Get Outdoors With Your Dogs!

Atricle written by Dr. Michael Wanchick

Most dogs, regardless of size, make excellent companions for summertime outdoor activities. When my dog Guinness, a Great Dane, sees me carrying my backpack or hiking boots, he races to the door wagging his tail with anticipation. He has been camping, boating and hiking with me for years and always makes the trip much more enjoyable. Here are a few guidelines for safely enjoying the outdoors with your pooch.

Hiking With Your Dog

Guinness and I have hiked many of Georgia’s beautiful trails. One of my favorites, Panther Creek Trail, is a moderate 7.5 mile round trip including a scenic waterfall. Always remember before you embark on a hiking trip with your dog to consider several things. 

  • Fitness: Hiking can be more physically challenging to dogs then regular walking. Hiking pathways can be uneven, rocky and can involve some elevation gain. Your dog’s overall fitness is extremely important to consider when choosing your hiking location.
  • Health: Your dog may have health considerations that affect their ability to maintain strenuous activity. Conditions like heart disease, joint pain, osteoarthritis need to be taken into account when planning
  • Behavior: Just because you’ll be in the woods doesn’t mean you’ll be alone. Ensure your dog will follow verbal commands if offleash. It is important they are social toward other people and dogs. Trails are often narrow, so plan on passing both other hikers and dogs when on the trail. If your dog is aggressive or protective toward you, hiking may not be the best activity for them.

Boating With Your Dog

  • Buy a doggie life jacket - Even if your dog is a great swimmer. We flipped our canoe several years back and while I lost my keys and camera, Guinness and I were unscratched. A properly sized life jacket will help keep your dog on top of the water AND give you a handle to lift or pull them out when needed. You don’t ever want to pull their collar with their body submerged.
  • Bring a first aid kit 
  • Visit the boat prior to your trip - Let your dog get acquainted with your boat before taking him or her out onto the water. If this is the first time on a boat, let them board while it’s on the trailer so they can get used to their surroundings. • Check your local laws – Some areas prohibit animals on a boat.
  • Keep your dog’s initial boat outing short - It’s best to keep their first boat ride short so they can get use to the movement of the boat. They can also get seasick so be prepared. There are several pet anti-nausea medications that work great for motion sickness.
  • Provide sunscreen for short haired dogs - Use a light SPF 15 spray as needed
  • Keep your dog hydrated - Keep track of your dog to ensure that he or she doesn’t overheat. Have plenty of fresh water for them to stay hydrated and provide plenty of shade to keep them out of the sun.
  • Most of all use common sense - If there are slippery areas, block them off. Be aware of where your dog is at all times, just like you would if it was your child.

If you have any questions about your pet, be sure to contact us!

Dr. Michael A. Wanchick, a native of West Virginia, obtained his undergraduate degree in microbiology and biochemistry at Miami University, a master's degree in biology at Georgia Southern University, and his doctorate at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine.

Prior to opening Russell Ridge Animal Hospital in 2003 with Dr. Miller, he practiced small and mixed-animal medicine and surgery in Athens & Monroe, Georgia.  He enjoys dermatology, ophthalmology and preventative care medicine.  He and his family reside in Buford and have a great Dane, a Jack Russell terrier,a chihuahua and two cats.  He also enjoys boating, tennis, camping and backpacking.  

Dr. Wanchick practices primarily at the Apalachee Ridge location.