Spring is upon us! With the rising temperatures and nicer weather, many dogs and their families begin venturing outdoors in search of fun things to do together, and some cats may start demanding outside time.
As spring arrives, there are some things that you, as a responsible pet owner, can do to ensure everyone has a safe and fun time.
If you are going to be hiking, running, or biking with your dog, please make sure that you start off slow. Some dogs love exercise with their human, but it takes time and training for a dog to build that endurance and muscle that they might need to keep up with you (especially if they’ve taken a break over the winter and you’ve kept exercising). Just like for humans, it takes time to build up the strength needed to run so far (or to run at all).
Pushing your dog too hard, too fast can result in injury and illness. Visit your veterinarian to make sure your dog is healthy enough for such activity and for suggestions on building up to more exercise.
During outdoor activities, make sure that your dog has access to fresh, clean water and given lots of breaks to cool down.
When taking your dog out and about, it’s also important to keep an eye out for signals that he might be stressed. Although you might like going to dog-friendly events, it might be too overwhelming for your dog. Your dog relies on you to keep him safe. If something becomes too stressful for him, he counts on you to make the right decisions based on his needs. In some cases, this means moving to a quieter location or not allowing people to pet him. Other times, this means leaving the situation altogether.
Common body language that indicates stress include:
- Lip licking.
n Avoiding/moving away from the thing that makes them uncomfortable.
- Head turns (e.g. if someone is reaching a hand out to pet your dog’s head and he turns his head from the hand).
Respect leash laws and keep your dog on a leash when you are going to public places. If you are going to be in high-traffic places (such as along city sidewalks) a 4-foot or 6-foot leash is recommended. Your dog might like people, but not all people like dogs. Flexi-leads (those with plastic handles with an expanding leash) are not good for walking dogs — they can be very difficult to reel your dog back toward you if needed.
Even while on hikes, it’s a good idea to keep your dog on a leash. If you’d like him to have more room to roam, you can use a “long line,” which comes in lengths ranging from 15 to 50 feet. Keeping your dog leashed keeps your dog safe, prevents him from getting lost and helps control his interactions with other dogs and people.
Respect the space of other dogs and their owners. Do not allow your dog to run up to another dog. Just because your dog might do well with other dogs, the other dog may not be happy with that kind of interaction, as it can be very rude behavior in the doggie world.
Before you interact with a dog you don’t know, it’s important to ask the owner’s permission. A dog might not be comfortable with strangers reaching out, he might be shy, or he might love greeting new people but can get a little jumpy and mouthy and his owner is working on training him. Whatever the reason, to keep everyone safe and happy, always ask before interacting.
Springtime weather can get cats itching to spend time outdoors, too. Outdoor access can be dangerous for house cats, and frustrating for neighbors, so cat owners should follow these tips if your cat will be going outside:
- Consider alternatives to roaming or full outdoor access, like a “catio”, cat harness and leash, or supervised time in your fenced yard.
- Set consistent feeding times so that if your cat is allowed to roam, you and the cat both know when he should be back home for dinner.
- Make sure your cat is microchipped and has a breakaway collar and ID tag on. If your cat is found by someone they will be able to contact you right away.
- Make sure your cat is spayed or neutered. Altered cats are less likely to roam far, spray or urine mark, get into fights with other cats, and create more kittens.
- Make sure your cat is up to date on vaccines, especially rabies. There have been cases in this area in recent years of domestic cats catching rabies from wild animals.
By following the above tips, you can help make sure that you, your pets, and everyone else can all have a safe, fun spring.
— Ashley Atkinson is a CPDT-KA and canine behavior and training coordinator at the Kitsap Humane Society.