Living in Florida, I enjoy the great outdoors with my dog year-round. In the three years Radcliff has been in my life, I have learned a thing or two. This is how I enjoy the outdoors with my dog.
“He’ll like anything you tell him to like,” a friend said after I expressed anxiety whether the dog I was adopting would like me. “He’s a dog, that’s what they do.”
I do not claim Radcliff as a service or assistant animal. There are plenty of outdoor adventures we have enjoyed together over the years. By trial and error, I have certainly learned quite a bit for having tail-wagging adventures.
Start Them Young
You can teach an old dog new tricks and I have done that with my senior pup. When I adopted him, he was not as young as the shelter claimed. Thankfully, he certainly has gone with the flow.
After speaking with friends who also take their dogs on adventures, their advice had something in common. Introduce your dogs to the great outdoors when they are young. Introducing young dogs to the sound of motorboats or finding their sea legs by balancing on a standup paddle board will make them more comfortable and confident as they grow older and introduced to more adventures.
My dog has been on a few boat trips. He is not 100 percent sure about the whole experience. Often, he comes to me for comfort, especially when water comes over the boat’s bow. Thankfully, he has been a trooper on the water.
Know Where You’re Going
Sure, spontaneous adventures are a blast but when factoring in a dog, that spontaneity may lead to disappointment. This is because not every place welcomes dogs. There are plenty local, state, and national parks that welcome pups. And, there are some private activities. But, there may be some restrictions.
For instance, Fido can walk some of the trails of Washington Oaks State Park in Palm Coast. However, he is not permitted in the formal gardens. Pups cannot visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. However, conveniently, this Florida attraction has a free, on-site kennel. Some boat, kayak, and standup paddle board operators allow them on board, but not every operator.
There are plenty of online resources with information about pet-friendly destinations and activities including BringFido.com and DogFriendly.com. These are great resources for beginning your trip-planning but check directly with the specific activity. This is because policies change quicker than website updates.
Know Your Dog’s Limits
If I had my way, my dog and I would be hand-and-leash hiking at least five miles every weekend, but he is not physically capable. He is at his optimum during the cooler months and short walks throughout the year are not a problem. My hound overheats easily, symptoms include heavy panting, weakness, and excessive drooling, and when this happens during our outdoor activities, we take a break and I give him water. Keeping him hydrated is very important.
I also keep a cooling vest with me on exceptionally hot days. Florida’s heat and humidity combined with my dog’s age and myasthenia gravis (a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disorder) is challenging but I find a way to make it work. Usually after taking a break for him to rest up, my pup pops up and is ready to continue our journey. But, there have been times when I have picked him up and carried him back to the car.
Have the Right Equipment
According to the American Pet Products Association, the pet industry is about a $72 billion industry! This includes apparel for dogs, including hiking paw booties, raincoats, and backpacks. Now, I am not fancy with Radcliff and stick to the basics. I do spend more on him than my cats. He has medical needs and travels with me.
Radcliff has his own gear bag where I keep the basics when we’re on the trail or water. Included are waste bags to pick up after him (please! Clean up after your dog!), treats, and water bottle. He usually wears a harness because it is less stress on his neck. Sometimes I wear a special belt that I clip his leash which keeps my hands free. Whenever possible, he wears a personal floatation device while on a boat. When I introduce him to kayaking, he will wear it, too.
Don’t Get Bugged
Radcliff was heartworm positive when I adopted him. I make sure he is up to date on his monthly heartworm medicine and flea and tick medicine. Florida trails can sometimes be buggy. Before getting back in the car, I check him for ticks, fleas, and anything else plant or critter that may be hitching a ride. I carry an essential oils-based insect repellent to apply on his harness and me. Not all essential oils are safe for dogs so if this is what you plan on applying to your dog, ensure all ingredients are safe.
Dog-friendly activities are limited in Florida. However, with a bit of planning, you will find plenty to do for a howl-ing good time. When I can’t find a human companion to join me, my pup is the perfect sidekick.
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