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The sun is out, the trees are blooming, the days are long. Suddenly, it’s a whole lot easier to get out and play. And while I’d like to believe you’ve been putting in long hours at the park, lake or on trails all winter long, based on my own example, I’m going to assume there is, well, room for improvement. So in the spirit of progress, here are a few suggestions for jump-starting a healthy, happy, active season—which we’ll hopefully continue during colder, darker months (but I don’t even want to think about that right now).
1. Be your pup’s personal trainer
Extra weight is the other big boondoggle here. Lots of dogs put on a few extra pounds watching you watch TV all winter, and that weight is tough on joints and conditioning. Talk with your veterinarian about strategies for helping your dog lose weight gradually—cutting back on treats and excess food is the obvious start.
On the subject of sunburn, remember that animals are vulnerable “on any area where fur is particularly thin or where there is no skin pigment, like dogs with pink noses,” says Dr. Mark Stickney, director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M  University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “I would recommend a sunscreen that is specifically for pets. These are formulated to be safe if the pet licks them off and are available at any pet store.”
3. Test your gear in advance.
4. Learn about heat.
As daytime temperatures climb, schedule outings for mornings and evenings. When the going gets real hot, leave your pal at home, especially for high-intensity activities, such as mountain biking and trail running. Also, it’s not just the air temperature you need to monitor. Remember, hot pavement, sand and stone can burn a pup’s pads.
5. Practice how to have fun out there.
Also, train your dog to wait, sit, or stay at water sources, especially when thirsty. This protects her from slurping tainted waiter.
Finally, stop giving your dog a pass on pulling and sniffing during walks. “You’re walking the dog, the dog isn’t walking you!” says Brendan Fahey, veteran dog walker/jogger and owner of Jogs with Dogs  in Seattle. Notice how people often jerk their dogs away from fire hydrants, other dogs, cats and squirrels? Everyone seems frustrated and progress is slow. “Keep your dog next to you and the leash short (less than 12 inches from your hand to the collar), and you’ll both have a much more productive walk. The second you see or feel your dog’s body language change, give him a gentle light correction (eventually you can just give a sound). A week of walking with your dog next to you (instead of in front!) will change your walks forever, and you’ll have a much more enjoyable walking partner.”
What have I missed? How do you prepare for the dogs days of summer?