Get Outside: Maritime Dog First Aid and Hiking Safety

Emily Kathan

Tracey Buchanan is the owner and operator of Maritime Dog First Aid and Hiking Safety. She also teaches (human) first aid courses for BraveHeart First Aid in Coldbrook. Owning a dog (or two) means getting outside is part of your daily routine. We asked Tracey about how her training courses and hikes help dogs and their people stay safe and healthy while exploring and enjoying trails around the Valley:

The Grapevine: Tell our readers a little about yourself and where you’re from (and a little about your dogs too!):
Tracey Buchanan: I grew up in Baddeck, Cape Breton, and I moved to the Annapolis Valley when I was 16. I married my high school sweetheart and now we have three beautiful children, and three beautiful dogs: Reba, an 11-year-old golden retriever, Bruin, a 7-year-old golden doodle, and Tuukka, a 3 year-old standard poodle. I love to hike and explore, and my dogs love to adventure with me!

GV: What made you decide to start teaching these courses?
TB: I decided to start teaching these courses for a couple of reasons. I hike a lot with my dogs and I meet lots of other hikers with dogs as well. We are out in the woods and I thought it was important for hikers to know how to help their dogs if they get injured, but not only that, dogs are our best friends, and any dog owner should know how to help their dog in an emergency situation. There is no EMS for dogs, so if they get hurt, you are their first responder. You need to know how you can help until you can get them to a veterinarian.

I started the hiking portion of my business because I love to hike, and we live in the most beautiful province with so many places to explore. Being outside is so good for the mind and the body. I’ve met lots of people who want to hike but there are several factors that seem to deter people: they are unfamiliar with the trails, they don’t like to hike alone, they don’t know what equipment they need, or they are unaware of general trail etiquette (especially when hiking with dogs is concerned). Blending the two into one business just happened on its own.

GV:What can participants expect to learn from the course?
TB:Participants who take the canine first aid course will learn a whole wealth of knowledge about their dog’s health and wellness. We discuss CPR, choking, bloat, cuts, burns, medications, poisons, bandaging, splinting, safety, and so much more! They take home a manual as a valuable reference as well as a certificate showing that they are certified in canine first aid.

GV:What’s something about dog safety or first aid that you feel all dog owners should know?
TB:One of the best things that dog owners can do to help their dog (and their veterinarian) is to condition their dog to accept first aid treatments, so that if they are ever in need of this care, they are trusting and will allow their owner to help them. If your dog cuts their paw on the trail and you need to bandage it, you want your dog to cooperate so you can take care of their injury!

GV:What do you enjoy most about hiking and enjoying the outdoors with dogs? What are the biggest risks or potential hazards and why?
TB:I love all of the beautiful places that I get to see when I hike. One of the best parts of hiking for me is watching my dogs enjoy the simple pleasure of being outside. Every day, my dogs are so excited to go for a walk and their joy is infectious! The biggest risk of hiking with dogs is not knowing the hazards that you could run into. By knowing the hazards and how to manage them, you are able to protect yourself and your dog. For example, in the Annapolis Valley some of the hazards that I look out for are wood ticks, blue green algae in the summer and fall, and coyote snares and frostbite in the winter!

GV:Tell us about the guided hikes. What kinds of locations or difficulty levels can participants expect? What level of training should dogs have before participating?
TB:I choose to offer guided hikes in locations that people can easily return to and hike on their own. When I offer a guided hike, I include the difficulty level, as there is a range! When dogs participate, they should be used to walking on a leash and being around other dogs.

GV:What are your goals for your business and your plans for the future?
TB:My goal for my business is to prepare dog owners to support their dogs in the event of any first aid situation. While my primary focus for my business is currently rooted in my love for dogs, I have recently partnered with the Municipality of Kings to offer guided hikes for girls, ages 12 to 15. This program, called Hike with Us, seeks to empower girls to feel comfortable and safe accessing public trail systems, while being respectful to nature. This has been a great success, and I hope to continue to offer this type of programming in the future.

GV:Where can participants sign up for courses or hikes?
TB:Participants can sign up for hikes or courses through my website:, or through my Facebook page: Maritime Dog First Aid and Hiking Safety. I also post pictures of my daily hikes on my Instagram page: @dogsofbilltown. See you on the trails!

Photo courtesy of Tracey Buchanan.