred terrain, the rules exist to protect the area as well as your pet. You may also want to do your own research on the rules to ensure that you understand the entirety of them. For example, although dogs are allowed to go into parks, pets in Glacier must only stay in developed areas. They can stay in the campground, but they are not allowed on trails, the backcountry, or anything off the roadway because of the wildlife. If you planned to go hiking and visit the lake shores with your pup, this could put a damper on your Glacier trip. State park and campground policies vary from state to state, so you want to make sure you are aware of the following:
- The parks that allow pets;
- Types of pets allowed;
- Number of pets allowed;
- Leash length and requirements;
- Behavior requirements;
- Any pet fees.
When you camp with a dog, you are also responsible for your dog. You need to consider their needs and what gear to bring specifically for them. The following items are must-have camping gear to bring for your dog:
- Dog Booties: Different terrain can be unforgiving on the paws and pads of your animal. If you are hiking a lot, this is even more true. Make sure to inspect your dog’s paws often, and utilizing dog booties and their benefits to protect your pup;
- Dog Backpack: In addition to your hunting pack, your dog can carry a pack of their own that will help you save space and keep your pack weight low. You want to make sure that the pack fits them properly so that the dog is not uncomfortable or prone to injury;
- Tent: You want to make sure that your dog is able to get out of the elements. If your dog is going to be staying in a tent, you may want to consider larger tents.
Hunting With Your Dog
Whether you are bow hunting or morel hunting, the benefits of a hunting dog are endless. Hunting with dogs can help injured veterans with retrieving, offer companionship during your hunt, and even help expand the terrain you hunt in. Outdoor enthusiasts are always looking for ways to step up their hunting game, and utilizing a dog can help that. When you choose to take advantage of a hunting dog, you also need to be aware of safety tips, preparation, supplies, and any other general information that is pertinent to each hunting endeavor.
General Hunting Safety Tips
When you choose to hunt with your dog, you want to be sure that you are not putting your canine at risk in any way. The following general hunting safety tips are designed to keep you and your pet safe:
- Know Where Your Dog Is: You don’t necessarily need to keep your dog within arms reach at all times, but any time you are handling a gun, you should be aware of where your dog is at — especially if you are going to shoot;
- Be Prepared For Declining Daylight: The daylight declines at different rates and times as the year changes, so it important to be aware of when daylight declines in your area to ensure that you are back to your vehicle or home prior to dark;
- Know the Seasons: Being aware can help you better prepare to mitigate the elements. This is even more true for camping and hunting in the cold;
- Provide Your Pet Shelter: You want to make sure that your pet is sheltered from the elements. Even if you decide that you don’t need a tent for yourself, you should bring some sort of shelter for your animal to ensure they rest properly, and are protected from the weather.
Hunting Dog Breeds and Training
There are some dog breeds that are better suited as hunting dogs than others. This is both due to the breed's temperament, energy, and train-ability. Some of the best hunting dog breeds include:
Although there are hunting dog breeds that are traditionally used, you can make any dog a hunting dog since becoming a hunting dog is all about proper training. Training your hunting dog should consist of the following:
- Socialization: Introduce your dog to other animals so that they aren’t thrown off or distracted when they see other animals. The longer you wait to socialize your dog, the harder it can be;
- Crate training: Most hunters take advantage of quality carrying crates for their hunting dogs to ensure that they are safe during transport to the hunting location. You want to make sure that your dog is properly crate trained to ensure that they are used to the crate, and not barking/whining and scaring off game;
- Exercise: Hunting is physically demanding and you will want to make sure that your animal is prepared for it. Just like marathons, you won’t want to put your body at risk through poor preparation;
- Command Training: One of the most important parts of hunting dog training is command training. Start simple, and work your way up. Reward your dog for good behavior often, and make sure to verbally reward their behavior as well;
- Introduction to Wild Game: You want to make sure that your dog's first time retrieving a bird isn’t on a real hunt. You will want to introduce your dog to the game they are going to be responsible for retrieving as soon as possible, and often.
You should plan out different training regimens and continuously critique them. The only way to understand what you need to fix is to put the dog into action, and re-train accordingly.
