Woods hikes – walks on the wild side

BoatrideChelseaLakeOct112014 014

Have you been too worried to go on a hike with your dog in the woods? Worried about your dog getting lost? Or worried about risks of being on the hike?

Taylor County in northern Wisconsin has great places to hike and most of them are dog friendly. Not to say there aren’t risks, but in 30 years of hiking with dogs I haven’t had anything really serious happen on the hike and I’ve hiked with lots of dogs, lots of times. I’m not saying we didn’t have some things happen. It’s why we go into the wild.

Exceptions to the hardly any risks, aka doggy adventures. The time one of our Airedales charged into a pond swimming after and briefly catching a beaver. He had the bite puncture wounds and vet visit to prove it. He responded to being called before anything worse could happen (it was a big beaver). If he hadn’t come in would we have joined him in the pond to become beaver gladiators? Who knows.

Getting skunked or porcupine quilled happened several times (certain dogs had a knack for it). We ended up always carrying needle nosed pliers with those dogs hiking (it’s much better to get as many quills out as soon as possible, you wouldn’t believe how quickly they embed if left unattended). Skunk spray stinks amazingly bad and there’s nothing to carry along to really neutralize it.

I saw a bear on the trail once (it was a big bear with a white splotch on its chest), but I called the dogs before they saw it and the bear skeddadled  – I did head a different direction. What about wolves? I’ve seen tracks, had one time when the dogs seemed worried – about what I don’t really know, but no wolves and you’re not likely to ever see any.

We don’t have any poisonous snakes and the toads are only mildly toxic (cause mouth foaming and face rubbing).  There are hunters – currently bow season, small game and bird seasons are ongoing.  During deer gun season we don’t hike in the woods and orange vests adorn the deer colored dog(s). We did have one dog get her foot caught in a beaver trap – we got her out and no broken toes.

There is a lot of water, bogs, streams so dehydration is unlikely, all our dogs have been good swimmers and willing to get muddy. Giardia from drinking contaminated water is possible though and has happened on several occasions more recently. Which is not fun.

In the early years there were some ticks, but not like now. Now ticks are very prolific, so the risk of Lymes, anaplasmosis,  ehrlichosis or some other version of tick borne disease is quite high. So I use flea/tick repellents and check the dogs over after the hike (visually and I use a flea comb) and do it again the next day (by feel) and the next. The most likely areas for ticks are on the face, ears, neck and shoulders of the dog.

So despite the exciting hazards it’s the ticks that are the most worrisome for dog and person alike. Check, check and check for them.

The fun and experience of woods/trail hiking with your dog is worth it. Beautiful, great exercise and a feast for the senses. Some of the best times I’ve ever had with my dogs have been hiking, x-county skiing and snowshoeing.

Still worried, thinking you’ll lose your dog? Or get lost yourself?

Go on an established trail and go with someone who knows the area and hikes it. Update ID, vaccinations and licenses on your dog’s collar. Bring a leash and use it if leashes are required and if your dog doesn’t listen to summons to come it’s time to improve their come here anyway, now you’ve got an even stronger reason. I’ve never had a dog get lost…keep moving and they’ll move with you. FYI rabbits circle, so if your dog chases one they will head away for a while but then come around closer again (I had a beagle as a kid so I know).

Your dog not fit enough? Start with short hikes and play hide and seek with your dog to sharpen their ability to keep track of you.BoatrideChelseaLakeOct112014 012a


3 Comments Add yours

  1. scarlybobs says:

    We don’t have any wild animals that are really worrisome here (UK) but there are ticks.

    The worst that’s happened on one of our dog walks was almost two years ago now, Kasper was running off-lead and managed to cut an artery. That was a scary one! The vet guessed it was on wire or glass that had been dumped in the woods…


    1. Hate that when people dump non-biodegradable stuff! Gushing blood is very scary, usually looks worse than it is though. But managing to cut an artery, sheesh. Old farmsteads around here have a good amount of metal and glass (junk heaps), we stay away from those.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. scarlybobs says:

        Yeah, Kasper is very accident prone so we’ve had a lot of cut paws over the years…that was our one and only cut artery though, and hopefully it will never happen again! 😀


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