As autumn sinks its (canine) teeth into us overnight and the hazy Sydney summer already seems long gone, its time to think about all the effects this change can have on your pooch’s routine. We can all agree that rain is the tyranny of the East coast life in Australia at this time of year, and plenty of dogs will be experiencing the same kind of cabin fever that us mere humans feel being stuck inside sheltering from the wet.
So, here are a few tips for making this Soggy Season a little easier for everyone …
1. Keep em’ dry and stay nearby: at toilet time, grab an umbrella and take your dog outside on leash to toilet. Your presence and encouragement will add both a supportive and businesslike spin to the job and help encourage your K9 to do what they need to do in order to come back inside. Many people make the mistake of leaving the dog outside, assuming that they will go in their own time. Not only will your pooch get wet and uncomfortable, but they will also most likely focus most of their energy on getting back to dry ground and might actually “hold on” … leaving a nice surprise for you later! Sometimes the wet grass on the paws is a bigger deterrent than the rain itself, so try walking your dog on a paved area to do his or her business.
2. Raincoats: a lot of dogs hate the rain, and breed with thinner skin – such as whippets – feel the cold much more anyway, so rain will be a major deterrent at this time of year for outside trips and much needed exercise. Owners may notice a particularly wild swing in a dog’s anxiety level, and attention seeking behaviour, as stress and energy aren’t burnt when the indoor weather rolls around. Even a quick trip around the neighbourhood can do the world of good, so invest in some wet weather gear and don’t let the rain alter your routine too much. My own dog dislikes walking in the rain, and Julia’s pug manages to “put the brakes on” at the slightest site of condensation, but they both absolutely love running in it and tend to forget all their worries once we get going.
3. Wet ears and dirty paws: keep an old towel or two just outside your front door so you can wipe off your dog’s muddy paws before letting them inside. Some dogs don’t like having their feet touched, so this may take some encouragement (verbal and treat-based rewards are good!), but will save your sanity when it comes to cleaning! As well as giving your dog’s coat a good dry off, make sure you pay special attention to drying behind the ears (especially in long-eared breeds) as damp ears can quickly lead to ear infections caused by yeast overgrowth.
4. Thunder and lightening: the sound of a storm can often cause distress and behavioural changes in many breeds of dog. Some superbly sensitive hounds can even detect a storm a few hours ahead of it rolling in! Heightened levels of fear can lead to your dog either trying to hide from a storm … or worse … trying to run away from it, causing accidents that could potentially exacerbate the existing fear or injury. If this is the case with your dog, seek veterinary or canine behavioural advice as soon as possible (we can provide good recommendations!). The plan of action could take many routes … from recommending a useful tool like a “thunder shirt” (anti-anxiety clothing for dogs) to the longer and slower process of desensitization treatment for thunder phobias that can potentially eliminate the fear completely.
5. Bushland booby traps: in Australia, its safe to say that nature prevails. Two increasing hazards to dogs in autumn are wild mushrooms and moody snakes. Mushrooms flourish at this time of the year in the damp weather and can grow nearly anywhere (but particularly in garden beds bearing a top layer of bark, in which their spores lay dormant). Most dogs dislike the taste of these fungi and will avoid them, but bear in mind that their presence in the environment, as their toxicity levels are high. Common symptoms of mushroom poisoning in dogs include vomiting, diarrhoea, lameness, uncoordinated movement, drooling and seizures. At this time of the year, snakes are also beginning to take shelter from the cold and will only emerge for brief periods to bask in sunny spots. They are widely regarded as going through a “grumpy” period in autumn, so these reptiles may behave more aggressively if disturbed by your dog. Snakebite symptoms include sudden weakness and collapse, shaking and twitching muscles, and vomiting. The best course of action is to keep your dog calm and immobilised and immediately contact your vet. A specialist clinic may be needed to treat your dog as not all clinics keep snake anti-venom on hand, so be sure to call ahead and double check.
6. Indoor creativity: if the bad weather is really dishing it out and the whole family needs a break from the wet, get creative and make the best of inside time with your dog. Games and training that stimulate and exercise your pup can energise everyone. Some ideals to get your started:
- go over old ground and re-visit puppy obedience skills;
- make a fun treat “hide-and-go-seek” game throughout the house;
- teach your dog simply agility skills, like jumping through a hula hoop or up and down off a char (using tasty treats of course); or
- play a “vertically challenging” game of fetch using an internal staircase to really work your pup’s muscles out.
Enjoy your autumn everyone, and in the words of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The best thing you can do when it’s raining is to let it rain”.
Thanks for reading and give your pup a kiss from me xxx
Lolly Wilson (Happy Paws Manager, Blogger and Resident Vet Nurse)