Spring has sprung and for lots of us that means time to hit the trails! Whether you’re a hard-core mountain climber, casual weekend hiker or just enjoy long everyday walks, if you have a dog in your house, he or she most likely will want to tag along. So as the temperatures warm, here’s a little Q&A we put together to help you prepare to #OptOutside this spring.

Q: What dogs are best suited for hiking?
A: Long, adventurous hikes are great for well-trained larger, active breeds such as the Vizsla, Labrador, Weimaraner and Australian Cattle Dog, but almost any dog will enjoy a short, easy hike. Older dogs or those with health or mobility issues need to keep it shorter. If you have a concern, check with your vet first about what distance and level of difficulty best suits your pet.

Q: What about small dogs or puppies?
A: For puppies, Kat Miller, PhD, a behaviorist at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), recommends waiting 18 months for long hauls, once bones are fully developed. Smaller breeds, such as Pomeranians and Jack Russell Terriers can still go on hikes, just shorter ones. Avoid trails with lots of rocks and high elevations and be sure to provide plenty of breaks so they don’t wear themselves out too soon. Almost every dog enjoys time outdoors, but the length and intensity varies by breed, age and health conditions.

Q: How can I help get my dog ready and in shape?
A: Short jaunts to the local dog park or just walks around the neighborhood are good ways to start. Then, add extra training and distance as you see fit. Ideally, your pet already has had obedience training and adheres to simple commands. The pros at Backpacker Magazine advise that dogs should always obey when asked to return, sit, stay, etc. – this will help ensure good behavior on the trail.

Q: What should we bring?
A: Be sure to bring a leash (many trails have leash laws), snacks (for both of you!) and plenty of water or a water purifier. Active advises bringing doggie bags in case they’re not available on the trail (yes, you’ll need to clean up after your pet even on the trail). Depending on whether it’s chilly or getting warm, consider layers, like a sweater or a cooling vest. Pet first aid kits are always important to have on hand for longer journeys. To avoid bugs and cracked paws, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends bringing insect repellent and paw rescue balm as well. For smaller dogs, consider bringing along a backpack with extra room in case they get worn out and need a break.

Q: Any warning signs?
A: Pay attention to signs on the trail alerting folks to predators in the area, especially when hiking with smaller dogs. If you see or hear any signs of dangerous wildlife, leash your pet right away. You certainly don’t want your dog tangling with a coyote, porcupine or skunk! Keep a close eye on anything your pets might put in their mouths. When in doubt, make them spit it out. While it’s great fun to get out there and explore, stay alert and know the signs of possible threats.

Q: What do we do when it’s time to head home?
A: If you’ve been out in the woods, give your dog a thorough check for little hitchhikers, such as burrs or ticks. Check paws for blisters or cuts and watch your dog to make sure he or she isn’t limping or uncomfortable in any way. The experts at Whitworth Animal Clinic also advise that after very long hikes active dogs need their usual evening serving of food plus an additional 30 percent more to make up for the extra calories burned during the day. Happy trails (and tails) to you!

Tags: active, active dog, active lifestyle, Checklist, Dog, Dogs, exercise, Experts, Health, healthy, healthy lifestyle, healthy living, Outdoor, Pets, Spring, Tips

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