K9 Coach – Let’s Take this Outside


Believe it or not, the winter will soon be behind us. Soon our 4-legged friends will be able to enjoy romping in the great outdoors without the uncertainty of their footing.

As all dog lovers know, especially those of us with coated breeds, as soon as we see the end of the snow we see the beginning of the mud.  Burrs and mud can be quite a dilemma for a lot of our dogs, and it is best if we can try to avoid extensive grooming every time they come home. Sometimes it is a matter of speaking to your groomer to discuss clipping the hair a bit shorter during the spring, but the other option is dressing for success.  There are now dog coats available that are perfect.  They are 4-legged nylon windbreakers and keep all the burrs and mud on the outside. Of course, you can always scout around to find locations that are higher up, with less brush to cope with.

The great outdoors provides us with more challenges than simply the weather.  There are many dogs that enjoy outdoor vacations. Many dogs are seasoned campers and can’t wait to see the tent going into the car.  There are also those that might be waiting to enjoy their first adventure into the wilderness. Camping is a great experience, and taking your dog along to enjoy the scene can be rewarding if everyone is prepared.

Like us, some dogs can be sensitive to food and water changes.  Best to bring a filter for a water jug or to pack enough bottled water for you and your dog.  Speaking of water, while we think that a dog drinking from puddles is just icky, it may also bring on a bout of parasites. Giardia is a common internal parasite that can be found in infected water, especially water that is frequented by critters such as raccoons. Giardia can be spread to our pets if they drink from infected ponds and creeks.

Make sure that you have enough food on hand for the duration of your trip, then add extra. I happen to live with a dog that has a lot of food allergies so it is important that I am well prepared every time I go away.  Ask about restrictions at the border, in case you are crossing it on your travels. I recently read an article in the newspaper that states that while you can bring pet foods across the border, the ingredient list can’t include sheep or goat. A lot of our dogs eat lamb-based products so you will need to research a source for your dog’s food shortly after you cross. Best to check ahead and find a store that stocks what you need, and even ask if it can be held for you.

Vaccines are another consideration. Always check ahead of time before crossing the border to make sure your dog has the paperwork required. Also speak to your Veterinarian about any additional vaccines or additional parasite protection you might need for being in a different environment. The bugs can be bad at certain times of the year for both people and pets. Your veterinarian should be able to direct you to products to help keep the bugs away.

We also need to look at what kind of dogs like to camp. Like people, some dogs love to camp and boat, and while others prefer to stay at a 5 star hotel. Some dogs are not necessarily cut out for “ruff-ing” it. Dogs that are uncomfortable in strange places, don’t like to meet new people or are under-confident might have a difficult time with the whole setting. Of course, if you are camping in a decked-out RV, it should be just fine. Take along a familiar blanket plus their own dishes and toys and they will thank you for it. I am always surprised when I go boating with my dogs. Even when they were new to it, they seemed to be quite comfortable and settle in well, and their own beds on board seemed to ease the process.

Setting up your car for dog safety is also important. Your dog should be crated or in a seat-belt harness so he can’t wander around the vehicle. Keep some paper towels handy for any accidents and consider putting a blanket down on the seat so he can have a place for his muddy feet. Always make sure that you have your dog’s identification tags on a well-fitted collar. The tags should have up-to-date information. If you have added a cellphone number recently or have a phone number of the place you will be staying at, make sure you get a new tag made. Look up the phone number of a veterinarian that is in the area you are staying, and call ahead for their office hours. It is far better to be prepared than struggling during a crisis. Keep all dog’s paperwork with you, and all medications in water proof bottles. Make sure you have any prescriptions filled before leaving. Your First Aid kit should include supplies that might also be needed for your dog. A cut foot on your dog will require more than a Band-Aid, it will require some gauze and some bandage tape until you can get to a vet.

It is important to always be aware of any arrangements you have to make when you travel with your dog. The stops you make along the way will need to be drive-through or have a picnic area. Many of these stops can take a while to get served, so if you are traveling alone you need to pack a lunch and share it when you stop for a pee break. You won’t be able to leave your dog alone in the car.

There are also restrictions on many of the public beaches. If you are going to a campground, call ahead first. If your dog is not allowed on the beach, and must be left at base camp, you might want to give some thought to this situation first.  I have spent many years camping and boating and am always amazed at the number of campers that have left their dog in a crate or an x-pen at their site, unattended, for the entire day. Many dogs spend the day barking in distress, which in turn can upset other campers not to mention the stress it can cause your pet. This is no way to enjoy the great outdoors with your pets. Unless you can take your dog with you to the beach area, you might want to reconsider and put your dog into a camp specifically designed to let them enjoy their own vacation.

The great outdoors is one of life’s greatest places and sharing it with your dog is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I find nothing more relaxing or fulfilling than tossing a ball at the beach or hiking through the woods with my dogs. Taking the time to prepare will make it even more enjoyable.



is the Director of Who’s Walking Who Dog Training Centres in Toronto and Ajax, Ontario.  She has been featured on many radio and television programs and penned  a monthly column in Dogs in Canada Magazine for nine years.  Gillian is also a guest lecturer at the University of Toronto, using dogs to shed light on learning theory to psychology students.  She shares her home with two dogs, and is involved in dog sports and canine performance teams.