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Spring is coming. Now that the weather is getting warmer and staying warmer, we are looking to get back outside. For those of you who do not like the cold (and after all that is why some of you are here), you may have been snuggled up on the couch for a bit and not moving around much. So as you and your dog become more active, you need to think about some things.

A training plan works better if it starts gradually and then increases in difficulty. So if your dog has not been walking, running or playing ball-- start slow. A few minutes a few times a day and as he (and you) get stronger you can walk further or throw the ball for longer.

If you are going to be walking (or running), pay attention to the environment. Dogs are susceptible to overheating, and this can be a serious condition. If you are going to be outside for a while, be sure to bring water (or know where water is available) for both you and your dog. Panting is how your dog cools himself; if he begins to pant excessively and his tongue seems a different color than normal, it is probably time to get him to some shade, rest, and water.

If you are going to play parks, be aware of your surroundings. Not all parks are monitored as far as vaccine status of the dogs or ability to interact with others. Some people know that their dog can be aggressive and may put a yellow ribbon on him-- this means beware. Not everyone knows how their dog will react, and just like us, some dogs just don't like some other dogs (I am sure you all have met people that just rub you the wrong way, but we are not allowed to growl and bark. Lol). So pay attention to warning signs-- ears pinned back, tail tucked, hackles up on the back, a low growl, to name a few.

Also, if you are going to play ball, which is a great way for your dog to get exercise and have fun, be sure to use a ball that is the appropriate size for your dog. A small ball and a large dog can be a choking hazard, especially if he likes to catch it in the air. Also, do not use super hard balls as catching these in the air can wear down the teeth excessive or break a tooth. There are some special ball throwing toys out there for those of you who do not throw well or cannot throw any longer. Frisbees are great fun, too. They make soft frisbees that do not hurt their mouths when caught.

If you are going on long walks, be sure your dog knows how to walk well on a leash and does not pull excessively, as this can be hard on your arm and his throat. A gentle leader halter or no pull leash can help in this area. If you will be walking on trails or in the woods, be sure to watch out for snakes. A venomous snake bite is very dangerous for you and your dog. If you have a small dog, also be aware of eagles and hawks and owls as they prey on small mammals. So watch the trail and the sky for signs of danger. Try not to let your dog run too far away from you for these reasons if you are in a wooded area. And let's not forget to not walk too close to the lakes as alligators will prey on your dog potentially also.

So let's get out there and shake off thse winter blues. But be careful. Hawks, alligators, and snakes, oh my!