Outdoorsy people rejoice, for the inviting warm weather has brought back the freedom to run wild in nature. There’s nothing like taking a day, the weekend or even a week to relax and recharge from the hustle called life in the throws of a technology-free wilderness. You know who else loves the great outdoors? Your dog! Well, many dogs do love a good hike, others not so much.

If you are planning to take a hike with your furry buddy soon, there are things you need to keep in mind for a fantabulous time. So, with a little planning and preparedness, you can rest assure that you, your dog and others on the trail will have a fun and safe day-hike.

Planning Ahead is Important

Even if you are familiar with a trail or hiking area, you should still check their website to make sure trail rules and regulations have not changed. You don’t want to drive two hours only to learn dogs are not allowed or that the dog approved trail is closed for maintenance. And, for safety sake, always tell at least one person where you are going and when you plan to return.

Make sure your dog’s tags are updated and that he or she is up to date on vaccinations such as rabies. Have you been protecting them against ticks, fleas and heartworm (mosquitoes) over the recent months? These are parasites and diseases that can be picked up on trails, some can be brought back home and spread to other pets. Reconsider taking your dog or reschedule if they have recent injuries or have open wounds making them vulnerable to infection.

Research the Trail

Research or contact the national park, backpacking or hiking area to see if dogs are allowed on the trails. According to REI, most United States national parks have a regulation against bringing dogs. And for the safety of your dog and others, many trails require dogs to be on leash. Leash requirements are not to restrict dogs from having fun, but for everyone’s safety. You must respect the fact that some people may not be comfortable around dogs, especially off leash, and not allow your dog to wander up suddenly on other dogs that are leashed. It’s also important to know if there is hunting allowed in the area (then they must stay on leash) and if there are poisonous snakes or plants or dangerous animals around.

Know Your Dog’s Physical Limitations

It’s not a great idea to take dogs that are older, injured or have special needs, or young puppies. They will have physical limitations and you don’t want to end up carrying a dog most of the hike. Know if the breed is built for long distance walking. For instance, a German Shepherd would love the physical activity while a Chihuahua likely won’t, but that’s not to say every smaller dog will hate it!

If your dog will be carrying his own pack, be aware of how heavy it is. Don’t overload a pack and have them practice walking with it way before you go on the actual hike. On their website, BACKPACKER suggests adjusting the dog’s harness or pack snug, not tight, as you should be able to fit two fingers underneath. When loading the pack, check that both sides have equal weight — the total pack load should not exceed one-third of your dog’s body weight.

The Day of Your Hike: Things to Do, Things to Take

Don’t feed your dog an unusually large meal that morning. Instead, feed as usual and bring along extra easy-carry food and treats. Load the dog pack with things like dog food, treats, water plus extra, collapsible bowls, extra leash and collar, dog poop bags, tick key, doggie first-aid kit, snake bite kit, dog specific sunscreen, dog boots and raincoats (if they will wear them), a towel, and don’t forget to bring the human versions for yourself in your pack!

Have Extra Fun, Bring a Shelter Dog Along! 

Whether you’re a dog foster parent, a shelter volunteer or could use the companionship, opting to take a dog on a hike that would otherwise be spending the day in the shelter can be a rewarding experience for you both!

To find a dog friendly trail near you or anywhere in the world, check out the adventure areas on BringFido.com.

Image source: Joseph Voves/Flickr