Want to take your dog onto the trails with you, but chaf­ing under the restric­tions in place at many Nation­al Parks? No worries—we’ve got you covered.

Katy Trail State Park, MO
Affec­tion­ate­ly known to locals as sim­ply “The Katy,” this state park stretch­es 240 miles along the for­mer Mis­souri-Kansas-Texas (or MKT) rail­road cor­ri­dor. Its pri­ma­ry fea­ture? 237.7 miles of rail trail run­ning from Clin­ton to Machens. With 26 dif­fer­ent trail­heads and four ful­ly restored rail­way depots along the route, you and your leashed pup will have plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties to stretch your legs and soak in the sights of the Mis­souri Riv­er and its bluffs. Com­bine an easy day hike from the St. Charles trail­head with a pic­nic at scenic river­side Fron­tier Park, or pad around the his­toric dis­trict and learn about the state’s orig­i­nal capital.

Olympic Nation­al For­est, WA
The Olympic Nation­al Park might have rules for would-be Bark Rangers, but the nation­al for­est has far few­er restric­tions: dogs are wel­come through­out the for­est, includ­ing all trails, wilder­ness areas, and camp­sites, as long as they are under your con­trol. Take your blood­hound sniff­ing for vam­pires in the Forks region and camp along the Sol Duc Riv­er, or head into the Buck­horn Wilder­ness toward the Sil­ver Lakes along the Mt. Townsend Trail for a mod­er­ate­ly tough trail through conifer for­est and rugged moun­tain topog­ra­phy. With over 250 miles of trail and more than 88,000 acres of wilder­ness through the wilds of the gor­geous Pacif­ic North­west, noth­ing but hap­py tails await!

Chugach Nation­al For­est, AK
5.4 mil­lion acres of nat­ur­al won­der­land encom­pass­ing por­tions of Prince William Sound, the Kenai Penin­su­la, and the Cop­per Riv­er Delta—and all of it open to you and your leashed dogs, no per­mits or trails required. If the thought of just head­ing off into the wild blue yon­der of griz­zly coun­try seems unrea­son­ably risky, there are plen­ty of devel­oped trails you can explore. Try the Byron Glac­i­er Trail near the Begich-Bog­gs Vis­i­tor Cen­ter in Portage Val­ley for an easy day hike along­side a rush­ing creek right up to the toe of a moun­tain­side glac­i­er, or give your dog the chance to walk in the paw­prints of super­stars along sec­tions of the Idi­tar­od Nation­al His­toric Trail like the chal­leng­ing Crow Pass—which, at 21 miles point-to-point, is often rec­om­mend­ed as a multiday.

Ange­les Nation­al For­est, San Gabriel Moun­tains Nation­al Mon­u­ment, CA
557 miles of hik­ing trails, includ­ing 176 miles of the mighty famous Pacif­ic Crest Trail, right in Los Ange­lenos’ back­yard? Sign us up! You might not be able to com­plete a pure thru-hike of the PCT with your pooch, but if you want to be able to say that you’ve done some miles with man’s best friend, here’s your chance. Dis­persed camp­ing is avail­able through­out the for­est, too, so stuff that back­pack (and con­sid­er one for your canine companion—unless you’d rather pack out their poo in your bag!) before you hit the road to extend your trip. Just remem­ber that every­one with four feet needs to remain on a leash no greater than six feet long and you’re good to explore!

The Appalachi­an Trail
If you just so hap­pen to have your heart set on a nice, long thru-hike, the Appalachi­an Trail is the way to go. With only three regions into which your pup can’t fol­low you (that’d be Great Smoky Moun­tains Nation­al Park, the Trail­side Muse­um and Wildlife Cen­ter in Bear Moun­tain State Park and Bax­ter State Park), that still leaves about 2,000 glo­ri­ous miles of wag-wor­thy trail for you to enjoy togeth­er. And you don’t have to do it all at once! If you’d rather spend a day strolling, try mod­er­ate­ly rat­ed Black­rock trail just out­side of Har­rison­burg, VA for an easy two-mil­er, or Mount Grey­lock State Reservation’s trail The Cob­bles for just over two miles of out-and-back wild­flower view­ing near Cheshire, MA.

shutterstock_391136107
Trail run­ning is an invig­o­rat­ing, but lone­ly sport if you choose to tread ground by your­self. If you’re look­ing for a new com­pan­ion while you train for the next 10K, there’s no rea­son you can’t take your best friend. It’ll take a lit­tle con­di­tion­ing, but dogs def­i­nite­ly make for some good run­ning buddies.

Here’s how to get started.

