A to Z Challenge: I is for Itch

Today’s topic is not a fun one. But it is a necessary one, especially for first time dog owners that like to take their dogs hiking off leash like we do.

We love to take the dogs to places they can run off leash, partly because QQ is a high energy dog and loves to run, and partly because we love to see them run. Chyler didn’t run when we first adopted her, she barely even walks.  But she has since blossomed and we discovered that she loves to run, she’s even faster than QQ sometimes. She has no problem keeping up with him at all. Many people commented to me when they see her run that she might be small, but she runs like the wind.

Chyler and QQ are have their own unique preferences. QQ loves to run at the beach. He loves playing with the waves and speeding off at wide open places. Chyler loves the woods. She is small sized enough that shrubs and bushes post no obstacles to her. When we go hiking in wooded areas, she’ll disappear off trail and re-appear moments later with a ear-to-ear grin on her face. Before we got Chyler, QQ never goes off trail when we hike wooded areas, nowadays, he sometimes will dash off after Chyler, but he always returns very quickly to stay with us. At the beach though, he can spend hours running circles and dashing in and out of waves. Chyler on the other hand usually sticks close to us when we are at the beach, only dashing off to chase the occasional seabird. It’s strange how they each like different off leash places.

The video below shows QQ having fun off leash at the beach. Chyler is way more sedate.

#fun at the #beach today! #pressplay

A post shared by QQ & Chyler (@clearskiespup) on


Because of this, we try to visit both type of places often, so that they each get to enjoy their off leash freedom to the fullest. However, recently, an event happened that made us rethink if we should just let the dogs off leash at the beach.

Two words.  Poison Oak. Yep, I is for Itch, the itch that comes with the rash one gets after coming into contact with poison oak.

We regularly take the dogs to a off leash park nearby. This is Chyler’s favorite park. There’s a loop trail circling a wooded area and she loves to run into the woods. Before we got Chyler, QQ never ventures off the trail. He’ll run up and down the trail and sniff at the edge. But since Chyler loves to take off, he sometimes follows.

The video below was taken about 4 months ago, when Chyler first started to really have fun and explore when we took the dogs to the off leash park nearby.

Doggies having fun in the #woods 🌿🍃🌾 #dogshavingfun #offleash

A post shared by QQ & Chyler (@clearskiespup) on


A couple of weeks ago, I suddenly developed red and itchy rash on my right arm. I couldn’t figure out the reason, until a week later when I  visited the doctor. He asked if I’ve been hiking recently, and I said yes. And he said it’s likely poison oak.

I went home and did some research. Before this, I had very little knowledge of poison oak. I thought only few places have this. I looked at the images of poison oak online, and being a plant idiot, it looks like any regular shrub to me.

Image of Poison Oak – those reddish shiny leaves – stolen from the internet. even after I see this, I won’t recognize it if I see it in the park. that’s how much of a plant idiot I am.


Apparently, most “wild” parks in California has poison oak, and yep, that park that we visit often has poison oak. The rangers do their best to keep it restrained and far from the trail. But because we allow the dogs to run off trail, it’s likely that they brushed against it and it transferred onto me.

Seeing as how I always wear long sleeved jackets and I avoid touching any plant during our hikes, the only possible way I could have gotten poison oak is from the dogs.

Poison oak do not affect dogs at all. QQ and Chyler are both perfectly fine. However, we humans will get itchy rash. And although it’s likely I only come in contact with the oils from the poison oak on my right forearm, my body’s immune system went into overdrive and developed allergic dermatitis, and small little itchy bumps started to pop up all over. And accordingly to my doctor, this lasts for 2-3 weeks.

The whole experience is enough to make me rethink if I should allow the dogs to run off the way they do at the park.

The husband has successfully trained Chyler to not run into the woods if he says “No” very firmly. QQ doesn’t run into the woods voluntarily. He only does it to go after Chyler.

However, Chyler seems so incredibly happy whenever she gets to run into the woods. The grin she has on her face when she returns is something we rarely see elsewhere. In fact, I berated the husband when he told me how he restricts Chyler from running off trail.  Chyler came to us so frightened and sad that I want her to have any happiness she can have.

Video below is a recent video of Chyler and QQ at the off leash park. We discovered that Chyler climbs trees!


But if we let her run off trail, then we have to know that there’s a high possibility that when she returns, she might have poison oak on her, and it will very likely transfer onto us. That means 2-3 weeks of itching and red, angry rash. And the itch is very bad, I actually woke up from the itching a few nights!

We do use a towel to wipe QQ and Chyler down now when we return from off leash hikes. I’m not sure how much that helps with oils transference from poison oak. The most effective method is to bath the dogs, but we don’t want to bath them too often. It can take 7 to 10 days before there’s any skin reaction after contact with poison oak so we never really know when exactly did the dogs come across it.

To be honest, I still don’t know what we are going to do.  We are lucky in the sense that we have been taking QQ and Chyler hiking for over a year and this is the first time it happened to us. It’s also likely because QQ doesn’t like to go off trail until Chyler came along about six months ago. And for the first two to three months, Chyler stuck pretty close to us. So technically, it took about 4 months of off leash running in the woods before it happened to us.

Do anyone else have any experiences with poison oak? Any ideas on how to best compromise so that Chyler gets to run off leash in places she like and yet we don’t come in danger of poison oak?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s