I don’t know many people that say they hate Autumn. This time of year is most enjoyable for walking my dogs. Just enough warmth to wear a jumper and scarf, but not so wet and cold that we become the bundled-up Hobbits most dog owners transform into over the winter months.
As the hot sun fades and golden leaves appear, walks are beautiful as the trees blaze with reds and oranges. Do our dogs appreciate all this, too?
Our dogs seem to enjoy the extra earthy smells that the damper ground offers. The dew lasts longer and our walks might be at dawn or dusk this season.
Walking in low light conditions
Dogs’ vision is particularly attuned to low light conditions. Where we may squint to see where we are going, our dogs can happily trot along without fear of bumping into trees or falling into dips in the ground. Their keen hearing and sense of smell helps them, but as dogs evolved to hunt during the crepuscular hours (early/late) they really can see much more detail at these times. They probably wonder why we are taking so long!
Bright autumn colours
Bright sunlight is a different matter of course, and hopefully our beautiful Autumn leaf colours will last. Our dogs will not appreciate these bright shades of reddish-brown, however. Dogs can see colour, but they only have two kinds of colour detecting cones; similar to a person with red-green colour blindness. This means they will see a range of yellows, blues and a great many shades of grey (not just fifty)!
Next time you have thrown your dog’s red toy into green grass, don’t be surprised if he runs straight past it, using his nose to track back to where it landed.
‘How come’, you ask, ‘my dog can still spot a squirrel dashing through Autumn leaves at 100 feet away, but can’t see his own toy sitting plainly on top of them when I have thrown it?’ This is because dogs can detect motion far better and at much further distances than we can. Some dogs were deliberately bred together and enhanced with this ability meaning their eyes contain a specific visual streak enabling motion detection. Any long-nosed breed is more likely to have this visual set-up.
Conversely, a short-nosed dog such as a Pug or French Bulldog has a different visual configuration, meaning they are more likely to be good at close-up focus. They may still play with toys and chase, but their vision is just not designed for this. They are also a lot closer to the ground on their little sturdy legs. A huge difference to the slender sight hound.
Autumn brings the smells
Autumn, for our dogs, brings all the smells and damp earth that they love. The smells of wild animals sneaking around at night, the hunting amongst piles of fallen foliage, are a dream landscape for a dog. Of course, there is something really heartwarming for us about kicking through crunchy leaves and seeking out conkers.
Autumn scent is powerfully interesting as leaves pile up, so be vigilant for hidden creatures on walks and in your garden. Never let your dog bother a poor prickly hedgehog. I recall my Collie doing such a thing and proudly presenting his face to me for a kiss… until I noticed it was absolutely black with fleas.
Take your dog for longer walks
Now is the time of year to take your dog for longer, rambling walks. Let your dog sniff to his heart’s content as he potters around following the squirrels’ paths as they tease him from high above.
Let the dogs learn how to play with one another, especially those of you with puppies. Set up a nice Autumn walk, wrap up warm, even think of getting a little coat to keep puppy warm whilst their coat develops. Find nice adult dogs that are generous with a youngster. Let them get to know one another and have a little game. There are fewer things more enjoyable than watching your dog caper about with another one!
Prepare for mud
Along with leaves and damp comes plenty of mud! Leave some towels laid out flat by the door, so that you and your dog can come in without fear of transferring the wet any further. It keeps the doormats a little cleaner, and towels soak up most of the moisture from their paws. There’s nothing to stop you bundling them around your dog too, for a drying off cuddle, as long as you both enjoy this of course!
If your dog really is soaking, and you know this is likely, set up a drying crate. Our Collie used to jump into every dyke possible, some very silty! I would then try to send him to swim in a clearer one, before we came home. At home I had set up his crate by the door with a tasty chew placed inside and a few treats thrown in as we arrived. Inside the crate were dry towels with a few more over the top to catch the inevitable shaken off water.
Result? One dry, clean-ish dog by the time he had finished his chew. It also gave me lots of time to change my shoes and clothes into something a bit more indoor-friendly.
Next, another favourite Autumn pastime. Cuddling on the sofa with my dogs snoozing on a blanket, watching repeats of ‘Bake Off’ and seeing the squally weather remaining firmly outside the window.
– Karen Wild