Tips for Ticks: Adventure Dog Safety

Ticks… feels like they’re all over you just thinking about them. Keep the ticks off your adventure dog this season with the right prevention, know the tick types, and hike on!

**Warning: This post may cause a case of the heebie-jeebies. I feel like they’re all over me.

The other morning I took Xena the adventure dog and my 3 year old, Killian, for a hike on Love a Tree Day. Killian and I came out clean, but Xena was a tick-magnet! They are horrendous this spring. I pulled 8+ ticks off of her in our first hour of being on the trail.


Ticks aren’t just gross, they cause diseases that are harmful to your hiking companion, and you! Some major illnesses include;

  • Lyme Disease
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Canine Anaplasmosis
  • Canine Ehrlichiosis
  • Etc.

Types of Ticks

In the U.S. we have several types of ticks in the woods,

  • American Dog Tick
  • Blacklegged Deer Tick
  • Brown Dog Tick
  • Lonestar Tick
  • Pacific Coast Tick
  • Rocky Mountain Wood Tick
  • Western Blacklegged Tick

Tick Removal

It’s a dirty job, but it has to be done. Tools are available at your vet clinic, pet stores or on Amazon. They range from just a few dollars to an whole $20 Tick Removal Kit. I use by fingers or a tweezers for a truly sunken in sucker. The trick is to remove the tick before it becomes embedded. This is when the tick has buried it’s head into the skin.

Embedded Tick: Use sterile tools, like a tweezers. As close to the skin as possible, grasp the head. Don’t yank, but pull gently to ease the head out of the skin. What you don’t want, is for a piece to be left behind. Clean area and watch the site for signs of infection.

It’s important to contact your veterinarian if your dog begins showing signs of illness after tick removal. These could be signs of infections or diseases spread by ticks. Symptoms such as;

  • Fatigue, lethargy or weakness
  • Swollen lymph nodes or joints
  • Loss of appetite or vomiting
  • Unnecessary shivering or panting
  • Fever


There is a smorgasbord of tick preventions on the market these days and it seems there is a variety to suit every pet owners needs. I’ve tried several different varieties over the years, all have been effective to an extent. Don’t be deceived; ticks can still latch on even when your dog has a preventative, but they do help and many kill ticks that have attached.

***Consult your veterinarian prior to beginning a flea and tick treatment and seek veterinary advice in the occurrence of side effects and adverse reactions. Always read prescriptions, directions, and side effect warnings on labels prior to application.


Price: $-$$ (price varies with quality)

Duration: 1 month of prevention

Application: This type of product is a liquid that comes in a tube with an easy squeeze applicator. Simply cut open the end of the tube and squeeze the liquid onto the skin under the fur. Application is usually placed between the shoulder blades so your pup can’t lick it off. Detailed instructions are on the label.

Pros: Topical treatments don’t just kill ticks on contact, many of them also repel them to start with. Most of them work about 12-48 hours to work on current flea/tick infestation.

Cons: If you have a dog that likes to get dirty, bathing will be an issue. Bathing or swimming could cause the solution to become diluted. This DOES NOT mean you should reapply, doing so is risking overdosing your dog. There can be side effects ranging from skin irritation to seizures. Contact you vet if you see adverse reactions.

We started using a different flea and tick treatment when we had small children. Kids love dogs and dogs love kids, most of the time! This close connection could result in flea and tick treatments contaminating your little ones.


Price: $

Duration: Up to 8 months

Pros: One time payment and treatment that will work for the duration of the tick season. If there are adverse effects or reactions, the collar is easily removed. The flea collar is not effected by water and doesn’t need to be removed for swimming or bathing (I usually remove all collars for bathing anyway).

Cons: There are some side effects to watch for including chemical burns and seizurs among other things. The collar can also come in contact with children who love on their pup.

Oral Preventatives

Price: $$$

Duration: 1 month of prevention

Pros: These are great for families with kids. Unlike the topical and the collar, when children pet their dog, there won’t be any cross contamination. Oral treatments can kill fleas in as little as 8 hours and ticks in 48 hours.

