How To Keep Your Dog Safe in the Deep Wilderness

We all enjoy sharing our outdoor experiences with our pets. There's nothing more spiritual or rewarding than to cuddle up to your dog and watch a sunrise or sunset. To share in the majestic beauty of the wilderness. There are some very important factors to consider before you head into the outdoors with "Fido".

  1. Terrain. Ask yourself: Can "Fido" handle the terrain? Is He / She in shape for this adventure? Can the terrain injure or kill my dog? What can I do to minimize the risks?

    To protect the dog from a falls off of a cliff, make sure your dog wears a HARNESS.

  2. Harness. Absolutely no collars. I've found several dogs dead in the wilderness from collars. They get hung up on branches and rocks and choke the dog to death. With a harness, you have full control of the entire dog, not just its throat. Put the dog's ID tags on the BACK of the harness. Never in front of or underneath.
  3. Bear Bell. Also place a "BEAR BELL" on the BACK of the harness. Why the back of the harness? Because your dog can hear a human heart beat 5 feet away in a quiet setting. Imagine what it would sound like having metal clanging in your ears 24/7 with an ID and a bear bell under your harness or around a collar. Give your dog a break and place all this hardware on the back of the harness. If you're climbing with your dog, watch out for crevasses and make a full webbed harness for your dog. This will support the dog's whole body weight if they take a fall.
  4. Rope Up. Make sure your dog is "Roped up to you and your climbing party". Make sure your dog is safe by keeping him close by. But don't keep him too don't want to step on your dog's paws with crampons.
  5. UV Rays. Give your dog some sunscreen protection and eye protection with dark doggy sunglasses. The glare from the ice and snow can lead to snow blindness in your dog if you're not careful.
  6. Dehydration. Keep your dog hydrated. Take plenty of water breaks.
  7. Packs. If it's a larger dog, make sure they have their own travel pack. Examine the pack so that it fits comfortably and doesn't rub your dog raw. My dog carries an avalanche beacon, her water, food, and a dog first aid kit in her pack.
  8. CONTROL. Unless you have 100% control of your dog at all times off lead, never take your dog off lead. I've had to rappel over a 300 foot cliff several times over the years, to recover a dog's body because the dog chased a chipmunk or squirrel and fell to its death. In many areas, it's illegal to have your dog off lead. Make sure you understand the laws in your hiking area.
  9. Wildlife. Porcupines, cougars, bears and snakes can all destroy a peaceful outing. Make sure you're aware of the dangers in your area and take precautions. I carry bear mace and in some areas a fire arm to protect myself and my dog from the snakes and bears.
  10. Mountain Water. Giardia and other bacteria can pose a health risk to you and your dog. Educate yourself on signs and symptoms of the bacteria and the diseases that the water you encounter on the trail can cause. The cold water can also pose hypothermia and drowning threats to your pet. If you're near water, make your dog wear a PFD (Personal flotation device). Dogs can drown just like people can drown.
  11. Shots. Make sure your dog is up on all of its shots. DHLVP, bordetalla, rabies, parvo, distemper, etc. Parasites like ticks can give your dog Lyme disease. Read up on the treatment for tick exposures. There are Lyme disease boosters you can obtain from your vet.

    Take a dog first aid class. Remember, if you get lost or injured, many search teams WILL NOT rescue your dog. They will leave it out in the wilderness to die. Unfortunately Oregon is one of these states.

I've had several arguments with the Oregon Dept. of Emergency Management regarding this issue. If we respond, we will do everything humanly possible to rescue and recover your pet. But we're a private SAR team that has the training to do this. Most teams don't.


Article written by SAR Dog Instructor Mr. Oakes

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