Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher
OFF THE LEASH
So, while I love the weather lately, I find myself running around trying to get my walk finished by the time it is dark. Just when I think I have my routine down, it gets dark even earlier. This is one of the marks of fall and one of the things to watch out for. The biggest thing to be careful of this time of year though are all of the other things and people sharing the woods with you.
Hunting season has started and will go on for most of the fall. Different weeks bring different seasons, but walkers should take caution through the rest of the fall season. The easiest way to avoid problems is to hike in areas without hunting (like in Rutland city parks). Make sure you are aware of the hunting status wherever you are hiking. Posted lands run into non-posted lands and vice versa. Many people who post their land still give permission to some hunters, so never make an assumption that property is hunter-free unless you have confirmation from the owners.
This is the season when animals are letting off strong pheromones, so even dogs that aren’t prone to running away or chasing animals may be more tempted. One of my dogs is always on the lookout for wild animals. She has very good recall, but I keep an extremely close eye on her this time of year. All she needs is five seconds and she is out of calling range, or at least pretends she can no longer hear me.
Make sure that you have your dog under your direct control and within sight at all times. Dogs chasing animals disrupts hunters, the animals, and can put your dog in a potentially dangerous situation where they may be mistaken for game. They also may find themselves miles away after having lost what they were chasing and be confused about how to get home. Dogs who are loose and not home can be tricky to find and difficult to catch (even if they love people!)
While most hunters are conscientious, it is always a good idea to wear a bright color (red or orange) and have a color on your dog as well. There are great durable safety vests for dogs and humans, and even some with reflective stripes for added visibility.
I am going to segue into lost dogs here for a minute, and discuss microchipping. Microchipping is a safe and easy way to make sure that your pet can be identified no matter where they end up. Microchips cannot be tracked like GPS, but will be in your pet no matter if their collars fall off. Always make sure that your microchip is registered to you and that your information is updated. Pets that are microchipped are over 200 percent more likely to be reunited with their families than those that aren’t. GPS collars are another good idea if you hike enough to warrant the investment.
Always make sure that your dog has an identifier on their collar as well. This can be printed on the collar, a tag with a reliable phone number, and/or their rabies or registration tag. I like to have a tag with my phone number and also a rabies tag on my dogs when we walk. That way people have two good options to get hold of me in the case my dogs become lost. All of these things are especially important as evening comes earlier each night, in addition to the traveling wildlife.