Most dogs are natural lovers of the outdoors. And your dog just might jump up and wag his tail at the phrase, "Let's go hiking!" To him, there's very little that's more exciting than exploring endless trails for miles and laying out in the cool shade. But like anything else, there are certain rules of the road and woods that come along with taking your dog on a hike.
If you have a long drive to your hiking destination of choice, keep him comfortable. You may want to bring along his favorite toy and a blanket from his crate to put him at ease until you arrive. Never allow him to ride on your lap or go near the driver side floor where the brake and gas pedals are located. Never let him lean out of the window or travel in the flatbed of a truck. If your dog tends to move around in the car, you may want to consider a canine seatbelt. (Be warned: puppies love to chew through these!) The safest way for a dog to travel in a car is in an airline-approved crate.
On the Trail
The key is to take it slow. If he's not used to a lot of exercise, start off with a milder walk or two for no more than a half an hour. After all, you want him to learn to love these outings without getting overtired.
If he's skittish, consider keeping him on a shorter leash. That way, he won't be as surprised by the sudden appearance of joggers, cyclists, forest animals, and other dogs that cross his path.
Be careful around water. You never know what's lurking in settled bodies of water—it could make you and your dog very sick. You should always bring along drinking water for both of you, and a portable bowl or water bottle adapter for your dog. A quick Google search will get you what you need if you don't own one of these already.
Just as you listen to your body while exercising, make sure you listen to his. If you see that he's tired, take a break for a few minutes to rest up and rehydrate. Remember, it's not about pushing him to the max—it's about enjoying and taking in his surroundings! Speaking of surroundings, always stick to the marked trails so as to avoid brambles, thorns, and burs, especially if you have a long-haired dog.
Of course, your dog's entitled to do his business where he pleases. But, don't leave it on the trail. Bring several plastic bags—extra if you'll be out in the woods for a while.
Before you head out, do your research to make sure the park is—indeed—dog friendly. Remember, not everyone you encounter on the trail is a dog lover. So be sure to always keep to one side of the trail and hold your dog steady when others approach.
Most importantly, enjoy yourself! You're doing something healthy for yourself and your dog.