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Exploring the great outdoors with your dog

Adventure is calling! When you answer, take your best fur-friend along. Hiking, swimming and camping are great ways to bond with your dog, while you enjoy the fresh air and exercise.

Hit the Trail with Your Dog

Preparing for the hike:

  • Whether you’re taking an urban path or a mountain trail, make sure dogs are welcome on your route. Many trail websites will tell you if waste disposal sites and drinking water are available.
  • Choose a trail won’t hurt your pup’s paws. Paths layered with leaves or soft needles are good (although they can be slippery when wet). Avoid trails with sharp rocks that can cut canine feet, and paved surfaces that heat up in the sun.
  • Carry fresh water and let your dog drink often. Even streams, ponds or lakes that look clean can be contaminated.

Doggy hiking gear tips:

  • Ask your vet if it’s okay for your dog to carry a pack. If so, let him get used to it and build up strength on short walks. Weigh the pack after it’s loaded, and don’t let it exceed 10% of his body weight.
  • Use a pack made of breathable materials, and one with proper padding. Check the straps often so they don’t chafe your dog.

Dog Paddle with Your Pup

Preparing for a swim:

  • Take along fresh water and a doggie bowl, and don’t let your dog drink from the pool, ocean or lake.
  • Remember: not all dogs can swim, and some dislike the water, so never force him in the water. If he does get it, watch for treacherous currents and jellyfish in the ocean, or submerged hazards in lakes. Scum or algae on the water can be toxic, so don’t let him swim if you suspect pollution or contamination.
  • If you’re in a pool, show your dog how to enter and exit from the steps, so he won’t try to crawl out on the side. No matter where you swim, keep an eye on him at all times.

Doggy swimming gear tips:

  • Even good swimmers may need help in rough waves, or if they get tired or disoriented. Before you buy a CFD (canine floatation device, or life jacket), try it on your dog to ensure a good fit. Get one with a handle, so you can lift him out of the water, if necessary, and one with a bright color or reflective strips for visibility.
  • Bring some water toys, so you and your four-footed friend can play. If you toss them into the ocean, be sure your dog will obey when he’s called back, and don’t let him go too far. Bring towels to dry him.

Camp with Your Canine

Preparing for camping:

  • Check the campsite rules and regulations pertaining to dogs: Some national parks allow dogs, as do many state and local parks.
  • Before you go, ask your vet if your furry friend needs a flea and tick preventative, heartworm medication, or other protection. Brush and check your dog regularly after being outdoors.
  • If your camping site allows unleashed dogs, make sure yours will come called. For extra safety, he should be chipped and collared with an ID tag.
  • Put away your pet’s food and water at night, so you don’t attract unwanted critters.

Doggy camping gear tips:

  • Bring bedding for your dog and a waterproof ground cover in case of rain or dampness. Carry waste bags if your campsite doesn’t have a designated spot for disposal. The Humane Society of the United States also recommends a canine first aid kit.

A little pre-planning will make your trip will easy, safe and fun, and once you’ve got a successful outdoor excursion under your belt—and his collar—you’ll be ready for many more.

Lynn Coulter is owned by two rescue dogs—Molly and Miss Paws—and occasionally blogs at She’s also the author of three books and a freelancer who writes about travel, gardening and more. She and her husband live in metro Atlanta, where they cheer for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and spend their money on dog biscuits.

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