When you are training or actively hunting, there is specific hunting gear that can improve your venture before, during, and after the hunt. Consider the following hunting gear;
- Safety Vests and Collars: Wearing camouflage and stealthy clothing can lead to another hunter not being able to see you. Since your dog is on all fours, this becomes especially true for them. Make sure to wear bright colored safety vests and collars while hunting;
- Firearm Storage: When you own a firearm, it is your responsibility to handle with care — this includes storage. Consider gun carry packs when carrying on your person, and gun cases for when you are not using the gun(s). This can ensure that the firearm is being stored properly and that it doesn’t get into the wrong hands;
- Tracker: Although hunting dogs are traditionally well-trained, they can still become separated from you. Hunting dog tracking systems can help mitigate this issue;
- Training Dummies: Wild game can be expensive to use for training, so using artificial training dummies can help you save money while training your dog;
- Whistle: Commands are great, but there is always a chance that you won’t have your voice, or the dog is not within shouting distance. Bring a whistle on your hunts after training your dog that a whistle is associated with a command.
Hunting Regulations on the Use of Dogs
States, parks, and private landowners can regulate the use of dogs for hunting. Regulations generally vary based on state, but vary more depending on the game that you plan to hunt, and season that you are hunting during. For instance, in California, you cannot use a dog during archery season for bear or deer. More often than not, dogs can not be used for hunting large game (e.g. bear, moose, elk, deer, etc.). Check up on the hunting regulations in your jurisdiction — or where you plan to hunt — to make sure that you aren’t illegally hunting, or putting you or your dog in danger.
Fishing With Your Dog
Taking your dog fishing can be a fun, exciting, rewarding adventure. If your dog is your fishing partner, there are some general safety tips, things to consider, and things to avoid that all fishermen who bring their dogs should be aware of.
General Fishing Safety Tips
The following fishing safety tips are general fishing tips that should be considered by all — these include:
- Make Sure Your Dog Knows How To Swim: Although it’s never too late to start, you want to avoid taking your dog on fishing trips if they are unable to swim. This is especially true if you are planning on taking them on the boat;
- Bring a Dog Life Jacket: Just like you would put a lifejacket on your child, you should do the same for your dog. Even if your dog is a strong swimmer, they can eventually tire if you are stranded, so it is important to choose a good dog life jacket;
- Keep Your Gear Secured: When you aren’t using your gear, make sure that it is properly stored or secured. Unnecessary moving gear can cause injury, or fall into the water;
- Bring a First-Aid Kit: Always bring a doggie first aid kit, and consider bringing something for water sickness if your dog tends to get seasick out on the water.
Fishing From the Shore vs. From a Boat
The factors to consider, and the risks involved in fishing change when you are fishing from shore versus when you are fishing from a boat. When you fish from shore with a dog, you should consider the following:
- Keep Your Dog Close: Make sure your dog is on a leash, or trained well;
- Practice: Practice shore, or wade fishing prior to going out to a public lake or river. This practice should consist of command training, and spend the majority of the time understanding catch and release;
- Be Aware of Sun Exposure: Some dogs do not do as well in the sun. Make sure there is a shady area, or that you are taking shorter trips if this is the case;
- Choose your fishing area wisely: Avoid crowded areas if your dog cannot contain their excitement around the water.
Consider the following tips for fishing with your dog:
- Train Your Dog on Boat Behavior: You don’t want your pup running around, ripping up your boat upholstery, and jumping into the water while scaring off the fish. Make sure you train your dog on acceptable boat behavior, as well as unacceptable boat behavior;
- Practice: Practice at home prior to going out. Train your pup in your boat, and make them comfortable. One of the most important parts of training is conditioning your dog not to chase when you cast;
- Look Before Casting: Make sure that your dog is not in the way of your cast prior to letting your cast go;
- Bring a Life Jacket: As said above, a dog life jacket should always be on your dog, regardless of how strong a swimmer they are. You should consider keeping a spare on board just in case;
- Consider a Safety Line: If your dog gets distracted from time to time, you may want to consider a safety line attached to their life jacket.
The rising dangers of blue-green algae — also named cyanobacteria or algae blooms — can be detrimental to your dog. Algae blooms create the perfect environment for cyanobacteria and tend to occur during the summer weather in fresh bodies of water. Cyanobacteria poisoning can be lethal for dogs and other wildlife.
If you spot algae blooms or hear of them in a particular area, avoid taking your dog with you if you go. You can spot water containing algae blooms because it will have a green, slimy film over the surface of the water. Below are some of the common symptoms of cyanobacteria intoxication:
- Excessive drooling;
If you do not take your dog for medical attention, cyanobacteria intoxication can lead to liver failure, respiratory failure, and even death.
Regardless of what outdoor adventure you partake in with your dog, make sure you are keeping both you and your dog safe using one or a combination of the suggestions above.