Cons: There have been known cases of severe side effects, including seizures. Unfortunately, this treatment can’t be removed like the collar or washed off like the topical in the instance of a poor reaction.

Note: These types of preventatives require a prescription from your veterinarian.

Tick Spray

Be watchful of dogs licking their legs and body, ingestion of tick sprays could be harmful.

Price: $-$$$

Duration: Varies

Pros: This is an as needed application product, used at the time of higher risk exposure to ticks, so it wouldn’t need to be on your dog constantly. Many bands are usable for people and dogs alike.

Cons: There are so many brands out there, be sure to read the label before purchasing or applying the product to your dogs to ensue it’s pet-safe. Be watchful of dogs licking their legs and body, ingestion of tick sprays could be harmful.

Note: The range on this product is vast. Some are just for dogs, some just for people, some are for dogs, cats, horses, home, yards, everywhere.

Essential Oils

I’ve added this option here as more of a warning than anything else. There are a great number of essential oils that are toxic to dogs and a very dangerous. Check into these oils before using them as a tick preventative or any other use. Even when you’re just defusing in your home.

Anyone else feel like they’re all over you now?

Tips for Hiking with a Senior Adventure Dog

The adventure doesn’t have to end when your senior dog ages. Even elderly dogs love the great outdoors. Hike safely with these tips for senior dog adventuring.

So your adventure dog is slowing down? Mine is too. They may be slowing, but that doesn’t mean they are done adventuring. When your hiking pal is getting up there in age, they’ll need extra considerations on trail. Here is what my senior adventure dogs, Xena and Oreo, have taught me over the years.

Oreo was a Border Collie mix, she lived to be 17 years old. Oreo has been gone for almost 4 years now, she was 12 years old when we brought Xena home as a puppy. Xena is now a 9 year old Great Dane. Both girls have been amazing adventure dogs.


Just like people, senior canines don’t regulate their body temperature as well when they age. When you’re planning your hike consider how high or low the temp will be, especially if you live in an area with extreme temperatures.

Heat: Long haired or double coated dogs don’t do well in the heat, seniors especially. Boots are suggested by some. I don’t put boots on my dogs feet in summer, the feet can become too hot. Instead, I walk them on the edge of the asphalt on the dirt or grass.

If you aren’t able to hold the back of your hand comfortably on the pavement for more than 10 seconds, it’s too hot for their feet and can burn their pads. You may also consider investing in a cooling towel for your seasoned pup or hike early in the day.

Cold: The malamute is fine. The dalmatian is not. Be sure to pack a jacket and/or booties for your short coated senior. When going on an overnight, pack warm enough sleeping gear. On a chilly night, Xena ends up in my sleeping bag. She’s 130 pounds.

Distance, Duration, and Speed

Shortening your hike may be necessary for your seasoned pup. If you notice them tiring before your hikes are finished, mark that distance. Plan to end your next hike before that distance is reached.

That shortened distance might take you the same amount of time as the longer hike used to. That’s okay, let them stop to smell the roses. Senior dogs appreciate smells sniffed, not miles hiked.

Watch them closely, some dogs need to be told to slow down. This may be especially true if they are accompanied by a younger dog.


Steep inclines and rough terrain is no problem for a dog in their prime. Those obstacles become more difficult as the aging process continues. Determine what your dog can handle and be ready to modify your plans if the terrain becomes too much. Choosing an easier level of trail would be a great kindness to your dog. Check the rating of the trail you intend to take, some sites display photos and thorough reviews of trails. My favorite app is the Alltrails app.

We took Oreo on her final trip to Gooseberry thinking that it would be an easy trail for her. Our intended trail was mostly boardwalk. There were more stairs than Oreo could handle. At the steeper and more lengthy sections of steps, I carried her up. I was surprised at how well she handled being carried, she was just so happy to be there, what a trooper!


