Pet Connection

Great Outdoors

How to have a wild time with your pet

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Dogs are the ultimate outdoor companions -- and these days, some cats are getting in on the act, too. If you love to hike or camp, your pet is probably right there with you -- or would like to be.

Daily outdoor fun is a way of life for people with retrievers, terriers, spaniels, herding dogs and even plenty of dogs on the small side, who don’t seem to know they are considered part of the lapdog brigade. You may even find that the reverse is true -- you take up an outdoor lifestyle to provide your pet with activity and mental stimulation. Whether you’re new to exploring the outdoors with your pet or an old hand, the following tips will help you and your four-legged friend have fun and stay safe.

-- What to Bring

No matter what you’re doing or where, the following items will stand you in good stead: first-aid kit, water, collapsible water dish or pet-friendly water bottle, tick removal device, poop bags, and a cooling pad, coat or bandanna.

-- Weather

For some animals, anything over 65 degrees Fahrenheit is hot, and they begin to wilt. Others can tolerate higher temperatures, but once the thermostat hits 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s too hot for most pets to be doing strenuous activity, especially if they have a short snout or heavy coat. Even on short hikes, offer water frequently.

-- Hiking

Start puppies, small dogs and cats with short hikes of a quarter-mile to a mile. Be prepared with a backpack, sling or other carrier made for pets if the going gets tough or the temperature rises.

Work up to longer distances gradually, and keep loads light. A young dog’s musculoskeletal development isn’t complete until he’s 14 to 24 months old, and excessive weight-bearing activity can contribute to orthopedic problems such as hip dysplasia.

Be aware of your pet’s limitations. He’ll go beyond them trying to keep up with you, so make sure he doesn’t overdo things.

On- or off-leash, your dog should know and always respond to the cues "come," "sit," "down," "stay" and "quiet."

-- Grooming

Getting wet is a major part of outdoor fun. Whether your pet has been in the ocean or a lake or river, he’ll need some attention to his ears and fur afterward.

Rinse fur thoroughly with fresh water to remove salt, sand and slime from his coat. Towel-dry down to the skin to prevent mildew stink or hot spots.

Keep ears dry, especially if they’re droopy. The warm, dark interior of the ear is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria if it gets and stays wet. Dry ears and add a couple of drops of ear cleaner after every swim.

-- Camping

Know the rules. Some states require people with dogs to present rabies certificates or other documentation at camping areas. Parks may restrict people with pets to certain campgrounds or campsite areas. National parks may not allow pets on trails. A nearby national forest can be a better bet with a pet.

The camp-ready pet has been treated with flea, tick and heartworm repellent, and he’s on a leash to make sure he doesn’t wander far when bears or mountain lions are on the prowl. In the tent, he has his own blanket or pet bed.

You’ve all had a big day of swimming in the lake, spotting deer on hikes, and collecting rocks, shed antlers and other treasures. Now you’re chillaxing at the campsite as the sun goes down. Toss your dog some hushpuppies or your favorite equivalent while you’re sitting around the campfire, and rest up so you can do it all again tomorrow.


Showing cat can

be fun hobby

Q: Can my cat be in a cat show? What makes a good show cat?

A: One of the great things about cat shows is that any cat, pedigreed or not, can participate in a show. You can enter any domestic kitten or cat in the Household Pet (HHP) class, including pedigreed cats who don’t meet their breed standard because of a disqualifying trait such as coat or eye color. The only rules are that the cat must be at least 4 months old, spayed or neutered, and not declawed.

Household pets can be any age, color or pattern with a long or short coat. Judges evaluate them by appearance, interesting markings, disposition and health.

If you have a striking mixed-breed cat with a friendly personality who enjoys getting out and meeting people and doesn’t mind being picked up and handled by strangers (i.e., the judges), you may have fun showing him. You can find upcoming Cat Fanciers Association shows at Show listings for The International Cat Association are at

Contact the entry clerk to see if the show has a class for household pets. On the entry form, where it says "benching request," note that you are a new HHP exhibitor and will need help setting up. And don’t be afraid to ask for help once you get to the show as well.

Your cat should be clean and well-groomed for exhibition. You’ll probably want to bathe her with a shampoo made for her coat color. Trim the nails and make sure ears, paws and rear end are all clean.

You can find more information about showing your cat, the items you should bring and how to proceed on the CFA and TICA websites. Have fun! -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker

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Dogs good at

reading faces

-- Dogs might not read our minds, but a recent study published in the journal “Learning & Behavior” says they read our faces and recognize expressions of different emotions. Researchers presented 26 dogs who were eating with photographs of people expressing emotions such as anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise and disgust, plus a neutral expression. When the dogs saw photos of people expressing anger, fear and happiness, their heart rate increased and it took them longer to resume eating, both indicators of stress. Dogs tended to turn their heads to the left when they saw faces expressing anger, fear or happiness and to the right when faces expressed surprise. That suggests that dogs use different parts of their brains to process human emotions. “Clearly arousing, negative emotions seem to be processed by the right hemisphere of a dog’s brain and more positive emotions by the left side,” says Marcello Siniscalchi of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Italy’s University of Bari Aldo Moro.

-- Does your cat need to see the veterinarian? He may not show obvious signs of illness, but you should take him in if you notice the following changes in appearance or behavior: discharge from eyes or nose; change in eye color; loss of appetite for more than a day; unusual or excessive vocalizations; blood in the litter box; urinating outside the litter box, especially if the stain has a pinkish tinge, indicating blood; unusually high activity levels; unexplained weight loss; excessive vomiting; unusual thirst or urination; and hiding for prolonged periods.

-- Snakes are active now. If you live in copperhead country, seek veterinary attention immediately if one of the leaf-colored pit vipers strikes your dog or cat. Do not try to apply a tourniquet or ice or try to suck the venom out of the wound. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

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