Choose the Right Breed
Not every dog is made for run­ning, believe it or not. A French bull­dog isn’t going to get very far on an uphill trek, but a Vizs­la can climb moun­tains. Be sure to research the breeds and make sure your pooch is fit for the trail. Take into account body shape, propen­si­ty for injuries and genet­ic defects like hip dys­pla­sia and whether or not your pup can han­dle the cli­mate you pre­fer to run in. Don’t take a dog run­ning if he’s not built for the adventure.

Build Up Endurance
While the aver­age dog might be able to out­run most ath­letes, that doesn’t mean your pup won’t need con­di­tion­ing. When first start­ing out it’s impor­tant to help your dog build his endurance rather than expect­ing him to keep up right out the gate. Try min­i­miz­ing runs to a mile or two for a cou­ple of weeks, then slow­ly increase the dis­tance over time. His mus­cles and joints need time to adjust just like yours did.

Work On Leash Commands
If your dog isn’t the best at walk­ing on a leash, he’ll prob­a­bly be a night­mare if you try to run with him. Make sure he has his leash and walk­ing com­mands down pat before attempt­ing to speed things up. You dog should be taught to stay by your side on both walks and runs by reward­ing him with treats as you go. Remem­ber, he should be with­in three feet of you at all times, so keep him on a short leash that is teth­ered to your waist. If he pulls, imme­di­ate­ly turn around in the oth­er direc­tion and call for him to fol­low. If he turns with you and comes to your side, toss him a treat. Your dog also needs to learn how to stop on command.

Teach Man­ners
Your dog needs to be prop­er­ly social­ized before hit­ting the trails. Oth­er­wise, every encounter with a human or anoth­er ani­mal could cause him to becomes excit­ed and lead to seri­ous injury. A poor­ly social­ized dog can become too ener­getic and trip you dur­ing your run when some­thing approach­es, or could become aggres­sive and attack. Intro­duce him to plen­ty of strangers, both of the two and four-legged vari­ety, when he’s young so he’ll know peo­ple and their pets are not a threat.

Start At an Appro­pri­ate Age
Most medi­um to large breed dogs don’t stop grow­ing until they’re rough­ly 18 months old. Try­ing to make your pup run with you before then could cause last­ing dam­age to his joints. Wait until your dog is ful­ly grown before start­ing a train­ing regime. It’s dif­fi­cult to make him sit out on your adven­tures for so long, but it’s much bet­ter than the alter­na­tive of expen­sive surg­eries and med­ica­tions to help him walk when he’s old­er because you messed up his legs as a puppy.

Warm Up
Like humans, dogs shouldn’t just hit the ground run­ning with­out per­form­ing a few stretch­es and warm-ups first. Walk your dog for at least five min­utes before pick­ing up the pace to help ease him into the trip. Repeat this at the end to help him calm down.

Bring Water
Dogs are hard­wired to please their own­ers, which some­times mean they’ll push them­selves a lit­tle too hard with­out us know­ing it. Watch for signs of fatigue and dehy­dra­tion while run­ning and be sure to bring along extra water for your pup. If your dog is exces­sive­ly pant­i­ng that means it’s prob­a­bly time for a break. Don’t push him too hard, keep him hydrat­ed and make sure to have him checked out by a vet on a reg­u­lar basis to ensure he main­tains his health.

dog skiing

dog skiingYou’ve been ski­ing for years and you’re pret­ty good at it. You know the resorts and back­coun­try well, but now it’s time for a new adven­ture: ski­ing with your dog. Maybe you’ve seen the adorable videos of avalanche dogs bound­ing bliss­ful­ly through fresh pow­der and it’s inspired you to take your best friend along. What­ev­er the rea­son, ski­ing with your dog can be a ful­fill­ing expe­ri­ence that allows you to deep­en the bond with your ani­mal and, as long as you fol­low some sim­ple tips, you’ll both stay safe and have a blast.

Off-Leash and Snow Train­ing First
Just because you’ve been ski­ing in the back­coun­try for ages doesn’t mean your dog is ready to dive right in with no train­ing. Con­sid­er the fol­low­ing activ­i­ties to get your dog ready for run­ning along­side and stick­ing with you when you ski.

  • Off-leash hik­ing
  • Swim­ming (This will keep your pup strong and help them “swim” through the powder)
  • Run­ning along­side you when you are bik­ing or rollerblad­ing (Yes, rollerblad­ing. It’s still a thing. Kind of.)
  • Off-leash snow­shoe­ing

These activ­i­ties allow your dog to prac­tice stay­ing with you (par­tic­u­lar­ly when you are mov­ing fast) and allow your ani­mal to come into con­tact with the ele­ments. All good prac­tice for a back­coun­try snow day.

