Hiking and Dog Safety

Hiking and Dog Safety title=
Hiking and Dog Safety
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Source: Santa Barbara County Fire Department

During times of sunny, warm weather, many like to take the opportunity to get outdoors and go hiking. During heatwaves, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department responds to multiple calls for service due to heat-related illness for both humans and their dogs.

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department would like to remind hikers of steps they can take to ensure a safe hiking experience for both themselves and their dogs. Below are some guidelines to follow while hiking as well as a message from Dr. Dave Dawson, DVM on how to prepare for the hike and keep yourself and your pet(s) safe.

  • Pay attention to weather forecasts. Sites like Weather.com let you check forecasts by location and ZIP code. The site offers hourly temperature predictions for the current day and for the following day.

  • Don’t be overly ambitious. A hot day isn’t the best time to finally do that 10- miler with 2,000 feet of climbing. If you’re intent on getting out, scale back your expectations and save the tough trails for another day.

  • Choose the right hike. There are many trails to pick from in Santa Barbara County from very easy to very difficult and strenuous. To help you decide which hike is best for you (and your pet), check out the website santabarbarahikes.com. It has a description and maps of all trails in Santa Barbara County.

  • Hike early in the day. Temperatures can easily be 20-25 degrees cooler in the morning than in the afternoon.

  • Avoid the most intense sun. Direct sun will increase heat-related stresses and the risk of sunburn. Try to find shaded trails and avoid hiking between 10 and 4.

  • Keep it loose and light. When it comes to clothing, remember “The Three L’s: Lightweight, Loose-fitting, Light-colored.

  • Wear a hat. A lightweight, light-colored hat with a broad brim to keep the sun off your face and neck will help you stay cool.

  • Use (and pack) sunscreen. Exposed, sunburned skin will only make it more difficult for your body to stay cool.

  • Don't travel alone. If you're just going for a hike in a nearby, well-traveled area, you're as safe there as anywhere. But if you travel through heavily forested areas with steep canyons and winding trails, you can easily get lost or injured. Traveling with a partner will help you in many ways, especially if he or she is an experienced hiker. People in pairs are much less likely to panic. They can assist one another up steep grades and apply first-aid when needed.

  • Know where you're going. Stay on clearly marked or well-traveled trails. A map, a compass and/or a GPS unit is a must for any kind of serious hike. A cell phone can also be very useful. Naturally, it has to be usable in the area you hike. Not all units will continue to function in every area. Get the details of where you plan to go and ask someone who knows.

  • Take some basic gear. A simple first aid kit can also be a lifesaver. Gauze and bandages, anti-bacterial cream and other standard items are essential. All these things are small and lightweight. No need to take a miniature doctor's office, just the basics.

  • Hydration. On hot days, your body can lose large amounts of water through perspiration. The general rule is that you can sweat roughly a quart of water every hour—and even more when hiking uphill or in direct sunlight. Proper hydration is essential to the health of the body’s organs, including the brain. Dehydration can lead to impaired brain functioning, which then results in confusion and impaired judgment. Blood can also thicken, forcing the heart to work harder. Start the hydration process before you go out. Begin to hydrate a couple of hours before you hit the trail. Drink frequently, instead of guzzling a bunch of water all at once, take smaller and more frequent drinks of water.

Safety Measures for Pets from Dr. Dave Dawson, DVM

We are fortunate in Santa Barbara to be able to enjoy our outdoor paradise with our pets. However, when the weather heats up, it can be very dangerous for your pet. The following simple precautions should help you avoid a tragedy:

  • Ensure your pet is healthy to begin with by seeing your veterinarian at least annually.

  • Your dog should be exercised regularly. Do not embark on a long hike when they have not been hiking for a long time (i.e. think about going 1/4 of a normal distance when hot).

  • Start early in the morning to avoid the excessive heat of the day. Leave them indoors when excessive heat is present (80 degrees or more).

  • Bring more water than you think you will need with a collapsible bowl.

  • Never leave your pets alone in a parked car!

