Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ask Lola : A slobbering advice column written by a dog for eco-minded dogs and their owners

Dear Lola: It’s time to answer the call of the wild. The weather has been great and we are looking forward to hitting the trail with our adventurous pup. With the mercury rising and rough hiking terrain can you recommend some survival tips to make our hiking and camping safe & fun?


DEAR SURVIVOR DOG: Imagine being left stranded in the wilderness jungle, on a deserted island, or in the bone chilling Arctic to fend with no food, shelter, water or tools for 7 days with nothing more than a Swiss Army Knife or box of matches. What would you do? Well, lucky for you & me our lives don’t have to be a spoof of an episode of the Discovery Channels suspenseful series Survivor man. Being an avid outdoors dog myself I enjoy the serene panoramic view of the mountains, canyons & rivers, but it is important for you and your dog to always be prepared for anything. So before you venture out on the fun filled trails here are some tips to keep you, your dog, and other hikers safe.

1. Health First:
Dogs are no different than people and just like you we must be in shape before undertaking strenuous hike. If you're not sure about your dog's fitness level, start off small and then work up to longer hikes. But prior to the training & hiking make sure your dog gets the vet health seal of approval, especially older dogs.Make sure that all of your dog's vaccinations and medications are current, including rabies, bordatella, and heartworm. If you're hiking in an area with Lyme disease, ask your vet about vaccinations. Condition your dog and his or paws for physical activity on the trails. With its mountainous terrain, rocky patches & high elevation you both are going to need to develop some hiking stamina.

2. Bring Portable GPS system:
Because you can’t always rely on your dogs snout for direction. Maps & compasses are the original GPS system so you don't get lost and can be your life saver if you & your dog happens to go off the beaten path so learn how to use them. Especially, if your dog happens to run after critter in the woods. If you do get lost don't panic and stop to get your bearing. If all as fails just stay on the trail, look for signs and guys don't be a shamed to ask for directions.

3. Follow the Golden Rules:
Check a head with campgrounds to make sure dogs allowed and the rules. Always have your dog in plain sight and bring a leash. Some hiking & parks require your dogs on a leash at all times.

5. Bring Appropriate Gear:
Spring and summer hiking means pesky visits from biting bugs and insects. Be sure to include some insect repellent and UV protection for both you and your dog, because dogs can burn too. One great product for your four legged hiking buddy is Happytails Flea the Scene with sunscreen, works wonders! Also, bring doggy life jackets if swimming, medications for your dogs special needs, some healthy organic munchies for the hike to boost energy and lots of water. Don't forget to wear proper clothing for the weather in which you are hiking & camping. Regardless if the forecast says clear skies it may start raining cats & dogs and get chilly so be ready.

6. " Its Lions, Tigers & Bears Oh, my":

Remember, that while you are making the woods your home for the week, their are animals that live here on a daily basis. So, beware of snakes, porcupines, raccoons, bears, mountain lions, and coyotes. If you start smelling a not so pleasant odor and a critter with a white streak don't just sit there run, it is not wanting to say hi. If you haven't guessed by the smell of it, you have a skunk. All this wildlife can be a problem with a pet on the loose and can cause serious injury. Besides, you and your dog wouldn't want to pack up your canteen & hiking gear early to spend week in a tomato bath, not my idea of day at the "spaw". So make sure your pet stays in close proximity to where you are hiking. One great tip is to bring along a toy which will help keep your dogs attention span on you & not on the wildlife.

7. Leaflets three, let it be:
Certain plant life found in the wilderness, such as cactus, nettles and poison ivy, the most common, can irritate and cause injury to your pet's skin and should be avoided. Unsure of what poison ivy look likes well here is a tip from my "Girl Snout" days. Poison Ivy is a "hairy" vine that grows up a tree and have stems with 3 leaves. You may have heard the old saying, "Leaflets three, let it be". Well, be weary getting an itchy rash is no fun, so please don't use it as toilet ply. Better yet bring your own Charmin roll!

8. Pick-up Squishy Mess:
Leaving your dogs #2 business on the ground & trails is dangerous to the environment, especially near water sources, and it makes a bad impression on other hikers -not to mention their boots. No one like to be the reason for unhappy campers. Biodegradable waste bags such as Spikebrand Business Bags & the Skooperbox are good eco-friendly alternatives.

