June 1, 2019

Tips for Summer Activities

written by Tracie Nielson
founder | owner | president

One of the many reasons why I love summer is because there are so many ways to spend time with your dog. Hiking, camping, attending festivals or markets, and even sitting on one of the dog-friendly patios that are increasing in numbers, are often the most popular activities.

To help get you ready, I thought I’d share some tips and best practices so you and your dog can make the most of your adventures.

hiking

We are so incredibly fortunate to live so close to the majestic Rocky Mountains. In as little as 45 minutes we can be on a trail in Kananaskis Country! The scenery, fresh air, and feeling of accomplishment can easily become addicting. Here are some great tips to make the most of your day:

  • First thing first: ensure your dog can walk on a loose leash. A dog pulling on leash over uneven surfaces can lead to rolled ankles, tripping, or being pulled over more easily than on the smooth city sidewalks.
  • Six foot leash, not hands-free. Due to the uneven terrain, it’s easier for both you and your dog if you each can find your own footing as you explore the trails. This means allowing your dog a little more leash length so they can maneuver as necessary, and you can too!
  • Off-leash is not really an option. Not only is it an Alberta Parks Law that all dogs must be on leash (and a $250 fine if they are not!), but there are many dangers of having an off-leash dog. Squirrels, deer, bears and other animals are simply irresistible for some dogs not to chase, and this chase can lead to your dog being injured or lost. I’ll never forget a story from a few years ago of a dog who bolted for a pond, then saw and chased a beaver, and the beaver killed the dog. Being lost in the wilderness is a scary thing, and there are many stories each year of dogs who ran off never to be found again. Don’t put yourself in the position of this extreme guilt-ridden heartache.
  • Move off the path for other people to pass by. Not everyone loves dogs and some people are scared of them. Just as we practice in our training programs, calmly move off the path, put your dog in a stay, and allow others to pass by. Some dogs can feel the tightness of the path, and if another person or dog is walking directly towards your dog, it’s possible for your dog to view that as a problem that could result in reactivity. Providing that space will build your dogs confidence and it’s also a great way to practice impulse control!
  • Have proper footwear for you and your dog. There is nothing worse that being half way through your hike and getting a massive blister or cut on your foot knowing you will have to walk all the back to the car. The same is true for your dog. A cut pad half way through a hike is not something any of us want for our dog. Rocky terrain and scree slopes in the alpine region are especially hard on your dog’s paws. Be sure you understand the trails you will be traveling on and bring footwear for your dog if the conditions warrant it. Here’s our favourite hiking boot for both grip and protection! 
  • Stay hydrated! The streams and creeks in K-Country could have any number of potentially harmful parasites and bacteria so it is a good idea to bring a supply of fresh water along for your dog. They should drink about as often as you do but not too much at one time. Treat your dog the same way you treat yourself when hiking. This means you don’t drink all of your water at once and neither should your dog. A great option for water on the trail for your dog is a portable water filter which will filter any water we would encounter in the Rockies to potable water for both you and your dog. This also helps to lighten the load! Dehydration leads to heat stroke which is a life threatening condition in both humans and dogs.
  • Be prepared. Always check the weather, trail conditions (for bear sightings, closures, etc.), understand the distance and terrain before heading on your adventure.

camping

Whether you are car camping or hitting up the backcountry, camping with your dog takes some planning. There are many campgrounds that allow dogs but there are also some that don’t so always make sure to check the regulations before booking a spot. If you are planning on getting out to the great outdoors this summer and want to bring Fido, here are a few tips to think about before starting the car:

