Have you heard of the “bystander effect”?
It’s the phenomenon where, in an emergency, a person is less likely to jump in to help if other people are around. In a crisis, our brains jump to the conclusion that someone else probably can do better or someone else will fix things. Don’t be a bystander; be proactive!
Plus, when you’re on the trails with your dog, you might not have many others around to help you and your dog. So, be prepared for first aid situations so you can always jump in and take charge of an emergency. Here’s how:
1. Be Prepared
Know what kind of risks are associated with the spot you’ll be hiking and prepare accordingly. For instance, if you’re hiking the rattlesnake-free trails of Maine, you won’t need a snake bite kit, but you would in the mountains of Colorado. Be weather smart, too. Know what the forecast holds and how it affects the area. A great way to prep for a specific hike is to call the park service office and ask. Rangers are more than happy to help hikers prepare for any potential hazards.
2. Learn a handful of basic first aid tips
You should know how to clean and dress a wound on you and your dog, along with how to assess for more serious injuries. You can’t rely on bystanders to help in an emergency! Begin to learn the basics with the free Red Cross mobile app, Pet First Aid, on Android or iPhone. Familiarize yourself with how it works so when faced with an emergency, you can scroll quickly to the tips and advice you need.
3. Pack Thoughtfully
No matter where you go, bring a comprehensive, basic first aid kit. Know how to treat cuts, scrapes, abrasions, and burns for both you and your dog. If your hiking spot is known for ticks—which you’ll know, having already called the park office to ask—stow tweezers or a tick key in your kit.
However, you don’t want to overload you or your dog’s packs with unnecessary equipment. Before you head out for a hike, always survey the contents of your first aid kit. Add what you need for that specific hike and take out what you don’t. And, of course, always pack plenty of water for you both. That alone can help prevent many on-the-trail emergencies!
4. Go the Extra Mile
Consider enrolling in a first aid class. There are many available online as well as in person. Hospitals frequently offer CPR and first aid training, and the Red Cross teaches pet-specific classes. Or, check YouTube for quick videos on basic first aid, like how to bandage a wound on your dog.
Bottom line: Don’t rely on other hikers to help you or your dog in an emergency. Be prepared for basic on-the-trail first aid for both you and your dog—then you’ll be the one who can help others in need, too!