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Hiking With Your Dog

Hiking With Your Dog

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.

Car Travel

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.

General Etiquette

Of course, your dog is 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.

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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