So I’ve talked about fall allergies, fleas, and ticks. You might be wondering why I’m so enamored with fall at this point! The truth is that I love outdoor time. I could spend all day every day outside and be happy. I don’t enjoy sweating and I hate bugs, I sunburn easily and I adore foliage. So I can stand the rest of it. The first week in October marks National Walk Your Dog Week. There are a few things to note in the fall, but in general, there is no better time to be out and about with your dog.
The one drawback of fall is that the days get shorter. Each night we seem to lose a little bit of daylight. Make sure you don’t get caught on a trail as it becomes dark. Plan your timing, know where you are going if you are hiking close to dusk, and always have a flashlight. So I guess you do need a light jacket and a light when you leave the house. This is the time of year when I need to start breaking out the glow collars for my dogs so that I know I’ll see them even as night falls.
Many creatures are hustling to get their food stored before winter, so animals are out and about. Animals are building nests, storing food, and putting in long hours. Make sure that your dog is up on their recall, and will listen to you when they are off-leash. Chasing deer, bear, or even smaller mammals can lead them astray.
While porcupines have been out all summer, pay special attention this time of year. Their active times tend to correlate more with our exercise times. Porcupines live in trees but often spend time on the forest floor searching for food. They are slow and they don’t run, and we all know what their defense is. While these guys cannot quill a dog unless the dog touches them, they are quite interesting creatures to most dogs. I recommend avoiding high porcupine areas and teaching your dog to come even when a fun pokey animal is waddling around near them.
Why should we think about other humans? Frankly, because people are actually pretty important. Not all people like dogs, and practically zero people like dog poop. Let’s face it, even people who love dogs don’t like dog poop. For these reasons, it is important to remember to share the trails. Since it is such a gorgeous time of year, more people get out to enjoy the scenery. The last thing we want is for these people to look badly upon dogs and their owners after stepping in landmines of dog poop.
Pick up poop or make sure it is well out of the way in the middle of the woods. No one wants to step in dog poop, especially not a stranger’s dog’s poop. Leash your dogs or ask them to wait if you see a strange person approaching. A wet, muddy dog ruining your new hiking outfit is not something many people look forward to. Some people are nervous around dogs, especially unknown dogs. Rather than provide stress, help these people see friendly well behaved pets (from a distance.) If someone wants to meet your dog, they will let you know.
Before hitting the trails make sure your dogs are up to date on vaccines. This is important for human and other dog encounters, and of course their own safety.
With the cooler weather, we tend not to think as much about dogs staying hydrated, but it is still important on long walks. Make sure you have water for your dog or there are water sources. If you are relying on streams or ponds as their source of water, make sure you have talked to your veterinarian about the leptospirosis vaccine.
Everyone loves apples. They are a hallmark of autumn. Our dogs love apples, they also love apples that have been sitting out and fermenting. Too many apples cause diarrhea, and too many fermented apples cause neurologic signs (drunkenness). YouTube may lead you to believe that drunk animals are funny, but the dog’s livers aren’t equipped to metabolize alcohol like ours are so it is far more dangerous for them.
Hunting seasons vary throughout the fall, so be aware of hunters sharing the woods, dogs chasing wildlife, or dogs becoming lost in hunting zones.
But first and last, please find some time to get out and walk with your dog while it is prime time to enjoy the beauty around us.