Editor's note: This post was originally shared in March 2017.
Hiking with your dog in the winter is rewarding and beautiful, but certainly has its challenges. A few months ago while out with my two dogs, one of them suffered an awful injury. I hope that by sharing this story and additional safety tips, you will be prepared for any emergency that may arise while hiking with your dog.
On Boxing Day, I was outside enjoying one of my favorite trails with my dogs, Clover and Riley. Riley was following Clover around a big fallen tree when all of a sudden, Riley screamed out in pain. When we got to him, his back left leg was badly injured. Luckily, I had a Buff (neck scarf) on and was able to use it to cover the wound as a tourniquet. Something sharp in the forest had severed 3 tendons, blood vessels, and some nerves in the lower part of Riley’s leg. Ouch!
We were quite a distance from the car, and with Riley unable to walk, my husband decided to carry Riley out of the forest. With the car was finally in sight, I suddenly heard my husband scream out in pain. He had slipped on a tree root and tore the meniscus in his right knee. So, both he and Riley were now down on the ground and unable to walk. Fortunately, about two minutes later, three mountain bikers showed up. They immediately jumped off their bikes, and one carried Riley to the car while the other two helped my husband to the car. The rest of the day and evening were spent at animal emergency getting Riley stitched up; my husband had surgery two weeks later. Both are now working on their physical rehab together and are en route to recovery.
This situation made me think about safety and must-haves when hiking with your dogs, especially in colder months.
Winter Hiking Must-Haves:
Dog Coat – Many dogs have long fur, but some do not. The Loft Coat was a savior during this emergency, since it kept my dog warm while he was laying in the snow and coping with his injury.
Harness – Dog harnesses are a safer option than collars when hiking. Any type of equipment can get caught in a branch or something in the woods, but it is better to have it caught on a harness than pulling on your dog’s neck from a collar.
Longline – If your dog doesn’t have a reliable recall, or if he likes to chase wildlife, hiking with a longline is a good idea. It allows your dog some freedom to explore and sniff, while at the same time keeping him close and safe.
Scarf or Bandana – It is important to have something with you that can be used as a tourniquet in case of injury. This can be life saving when your dog is bleeding.
Blankets – Having a blanket in your car is important for keeping your dog warm and out of shock in case of accident/injury.
Emergency Numbers – Be sure to program your cell phone with the nearest vet office and emergency vet hospital for holidays and after hours.
Catherine Stewart is a Certified Tellington TTouch Practitioner and Positive Reinforcement Trainer. She works with dogs from both Washington and British Columbia at her "Doggies in Paradise" facility by the sea. Catherine loves to go on adventures in the forest and the beach with her two dogs Riley and Clover. She also spends time exploring with her two Icelandic horses, Benni and Helgi. Learn more about Doggies in Paradise at http://www.doggiesinparadise.