Pay Atten­tion to Their Paws
No mat­ter what breed of dog you own, you are going to want to pay close atten­tion to their paws. Even Huskies and Mala­mutes (dogs bred to with­stand frigid tem­per­a­tures) can have issues with their pads if allowed to romp in the snow for too long and with­out build­ing a tol­er­ance to the cold temperatures.

If you find that their paws are sen­si­tive, con­sid­er invest­ing some dog booties. Not only do they pro­tect your animal’s paws but they are also ridicu­lous­ly cute.

If you find that your dog’s paws are becom­ing cracked and dry from play­ing in the snow, Bag Balm oint­ment or petro­le­um jel­ly can help.

Watch for Wildlife
Even in the win­ter, you and your dog may catch sight of wildlife such as moose, elk, fox­es, or rab­bits. If your dog has a strong prey-dri­ve, they may try to pur­sue any ani­mal they see. This, obvi­ous­ly, could be very dan­ger­ous for them and, poten­tial­ly, for you.

As such, try to ski in areas where you have hiked and snow­shoed before that show lit­tle sign of ani­mal life. Watch for tracks, skat, and rub­bings on trees.

Most impor­tant­ly, make sure that your dog is always under voice com­mand and will come to you when called regard­less of the distraction.

Ski­ing in Avalanche Prone Areas
It is not rec­om­mend­ed that you take your dog in areas where avalanch­es could be trig­gered. While you may know what lines to cut and how to avoid trig­ger­ing an avalanche, your dog does not. That said, take them along on eas­i­er to mod­er­ate ter­rain and save the steep stuff for you and your friends.

As a dog own­er, you’ve noticed your beloved bud­dy is inter­est­ed in oth­er crea­tures. Main­ly squir­rels, birds, and bun­nies. Depend­ing on their breed and gen­er­al dis­po­si­tion, they may be only mod­er­ate­ly inter­est­ed or over­whelm­ing­ly con­sumed. There’s no way to avoid oth­er ani­mals in nature, so it’s extreme­ly impor­tant to train your dog how to con­trol their prey dri­ve. It’s for their safe­ty and so you don’t get into trou­ble. Here’s how to pre­pare for your time with dogs in the backcountry.

dogs in the backcountry

Don’t Antag­o­nize or Encour­age Their Drive
Some­times, you’ll see an own­er who thinks their dog’s nat­ur­al instinct to chase wild crea­tures is fun­ny. Agreed, it’s pret­ty fas­ci­nat­ing and cer­tain­ly enter­tain­ing. How­ev­er, when an own­er encour­ages this behav­ior by encour­ag­ing the ani­mal to chase, bark, or whine, it can become prob­lem­at­ic. Remem­ber, you are your animal’s leader and as such, she or he will always look to you for cues.

That being said, if your dog sees, say, a rab­bit while walk­ing around the neigh­bor­hood and shows inter­est, don’t encour­age the inter­est by stop­ping, talk­ing to your dog in a way that gets him/her excit­ed, or allow your dog to pull. Mere­ly walk past the rab­bit calm­ly, keep­ing your dog at your heel. If your dog pulls or lunges, cor­rect them firm­ly by telling them “no” and mak­ing them sit calm­ing while the rab­bit hops away.

The only time it is appro­pri­ate for a per­son to encour­age their dog’s prey instinct is if that per­son intends to hunt using their ani­mal. Dogs are used to hunt wild boar, birds, rab­bits, and a vari­ety of oth­er game ani­mals. Because many were bred for just this pur­pose, it is an excel­lent way to allow your dog to use their instincts in a pro­duc­tive man­ner. Just make sure you train them rig­or­ous­ly beforehand.

Use Walks and the Dog Park as Train­ing Tools
Even liv­ing in the city, you are sure to come across all sorts of wild crit­ters. Each time you do, use it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to train. Car­ry treats with you and, when your dog is calm and doesn’t lunge after the ani­mal, give them as a reward.

Dis­trac­tion is an Excel­lent Tactic
If you have a dog who nat­u­ral­ly loves to retrieve, a ball can be an excel­lent dis­trac­tion in the backcountry.

Fol­low the rules if you’re in an area where off-leash dogs are pro­hib­it­ed! There are, most like­ly, very good rea­sons for these laws. Maybe you’re in bear coun­try and they want you to stay safe. Or cer­tain areas where you’re hik­ing might be very frag­ile, such as high-alpine tun­dra, and allow­ing your dog(s) to traipse all over it might dam­age the ecosys­tem irreparably.

Fur­ther­more, if you don’t fol­low these laws, you can be fined. For exam­ple, in many areas, it is ille­gal for dogs to chase wildlife. You’ll pay a hefty fine if a ranger sees your dog off-leash, chas­ing a deer.

