Why don’t you (and your pet) take a hike?

Don’t worry. We’re not telling you to get lost. It’s just that today is National Take a Hike day! There’s over 60,000 miles of trails in the country, so no matter where you are, you’re likely close to plenty of options to get out and get some fresh air and exercise. And who better to take with you than the family dog? Not only are you getting to spend some quality time with your beloved pet, you’re both enjoying all the health benefits that a good hike can offer–and we know how much dogs need consistent exercise.

Still, we’re not suggesting you set out to conquer the Appalachian Trail. (Though don’t let us stop you if that’s your ambition!) There are hiking trails that can accommodate everyone, even small kids. If you haven’t been active outdoors in a while, start slow and work your way up and a little longer each time you go out. Or you could simply find a favorite trail nearby that you feel comfortable with it and visit it over and over.

One thing you’ll want to make sure to check before you strap on your boots and strap on your dog’s leash? The laws regarding pets out in your national parks. Some parks can be restrictive in how pets can be active in the area. Sometimes there’s wildlife–both the dangerous type and animals that might feel threatened by dogs running around off-leash. A park might limit what trails pets can be taken on, have enforced “always leashed” laws (with hefty fines), or not allow pets altogether. Do your research ahead of time, that way you don’t make it to a trailhead only to find out that you’d need to leave your pup behind. That’s no fun for anyone!

Even if you do find trails that allow dogs off-leash, many of these stipulate that the dog must be well-trained to follow voice commands, or must be in your sight at all times. That may not be the best place to let a puppy loose, both for their safety and your peace of mind.

So what’re you waiting for? Hopefully you’ve got some lovely weather in your part of the country–and hopefully you take advantage of it with a great hike with your pet.

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