Taking your pet on the trails with you? We talked to experts to keep your furry friend safe while recreating.

Follow these tips so everyone stays happy and healthy

Each year, the Summit County Rescue Group asks hikers to consider their dogs' limitations. In 2021, a pair of pups had to be rescued from Quandary Peak. This Great Pyrenees summited the peak but couldn’t continue down due to exhaustion and torn pads on its paws.
Summit County Rescue Group/Courtesy photo

For many pet owners, warmer temperatures and summertime means more quality time with their favorite furry friends in the great outdoors.

In order to keep excursions as fun (and as safe) as possible, here are some tips before you head out to the trails.

Know their limits

Just because you can handle 1,000 feet of incline or a 10-mile hike does not necessarily mean your dog can. The American Kennel Club recommends that all pet owners look for the signs of dehydration when taking them on longer or physically challenging journeys. For dogs, these symptoms can include lethargy or reduced interest, sunken and dry eyes, a dry nose, dry or sticky gums and a lack of elasticity in their skin. Behaviors can also include seeking shade, limiting movement, lying down, uncontrolled panting, vomiting, skin reddening or excess saliva.

If their conditions worsen, heatstroke could develop, which requires immediate veterinary attention.

“Small and short-legged dogs are particularly susceptible to overheating as their bodies absorb heat closer to the hot ground,” the club advises. “Flat-faced breeds heat up faster, too.”

What to do if you lose your pet

1.Fill out Summit Lost Pet Rescue’s Owner Intake Waiver Form. This allows Lost Pet Rescue to gather important information, such as how a pet went missing and its last known location.

2. Call the following entities to report your pet as missing or lost:

  • Summit County Animal Control: 970-668-8600
  • Summit County Shelter: 970-668-3230
  • Summit Lost Pet Rescue: 970-423-5701​
3. Create a scent station so your pet can find you through smells. Place out the owner’s items — such as dirty clothes, dirty towels, dirty sheets or a pet bed — in the area where the pet was last seen. If a missing pet has a sibling pet, rub towels on the sibling and leave those wherever the pet went missing.
4. Share a post about the missing pet on social media. Summit County Facebook pages include Summit Lost Pet Rescue, Summit County Loves Their Pets, Dog Gone Summit County and One Man’s Junk Summit County.
5. If your pet is microchipped, contact the microchip company and report your pet lost.
6. Go searching on foot, and use calming techniques.
  • Do not call or chase a lost pet. Get low to the ground, don’t make eye contact and do not call their name or chase. The pet could be in fight-or-flight mode and run. Toss some treats their way. Act like you’re eating and dropping crumbs to see if it’ll entice them to come. Let them come to you.
  • If a missing pet has a sibling pet, take them with you on every search to spread the scent​.
  • Keep smelly treats with you and a lead leash.
  • Keep a chip bag or paper with you and make a crinkly sound.
Source: Summit Lost Pet Rescue

If a pet owner is looking to get their dog into better physical shape, the club recommends conditioning. For puppies, slow and careful exercise is recommended since their bones and joints are still fragile. Conditioning requires intentional engagement to make sure your dog is getting the right kind of exercise, such as gentle warmups and cooldowns. If your dog has just done a hard run, you’ll want to do a cooldown instead of putting them back into a crate and driving home.

Though it is uncommon for Summit County Search and Rescue to have to respond to calls regarding animals, they can happen. Owners are encouraged to continually watch for signs of exhaustion and for difficult terrain that may be too tough for their pets.

If a pet does end up lost, owners should contact Summit County Lost Pet Rescue and follow their tips on locating their dog or cat.

Mind the heat

Off the trails, owners should still be mindful of their dogs limits — especially if they choose to bring their pets out and about in town. In 2017, Colorado passed a law that provides “immunity for a person who renders emergency assistance from a locked vehicle.” In other words, it is legal to break into a locked car to rescue a pet if the individual has reasonable belief that the dog might die as long as they make a reasonable attempt to contact the owner and call 911 before breaking into the car.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, even if it is only 70 degrees outside, the inside of a car can be up to 20 degrees hotter. It only takes 10 minutes for the inside to reach over 100 degrees on an 85 degree day.

Additionally, the organization advises to never completely shave your pets. While it may seem obvious that excess hair could affect your pets ability to regulate temperature, the layers of a dog’s coat protect them from overheating and sunburn. Like bug spray, make sure any sunscreen used on your animals is labeled specifically for pets.

Dogs’ paws are also as sensitive as human feet, meaning pets can get severe burns on their feet from hot pavement or turf grass if precautions are not taken. According to the American Kennel Club, the asphalt temperature registers 135 degrees when the air temperature is 86 degrees.

“Spending even a few minutes to meander through an outdoor event can prove hazardous,” said the club. “That’s because you’re wearing shoes to protect your feet, but your dog isn’t.”

If it is absolutely necessary for a pet to go out in hotter temperatures, the American Kennel Club recommends buying shoes or booties to protect their paws.

This story previously published in the summer 2022 edition of Explore Breckenridge & Summit County magazine.

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