Just Leash Your Animal
If you trained and still find that your dog can­not con­trol their prey-dri­ve, leash them. Of course, you love to see your ani­mal run­ning free, but it’s not worth a hefty tick­et or them get­ting bit­ten (or even killed) by a wild ani­mal sim­ply because they weren’t leashed.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/clarkmaxwell/

It’s a strug­gle for work­ing men and women these days; many of us are putting in 60 hour work weeks. With all that time spent out­side the house you might be wor­ried you’re neglect­ing your pet. But just because you work a lot doesn’t mean there isn’t a dog breed for you. Here are a few that are actu­al­ly per­fect for peo­ple who spend long hours away.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/clarkmaxwell/Grey­hound
It’s no secret that Grey­hounds love to run, which makes them great for folks who love the out­doors, but what’s not as well-known is that at home they’re reg­u­lar couch pota­toes. They’re often rec­om­mend­ed for apart­ment dwellers due to the fact that they’re sur­pris­ing­ly docile for such large dogs. As long as you get him out in the morn­ing and evening for a good jog your pup will be per­fect­ly con­tent at home while you’re out bring­ing in the bacon.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fabian-horst/Whip­pet
If you’re deal­ing with pesky weight restric­tions but desire some­thing sim­i­lar to a Grey­hound, con­sid­er a Whip­pet instead. These slight­ly small­er cousins are just as avid run­ners but don’t take up quite as much room. They’re sprint­ers rather than endurance run­ners, so they’re great for short jaunts around a track or peo­ple who love obsta­cles or park­our. With prop­er dai­ly exer­cise, they’re fine spend­ing the day indoors wait­ing for you to get home.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gowster/Bull Ter­ri­er
These squat fel­las might not have the longest legs in the bunch, but they sure do like hav­ing a good time. Bull Ter­ri­ers are known as clowns in a dog suit due to their propen­si­ty to act like goof­balls to enter­tain their friends. They’re inde­pen­dent, so don’t mind being left alone, but are also ready to go on an adven­ture at a moment’s notice. Train­ing can be a chal­lenge, but once you get it down you’ll find these pups are a joy to own.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/133374862@N02/Chow Chow
The infa­mous Chow Chow might not be the most socia­ble breed of dog, but what these guys lack in approach­a­bil­i­ty they make up for in their abil­i­ty to take care of them­selves. Wide­ly regard­ed as more cat­like in behav­ior than a dog, you’ll have no prob­lem leav­ing a Chow to do his thing at home with­out hav­ing to wor­ry about com­ing back to destruc­tion. His ener­gy lev­el isn’t exact­ly high, but you’ll still find him will­ing and able to accom­pa­ny you on long hikes as long as you pro­vide plen­ty of water and keep him cool.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/atomicf4i/Shi­ba Inu
The Shi­ba Inu is one of the most beau­ti­ful dogs out there, some­what resem­bling a fox, but with the inde­pen­dent nature of a cat. These guys are often dif­fi­cult to train due to their intel­li­gence and high ener­gy. They require a good jog in the morn­ing to keep them wound down until the evening, oth­er­wise, they’ll wreak hav­oc on your liv­ing room couch. It sounds bad, but for high ener­gy own­ers it actu­al­ly works out great because you have a run­ning bud­dy who is hap­py to get up ear­ly to run and doesn’t mind being left alone as long as he’s had his exercise.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pato_garza/Dober­man Pinscher
The Dobie isn’t always the eas­i­est dog to train thanks to his high intel­li­gence, but he’s a lover of the great out­doors and total­ly cool with being left on his own. You can take one of these guys with you on camp­ing or hik­ing trips for days at a time or head off to work for eight hours and feel secure know­ing he won’t tear into your shoes as long as his exer­cise needs are being met. A good sol­id walk in the morn­ing, or maybe a jog, will keep him calm until you come home in the evening for round num­ber two.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/28940296@N05/Labradoo­dle
The Labradoo­dle is a design­er breed that checks off all the box­es for peo­ple who work full-time but want a friend to take along on long escapades every week­end. They’re high ener­gy and easy to train, but inde­pen­dent enough that they won’t have a pan­ic attack when left alone. They love to play more than any­thing, so make sure you leave time each morn­ing for a run around the block or to play ball in the backyard.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonmelsa/Nor­we­gian Buhund
The Nor­we­gian Buhund is a bit of an enig­ma; they’re con­sid­ered one of the most active and tire­less breeds but are also great at being left at home alone, as long as they have some­thing to keep them focused. They love to explore the out­doors and crave direc­tion and a job to do, but they’re quite easy to train and con­tent to stay home alone dur­ing the day too. Once you’re back, though, be pre­pared to be smoth­ered with affec­tion and dragged right back out the door for a run.