  • Camp out at home first! Pitch your tent in your backyard, or spend a few nights in your trailer parked in front of your house to get your dog comfortable with the different sleeping environment, especially how the sounds seem ‘closer’ than from inside the insulated house. If your trailer has air-conditioning, you may find it necessary to leave your dog alone at some point during your trip, so make sure your dog has practiced being left alone (even if it’s in the crate) in that environment beforehand. For tenters, your dog needs to get comfortable with being enclosed in a tight fabric shell. You don’t want them to dig at the zippers, windows, or fabric, and you also want to teach them to not bolt out of the tent when you start unzipping the exit. You’ll likely find your dog will be restless and alert the first few nights, so be patient and remember to reward them for the behaviour you want, such as calmness, quietness, and patience! 
  • Ensure your dog is comfortable being tied up. In class we practice ‘tying the dog’ and that skill certainly comes in handy while camping. Long lines are often used while camping to give our dog more space to roam, but make sure camping is not the first place you introduce it. Progress from tying the dog on a short leash to a long line so they understand the different boundaries. A calm, quiet dog will give you more freedom to leave your dog alone if necessary, such as to use the outhouse, head to the showers, or wonder down to the lake. If you leave your campsite even for an hour and your dog is barking the whole time you’re gone, you may be asked to leave. Practice in advance so you are able to leave your dog if you need to. Tie them to an area where they will be able to find shade in case the sun gets warm in the afternoon and make sure to leave out a bowl of water.
  • Teach boundaries or keep on leash. Your dog should not be wondering through to the next campsite, or rushing up to the road to greet people walking by. When you’re in your campsite, keep your dog near you, either on hands-free (which will help to create boundaries), or tethered.
  • Your dog still needs exercise! We often want to kick back and relax but remember that your dog needs exercise just like if you were at home. Walking through the campground, swimming, hiking, playing fetch are just as important as giving them mental stimulation too, such as chewing a bone, practicing tricks or obedience skills, or giving them a puzzle to solve.
  • Have a light on your dog’s collar. The moment the sun starts to go down, you should turn on a light attached to your dog so you can see where they are at, especially if they come loose or get spooked and bolt. Some lights are detachable, allowing you to unclip the light to use as a flashlight for yourself or to pick up after them.
  • Yup, your dog may require a sweater! Dog’s are used to our temperature controlled home environments, and therefore do not develop the thicker coats of outdoor-only dogs. With the mountain air being chilly, a sweater or jacket can help your dog remain comfortable.

festivals and markets

Almost every weekend, there is an outdoor festival or market you can attend. So, should you bring Rover or not? The answer is, it depends.

Crowds can be overwhelming for many dogs, resulting in the dog becoming frustrated, over aroused, or fearful. These feelings can lead to reactivity, or even aggression.

Practicing in other places first, and often, can help desensitize your dog to crowds. Instead of walking in your quiet neighbourhood, start to explore busier areas. You can start with walking the sidewalks of an outdoor shopping area (such as Beacon Hill, Westhills, etc.), then progress into downtown, and build towards the busier communities such as Mission, Kensington, 17 Avenue, or Inglewood. Pay close attention to your dog’s posture and body language as their uncomfortableness may show up very subtly. Test for relaxedness by practicing patience, skill execution, tricks, or other things your dog is good at to see if they respond in the same way they do in quiet, familiar areas.

If you do attend these activities, make sure your dog has access to water, know your dog’s triggers and limits, and be mindful of who else is around. Even if you’re not ready to leave, do what’s best for your dog.

dog-friendly patio’s

Finally! I feel like I’ve been waiting for this for years, and now more and more dog-friendly establishments are acquiring the special permit to allow dogs on their patios. There is nothing I like more than planning a new walking route with my dog that ends up at a patio where we can have a cold beverage and snack. Check out this list to start planning your next adventure!

Before heading out, be sure you can predict how your dog will respond to the experience by practicing first. Practice at home, move from your backyard to front yard for increased distractions, then progress to your friends patios. How much ‘work’ is your dog in these environments? Are they comfortable, can they relax, are they quiet?

Here’s the thing… just because you might love patios, your dog may not. And, I hate to say this, but not all dogs who show up on patio’s should be there, which always has me worried about the longevity of this change in by-law. It’s important your dog is not disruptive or destructive. Impulse control training is required so your dog can hold a down stay, refrain from visiting every table, and be able to relax in the presence of other dogs and people moving. It is not a play park, and people are there to enjoy their time without dog’s upsetting or disturbing their experience. It may only take a few complaints, or one serious incident, for restaurants to remove this perk or for the City to remove this option, so I think it’s critical we all take responsibility to ensure our own dog is truly patio ready.

What activities are you planning on doing with your dog this summer? Need some help organizing the pre-activity training? Let us know and we’ll help you build a fun plan to follow!