Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hiking with your dog

When we first got Lily from the shelter, we had already been told repeatedly "a good dog is a tired dog and a tired dog is a happy owner!" We had done research on the breed that was right for us and had been searching for an American Pit Bull Terrier to join our family. Erik and I are very active and enjoy being out in nature so we went with an active breed that would hike for miles with us on the weekends. We started out slow with Lily. The first trail we chose was only a few miles roundtrip and included a river so she would be able to drink and cool off. Our destination was a waterfall where we could rest before returning to the car. It was a 4 mile roundtrip hike and the pup was only about 4 months old. She loved it. Not only did she enjoy the scents of the trail and the sounds of the forest, she had fun greeting all the people and dogs we passed on the trail. When we got back to the car, she fell asleep on the backseat. She was out for the rest of the day!

Dogs need a break from their normal, everyday walk. Trails offer different smells and terrain than your neighborhood. They bring a bit of excitement into your dogs life! This is my favorite time of year to hike Lily. The days are cool, sometimes overcast, so she does better and can go for longer distances. The rain draws new scents out of the ground so even a trail we have done before seems like a brand new one to her. It's hard to describe to someone how happy my dog is on the trail. If you hike with your dog, you have seen it as well. Her tail curves upward and wags frequently. She will turn and look me every few minutes with her big pit bull grin that seems to say "isn't this GREAT, Mom!" Lily just loves being out in nature. It's such good exercise for her, as well as great mental stimulation.

I recommend checking for trails in your area at We have found many good ones listed on this website. They have reviews of the hikes, which can be very helpful especially when the initial description of the trail is a few years old and recent weather has changed the trail a bit. The hikes also clearly state whether or not you are allowed to hike with dogs. You can also see whether you will need to be on the lookout for mountain bikes and horses. Once you have decided on your trail, you will need to fill your backpack. We take water, snacks (for Lily too!) and a first aid kit incase she gets injured. We purchased one at the pet store and threw it in the pack, but you can also google Pet First Aid Kits and put together your own. Better safe than sorry.

Part of being a responsible owner is keeping your dog on leash in areas where there are leash laws and on trails you will be sharing with mountain bikes and horses. Not all horses like dogs no matter how charming your dog might be. We share the mountains with others so we need to be respectful of them. No one wants your dog rushing up to startle their horse and you certainly don't want your dog kicked or trampled. On most of the trails we travel, mountain bikers have no clue of etiquette. There are too many close calls with rude bikers so we recommend having your dog on a leash even when one isn't required in these areas. Bikes come racing down the mountain with little thought of anyone around them and we have seen so many tragic accidents, including one that resulted in the death of a horse, while we are out there. It's just not worth risking. (Note: the picture of Lily above was on a trail in a remote part of Northeastern Oregon where mountain bikers and horses are not allowed so we let her off leash for that hike since there isn't a leash law in the area)

Grab your dog, pick a trail, pack your backpack and get out there walking! It's good for you and great for your dog. The bond will increase between you and your pet as you strike out on new adventures!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Will Dogs and Cats Go Extinct?

One of the frequent questions we get in the classroom is "if we spay/neuter all the pets, won't they go extinct?" We also hear this from people at community events when I staff an educational table. It's one of the frequent excuses for not spaying or neutering a pet. They think they are being smart pointing out to us that the species will die out so they are actually doing a good thing by breeding their mutt.

There are approximately 77.5 million dogs and 93.6 million cats that currently have homes in the United States. Every year, 6-8 million enter the shelter system. Between 3-4 million dogs, cats, puppies and kittens won't make it out alive. We have entire litters of puppies and kittens that never know what it is like to live in a home and be loved. Roughly 7 animals are killed every minute. By the time you reach the end of this blog entry, 70 will be dead. Despite the number of animals dying in the shelters across the country, puppy mills and breeders continue to breed. There are laws being passed in cities and counties across the nation in an attempt to slow down this mass production of dogs and cats. Until those laws take affect, and are followed, we still have a very serious overpopulation problem. Purchasing an animal from a pet store or an unqualified breeder contributes directly to the problem. Your money encourages them to breed another litter and another and another to continue to make money all the while robbing puppies and kittens in the shelters of a home. When you adopt your pet from an animal shelter or rescue group, you are saving a life and not contributing to the breeding that has brought us to this point.

Many people have unintentional litters. They don't bother to spay or neuter their pet and end up with puppies or kittens. Even if they are responsible and line up homes for them, there will be fewer homes for the puppies and kittens currently in the shelters waiting for homes. Unintentional litters take homes away from animals already in the shelter system. Breeding directly takes the life of a shelter animal, contributing to the 3-4 million deaths occuring each year.

The overpopulation problem will not go away overnight. Not everyone is going to spay or neuter their pets today, this week, this month, this year. Dogs and cats aren't anywhere close to becoming extinct. Spaying and neutering your own pet will help stop the deaths occuring every minute in shelters across this country. What will fixing your pet do? It will keep them from getting certain kinds of cancer, make them less likely to bite, less likely to run away and less likely to fight with other animals. They will also live longer, healthier lives. For more information about low cost spay/neuter, please visit our website and click on Resources. If you aren't in the Los Angeles area, you can visit for a low cost option in your area.