  • Avoid walking your dog on hot asphalt (place your hand on asphalt for 10 seconds to assess).

  • Do not shave your dog - the layers of a dog’s coats protect them from overheating and sunburn.

  • Ensure your pet is not overweight.

    Also, know the symptoms of overheating in pets:

    • Excessive panting, difficulty breathing

    • Increased heart and respiratory rate

    • Drooling

    • Weakness

    • Seeming “distant” or even unresponsive or collapse

    • Seizures, bloody diarrhea or vomiting

    • Temperatures over 104 degrees

Pets have limited ways to cool down with dogs relying only on panting - an inefficient means of cooling. Do not put your pets in danger of heat-related death. You love them too much! 

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Babycakes Jun 22, 2022 02:35 PM
Hiking and Dog Safety

Most dogs are much more compliant while they are leashed. Work dogs are just that: w-o-r-k dogs. Work dogs are not kept as pets, and if you ever been so lucky to visit or live on a sheep or cattle station/ranch/farm as I have, you know that you are not ever allowed to pet/cuddle/coddle those dogs. The owners of work dogs get very unhappy if you do that. These dogs are the true heroes and obey each and every command from their master. Each year there are dozens of local cliff rescues of "house" dogs that simply do what they want to do (we call them 'Mr. Magoo' dogs)....and then there's the dog owner having to get rescued when the try to "save" their pooch. So, please, dog owners, you need to keep your dogs on leash at all times except in your vehicle or your own home/yard. For many in Santa Barbara, dogs are viewed as human children ....well, you wouldn't let your child run over a cliff or chase traffic or grab a rattlesnake or any number of things. Leash your dogs, and we can all be happy, and the best part is that your dog will live longer and we don't have to read about more rescues here. Now only if we could leash the IV partiers who insist on sitting on deck rails along the cliffs. LOL!!!

sacjon Jun 23, 2022 09:27 AM
Hiking and Dog Safety

BABYCAKES - great points, but let me guess...... you are one of those awesome, infallible "work dog" owners who look down their noses at us "Mr. Magoos?"

a-1655928895 Jun 22, 2022 01:14 PM
Hiking and Dog Safety

Inconvenient truths are painful to absorb. Dogs really disrupt wildlife more than humans.


sacjon Jun 22, 2022 02:04 PM
Hiking and Dog Safety

1:14 - leashed dogs on trails cause more damage to wildlife on our local trails than drunk/high teenagers plowing around, mountain bikers going off trail, ignorant campers setting up in sensitive areas, "illegal" shooting ranges, dirt bikes, etc?

Further, the pay article you cite, says "there is growing evidence that dogs – both free-roaming and home-based – are killing, eating, terrifying and competing with other animals." How many domestic dogs, when leashed on trails, are killing, eating or competing with ANYTHING? "Terrifying," sure a barking dog will scare some wildlife but no more than a loud hiker, shotguns, or dirt bikes.

To say domestic leashed dogs (see 9:52) cause more disturbance than humans is just not true and your article doesn't say that.

a-1655916741 Jun 22, 2022 09:52 AM
Hiking and Dog Safety

Dogs disturb wildlife even if they are on a leash. In a way humans do not. Can we please give nature a break and not bring our carnivorous pets there?


a-1656011673 Jun 23, 2022 12:14 PM
Hiking and Dog Safety

Humans descended from wild animals, too. Your logic is absurd, ZEROHAWK.

In pre-human times, the number of canines in the world was orders of magnitude smaller than it is now. A billion dogs on our limited planet are as much a human artifact and intrusion as are motor vehicles.

Voice of Reason Jun 23, 2022 09:52 AM
Hiking and Dog Safety

Cat's are orders of magnitude more destructive to wildlife than dogs. You're efforts would be better spent getting cat's on leashes or kept indoors.

sacjon Jun 22, 2022 12:54 PM
Hiking and Dog Safety

9:52 - ban dogs from hiking? Ban them from restaurants, sure because gross, but from the "wild?" No.

