Monday, August 4, 2008

Think Twice Before Taking Your Pooch to a Picnic

(ARA) - This scenario plays out everywhere. You’re about to head out to a picnic or other outdoor gathering and you know that dog of yours loves going to the park. It can be difficult to leave a beloved pet at home. However, before you melt and reach for the leash when the dog looks at you with pleading eyes, there are many things to consider.

“Taking your dog with you on a picnic can be a wonderful experience. It can also turn into a nightmare if you are not properly prepared,“ says Paula Lind (CVT, BS) chair of the veterinary technology program at Argosy University, Twin Cities. According to Lind, you should inquire ahead of time whether the picnic location allows pets. Many parks ban dogs altogether, and arriving with your pooch could prohibit you from attending the event.

To help ensure an enjoyable experience for all, Lind recommends that dog owners consider several basic issues before taking a pet to a picnic.

* Vaccinations. The New York Department of Health reports that raccoons present a growing risk for rabies, particularly across the eastern seaboard. Be sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date before exposure to wooded areas and other wild or domestic animals.

* Obedience Training. “A dog must be trained at home with no distractions,” says Lind. “Children running and throwing balls are big distractions that can put stress on a dog. It’s impossible to teach anything when a dog is stressed. If the ‘down’ and ‘stay’ commands are not heeded in the home, it’s not fair to expect that the dog will behave elsewhere. Another consideration is proper off-leash obedience. Do you have reliable recall? Can you get him back if he takes off? If not, it becomes a safety issue.”

* Socialization. “Many unfortunate situations can occur when a dog is not properly socialized. Consider how your dog reacts to children, strangers and other animals” says Lind. A dog that jumps up to say hello can frighten a child and become a nuisance to other guests. One that becomes aggressive toward other dogs should not attend a gathering where another animal could be present.

* Supplies. When a trusted dog with established training accompanies you to a picnic, it’s important to take supplies with you. Lind outlines these basic items: water supply and bowl, food, leash and/or chain, appropriate treats, a toy to keep your pet occupied, and “poop bags” for waste disposal. Lind recommends not allowing guests to feed your pet “people food,” which can cause an upset stomach on the ride home.

* Backup Plan. If your pet disrupts an event away from home, you will need to remove the dog to a safe place. What will you do? “Cars become dangerously hot in the summer months, even with the windows down. Unless you’re prepared to leave early and take your pet home, you will need to arrange for the dog’s safekeeping for the duration of your stay at the event,” states Lind.

“It’s all about training, socialization, and common sense,” says Lind. A dog that is well behaved at home, and proven to be a “good canine citizen” in public, can be a welcome addition at a picnic or outdoor gathering. “As a general rule, if the dog can’t walk on a leash properly around the neighborhood, please don’t take him,” Lind says.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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