Protecting your pooch: Five hazards to avoid on dog walks
As any dog owner knows, it’s crucial to take your four-legged friend out for some fresh air and exercise every day. But when you take your dog for their daily run around, there can be more hazards waiting for you than you may realise. Pet healthcare specialists Bob Martin break down five key dangers you and your dog may encounter and share their top tips on how to avoid them.
1. Weather conditions
One of the more obvious yet important hazards posed when walking your dog is the elements. If there’s any adverse weather, be that cold, warm, or wet, remember that your dog needs adequate protection just as much as you do. Smaller dogs or those with a shorter coat will need a jacket to keep their core temperature up, whereas those with thicker fur or cold weather dogs like huskies can handle lower temperatures better. If there’s snow and ice that could get treacherous then the conditions may even call for snow boots, which are equal parts practical and adorable.
However, the summer months can be just as hazardous to dogs as they can get dehydrated or overheat. As well as keeping walks shorter on hot days, always carry a water bowl for drink breaks and find opportunities for your pooch to play in the shade. A good rule of thumb when walking on pavements or similar surfaces is to hold the back of your hand against it for ten seconds: if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws, so try to find some cooler terrain like grass.
If you need to walk near busy roads, be sure to keep your dog on a short lead and as far away from traffic as possible. If you can only walk them in the evenings, be sure to fit them with a reflective coat or LED collar — and wear reflective materials yourself — so that both you and your pooch can be seen by passing cars.
2. Edible hazards or pests
Your dog will no doubt be excited about every new sound and smell they discover outside, but this can often mean they encounter pests or edible dangers. Playing in grass and woodlands can result in ticks or fleas that are not only uncomfortable for your dog but also very inconvenient for you! Try to keep up a regular routine of flea and tick treatment to keep any contact with pests under control.
Not only is it common courtesy to pick up after your dog and prevent others from standing in it, but they can get worms and a whole host of illnesses from eating other dogs’ mess. However, certain plants can also be harmful if eaten, such as acorns, fungi, or spring bulbs, so be alert during every walk and always check when your dog looks like they’ve got something in their mouth.
3. Water safety
Most dogs relish the thought of jumping into the nearest pond or lake, and it’s undoubtedly fun for owner and pet alike. However, if you’re not careful this can sometimes prove to be dangerous: for instance, it’s best not to let them in the water if it’s a cold day, as this may overexpose them to the low temperatures.
Similarly, if your dog isn’t trained to respond to your calls yet, it’s best to avoid letting them in any open water and instead stick to paddling in ponds or brooks. While they may be having fun swimming in deeper waters, they can easily get swept out in rivers with strong currents and this is a particular hazard when walking your dog by the sea. Always keep them in your sights when swimming anywhere and have a ball or a treat with you in case you need to lure them back.
4. Other dogs
Especially if your dog is young or naturally excitable, encountering other dogs can make your walks a little chaotic. When heading into a busy dog park for the first time, keep your pooch on a short lead (preferably with a harness, which is often more comfortable than a collar) to keep them from jumping at any passing dogs and their owners.
However, even if your dog is well socialised and obedient off the lead, others may not be. While it’s perfectly fine to let your dog sniff and meet other furry friends, if they seem wary or even aggressive in temperament it’s best to stay at a distance and keep to yourselves, to avoid any confrontation.
5. Getting lost
According to research by More Than, approximately five dogs go missing in the UK every single day. Whether it’s running away, getting stolen, or simply going missing without explanation, one in 10 owners have reportedly experienced this heartbreak and worry over losing their dog.
The most effective way to prevent this is by microchipping your pets as soon as you get them. This dramatically increases the chances of finding your dog if they get lost, and it’s a relatively pain-free and inexpensive procedure to do. Just be sure to have recent pictures of your dog to go alongside their ID and microchip information (as if our camera rolls weren’t full of them already!).
As well as microchipping, be sure to fit your dog with a nametag that includes your phone number in case they wander off and get found by somebody else. Most importantly, before undertaking more remote walks or letting them roam free off the lead, you should be confident that they will respond to their name and return to you when called.
(Image courtesy of Dariusz Grosa)