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First Season, Early Spring.

Hints and tips on what you need to do to manage your dog, season by season.

Early spring in New England, more specifically the South Shore of Massachusetts, is one of the best times of the year for walking and dogs. The sun is starting to give a hint of warmth, but it is still cold and damp in the shade. There are no leaves yet, so visibility in the woods and at the meadow edges is fantastic, and the sun light makes it all the way to the ground. The ground is still mostly frozen, so it is not a muddy slog (yet!) and where the soil has warmed you can often find animal tracks in the newly thawed ground.

Before hitting the trails or walking the beach, take time in early spring for a health check of your dog(s) after the slower winter. While at the vet, have your dog's chip read. If your dog is not chipped, now is a good time to get this done. Nothing promises a faster return of a lost dog than a microchip registered with your up-to-date contact information.

Now is a also a good time to ensure you have a plan with your vet for tick and flea management, Ticks in S.E. Massachusetts are already showing up, as the mice (the vector for deer ticks carrying Lyme's Disease) and the deer are already on the move.

The last couple of years I have used tick tubes around my home - cardboard tubes filled with cotton that has been treated with Permethrin, a tick insecticide. The mice take bits of the cotton back to their nests as nesting material, and the insecticide kills the ticks that live on the mice. I have seen a reduction in ticks, though I can't swear it was due to the tick tubes. You can also make these yourself, good stuff about making your own here .

Early spring is also a time to be careful if you're walking with your dog in S.E. Massachusetts. Nights are still well below freezing, and bogs and lakes may still have ice on them. However that ice may be quite thin in spots, especially where the water underneath is moving, and dogs can quickly get into trouble if they run out on to the ice.

I never let a dog off leash around ice - including cranberry bogs, which though mostly shallow, have deep trenches around sides, and spring growth of the plants can get pretty chewed up if you have to tromp in there to rescue your dog - leading to another cranberry farmer being reluctant to allow dog walkers. Be kind to the bogs! Pick up your dog's poop and keep the dogs off the plants!

Early spring is also a time that a lot of female dogs will come into season (heat). If you have a young un-spayed dog, and she has not had her first season yet, keep an eye out for this. You can NOT be too careful with a girl in season so watch her like a hawk. Keep in mind, the girl's heat lasts about 21 days from the first signs (swelling, bleeding, etc.), and you should assume she can be impregnated at any time during her heat cycle. You may also notice her becoming moody or clingy, which is not unusual with hormone changes. Give her extra love and attention, and keep her close. She should not be spayed while in season, so check the timing with your vet, they will usually want to wait until she is well out of heat.

Early spring is also the tail-end of coyote mating season (February through March) so be careful with dogs when walking in the woods. You might consider carrying an animal deterrent like PetSafe Spray Shield with you when walking your dog. Be careful if you see coyotes, get your dog close and on leash, they can be very bold.

February through March is also the breeding season for skunks, I keep a large bottle of Nature's Miracle® Skunk Odor Remover because if your dog gets sprayed, you really don't want to be searching or shopping for ingredients for a home made wash until you have gotten some of that stink off quickly. The AKC has a pretty good recipe for home-made solution.

Enjoy the early spring in the North East, it is one of the best seasons for dog owners - the weather is still cool, the mosquitos and gnats are not out yet, and we often have the woods and the bogs to ourselves !

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