Saturday, July 7, 2012

Keep family dog in shape with a day hike

Taking the family dog with you on a day hike can be lots of fun. Running about and sniffing, your pet likely will enjoy being outdoors as much as you and the kids. As a member of the family, your dog likely will help create experiences that make the hike memorable for your children.

Perhaps most importantly, hitting the trail also is good exercise for your dog – and all too often our pets are overfed with too little physical activity, leading to obesity and associated illnesses later in Rover’s or Queenie’s life.

When deciding if the family dog should go on a day hike, though, consider these variables:
g Location – Most national and state parks don’t allow dogs on trails. National forests and county parks usually are more lenient, through there may be restrictions such as the dog must be on leash.
g Age – Young dogs shouldn’t go on long hikes until they’re at least a year to 15 months old, as the distance will overtax their growing and developing bones and muscles.
g Size – Likewise, smaller dogs shouldn’t go on long hikes. Larger dogs, however, need longer trails to really get a good workout.
g Surface – Avoid trails with hard surfaces as they can damage dog’s joints, especially on young pets. If the trail surface is asphalt or concrete, ensure that there is grass parallel to the trail for your dog to run on.
g Temperature – Be wary of cold weather. While you can dress up, your dog cannot. If you need a jacket or gloves, then the hike may be too cold for your dog if it’s small or short-haired.

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.