Squid sniffed the air and glanced up at the thin bit of webbing bonding us together. It was a cool spring morning and his sweet demeanor, on an otherwise normal Saturday Morning, seemed to rub off on me. I glanced up and scanned the landscape for signs that might cause me to doubt his newly-acquired recall abilities. The coast was free and clear with the silence of the woods as we hiked on.

“Alright. You’ve paid your dues my little Squidlet. Here you go”

I unclipped his harness to what seemed like a slow-motion whirlwind of dust and uncertainty. Immediately he pounced across the creek, effortlessly lifting his 50lb mass of muscle that is an American Staffordshire Terrier to the opposite bank. I leaped across the creek to follow and found him dancing with what he presumed to be his new best friend and what was later thoroughly explained to him as an ‘OUCH’. Many hours later he lay sulking at the bottom of the stairs donning the ‘cone of shame’.

Relieved that this was only a minor swing dance with a full-grown porcupine, I was able to calmly transport Squid to the car where we then drove straight to the vet to have his new ‘Quill-jewelry’ removed.

How do we prepare ourselves for the unexpected in the great outdoors with our dogs? The truth is, we can facilitate the safety of our outdoor experiences with our dogs by applying essential tools and knowledge to our everyday excursions. With some planning and forethought, we can prepare ourselves to confidently trot into the unknown and unveil every corner we turn with ease.

Here are some simple tips, tools and suggestions based on our own experiences in the great outdoors:

  • In an emergency, phone your veterinarian or emergency clinic to help them prepare for your arrival.
  • When planning extended trips, you may want to consider contacting your veterinarian for over the counter medicines and proper dosages for your pet.
  • Ask local veterinarians about potentially poisonous plants, animals and environmental conditions that you should be aware of
  • Remain calm.
  • Stabilize your dog and transport him or her to a veterinary hospital.


For more specific First Aid, we’ve highlighted a few of the most common things to look for whether you’re on your next trek through the hills, or bombing through the powder on the backside of Mt. Bachelor.

In the end, your Ruffwear dogs are thankful for every step you take with them even if means running through the pouring rain after work. Off-season or in-season, get outside!

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8 thoughts

  1. We’ve also learned that in some more rural areas – such as in Vermont – the Town Clerk’s Office also doubles for animal control and local dog resources. When we lost Mad-Dog and then found her 20 hours later, the Town Clerk helped us coordinate tracking her as well as finding the closest vet who could treat frost bite.

    Anyone have a list of poisonous plants and animals? We realized that could also be helpful this fall when Zoey ate a toad and started foaming at the mouth. Realized a list would have been smart. Turns out she just didn’t like the taste.

  2. Thanks for the tips! One thing that always makes me a little nervous on long hikes is the “transporting to veterinarian” part of the equation. My 85 pound AmStaff mix is a wee bit too large for me to carry out of the backcountry by myself if something ever renders him unable to walk. Any suggestions?

    1. Sturdy hiking poles (or regular thick sticks, about 6 feet long or so), a bit of rope, and some sort of coat or rain jacket. Tie the jacket to the poles and make a travois-like stretcher. Or, if you’ve got an external frame pack, you can turn the frame into one. You’d just have to ditch most of your gear if you did that though.

    2. Hi Laura- I totally understand. Although Squid was only 50-55lbs, I still had a hard time trusting whether or not I’d be able to transport him. I tried to keep him in either in his Webmaster Harness or his Approach Pack which both featured a handle. I always felt a bit more comfortable knowing I could use the handle to help transport him if needed.


  3. I carry a pair of fishing pliers with me wherever I go now that both dogs have each had 2 run-ins with porcupines. One dog learned very quickly to avoid them. The other dog now has a vengeance for the little rodents. Pliers with something to cut the tips off make it SO much easier having to pull 100’s of little quills out of a dogs mouth.

  4. I made my own dog first aid kit based off some of the information in previous Ruff Wear posts about first aid. It’s got all sorts of things that are useful on their own in there, and one of my dogs carries it in her Approach Pack no matter how short the hike is. It just lives in the pack, since you never know when you’ll need something inside it, so why bother “putting it away”?

  5. We carry a pair of needle nose pliers now after the first time our dogs ran into a porcupine. Easy to slip into their pack or our pockets.

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