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Dogs are great motivators for mini-adventures. Some days dogs are the only reason we even take the much-needed breaks from busy work schedules and home responsibilities to get outside and connect with nature. It’s easy to get caught up in the grind, and a cold nose on your arm or a begging look in your dog’s eyes can be exactly what you need to motivate for a much-needed break—to discover new places, to enjoy some physical activity, and to appreciate all of the mental health benefits that come with exploring the outdoors with your canine companion. One thing is for sure: No matter how busy or chaotic you are feeling, you never regret taking the time to mini-adventure with your dog.
Charley Perkins gives full credit to his dog Romi and their countless mini-adventures for finding new spaces in nature and more occasions for exploration. Good thing for us, he’s happy to share some of his best advice for getting out with our dogs.
Romi dislocated her toe when she was a puppy and I don’t think it would have happened if I had properly trimmed her nails before adventuring.
Be Smart About Feeding
Feed your dog two hours before being active so they have energy and time to digest the food. Adequate digestion time cuts down the chances of them twisting their stomach (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) a very scary and very real problem, especially for larger dogs). Also, to help avoid GDV, don’t feed your dog immediately after activity.
National Parks, public lands, beaches, ski mountains—these are all awesome places to recreate with your dog and they all have different rules when it comes to our canine pals. Stay informed so rules prohibiting or limiting dog access don’t catch you off guard.
Car Travel with Your Dog
Protect Your Seats
Seat protectors are a must—they keep your car clean and your dog comfortable. You can focus more on fun and less on avoiding mud when you know your car is ready for dirty dogs.
Consider Restraining Your Dog with a Safety Harness
While this doesn’t always feel necessary, it is never a bad idea, especially if your dog is active or distracting while in the car. Plus, some states require it.
For dogs with car anxiety, pack a familiar smelling blanket or even the cushion from the dog bed so they can feel comforted by the familiar scent. You can also try calming treats or CBD.
Always Keep a Dog Bag in the Car
Mine has a spare leash, a collapsible water bowl, and some treats. This way you are always prepared for spontaneous mini-adventures.
Staying Smart & Safe
If you aren’t going to be close to water, bring water and a collapsible bowl. Dogs do not always know their limits and they need you to be proactive in keeping them safe and hydrated. Dehydration can lead to kidney and other organ failures. I recommend a half-gallon of water for each hour of activity. Learn how to detect signs of overheating.
Be Vigilant About Tick Protection
Personally, I am a huge fan of the tick collar for Romi; and you and your vet can determine the best method for your dog and your lifestyle. The important thing is proactive protection.
Prepare for the Weather and Temperature Extremes
Keep your dog cool during the hottest days—early morning and evening adventures offer lower temperatures, and frequent breaks in streams are a great way to cool off. Avoid hot asphalt and paved recreation paths that can burn paw pads. In the winter, consider protective booties or a dog coat, and avoid extreme weather adventures until later in the season when your dog has built up a thick coat.
Keep First Aid at Top of Mind
Self-educate on how to address basic canine injuries, keep first aid supplies in your daypack, and save your vet’s phone number on your phone. If adventuring into another town, familiarize yourself with the location of a local vet.
Maintain Control of Your Dog
Use a leash on busier trails, and practice recall and other training techniques (see links below) so you are best prepared for off-leash adventures. When off-leash, always keep your dog within sight.
The Back-at-Home Check List
Check for and remove ticks
Comb out burs
Check eyes, ears, throat, and in-between pads for foreign objects