ZeroHawk Jun 22, 2022 12:41 PM
Hiking and Dog Safety

and i just gotta add, more of "US" disturb wildlife as we are not (most of us) animals. we don't think about treading lightly or watching our step. Canines are decedents from wild animals. Canines are part of nature. Dogs don't litter. Dogs dont yell and drive a car belching emissions on the way to the trail. dogs do what animals naturally do on trails. we, humans, do not. again, lets see some factual data to back up your post please.

ZeroHawk Jun 22, 2022 12:39 PM
Hiking and Dog Safety

and to note, the link you provided is a ridiculous attempt to control the trails and forests. If you want to really get into this, why arent you protesting us building on the land that used to belong to wildlife? in fact your own house would be a nuisance to wildlife. So is your car. You drive, right? I don't in town. Ever. In fact when i leave town, i rent a hybrid with low emissions. Do you? I only drive in town when i have to haul something or go to goleta or summerland.

ZeroHawk Jun 22, 2022 12:35 PM
Hiking and Dog Safety

@741 are you frickin kidding me? LOL absolutely no. Plus, before you start tree hugging, why don't you provide some factual data on this please. Let's see how many dogs, leashed or not, that "disturb" wildlife on trails. *Patiently waiting*

NostraChumash Jun 22, 2022 09:46 AM
Hiking and Dog Safety

I would add, that one's dog charging at a person is disconcerting.
I hear "He's friendly" or "Doesn't bite"..ok, but control it anyways please..i'm often in ceremony &/or regalia & dogs are not a part of it.

ZeroHawk Jun 22, 2022 09:25 AM
Hiking and Dog Safety

train yourself. then train your dog. BTW, Lew, rattlesnakes aren't a threat in the early morning hours. Why? They aren't warm yet. Sure they can strike, but they are very slow and lethargic. Ever notice that you seem them more frequently after 10am? that's because the sun is at a higher point in the sky. they need to sun themselves before they can move quickly and hunt. it's also best to avoid rocky areas and brush during heat as the snakes are abundant.
As for the leash bit. No, i'm not putting my dog on a leash to hike. My canine is highly trained and she likes her freedom as much as you do. Her collar and leash are nothing more than a gimmick. She can get out of them easily when needed. I am her leash and collar. You need to be aware when hiking and walking wiht your dog. Put your stupid phone down and look at the trail, the sky, nature and specifically your dog. If you notice the animal panting heavily, offer them water, get them to some shade, put cold water on their paw pads <-- this is a major help as it can cool them down very quickly. I've worked with mals on trails doing SAR and have had to cool several of them off in high temps. Also, don't put boots on your dogs feet during the summer months. This can overheat them extremely fast. If you have to cross an area where they would need boots on their paws, simply carry them over the area (if possible). Early morning and late day hikes are the best. I'm not sure why anyone would ever go out to hike mid day. Noob decision. Another good source of info...check the weather forcast before you leave. Check the heat index, UV index. Bring a camelpak or similar. I use a 3OZ military pack that holds a lot of water and ice. The ice stays icey and keeps my back cool. The cold water really helps the doggo keep itself cool. Do NOT let them gulp large amounts of water. Small licks/sips.
Going back to leashing your dog on a trail. Yes, most dogs and dog owners absolutely should leash up. Not all though. I've seen a lot of straight up dumb dogs and dumb dog owners do some things that are just well....dumb. One reason i only deal with malinois shepherds and germans and labs. They are smart. Very smart and they are always very well trained and obedient.
going back into lurker mode, deploying again to UKR in a month.

yacht rocked Jun 22, 2022 08:19 AM
Hiking and Dog Safety

No one mentions keeping your dog on a leash.

"Gosh, my dog has never done THAT before."
"Well, there's always a first time."

Lew Riffle Jun 22, 2022 07:53 AM
Hiking and Dog Safety

And be aware that rattlesnakes like the cooler part of the day to be active and out. Dogs have no natural fear of them and are in their most dominant behavior out on the trail; and that is curiosity. You need to watch out for them and hopefully get some avoidance training when available.

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