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Planning a summer get-away to a farm, rural area or the countryside is a great way to just relax, unwind and enjoy your vacation in a less stressful environment. It is also a great way to spend some time with your dog taking long walks or just giving your pet some much needed outside space and time. While countryside living has its definite advantages, there are some issues and possible concerns that owners need to be aware of before their vacation.
First and foremost is that while your dog is out of the city they are much more likely to engage in more "doggy" type behaviors. This includes chasing and perhaps even catching and killing small rodents such as mice, various insects or other small animals. It is also much more likely that your dog is going to come into contact with wild animals of some species or variety. While a great number of diseases and viruses cannot be passed from species to species, there are still some very serious viruses that can. It is important to note that many of the viruses or bacteria that your dog may contact while drinking from a puddle or stagnant water source, sniffing at other animal's feces or even coming into contact with animal urine can result in serious health conditions. In most cases routine vaccinations will cover the most significant and problematic conditions so make sure all vaccinations are up to date. It is also important to talk to your vet about any known issues in the area where you are vacationing. Vaccinating ahead of time can prevent your dog from coming down with anything, even if they do come into contact with an infected animal or the body fluids from an infected animal.
Rabid animals, especially smaller rodents such as mice, squirrels, bats or skunks can be a real concern. Be sure that your dog's rabies vaccination is current and find out if there are any active cases of rabies in the area you are visiting. This information is typically available through the country or state's Department of Agriculture website, however most vets can also provide this information. If in doubt call a vet's office in the area you are planning to visit and ask if rabies is a concern. Watch for any signs of bites or wounds and clean, disinfect and monitor the area around the bite. Take your dog into the vet if you have any concerns or have reason to believe the wild animal was acting strangely prior to coming into contact with your dog.
Dogs are also going to have greater access to different items in their environment than they would be if they are in their own yard in the city. Often dogs will engage in, what is to owners at least, disgusting behavior. This can include rolling in or eating manure, waste materials and often unidentifiable but definitely stinky things. Be sure to bring along some doggy shampoo and be prepared to deal with these odor problems as they occur. Avoid punishing the dog for these behaviors as they are normal behavior that typically stops after a day or two. Some dogs, however, just seem to love to roll in whatever they find, which can pose a real issue for owners. Keeping these types of dogs on a leash or in a fenced area may be your only option in keeping your dog clean.
Most city dogs are not naturally comfortable around livestock so it is important to keep your dog on a leash until you know how he or she responds. Even though cattle, horses, sheep and pigs are typically calm and non-aggressive, they all can and will chase dogs if they are threatening. Typically if the farm you are visiting has dogs of their own the livestock is much less likely to do this, however it is much better to be safe than sorry. Also be aware that your dog may start chasing, resulting in real problems as the livestock become stressed and even injured during the chase. To avoid this unnecessary problem walk your dog around the animals on a leash, outside of the fence, and monitor how the interaction goes. Only when you are sure that there is no chance of either the dog or the livestock getting upset should the dog be allowed off leash. Don't walk in the pasture or the corral with the livestock and the dog initially; you could be putting both yourself and your pet at risk if the animal decides you aren't welcome.
Chickens and other types of poultry are problematic if they have free range of the area. Most dogs will naturally chase poultry and are very likely to be able to catch and kill a chicken, duck or even young geese and turkeys. Even a small breed is more than capable of killing a chicken, so don't assume a small dog won't be a problem. This is a horrible situation for everyone, so always either keep your dog restrained or fenced when the poultry is out of their coop or pen.
Make sure you bring your grooming supplies as you will need to groom your dog on a more frequent basis than when they are kept inside. Leaves, burrs, weed seeds and even twigs can tangle in the coat, resulting in hopeless mats in a very short time. Daily grooming may be required for longer coated breeds, even short haired dogs will need a rub down to rid the coat of dust and dirt if they are spending time outdoors.
Socializing your dog through time in a dog park, taking an obedience class or even just setting up some play dates with other dog owners is a great way to prepare your dog for a farm visit. This will help your pet become comfortable in a variety of settings plus it will provide a refresher on socialization and meeting new dogs, people and animals. Finding out if the farm has a fenced area for your dog will also be important, don't expect them to stay and not wander off even if the farm dogs don't.
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