Take into consideration your dog’s size. Would your pup fit in a backpack carrier, wagon, or trailer? Would your trail of choice allow for it. Oreo was no problem in the bike trailer or wagon. Xena, our Great Dane, would have been more tricky to transport.

My girls enjoyed running alongside my bike in their younger years. When my collie started to slow a bit, we already had a bike trailer for our daughter. There was a waterfall we liked to bike and hike to when we lived in California. The trip to the falls was always fine, but the return trip was harder for Oreo. When she was ready, we would lift her into the trailer for the remainder of the trail. If we were hiking, an all terrain wagon worked for her to ride in as well. Our daughter was very patient and willing to share her ride with her best pal.

Snacks & Water

Senior dogs tend to drink more water than a younger dog. They need more water for kidney function and general hydration. Bring more water along than you would normally bring along for your pup.

Snacks aren’t mandatory, but are much appreciated. Bring a few of your dog’s favorite snacks and treats along to motivate them on trail and to give them a few extra calories to burn.


Plan for plenty of breaks. A simple sniff break or a spot near a shaded riverbank or falls to catch their breath is needed here and there. A good time for a break is before or after a harder section of trail. A break is also an opportunity to check you dogs wellbeing and give a snack.

Health & Condition

It’s important to have regular Vet visits for your pup as they age and to keep your Vet informed about your dog’s adventuring. They may have advice for keeping them going longer and stronger. Keeping them strong and a healthy weight will help them continue adventuring. Overweight dogs will have a harder time and more joint pain.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on during your hikes with your seniors.

  • Excessive or Unexplained Panting: Overheating, exhaustion, heart condition, respiratory distress
  • Capillary Refill: Poor capillary refill could be an indicator of dehydration, heart condition or other underlying health concerns.
  • Purple Tongue: This is one that I recently experienced while hiking with a family member’s dog. When the Golden Retriever exerted himself, the tip of his tongue would start to turn purple. He had a trip to the veterinarian for labs and a check up. No conditions were found, but further monitoring will be necessary.
  • Abnormal Behavior: You know your dog best. If she starts behaving differently, there might be an issue. Take a break and check her out.

Seniors are more prone to injuries out on the trail. Bring a canine first aid kit along on your adventures, just in case.

Road Trip

Dogs love car rides! Is there anything better than feeling the breeze through their ears and slobber all along the side of your car!? Nope! Taking a road trip with your senior dog is a great way to put on the miles while relaxing in the car. Taking short walks to scenic overlooks rather than a long hike on rough terrain is more their speed now.

Vehicle: Our Xena can no long get up into the back of my husband’s truck. She doesn’t have an issue hopping into my shorter Pathfinder, though. When she comes along for the adventure, we bring my vehicle to accommodate her. We even have a cargo topper for our gear so she doesn’t have to share her space with the camping gear.

Ramps/Stairs: If you have a larger dog that’s having a harder time getting up in the car, investing in a ramp or set of collapsible steps may be an option.

Trip Duration

Sometimes trips are cut short with senior dogs. Being patience and flexible is your best bet. We’ve learned that just one or two nights of “ruffing it” is enough for Xena at her age.

We had an incident with a “senior moment” that turned a quick two night camping trip into an even quicker one night camping trip. It was an unseasonably chilly July evening, Xena wasn’t warm enough in her own bedding. I wrapped her in my sleeping bag to keep her warm with my body heat. She was well rested in the morning and loved the snuggles. Unfortunately, she had a senior moment during the night and left a nugget in my sleeping bag.

I wasn’t willing to sleep another night with a soiled sleeping bag. We remained flexible, cleaned up our site and still had a great hike that day. Instead of another night in the woods, we made the drive home. She didn’t ruin the trip, she just changed it. Flexibility and patience are key.