9. Tag you’re it:
Make sure your pet has proper identification in the event she becomes lost. A collar I.D. tag that contains a cell phone number where you can easily be reached is essential. Getting a micro-chip is a painless way to keep track of your dog.

10. No Camouflage:
Extra precaution should be taken when hiking during various hunting seasons. Bright or reflective pet clothing will help your pet stand out from the natural environment. You should wear some too.

11. Hiking Etiquette:
Be considerate and share the trail with others. Be aware that some hikers may become anxious or scared if they see a pet on the loose without its owner nearby, so leash up.

12. Hydrate with Clean Water:
Staying hydrated is key and just as important for your dog as it is for you, so bring a clean water supply on your hike. In fact, because their body temperature is higher to begin with. Trust me hiking in a full fur coat in scorching temperatures is not pleasant and like me dogs are quicker to overheat than people. Heat exhaustion and stroke can be fatal. Because dogs don't have sweat glands, we are prone to heatstroke in very warm conditions and pant to cool ourselves down. Make sure you carry enough water for you and your pet and take adequate rest breaks and drink often.

**Be aware that some water resources such as ponds & streams are not safe to drink from and may contain harmful parasites or toxins. So bring clean supply, its better safe to be safe than sorry. Dog Hydration Systems hiking dogs to carry their own water supply. Some people teach their dogs to drink from a squirt bottle, while others bring along a collapsible water dish. The SIGG Bottle is eco-friendly and great for carrying water on a hike!

If you notice your dog running from shady spot to shady spot, panting excessively or becoming red in the gums, stop and cool him down. Gently pouring water on the stomach and groin area is a good technique. And don't forget that your dog needs to drink on cold days, too.

13. Keep control & be the leader of the pack:
Keeping your dog on leash is a good idea at all times, even when it's not legally required. If you must let your dog off leash, be sure you have good voice command recall. That means you should be able to recall your dog even though a deer is running away from it. Likewise, you don't want your dog scaring horses or other hikers. You must be sure that you can control your dog even when it's leashed; some people own dogs that are stronger than they are. About leashes: a six-foot leash will give your dog enough room to tackle the trail without getting tangled up in underbrush or other hikers. If you are having a hard time training your dog to come on command and he or she has mastered the art of not listening, obedience school would be a good option.

14. Back Packing:
Dogs can carry their own weight on a hike, or at least part of it. A healthy dog ought to be able to carry up to 1/3 of his weight in a special dog pack. Keep in mind the age of the dog. Start with an empty pack full off shredded newspaper, though, to acclimate the dog to the pack before you gradually start adding weight on successive hikes. And don't put a pack on a dog on a hot, sunny day if there's a chance it will cause him to overheat faster.

15. Paws:

If you're going to be hiking in an area with rough terrain, consider getting some dog booties to protect tender paws. There are also some wonderful all natural eco-friendly paw rubs out their can give your dog achy paws relief after a long hike. Right about now you are probably needing a foot rub, I think our as my mom for one.

16. Post hike:
After any hike, do a careful check for ticks and for any burrs or foxtails in your dog's coat, no we are talking about the plant. Foxtails can mean an expensive trip to the vet if you let them get in your dog's nose or ears, so avoid hiking through areas with lots of them.

17. First aid:
Part of your responsibility to your hiking companion is to be prepared for any scratches, cuts, scraps, bruises, & wounds along the way because accidents happen. Some antibiotic cream is a good thing to have along for both you and your dog. Also, some wrap bandage tape or gauze (which sticks to itself but not to hair or skin) is a good thing to have along.

18. Join a Caravan:
Check to see whether there's a dog-friendly hiking group in your area. Some camp grounds have canine hiking groups; others allow pets along on some hikes but not others. Never show up for a hike with your dog unless you're certain he'll be welcome (and legal), so always ask.

So go ahead have fun and enjoy the crackling fire, roasting marshmallows and singing camp-fire songs with the family.

Barkingly yours,

Lola the eco-dog

You can find this and other eco-friendly products at If you have a question or need advice from Lola the eco- dog on ways you & your dog can go green just Twitter or email her at . Lola the eco-dog is here to help!

1 comment:

Aimee said...

Great tips Lola! :) The one about not being camouflaged is pretty important too, a lot of people aren't even aware of hunting seasons.