At long last the earthy-sweet smells and soft forest floors of spring are here, calling your pooch (and you!) out for a fresh-air-filled, heart-pumping hike. Most State and National Park trails allow dogs, but they must always be on a leash no longer than 6 feet, and know that dogs are not allowed on most beaches (check signs for exceptions). Find some of our favorite trails here:

While our Up North landscape is an ideal place for a dog-and-human workout duo, but there are a few hazards of the trail that can sideline your pooch. Here are a few tips to help keep your furfolk raring to go, from Dr. Chuck Morrison DVM, of Suttons Bay Animal Hospital.

  • For puppies or dogs under age 1, keep your exercise to short bursts. Their muscles and joints can’t take a lot of pounding and pressure.
  • Run with your dog on soft terrain because it’s much easier on their joints, and yours.
  • Erosions on their pads can make them very sore. "They need to get callused up just like people," Morrison says.
  • It’s not a good idea to take them running on extremely hot, humid days because of the chance of heatstroke.
  • Bring water for them or let them take a drink at the lake. Avoid puddles, ponds or other stagnant water, where there may be harmful microorganisms or parasites living.
  • Let them have frequent drinks, and not load up all at one time.
  • After swimming, gently towel off their ears to prevent infection. Also snow, ice or very damp grass can create a moist situation in their paws where yeast and bacteria like to grow.
  • Is your dog sensitive to ragweed? Tall grasses? Remember that their faces are three or four feet closer to the ground, Morrison says.
  • Dogs can have serious allergic reactions to bug bites. You can put a dab of gentle insect repellent on them (try Avon Skin-so-Soft on the tips and behind their ears, a vulnerable spot and one they’re not likely to be able to lick).

Photo(s) by Diane Kolak