It is that season again, where the snow is melting, rain is falling and bringing beautiful flowers to the hillsides and parks. When the weather warms up, many families like to take the fun outdoors and have picnics with their pets. While this might seem like a straight forward kind of outing, there are several things to bear in mind when you picnic with pets. Here are five tips for picnicking with pets.

1. Go for a walk before the picnic.  Though you are going to a park or an open area, if your dog does not have sufficient exercise beforehand it will be very tough for him to stay near your blanket or picnic table. The pup will want to leap after every squirrel he sees, or go scampering off into the hills. It will be a battle to keep the pup still, and will be torturous for him. Go for a walk first so that your pooch will be happy to snooze right alongside you.

2. Check the picnic area before you bring your dog or cat over. Though you might be nature conscious, not everyone is as thoughtful about cleaning up their picnic space. There might be bits of trash, plastic knives and forks, coke cans, plastic bags, or chicken bones and other hazardous items.  In no time, your dog would sniff these out and possible start chewing them. Avoid these dangers by scouring the place you chose before setting up camp.

3. Keep your pet on a leash.  This might sound heartless, but if your dog has had good exercise beforehand and he is close to the family, being tethered to a tree or the table legs will not be so bad. You have no control over what other visitors, pets or wild animals might come to the area, setting your dog off. Having your dog close will keep him out of trouble, and protect him from strangers or potential injuries if he were to go running off.

4. Bring lots of water and good dog food. Though there may be treats on your table that are suitable for pets (i.e. watermelon, fresh chicken breast, etc.) don’t rely on human food to satisfy your dog. Some things (such as grapes, raw onions, etc.) are actually dangerous for pets to consume, so it would be better to bring a scoop or two of regular dog food to make sure the pup has something to snack on when you enjoy your sandwiches.  Make sure to bring some water bottles and a small bowl the pup can drink out of so that he does not get dehydrated on the trip.

5. Clean up your food and messes. When it is time to bring out the Frisbee and play family games, don’t forget to clean up the leftover food, or at least pack it out of your dog’s reach. Shut the picnic basket, store the food away, and toss or bag up the utensils so that you can step away from the site without worrying that your dog can get into the food or accidentally eat some of the toxic plastic; likewise before you and your pets head back to the car, clean up any scraps or trash you might have left behind as a courtesy to anyone else who might bring their animals to the same site.