By Liz Illg, Puff &Fluff

As the weather warms up, it’s time to put on your walking shoes, get outdoors, and enjoy nature. If you have a pup, you will most likely want to take him or her along to enjoy some exercise as well! While it’s great to spend quality time with your pet outdoors, it’s equally important to learn some handy tips beforehand. Hiking with your pet can be a fun, exhilarating experience – but it can also be dangerous if you don’t follow proper protocol.

Bring plenty of water:
Most of a dog’s body is comprised of water so it’s critical to bring enough water for you and your pup during a hike. One or two bottles may not be enough, and your dog may require even more water depending on his or her size. Come prepared, because you don’t want to worry mid-hike about running out of water. In addition to water, make sure you have snacks and treats for your pet as well. Essentially, whatever you think YOU would need for a hike, your pet will most likely need as well.

Ensure your pet is in good health:
This one may seem obvious, but it’s important to keep in mind. Both young and old dogs cannot handle intense trails – don’t push them to exhaustion. If you notice your pet is lying down, panting excessively, or foaming at the mouth, it’s time to stop the hike and cool down. You can certainly train your dog to build up their prowess, but don’t expect them to keep up with the level of activity that you can. If you have any questions about your pet’s health, be sure to ask your vet.

Keep the environment clean:
Of course, we love spending time outdoors with our four-legged friends, but if we want to keep enjoying time outside, we have to treat our planet with love and care. This means picking up after your pet during your walks and hikes. You may think leaving some dog droppings in the middle of the woods won’t do much harm, but dog excrement actually contains harmful levels of bacteria, which can disrupt local wildlife, native habitats, and groundwater supplies. Pick up after Fido!

Take plenty of breaks:
Again, this goes along with the notion of making sure your pup is in good health and to bring along plenty of water staying hydrated. Don’t overwork your dog – even if you think ‘they can handle it’, hiking can put quite a strain on our furry friends. While exercise is great for their health, don’t overdo it. You don’t have to race to the peak – enjoy the journey and quality time with your dog at their own pace.

Always check your pup post-hike:
While you should be checking for signs of exhaustion during the hike, keeping an eye on your pet post-hike is also a good idea. Make sure they’re drinking, eating, and acting like their pawesome self. Also, a bath is a great idea post-hike. Make sure to check for ticks, scratches, or cuts – especially around their paws. It’s a good idea to put together a little first-aid kit to bring along on your hikes – just in case.

Lastly, if the ground is too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pup.