Wild roaming in the great outdoors with your dog is an excellent way to bond and keep them physically active and mentally stimulated. However, it's essential to be aware of potential hazards, such as wild plants, that can pose a threat to your dog's well-being. Many plants found in the wild, or even in your own yard, can be harmful when ingested or come into contact with a dog's skin. In this article, we will discuss effective strategies to protect your dog from these hazards and ensure their safety while enjoying all of the great things that nature has to offer.
1. KNOW YOUR LOCAL FLORA
Before venturing into the wilderness with your dog, it is very important that you familiarize yourself with the local flora. Learn to identify poisonous plants such as poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, which can cause severe allergic reactions in dogs. Additionally, research other hazardous plants that can embed in your dog such as foxtail, burdock and other plants that are prevalent in your region to better understand what to look for during your outdoor excursions. There are many great online resources to help you identify these hazardous plants in your specific, local region. You may want to consider adding photos and names of the different types of harmful plants into your phone so that you have a quick reference at all times.
2. KEEP YOUR DOG ON A LEASH
It’s no secret that utilizing a leash on your dog while in the outdoors is an essential safety measure. This is especially true when you are in areas that you know to have hazardous plants or any other potential hazards that could affect your dog. A leash will prevent them from wandering off into unknown areas, where they may encounter harmful plants. It will also allow you to maintain better control over your dog's movements, enabling you to steer them away from potentially dangerous vegetation.
3. USE PROTECTIVE GEAR
Investing in protective gear to shield your dog from plant-related hazards is a wise and effective investment to help protect your dog. Dog boots can safeguard their paws from prickly plants, thorns, or sharp seeds that can embed in their paws and cause injury and potential infections. Additionally, consider using a lightweight doggy jacket to minimize skin contact with harmful plants, especially if your dog has sensitive skin or allergies. There is other effective protective gear, such as head nets that you can put over your dog’s head to protect them from spikelet clusters from plants such as foxtail or other thorns and burrs found in the wild. You will want to be sure to train your dog on wearing any type of protective gear well in advance of needing them to wear it during an outdoor adventure.
4. TRAIN AND PRACTICE RECALL COMMANDS
Training your dog to respond to recall commands, such as "come" or "stay close," is crucial when encountering unfamiliar plant life. In emergency situations, being able to call your dog back quickly can prevent them from ingesting or interacting with harmful plants. Consistent training and regular practice will reinforce these commands and increase your dog's reliability. Be sure to make recall command training part of your daily routine with your dog so that it becomes second nature when out in nature.
5. CREATE A SAFE OUTDOOR SPACE
If you have a backyard or outdoor space, create a dog-friendly area by removing or fencing off dangerous plants. It’s also important to note that some plants and flowers that you may plant yourself to beautify your yard can be harmful to dogs. For example, tulips, hyacinths and irises are all considered toxic to dogs and can cause vomiting, diarrhea and drooling if ingested. It is important to always research the potential dangers of certain plants and flowers you may want to plant in your yard and to regularly inspect and maintain your yard to prevent the growth of toxic plants that could harm your dog. Consult with a local veterinarian or horticulturist to identify potentially hazardous plants and develop a plan to eliminate them from your surroundings.
6. SUPERVISE YOUR DOG'S ACTIVITIES
Maintaining close supervision of your dog's activities is crucial in safeguarding them from wild plants. Monitor their interactions with the environment, especially when exploring unfamiliar areas or engaging in off-leash play. By being attentive and proactive, you can quickly intervene if your dog shows interest in potentially harmful plant life. It is also important to inspect your dog after spending time in the wild to make sure they don’t have any spikelet clusters, burrs, thorns or other things that can create serious irritation and/or infection.
7. TRAIN A "LEAVE IT" COMMAND
Teaching your dog a "leave it" command can be a valuable tool to protect them from ingesting or interacting with harmful plants. Consistently practicing this command will help your dog understand that they should avoid certain objects or plants when instructed. Use positive reinforcement techniques, such as rewards like Mountain Wild jerky treats and praise, to reinforce this behavior. This will be a very valuable tool in helping to protect your dog from potentially very dangerous situations.
Wild roaming in the outdoors with your dog is an important and rewarding experience, but it's crucial to prioritize their safety. By familiarizing yourself with the local flora, using protective gear, maintaining control through leashes and recall commands, and creating safe outdoor spaces in your own yard, you can significantly reduce the risk of your dog encountering and being harmed by wild plants. With proper precautions and proactive supervision, you and your dog can enjoy the wonders of nature without unnecessary worries.