The wisteria bushes are budding, the grass is starting to grow and the flowering plum and crabapple trees have turned our neighborhood into a colorful landscape. Many of our friends and neighbors are out and about, enjoying the recent warm days after a chilly winter.
We are blessed to live in a neighborhood that offers great walking routes and several parks for rambling. The nearby Sandia Mountains and numerous open spaces make our city ideal for heading outdoors with your canine friends. We have a few tips to help make your outings fun for everyone.
Make an appointment with one of our veterinarians to clear your dog for any new physical activity. This is especially important for older dogs that may have joint issues but is also important for growing puppies that have immature joints. We can help outline an appropriate exercise regimen for your dog. It is also important to remember that many of us have stayed fit over the winter by going to the gym or hitting the slopes while our dogs have been on the couch. They may not be as fit as you are, especially early in the season. Be thoughtful when deciding how far to run, walk or hike with the pups, especially early in the season.
Use proper exercise equipment. For stable control over your dog, use a sturdy leash that is 4 to 6 feet long attached to a properly fitting collar or harness. We recommend using a Gentle Leader or a harness such as the Freedom No Pull Harness, which provide good control with dogs that like to pull when walking. Retractable leashes do allow more freedom but aren’t the best restraint for walking, especially in situations where you need to control your dog quickly to avoid situations like approaching unleashed dogs or other hazards.
Wear proper attire and remember that your dog is still wearing his or her winter coat. We are able to pull out our shorts and t-shirts on these mild spring days, but our dogs don’t have that option. Avoid excessive vigorous activity in the middle of sunny days as heat can be an issue for our friends due to extra winter weight and a thick coat. Mornings and evenings are best for these outings, even in the spring.
Check those tootsies. After a walk, it is a good idea to look at your dog’s paws. Check for cuts, bruises and foreign bodies like goatheads, foxtails and splinters. Clean between the toes (where foxtails love to hide) and around the footpads. If you are returning from the mountains, ticks could have hitched a ride with your pup, so look for them around the ears and on the feet.
Be prepared for cleanup. A nice long walk is a great time for your dogs to “do their business.” Be a conscientious dog owner and steer your dog away from your neighbor’s lawn. Bring along plastic bags to clean up after the event. Many of our parks have bag dispensers, so you can “restock” if you find yourself without a bag. The “There is No Poop Fairy” signs around town sum it up nicely. ALWAYS pick up after your dog!
Keep hydrated. Staying hydrated is important for both you and your dog. Bring along a collapsible dog bowl or water bottle fitted with a special spout that allows your dog to sip easily. Offer frequent drinks on long walks and in hot weather.
Be seen. If you walk or run early in the morning or late in the evening, make sure you and your dog are visible to drivers and cyclists. Reflective gear is great but only works if the vehicle’s headlights hit you; that isn’t much help if a vehicle backs down a driveway unexpectedly. Lights for both you and your dog are the best way to be seen. You can find small clip-on lights online, at pet stores or at sporting goods stores.
Warm up and cool down. Allow your dog a little time to warm up his or her muscles before setting out on a vigorous walk or run. Allowing time to smell the flowers and take a potty break will help satisfy his or her curiosity and decrease the number of potty stops during your walk. Cool down a bit by strolling slowly for the last part of the walk.
Heading out with your dog should be an enjoyable time for both of you. So stay safe, have fun and we will see you in the neighborhood.