As the winds of winter fade away, spring has sprung! Time to bid farewell to your cozy chair and fireplace and hit the outdoors. Dogs of all sizes can engage in outdoor activities like hiking, biking, swimming and jogging. It’s important to keep yourself active, as well as your pet. Happy pet parent, happy pet.
Start simple – take your pet for a walk every day. A lot of pet parents thinking “walking the dog” is too daunting a task, leaving poor Fido to sit inside all day. Use the time you have, whether that’s ten minutes or an hour! Your pet will be grateful for the exercise and the time spent with you.
Be aware of your pet’s capacity for exercise – a smaller pet means shorter legs. Small dogs typically tire faster, so watch for signs of exhaustion like excessive panting, slowing or stopping pace, and limping. Senior pets may have conditions that affect their joints and mobility, like arthritis or hip dysplasia. If your pet suddenly has much less interest in or endurance on walks, see your vet!
That’s right, you can bicycle with your dog! However, pet gear company The Dog Outdoors only recommends this activity for pets over 25 pounds and at least a year old. “Flat face” breeds like pugs and bulldogs are also advised to avoid this intensive cardio workout.
Specialty leashes are available for pet parents who want to bike with their dogs. These dog bike leashes aren’t “leashes” in the traditional sense, but rather bars or rods that attach to the bike, with a lead and clip coming out of the end. Using a specialty leash helps pet parents prevent dangerous tangling of the leash, which can lead to injury of both pet and pet parent.
Be cautious when biking with your dog near busy roadways; always put your pet on the inside of the sidewalk, away from the street. If mountain biking, be aware of the local fauna, including deer, mountain lions, and bears. Both dogs and forest animals are easily spooked, which can be dangerous for you and your dog.
3. Paddle boarding
While this water sport is gaining in popularity, pet parents are bringing along their dogs. Known as SUP, or stand-up paddle boarding, all you need is a paddle board, a body of water, and a very patient pet. SUP is all about balance, which means Fido must be very, very still!
To get your pooch into SUP, start by practicing on dry land. Make sure he or she will follow basic commands and stay on the paddle board; adventurous pups may want to take a dip. Waves can be scary for a dog new to the sport, so it’s best to begin on a relatively calm lake or river.
Always outfit your pet with a doggy life jacket before undertaking any activities near water. No matter how great a swimmer you think your pup is, better safe than sorry! Dog life vests also have handles, which makes playing lifeguard a little easier.
When the weather cooperates, hit the trails! There are thousands of hiking trails across the nation, may of which are dog-friendly. Website and mobile app Bring Fido lists dog-friendly travel destinations, including hiking trails. The more human-centric Trails.com also offers information about pets on paths; if you’re still concerned, call the ranger station nearest your destination.
Always be prepared! That means packing enough emergency supplies – food, water, first aid – for you and your pet. Never let your pet off-leash in a wooded area; snakes, bears, toxic plants, and unseen ravines or cliffs are all dangerous to your dog. It’s a good idea to pick up a guidebook to local flora and fauna, or do your research online before your trip.
There is plenty of dog hiking gear to make your life a little easier. Collapsible water and food bowls save space in packs, while dog booties protect sensitive paws from thorns and rocks. Even mainstream retailers like REI have a large section for dog-friendly hiking gear, including dog backpacks, cooling vests, hammocks and travel beds.
5. Ultimate Frisbee
If your dog goes gaga for fetch, take it to the next level. A large open space – like a park, field or meadow – is best for this activity. Your pet may be a little overexcited at first, but practice makes perfect! Be sure not to trample or interfere with anyone else’s good time; we all know dogs have a pretty one-track mind and will do anything (and we mean anything) to get to that disc.
Picking a dog-friendly disc is essential! Pets’ jaws are very strong, and can break traditional human Frisbees with one bite. Find a sturdy, aerodynamic disc designed for dogs – those labeled puncture-resistant are a good bet. If your pet does shatter a disc, inspect their mouth for any pieces and throw it out. If you suspect ingestion, see your vet right away!
Pet parents interested in a competitive dog sport should check out disc dog, or Frisbee dog. Handlers throw the disc for their pet in competitions like “toss and fetch,” freestyle, and long distance. The US Disc Dog Nationals, Skyhoundz, UFO World Cup Series, The Quadruped, and the Canine Frisbee Disc World Championship are all professional competitions for the sport.