LIV- Lesson 1- Importance of Vaccinations

Fitness for Activity

A dog that is physically fit has a better chance of not sustaining a physical injury. A dog’s age, stamina, and overall health need to be considered before even thinking about a wilderness trip. Make sure your dog has up-to-date vaccinations, and consult your vet before bringing a dog with arthritis, any type of heart condition, diabetes or other major health conditions into the wilderness since lengthy exercise and elevation gain can cause serious physical symptoms and even death. Try to invest in the same type of pre-training for your dog as you would do for yourself in order to prevent injuries.

Duration and Terrain

The duration and difficulty of the activity are important to consider. The following are some things to ponder:

  • Rocky areas and slopes.
    • Sharp rocks can abrade or cut a dog’s paw pads.
  • Bouldering or rock climbing, including canyons.
    • Slots canyons, in particular, can require climbing. A dog risks falling if trying to scale steep walls or walk along narrow ledges.
  • Trees that have fallen over–or other obstacles that dogs must repeatedly jump over.
    • Downed trees are common in burned areas and on infrequently maintained trails. Repeated jumping is very hard on a dog’s shoulder joints.
  • Swift water. Spring runoff is particularly dangerous.
    • Dogs that like to swim, or even simply wade into fast-moving water for a drink, can be swept downstream and drowned in strainers–piles of downed trees that wash into streambeds each spring when the water is higher. Log crossings over rivers and creeks can also be very slippery for dogs, especially when logs are narrow and wet.
  • Exposed areas, such as ridgeline hikes.
    • On hot summer day, traveling in areas without shade increases your dog’s risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Before beginning any exercise program with your dog, have your veterinarian perform a full health check to detect any physical problems that could be aggravated by the activity. Extra weight means extra stress on bones and joints, so make certain your dog is at his ideal weight before leading into activities that may be too strenuous.

Very young dogs must be limited in their activities to ensure that the exercise will not harm still-forming bones. (In general, it is best to wait until the growth plates have fully closed.) Care must also be taken with older dogs to guard against injuries to joints. In choosing your dog’s exercise program, consider his body structure and any physical limitations he may have so as not to push him beyond his limits. (Some characteristics include brachycephalic or flat head, long back, or heavy-boned build.) The benefits of an exercise program are many.

Physically conditioned dogs perform better in sport and competition with less occurrence and severity of injury. They are also able to maintain a healthy weight much more easily. Exercise is healthy psychologically for dogs as it gives them an appropriate outlet for energy and helps reduce hyperactivity, as well as behavior problems related to boredom or insufficient activity.

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