Find a canine-friendly trail
Look for places that are “easy on the paws,” advises Best Hikes with Dogs Inland Northwest author Craig Romano. Pick shady trails with soft, leaf- or needle-covered terrain; avoid paths littered with sharp rocks, off-trail routes with steep drops, or any surface that gets very hot. “Stay away from areas with heavy horse use and mountain bikes,” he adds. Search by state at hikewithyourdog.com.
Fit & load his pack
Adjust the harness on your dog so it’s snug but won’t chafe (remove saddlebags first, if the pack allows). You should be able to fit two fingers under it. Load the bags with dog food, treats, water (some packs come with hydration bladders), bowls, and extra gear for you–this is the time for beer or another pillow! Make sure both sides are weighted equally; total load shouldn’t exceed one-third of your dog’s body weight.
Camp with fido
Amy Devine, founder of the 300-member NOVA Trail Dogs Hiking Club in Alexandria, Virginia, keeps her pooches happy–and out of trouble–on overnight trips with these five rules.
1) Keep dogs leashed around other hikers, bikers, horses, and on steep or slippery terrain (so they don’t knock anyone over). Step aside and yield the trail to all others.
2) Pack out poop on dayhikes (double-bag it!). On longer trips, follow LNT regs and bury away from the trail and water sources.
3) Bring a camp towel and brush to clean and dry dogs thoroughly before letting them in the tent. Trim nails pretrip to prevent rips in the tent floor.
4) Pack a foam pad for sleeping, and a wool or down blanket in cold weather.
5) Keep track of dogs at night with LED lights or glowstick bracelets on collars.