Spring is here! The mild temperatures and longer days allow us to spend more time outdoors with our beloved dogs. This week, I've put together a list of items I make sure to keep on hand during the spring months. Most are inexpensive, and many you might already own!
Paw Wash Basin
Depending on the condition of your lawn and the amount of coat your dog has, they will likely need their paws wiped multiple times a day during this time of year. My backyard somehow became a swamp as winter transitioned into spring, and now I'm wiping 12 paws 6 or more times a day! To get my dogs' paws as clean as possible and keep my floors looking decent during this wet season, I use a plastic cat litter tray that I bought at a dollar store and fill it with lukewarm water. When my dogs come in, I dip their paws in and wipe them off. I should mention that none of my dogs will voluntarily dip their paws in the basin, but I have seen dogs that do. My dogs more or less try to dodge the basin when they walk past it in hopes that I will forget! A treat at the end seems to help smooth the process a bit. Cleaning paws with water and drying them also allows you several opportunities a day to make sure nothing is caught in their pads and that their nails are short.
First Aid Supplies
Speaking of nails. Sometimes, even the most experienced nail trimmers accidentally nick the quick. Although this is not a spring-specific product, I highly recommend having a topical styptic powder on hand. You never know when you’re going to need the powder, so I recommend buying it now instead of having to rush in a panicked state to get it when an accident happens. To use it, I apply pressure to the nail that is bleeding with a paper towel, then use a bit of the powder to stop the bleeding. It’s inexpensive, works well, and a container will last a pet owner a very long time.
It’s always a good idea to pack a first aid kit whenever you travel on adventures with your dog. Most of the items listed you likely already have, so put together a kit with a bowl, towel, flashlight, tweezers, magnifying glass, scissors, cotton balls, milk of magnesia, antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide, adhesive tape, and gauze. I hope you never have to use this kit, but you will feel better just knowing it’s packed.
Got a tacky promotional towel? One your Dad stole from the gym in the 90s? Keep them! Owners of multiple dogs and muddy yards know you can never have too many towels! I love it when my friends give me towels they no longer use as I know my dogs will need plenty, especially in the spring. The second step to using the litter box full of water to clean my dogs’ paws is to dry them off. It’s quick with my Doberman Pinscher, takes a bit more towel action with my Standard Poodle, and even more time with my “low rider” Dandie Dinmont Terrier, who tends to bring the whole lawn in with him. To keep paws and floors clean, I dry them with clean towels, which means I’m averaging a laundry load of “dog towels” per rainy day. Even as I write that sentence, I can hear my Afghan Hound and Bearded Collie owning friends saying, "Really? That’s it?”
An Extra Long Leash
Outside of a vendor’s booth at a dog show, it can be hard to find a leash that is longer than 6 feet without going into retractable leash territory. I was thrilled to get a nice quality 10-foot long nylon lead a few years back. It allows me to take my dogs onto the front lawn for their last bathroom break of the evening without me having to worry that they will encounter a raccoon - or worse - in the dark. The long lead gives lots of space for anyone who is “potty shy” while still giving me control.
The “or worse” part of that earlier sentence would be a skunk. While skunks are out all year long, they tend to make themselves more noticed in the spring and summer months. And since skunks never seem to spray at 3 p.m. on a weekday afternoon, you should head to the drugstore soon and buy the ingredients needed to create a washing remedy. I can't tell you how many texts I get each year saying, "Dude! My dog got sprayed by a skunk! What do I do?" I always tell friends to use the same mix: 1 quart of 3 % Hydrogen Peroxide, ¼ cup of baking soda, and 1 to 2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap. See my skunk blog here for specific details on how to keep and apply it here: https://www.ckc.ca/en/The-Dish/October-2018/Help-My-Dog-Got-Skunked.
Springtime means more time walking with your dogs. I also try to pack an extra leash with me every time I walk my dogs for a few good reasons. Firstly, in case one of my dogs' leashes break. It has happened, and I didn't see it coming. It's also great if a lost dog is running about your neighbourhood as you can leash the dog and take it with you on your walk, and the concerned owner (or a neighbour who knows who the owner is) may see the dog before your walk is finished. Another leash can also help significantly if a dog breaks out of their yard and aggressively charges towards your dogs. It’s never a good idea to get your hands involved in a dog fight, so an extra leash has allowed me to stop an aggressive dog before they got to mine. And yes, I did consider joining the rodeo after my “leash lasso” trick worked!
Not picking up after your dog is very unneighbourly and can make all dog owners look bad. Most dog owners have an embarrassing moment where we've forgotten a bag or our dog went twice when we only brought one bag. I’ve lived and learned. I once had to knock on a door to ask for a plastic bag and will say it is an interesting way to meet your neighbour! Now I keep several bags in every pocket in every jacket I own. I prefer the biodegradable kind that comes on rolls. I own dogs of various sizes, so I buy large, but if you have smaller dogs, you can save a bit of plastic by buying small.
An Ex Pen
Exercise pens (or ex pens) are like playpens for dogs and puppies. They allow them more room than a crate but still keep them safely confined to a specific area of your home. Not only are ex pens great for housebreaking, but they also come in handy in many other ways. For example, to keep your Christmas Tree and presents safe from an interested dog, to block off a room, to use while camping and on road trips. During the springtime, I like to put towels down across the pens' floor area and let my dogs dry off in there with a chewy treat after I’ve rinsed their muddy paws.
With snow melting and everything starting to grow again, spring is an exciting time for a dog’s nose. Many times those explorations lead to ingesting some gross things in the yard. To give my dogs a bit of added stomach protection, I include a small spoonful of plain yogurt with their breakfast meals. Yogurt contains probiotics which, in my experience, seem to be beneficial during this time of year. Not all dogs can digest lactose, so I would only give a very small dose at first, see how it goes, and then still only ever give a little bit. Be sure to only use plain yogurt with no artificial sweeteners or sugar. Greek-style yogurts also tend to have less lactose.
In addition to the above spring items, you can also do some other activities in the spring that can benefit your dog. You can make sure you've renewed your dog’s license, make a vaccine appointment with your dog's vet if they are due, and be very careful not to overdo activity with your dog if they have not been very active all winter. Don’t be a weekend warrior. Start slowly and build to avoid injury.
Also, while spring cleaning this year, please keep in mind your local not-for-profit rescue or shelter. Give them a call or shoot them an email and see what they need. Often, they could use gently used blankets, towels, toys, leashes, and leads.