Staying Home

Some dogs will go until their final days, others will decide they would rather stay home, and even more will be told they need to rest. Watch your dog and listen to what they are telling you. You

Oreo would have gone anywhere with us if we asked, whether she could physically handle it or not. That little lady had determination and an undying loyalty. She was an amazing adventure dog and always eager to please. We had to slow her down and help her along. Eventually, we did make the call to have her stay home with a pet sitter. But until then, we brought her on as many adventures as we could. I remember her final trip to the Boundary Waters and Gooseberry Falls. She was so happy, but I knew it would be her last big adventure. She needed a lot help, but she was so happy to be there. After that last big adventure, she had smaller adventures closer to home in her “retirement.”

On the other hand, my parents had a Jack Russell Terrier named Misty. She had gone on many camping trips with them but at a certain point she decided, on her own, that she would rather stay home. Misty once buzzed with excitement when the camping gear was being packed, that excitement faded and she no longer wanted to load up in the truck. Eventually, she didn’t want to put on her leash and go for a walk. She would rather bask in the sun on their property and watch the goings on of her family. That choice was respected and she stayed home during their trips and happily greeted them when they returned home. I took care of her at their home while they were away, she was a happy little homebody.

However long you can keep your adventure dog going, revel in every minute of it. You never know when their last adventure will be. I miss my Oreo on every adventure and frequently look back at photos of our time together. Adventures with Xena are enjoyable for sure, but I had Oreo from the time I was 10 years old until I was 27. She was a big part of my life, I will always hold my very best adventure dog close to my heart.

Trail Etiquette for Dogs

Never hike alone, bring your dog with you! Follow Trail Etiquette to ensure everyone has a fun and safe time on trail.

Do you have an adventure dog? Dogs have been accompanying me on my adventures since I was a kid. What dog wouldn’t love a grand adventure off in the wild? Okay… Maybe not my sister-in-law’s 4 pound Pomeranian, but most others would be ecstatic if they saw the leash come out while you’re packing up. That fluffy pocket-pom might want to take a ride in her pack instead.

Know Before You Go

First things first, check to make sure dogs are allowed where you intend to hike. Most national forests, state or regional parks and recreation areas are dog friendly. On the other hand, there are very few national parks that allow dogs on hiking trails.

Leash Up

Check the regulations at your destination. Odds are if dogs are allowed, leashes are required. Be respectful of this rule, it keeps everyone safe on trail. A dog running loose, especially with a poor recall, can cause chaos on trail. We’ve experienced this far too many times. I spot a loose dog and a hiker not paying attention, then I call out, “Hold your dog!” Usually the response I get is, “Oh, he’s friendly.” Every time I have to shout back that my dog isn’t. Meanwhile, their dog is rapidly approaching my “not so gentle giant” of a Great Dane. It’s absolute nonsense. Please abide by the leash regulation in leash only parks. For some folks, like me, they’ve chosen this park because they have leash only rules.

**Side note- Please don’t let a child walk a dog that can overpower them in an exciting situation. I’ve watched small children walking large dogs let go of the leash or get dragged when the dog sees something it wants.

A retractable leash has no business being on a hiking trail. **Deep breath** They are bulky to hold on to, can cause burns if the line is grabbed while the dog is running, get tangled up easily, doesn’t give the dog clear direction, can injure the dogs neck if stopped abruptly, can be chewed through quickly, allows the dog to get too far from the handler’s reach for protection and inhibits the handler’s ability to give other hikers their space. Did I leave anything out? As a dogwalker, I speak from experience using them and watching others fumble with them. Don’t bring a retractable leash. A 6 foot nylon leash will suffice.

Give Space

Passing other hikers and dogs on trail is a great opportunity for you to practice a “heel” cue with your dog. Give plenty of room to passing two and four legged adventurers.

Loads of people love seeing dogs on trail, but there are a few that would rather not encounter a dog for various reasons. Some have allergies, have their own dog on trail, have a fear of dogs, or are bonkers and don’t like dogs. Weird, I know. Whatever the case, be respectful of others using the trail. If you do encounter an unruly dog or person who appears afraid, step off the trail to allow them more room.

A great way to ensure a successful passing is to get your dogs attention with a treat and place them in a sit while treating them when the other dogs passes. This is great for very friendly dogs who are eager to say “hello,” but are asked not to.

