As we all know, walking a dog isn't just a walk...its bonding, exploring and on that rare occasion heart stopping terror...
So, here's a quick list of the potential dangers you may encounter out on a walk with your best friend:
- Stray Dogs (aggressive)
- Poisonous Plants
- Sudden Storms
- Pet Emergencies
First off, never ever accept the fact that while crossing a street, even with the walk signal, that people are paying attention. Chances are they are not. Most people these days are in a rush or even worse, on their cell phone. I encountered this today when I was crossing a busy road with Mara and someone on a cell phone came inches from hitting me and Mara. Always be alert to what motorists are doing and be prepared to encounter the zombies behind the wheel.
Stray Dogs (aggressive)
This has happened to me more than once, and I cant describe the adrenaline rush that occurs except to say you shake for a good hour after the encounter. Being prepared is by far the best thing you can be. The first thing to do is to try to remain calm. Second, in a DEEP commanding voice tell the other dog "GO HOME"...try not to scream in a high pitch, you have to try to defuse the situation before it escalates. This has worked for me, even with a pit bull that jumped the fence and came after me and Mara (side note: Mara was ready to rock and roll! she got between me and the other dog...not good...but at least she showed some protective qualities) - if telling the other dog to go home, and the aggressive posturing starts (hair raising, ears back, snarling, tail down) - Stage 2 has just arrived - Stage 2 is PEPPER SPRAY...don't bother getting the stuff marked for dogs...get the highest grade, stop a grizzly bear stuff, preferably foam - foam wont blow back in your face if there is a breeze.
Wildlife & Poisonous Plants
Here in the suburbs of Chicago, we have deer, raccoons, possums and the ever so fun Mr. Skunk. Keep your dog on a tight lead...I'm not a big fan of retractable leads for this reason. You need to be able to keep control of your dog and where they go in case there is a meeting of the animal kingdom. The same goes for plants that may make your dog sick or worse.
Before going on any walk, check the weather...if a storm pops up, seek shelter asap. Some dogs are extremely agitated when a storm approaches and more likely to try to run off. Needless to say, even if lightning is not present at the time, do not seek shelter under a tree...just not a good idea. Most forest preserves have covered shelter on cement or enclosed restrooms.
I'm certified in Pet First Aid and CPR - I felt it was not only necessary for my business, but for being a pet owner as well. This past year we saw one of the hottest summers on record, thank god its over...there were stretches of time that I would not walk Mara. When I did, it was late at night or very early in the AM. There are so many things that can come up on a walk; injuries, insect stings, heat stroke...again, being prepared for such things takes stress off of you should the need arise.
I carry a small first aid kit with the basics with me at all times. You can purchase these through the American Red Cross or find them on EBay. I got mine at REI and added materials for bee stings, allergic reactions and diabetic pet emergencies. Hopefully you never have need of it, but if you do, it's there.
I recommend that all my clients take a basic Pet First Aid/CPR coarse, they are inexpensive and if you go through a local shelter that is certified, most of the proceeds go to the shelter, so its a win win!!
With all these situations, I can't stress enough how important it is to be AWARE of your surroundings and of your dog. If you are going to listen to your Ipod, like I do...keep one ear bud out, that way you can hear if someone is coming up behind you...especially bicycalists on a path. Keep you and your dog hydrated and most of all.....
Enjoy the walk!!!