You may be out on a hike with your dogs and you notice they are limping or have inured themselves jumping off a rock. You might be at the beach and your dog gets overcome with heat exhaustion. Do you know what to do in case of an emergency? Do you know how to safely carry your dog?
Recently my husband who is a park ranger at Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve had a very unfortunate encounter with an owner whose dog had collapsed, possibly from heat exhaustion (for more info on this topic visit “How to recognize the signs for heat exhaustion” article). This was a very large dog and carrying him to safety was difficult and exhausting. If the dog had been more alert or had just injured his leg, the task would have been more difficult and probably dangerous.
When a dog is injured, they are vulnerable and most likely scared. They react differently to us handling them and can actually bite their own owner. A broken leg or even a sprained ankle can put a dog into a state of panic. How would you handle this if you were out on a walk or on a trail away from the house? How would you transport your dog from your car into the vet’s office? Could you pick up your dog in a safe manner right now and carry them without them squirming around in your arms? Are they too heavy for you to carry?
Some techniques for a safe carry of a larger dog (45 – 65 lbs) include practicing with your dog from a comfortable height, like the back of your SUV or tailgate of your truck or a picnic table or bench and a second person with lots of treats. Have the dog stand length wise in front of you as you face them so that you can use both arms to gather all 4 of his legs in the center of your arms (their hip/butt and shoulder areas will be supported by your chest and front part of your shoulders). Scoop him up and remember to bend at your knees to save your back! Have the second person feed him treats in front of his face and then set him down on the platform that you started from. I wouldn’t start walking around carrying him just yet. It may take several lifts to get them comfortable with the process. Setting them down on the ground instead of the starting platform also takes some practice – again remember to bend at your knees and use safe lifting techniques to protect your back.
Another technique involves using a beach towel or two under their groin and maybe chest. If the dog is too heavy for one person to lift using a towel to help support the bulk of the body helps tremendously in a two person lift. Practice sliding a towel under the belly and groin of your dog and gather each end into a manageable hold (trying to keep the towel stretched out enough to support the dog without discomfort) to lift straight up. A fireman’s carry with the dog draped around your neck and shoulders is another technique. Smaller dogs can be lifted with a lot more ease and the most important part to remember is to support their back end and legs while you lift them. They may already be used to being carried around but when they are injured they still may be nervous, scared and in pain and they can still bite. You might also introduce your dog to wearing a muzzle in case the vet has to put one on him to evaluate or treat him. On a side note regarding muzzles, most public transportation requires dogs to be muzzled. So the next time you plan a trip to Catalina with your dog, better make sure they are ok with wearing a muzzle for the boat trip over.
Training for emergencies includes practicing lifting your dog and muzzling your dog before an incident arises may help alleviate some of the stress of transporting your dog to safety – both for you and your beloved dog. There are canine CPR/first aid courses available for you and you can visit my website for information on how to start building a great Canine First Aid Kit.