Fall may be my very favorite time of the year. After a long (long!) hot summer, the first cool days reenergize me. I’m ready for long autumn dog walks exploring both our favorite trails and ones we’re just discovering.
Autumn has its own special beauty–but also its own special hazards. To make sure that the memories you return home with are good ones, here are our top tips for making sure your fall dog walks are safe one:
Check Your Equipment
After a long summer of swimming and washing your dog’s collars and leashes, take a moment to make sure they’re safe and secure. Check fabric for weak spots or tears. Check leather leashes for cracks. Check hardware and make sure all’s working.
Give every leash and collar an extra-strong pull (just secure the collar and leash to a fence post and suddenly pull as hard as you can.)
If you have multiple dogs, make sure one of your dogs hasn’t chewed on your other dog’s collar. (This was a favorite trick of Irie and Tiki’s when they were adolescents!)
Watch for Snakes
Fall means snake season! Here we have a constant eye out to avoid our four venomous snakes: rattlesnakes (above, just outside our yard), coral snakes, water moccasins, and copperheads.
You may get lucky and get a rattling warning from a rattlesnake; it sounds much like a commercial lawn sprinkler going off. But, again, you may not get any warning from a rattler–and you won’t get a warning from other snakes.
Keep your dog near you on walks so that you can see where you’re both going. I use a 4-foot leash but I know many prefer long leashes but keep it to six feet at a maximum so that you can see where you’re both stepping.
Some trails make it almost impossible for your dog to heel so a shorter leash makes it easier to see danger ahead and react. Many snakes like to lie beside trails, not in the middle of them, as they wait for mice and small prey to come by.
Watch for Mushrooms
We keep mushrooms pulled from the yard but, when you’re off exploring, your dog may come across mushrooms.
Try to keep your dog away from any mushrooms and assume all are toxic; if you see your dog eat one, take a photo of any surrounding mushrooms and call your vet.
Keep an Eye Out for Rodent Poison.
Some households are plagued by mice and rats when the weather turns cool; they may leave out poison for rodents. We’ve also often seen rodent poison traps (usually black boxes) outside hotels and other commercial areas.
Keep your dog away from all rodent poison as well as poisoned rodents; both are extremely hazardous to your dog.
If you suspect your dog has ingested either poison or a poisoned rodent, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Watch for Tarantulas
Many of you don’t have to worry about these hairy spiders but they are a common autumn sight here, like this beauty seen along our walking path.
While they’d rather flee than fight, they can give your dog a nasty bite.
Keep your dog away from them, be aware that they can jump, and, if your dog is bitten, call your vet.
Watch for Mistletoe
You might associate mistletoe with the holiday season but it will be found with berries in the fall months.
Different areas have different types of mistletoe (both American and European varieties) and the danger to your dog varies by the type he eats and the amount.
Problems can range from an upset stomach to liver failure and seizures. Play it safe and watch your dog closely on walks beneath trees with mistletoe berries.
Know the Local Hunting Seasons
If you’ll be heading off in the woods, be sure you know your local hunting seasons, which may vary by county. Be sure that both you and your dog stay safe walking in hunting season.
Early morning and evening hours are typically the most worrisome so plan your walks accordingly.
Keep an Eye Out for Antifreeze.
Fall means it’s time for many people to change the antifreeze in their cars in preparation for the cold weather just around the corner.
Antifreeze is deadly to dogs so be sure you never let your dog drink from puddles in driveways, parking lots and other places that could contain antifreeze.
Watch for Autumn Crocus.
This beautiful plant–a member of the lily family–flowers in the fall months; its bulbs are poisonous to dogs.