Camping with Your Dog
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
Camping with your dog can be extremely rewarding and tons of fun, as long as you prepare properly for the trip and remember to be considerate of your dog and others on the trails.
Preparing for the Trip
Call ahead and find out if your desired destination allows dogs. Even if you have been to a particular campsite before with your pooch, a bad dog experience and irresponsible owners can cause parks to change their rules. Also, find out the location and phone number of the nearest 24 hour vet.
Once you have ascertained that your dog is welcome, if possible, take your dog to the site a couple of times before you head out for a camping trip. Your dog will be more relaxed and comfortable if the location is familiar. If you intend to take a separate tent for your dog, set it up in your house or yard for a few days and let your pup check it out. He will be a lot more likely to consider the tent a safe getaway if he has had a chance to get used to its presence and smell. You should do the same with any other equipment for your dog. If he is going to be carrying a pack, take him for several walks with the pack to make sure he is comfortable with the added weight. If you’re bringing booties or a light up collar, try these out on him before the trip as well. In the event that you dog is not going to take well to his new equipment, you’ll want to know before you’re out on the trail.
Before you leave, make sure your dog is up-to-date on all his vaccinations. If possible, take him for a well checkup before you hit the road, and make sure you obtain copies of his records. Also, make sure your dog is covered as far as flea and tick treatment, and consider the Lyme disease vaccine if you’re going to a heavy tick area. If your destination is a popular hangout for mosquitoes (coastal areas, marshlands, anyplace with a lot of standing water) your pooch should be on a heartworm preventative as well.
It is important before you introduce your dog to any unfamiliar situation that you take some time to understand his language. Dogs have different postures, barks, growls, and whimpers for different circumstances. How does he sound when he is scared or feels threatened? How does he sound and behave when he’s about to be aggressive? How does he act when he’s too worn out to exercise anymore? What sounds does he make when he’s hurt? This awareness on your part of your dog’s condition is always important, but it is especially necessary when you’re in the wilderness, as unforeseen situations can, and often will, arise without warning.
As with any time you go camping, be sure to tell someone at home where you’ll be and how long you expect to be gone. If possible, notify local park rangers that you’ll be camping with your dog in a particular location and how long you’ll be there. This can come in extremely handy if you get lost or injured on the trail. If no one knows where you are or when you intend to be back, they won’t know to worry if you don’t come home. Never depend on a cell phone!
What to Pack
There are lots of fun and handy products out there for camping with your dog, but there are some things you absolutely must not leave home without. Your dog should always wear his rabies vaccination tag and ID tags. If the contact number on his ID tag is your cell phone number, or your home phone and you live alone, have a new tag made with the number of someone you know is reachable while you’re out on your trip.
Outfit your pooch with a reflective collar, and preferably a brightly colored pack or vest. Even if it is not hunting season, or you are on protected land, there’s still a chance you’ll cross paths with hunters. Your dog is not likely to be mistaken for a deer if he’s in brightly-colored attire (the same goes for you.) Orange is the universal “don’t shoot at me” color in the woods; if nothing else, accessorize your pup with a bright orange bandana. Although those products make your dog more visible to hunters, they are still not much help with a lost dog in the woods at night. Pick up a Ruff Wear Beacon Safety Light or Night Time Collar Safety Light to affix to your dog’s collar. If he gets away from you, he’ll be hard to miss on even the darkest night with a big red light attached to him.
You might consider purchasing a set of Ruff Wear Bark’n boots for your pooch. Especially if you’ll be traveling on rough or rocky terrain, or hiking long distances, you’ll want to make sure your pup’s paws are protected. If your dog is trained to spend his nights in a crate, he’ll take well to having his own tent. The Instent Dog Haus is a convenient and affordable option.
You should have the following items in your pack:
-A canine 1st aid kit. Most of the items this kind of kit similar to what one might find in a human first aid kit, but they include instructions and items that are especially useful for dogs.
-Dog coat or sweater--Especially if you have a short-haired dog, keep in mind that even in the summer it can get extremely cold at night.
-Plenty of the dog food your pup is used to (enough for two or three days longer than you intend to stay) and fresh water.
-An airtight container for your dog’s food so it doesn’t attract wild animals or get contaminated with moisture or creepy critters.
-Collapsible food and water bowls—they pack much better than regular bowls and are lighter.
-An extra collar and leash—you never know what could get broken or chewed. An extra leash also doubles as added length to your current leash, a tourniquet, or rope.
-A current picture of your dog, with a written description on the back including unique markings. This will be good to have if your dog gets lost.
-A comb to help remove burrs and bugs from your dog’s fur.
-Baggies to pick up after your dog. Biodegradable bags are available, so there’s no excuse to not clean up!
-Current records of your dog’s health and vaccinations.
Now you’re Camping!
Never let your dog out of your sight or your site. There are all kinds of trouble your precocious pup can get into in the woods, from wild animals to other campers; the best way to avoid this trouble is to keep your pooch by your side and on a leash. Never, ever let your dog chase wildlife. It might seem like harmless fun to let your dog run after a seemingly gentle animal like a deer, but one well-placed kick from those graceful creatures can be the end of your beloved dog. Not to mention that whenever camping, with your dog or not, it is important not to disturb the natural environment, which includes the wildlife.
If your camping trip includes a long hike to the site, or if hiking is part of your itinerary, be considerate of your dog’s limits. By the time your dog refuses to go any further, he has been too exhausted for too long. Take plenty of breaks for water and rest and check his paws often for cuts, scrapes, thorns, and burrs. Do a thorough tick check on yourself, your family, and your dog at the end of each day.
Remember that every traveler with a dog is an ambassador for dog owners everywhere. Set a good example, be a contentious dog owner, and maybe, one day, more sites will allow dogs. Always, ALWAYS pick up after your dog! Dog waste spreads disease, attracts pests, and is an icky inconvenience to other campers. Every dog owner who doesn’t clean up after their pup is one step closer to your favorite site being closed to dogs. Carefully store any left-over dog food where it won’t attract pests or wild animals. Your camping neighbors will not be pleased when a bear lumbers into the area in search of your dog’s kibble. If your neighbors are not amused by your dog’s antics or just the presence of your dog in general, just move. It is much easier to set up camp elsewhere than to spend your camping trip with a combative neighbor. Those of us who choose to camp with our dogs are, unfortunately, the minority, and because of irresponsible, inconsiderate dog owners, in many places we have been given a bad name. Do your very best to show the world that camping and dogs go beautifully hand in hand… because they do!