It’s good to let your dog get back in touch with nature and there’s no better way to do that than a trip to the local forest preserve! If you’re tired of the fake grass of the city and need to get back to the wild, here’s 5 tips to help you and your pup enjoy your day out. 


Do Your Homework 


Local, state, and federal forest preserves and parks have different rules and regulations. The basics you’ll need to know are the hours these spaces are open to the public and what the leash requirements will be. (Don’t worry, we’ll get deep into leashes in just a moment.) Beyond that, checking out the forest preserve ahead of time will give you an idea of the kinds of trails you’ll be likely to come across. Important things to consider are the types of trails, specifically whether they are paved, gravel, or natural and other hazards you might come across. If you are planning on taking your dog to a preserve with lots of cliffs or fast running water, you’ll want to be prepared. 


dog in forest


Leave the Forest Cleaner than You Found It 


Just because you’re out in nature doesn’t mean you can just leave your dog’s poop where it lands. All federal and most state forest preserves expressly require you to clean up after your dog. Besides this being the law of the land, it helps keep the forest preserve, well, preserved. Dog waste often doesn’t fit in with the natural balance of the forest and animals and plantlike may become sick from being in contact with it. Remember the old saying “keep the forest cleaner than you found it” and you and your dog will have a great time! 



To Leash or Not to Leash


All federal parks require dogs to be held on 6 foot leashes when on any trails or near a campsite. When you’re in the woods proper, it’s up to your discretion. While it may seem tempting to let you dog run free, it can be dangerous. Your dog might think they’re about to roll around in the dog grass, but it could be poison oak. Dogs are “man’s best friend” for a reason. They are a lot like us. Your dog may get carried away in all the excitement of being in the forest and get lost or possibly injured. Until you know the space, and how your pup will react to it, keeping them on a leash is the safest bet. A retractable leash can be a great way to let your dog explore while still keeping you in control. It’s also good to keep other people, pets, and animals in mind if you decide to let your dog off their leash. 


Caring for Your Dog


We often expect our dogs to be constantly in shape, but just like us they require exercise to keep going. Consider your dogs health before heading out for the day. Your dog is likely going to need water and you’ll be out for a while, food for the day. A pet first aid kit isn’t a bad idea either. Keep in mind that gravel paths can be harsh on your dogs paws after a long day of running around in the woods.  If your dog is on the older side or is a breed that is prone to joint problems, consider taking them on shorter walks or staking out a nice clearing to enjoy the afternoon laying in some real grass. In case worst comes to worst, know the number for your forest preserves Park Rangers before you head out. 


Know What to Pack


A wise man once said “fortune favors the prepared” and taking your dog out to the forest preserve is no exception. I mentioned before that you should have food and water for the day, to pack your leash, and that a pet first aid kit wouldn’t be a bad idea, but what else should you consider bringing? In case of rough terrain, a pair of slip on socks or boots for your dog will keep their paws from being injured on surfaces like gravel or wood chips. Knowing the weather ahead of time will also determine some things you might need. If there is a chance it might get too cold or hot for your dog, make sure to bring them a sweater or some extra water. Taking your dog to the forest preserve is a lot like going yourself, think about the things you’d need for this trip and how your dog might need those too. 


Follow these 5 steps and you and your dog will be enjoying the fresh grass of the forest preserve before you know it!