Keeping your dog safe on walks
We can all agree that taking your dog for a walk is one of the simple pleasures in life. Dogs benefit so much from being taken on an exciting walk with their owner – sniffing is especially good for their brain and calms them down too!
However, it is so important to think ahead to ensure your dog is as safe as possible on a walk. With more people than ever owning dogs in the UK, dog parks can sometimes become overcrowded. Plus, we are seeing hotter summers and more extreme winters, so there are many factors to consider to ensure their tails keeps wagging.
This blog will cover:
- Hot weather
- Cold weather
- Pet theft
Whilst many of us are in heaven when we see the weather forecast improving during the summer months, hot weather can be extremely dangerous for dogs, especially flat-faced breeds, bigger breeds and sighthounds. When the temperature increases, simply taking your dog out for walk can be life-threatening.
It’s very common for dogs to need veterinary care for heat-related illnesses – you might be surprised to hear it affects 10 times more dogs than those left in hot cars!
How does a dog cool down?
Unlike us, dogs can’t sweat very effectively. You’ll notice your dog starts to pant if they get too warm, which is usually effective and can cool them down. Encouraging your dog to lie in the shade, drink water and maybe hop into a paddling pool are all fantastic things to try. However, when the temperatures are rising rapidly during summer, these methods don’t work so well and a dog’s temperature can get too high.
Sign of a heatstroke
If a dog’s body temperature gets too high, they are at serious risk of developing heatstroke. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms that we have listed below. In these cases, it is vital to call your vet immediately. You can also employ RSPCA’s first aid advice.
- Breathing heavily, panting and drooling
- Less energy and more lethargic
- Glassy, panicked eyes
Best practise for walking your dog in hot weather
- Never leave dogs in hot cars (even if only for a short while). When it’s 22°C outside, temperatures can quickly rise to 47°C (117°F) in these environments, which can be fatal (this also applies to conservatories, outbuildings and caravans)
- Use pet-safe sun cream on exposed parts of your pet’s skin, such as the tips of their ears and nose, to avoid sunburn. This is especially important if your dog has white or light-coloured fur, as they can be very vulnerable to getting burnt. If you’re unsure which is the right product to use, please ask your vet
- Ensure pets always have access to shade and fresh drinking water to help keep them cool
- Walk somewhere shaded like a woodland rather than an open park. It’s considerably cooler under the trees
- Touch the pavement with your hand – if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. Either walk them later in the day when it’s cooler, or you can purchase boots to keep your dogs paws safe
- Walk early in the morning (before the sun is at its warmest) and later in the evening. Avoid walking your dog in the middle of the day
- Don’t run or jog with your dog during hot weather. We’d also recommend not throwing a ball or a frisbee for them to avoid running around
- It’s best to keep your dog on the lead in hot weather – this way you can control their pace to keep them cooler
- Remember, in all weather, if you’re letting your dog off the lead be sure that they have reliable recall. This is especially important for dogs who don’t want to meet other dogs – they might be in training, be especially nervous or are recovering from surgery
During the winter months, there are still important factors for you to consider to keep you and your dog safe.
- If you have an elderly dog, sick dog or a skinny dog (like a greyhound, saluki, whippet), buy a coat or a jumper for them to stay warm when they’re outside
- Stay safe by wearing reflective clothing. You can also purchase reflective gear or lights for your dog’s collar so people can spot you easily
- Keep your dog away from ponds and lakes that may be iced over as there is a risk of them falling through
- If it is snowing outside, be aware of your dogs paws. Snow may become compacted between their toes and grit can be incredibly painful for their feet. Consider purchasing winter boots for your dog!
- Bear in mind that many winter products such as antifreeze and rock salt can be poisonous. Remember to wash your dog’s paws in warm water after their walk
Preventing pet theft
We can’t imagine how distressing it must be for families who have had their dog stolen. It’s a horrible thing to think about, but we think it is best to be prepared so you can take action to prevent it happening. Here are some tips to keep your beloved pet safe:
- Never leave your dog tied up outside a shop or in a car on their own
- Ensure your dog has good recall when they are off the lead. If they need more work on this, make sure to practise in a safe, enclosed space. Alternatively, you can use a long line lead (remember to have your dog on a harness, rather than a collar to avoid strain on their neck)
- Ensure your garden is secure, and fit your gate with a lock
- Make sure your dog is microchipped (this is now a legal requirement)
- Ensure your dog wears a collar / harness with an ID tag. Make sure your phone number is on there, but we’d avoid engraving your dog’s name (as this can make it easier for dog thieves to call your dog and put them at ease to walk away with them)
- If you use a dog walker or dog sitter, make sure to use a reputable company, check their references and reading reviews online
If the worst happens and your dog goes missing (and you think they may have been stolen), our advice is to report it to the police, inform the microchip database to report them as missing (this way you’ll be informed if someone tries to re-register your dog’s chip), inform the dog warden and also tell your local vet and rehoming centres. Next, gather friends and neighbours to check your home and local area thoroughly.
Many people have had success with making lost dog posters and displaying them in their local area. We’d also recommend posting information on social media to spread the word and keep an eye open.