Six Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe This Hiking Season

By Maggie Evans CPDT-KA

Hiking shoes, check. Backpack, check. 4-legged best friend, check. Think you have everything you need for your trip to Southern Utah? Not quite. Here are six things you need to know to keep your furry family safe in Red Rock country this season.

  1. Bring the Benadryl

As temperatures rise so do encounters with snakes, scorpions, bees and other stinging or poisonous creatures. Chances are, an inquisitive pup is likely to be stung or bit on the face. Administering Benadryl right away can help reduce swelling, serious reactions and help keep the airway open as you make your way to the vet. The common dosage is 1mg of Benadryl per pound of body weight. Make sure to talk to your vet about how much Benadryl you should give your dog in case of an emergency. I always keep emergency children’s chewable Benadryl in the car. Not only is it quickly absorbed, it tastes great and your dog will happily comply. Be sure to check the ingredient list! Sometimes children’s medication contains artificial sweeteners like Xylitol, which can be dangerous for your dog.  In the event of a rattlesnake bite, giving Benadryl to your dog on the way to the vet can be lifesaving. Make sure to only give the recommended dosage by your vet. Don’t give aspirin or any other pain relievers as tempting as it might be. Aspirin or other meds may worsen the effect of the venom.

  1. Pack your pup’s First aid kit

A dog first aid kit looks similar to our own. Here at the Hite Outpost we sell dog med kits or you can make your own. While it’s important to add self-adhesive bandages, antibiotic ointment and dressings there are a few major differences. Pack extra vet wrap or other self-adhering bandages. These will be more stable and help make it harder for your dog to remove bandages through chewing, scratching or pawing at them. Pack a light, portable cloth muzzle. While your dog may be a sweetheart, pain and injury can be very frightening and your dog may thrash around or attempt to bite you. Using a muzzle as you administer care can help you do what you need to much more quickly and safely. Tweezers and tick removers are important items, too. Don’t forget the Benadryl

  1. Keep them leashed

There is so much more than knowing which trails allow dogs and staying compliant with leash laws. Unleashed dogs can quickly attract predators, and a scared dog will come running back to you, with a mountain lion or black bear not far behind. While you may not think of it, cattle are also common in many of our recreation areas and BLM land. While cows may be docile, loose dogs can aggravate cattle that can quickly become a dangerous situation. Lastly, dogs off leash can damage delicate, living cryptobiotic soil. Once disturbed it can take years to recover, and even one paw print can cause areas surrounding the damage to die.

  1. Have an evacuation plan

Know which veterinarians are closest to where you will be going. Know which vets stock snake anti-venom. What kind of afterhours or emergency care does the nearest vet have? Make sure you have phone numbers, after-hours information and directions WRITTEN down. This is important as most of us are so used to just Googling this information. Many of our areas are quite isolated with sketchy phone reception making it impossible to search for information when you need it most.

  1. Consider the rattlesnake vaccine

Did you know you can vaccinate your dog against rattlesnake bites? This vaccine is considered effective for about 6 months after being vaccinated, requiring a booster one month after the first shot is given. While a trip to the vet is still needed in case of a bite, a vaccine can buy you lifesaving time, reduce swelling and save money on costly anti-venom. While generally considered safe, this vaccine’s effectiveness is considered controversial. Many veterinarians swear by the vaccine, while others may not recommend it. Ask your vet if it’s something they offer.

  1. Train before trails

Does your dog have a solid “leave it” cue? This is a command to ask your dog to leave whatever they are showing interest in and can be invaluable for dogs who love to sniff under rocks and bushes or dogs who love to chase (and often ingest) insects and other animals. In our next article, I’ll go over how to train this and other important tricks for every type of adventure. What about Snake Aversion Training? This type of training is only performed by a professional. This training takes around 30 minutes or less and a retest is recommended each year. Depending on where you will be taking your dog and which activities you are doing, this may be worth considering. Talk to your vet about the pros and cons of Snake Aversion Training. Jack Russels, Dachshunds and other prey driven breeds sometimes show more aggression and interest in rattlesnakes after the training, so it’s important to talk to your vet to make sure it’s the right choice for you and your pet. I hope you learned a new way to help keep your dog safe and happy! Don’t forget the water and keep your pet cool and hydrated while hiking this summer. Let us know in comments your thoughts, or other tips and tricks you’d like us to feature in our next post.

About the Author: Maggie is the General Manager of the Hite Outpost and Adventure Center. Before the move to Hite, Utah she was a certified professional dog trainer with the CCPDT and an FSDS service dog trainer and evaluator for over 15 years. When she isn’t managing the store, she’s out on the trails with her two sighthounds, Bob and Ralph. Feel free to stop into the Hite Outpost store for more dog advice, or email us at hite@ticaboo.com.