Ask First

This goes for both dogs and people. Asking the handler before petting a dog is common sense. This common sense seems to go out the window when someone else also has their dog out and about. Never assume the other dog is friendly. While there is still plenty of space between the two dogs, ask if their adventure pal is friendly and would like to say “hi” to your dog. If the answer is no, respect them and give them space to pass. If the answer is yes, always take into account the body language of both dogs before letting them play.

I am very grateful to those who respect my Xena’s space. She loves her adventures so much, and it’s always appreciated when we can enjoy them in peace and pass others without incident.

Right of Way

Knowing who has right of way is helpful in being a considerate hiker, with or without a dog.

  • Hikers with dogs yield to hikers without.
  • Hikers descending a hill yield to hikers ascending.
  • Bikers yield to hikers and horses.
  • Hikers yield to horses.

A proper yield means slowing down, stopping completely if on a bike, and stepping slightly off trail if possible. Calmly make yourself known, especially when approaching from behind.

Gear Up

Packing the appropriate gear is essential for hiking with your pooch. Take into consideration the weather and your dogs size, ability, and medical needs while packing. Is your dog carrying his own pack or is the dog gear doing in your pack. Does she need a coat in the winter or is she fluffy? If she’s fluffy, how will she cool down if she gets hot in the summer? Be sure to check your dog’s packing list before you set out.

Leave No Trace… That Means Poo Too

Follow the “Leave No Trace” principals and bring the poo bags. We don’t clean up bear poop in the woods, so why should we have to clean up dog poop in the woods? Because it’s gross, that’s why. Nobody wants to see a big pile of dog poo on the trail. Bring the baggies and take it out with you. In some cases, such as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, it can be disposed of in the latrine or buried. DO NOT bury or throw poo bags in the latrine. If you bag it, it must be packed out or tossed in the nearest trash bin.

No digging or destroying trees. Dogs love to dig, make sure you are putting the forest back the way you found it or better yet, preventing your dog from digging it up in the first place. Xena has a hilarious habit of biting trees. She is only allowed to do this on private property, not on public trails or protected wilderness areas, though it is comical to watch.


SQUIRREL! Oh yes, we’ve all experience the mayhem of a squirrel crossing. It’s exciting for sure, but once the excitement is over be sure to hush your puppies. Folks in the wilderness are seeking serenity and a barking dog isn’t it. Be respectful and keep your pup focused and relatively quiet.

Be aware of your surroundings, especially when hiking in areas where there are large animals such as moose, bears, and bison. Give these animals space and keep your dog under control.

Respect Hiking Limits

Dogs come in all shapes, sized and abilities just like people. Your one year-old Siberian Husky will go a lot farther and faster than my 15 year-old Border Collie did at Gooseberry Falls. Learn your dogs limits and abilities and adhere to them, grow their ability slowly. Starting off with short fun hikes and gradually increasing the time, distance, and difficulty will have your pups whipped into shape in no time.

Likewise, respect breed abilities. A lean short-coated dog may not do will with a long winter hike in the mountains and a fluffy heavy-coated dog won’t fair so well in the desert heat. Pay attention to your dogs, they’ll know what they can do they just can’t say it in words.

Take breaks when needed. Not just a physical break but if they’ve been in a “heel” for a long while when passing a crowded area give them a mental break to sniff around once you’ve passed the congestion. It’s important to let a dog sniff their area, it makes them relax and feel more comfortable with their surroundings.

Know When to Leave Fido at Home

Be watchful of seniors, while they have more experience under their collars, they don’t adjust as quickly and may eventually enjoy the view from home better. Our Border Collie mix, Oreo, went on so many adventures in her 17 years, coast to coast, mountains to desert. In her final years, she slowed down and was content to meander about the trails behind our house. On her last canoe trip to the Boundary Water Canoe Area, I knew it would be her last and I think she knew it too. She soaked in every bit of her adventure, I can still picture her basking in the sun on the warm rocks near camp. She was the best adventure dog and I miss her greatly.