Camping can be even more fun with a dog. But there are quite a few that you need to consider.
First and foremost, while youâ€™re in the wilderness you are completely responsible for your dogâ€™s safety and wellbeing. If you canâ€™t control your dog, then you might want to think twice about bringing him along with you. But if youâ€™ve attended obedience classes together and are confident that you can handle the dog, then youâ€™re ready to take the next step.
Before you start, take Fido to the vet for a checkup. Make sure heâ€™s up to date on all of his shots and get him a good flea and tick repellent. You might also ask your vet for a Lyme disease vaccination. Get copies of up-to-date medical information and be sure you have any medications your dog needs to take while youâ€™re out and about. Make sure your vetâ€™s telephone number is in your luggage as well, just in case you have any questions.
If you live in the big city and your dog isnâ€™t used to wide-open spaces, you might want to take him out for a few walks in larger parks or semi-wilderness areas so he can get used to all the new sights and smells heâ€™ll be experiencing while camping. This can also help build his tender pads up so they wonâ€™t hurt when youâ€™re hiking on rough ground.
Once youâ€™ve chosen a campground, call ahead to make sure dogs are allowed. (National Parks and Monuments donâ€™t allow dogs on any of their trails and you can only have a leashed dog in the parking lot.) Irresponsible dog owners have left a bad taste in some campground ownersâ€™ mouths. This is why itâ€™s important for you to be responsible and follow all the campsite rules: your actions reflect on all dog owners and you could be the reason why others canâ€™t bring their dogs camping later. Some campsites donâ€™t allow dogs at all, but even if they do allow dogs, be sure that you keep your dog on a leash at all times and within sight. A tether that screws into the ground, or one that loops around a tree and hooks to itself, is a good investment. If you have two dogs, tether them far enough apart that theyâ€™re next to each other only when theyâ€™re at the end of their leashes, otherwise theyâ€™ll tangle each other up. Make sure you keep an eye on your dog while heâ€™s tethered, so he doesnâ€™t get stuck anywhere.
Give yourself enough daylight to set up camp leisurely. Itâ€™s important to choose a site with some shade for your dog to lie in and you might want to consider moving to a different site if you end up next to another dog owner, and it will be much easier to move to another site if itâ€™s still light outside.
Your first several hours out in the wilderness are going to be very exciting for your dog. There will be all sorts of new things to explore. This is a good time to make sure you have your dog on a leash and you have plastic bags to pick up dog doo. Dog feces have a different chemical makeup than wild animal feces, and itâ€™s harmful to the environment (not to mention ugly and smelly to everyone around you), so if your dog does his business pick it up immediately and throw it away. If you come across any other people or animals, keep your dog away from them, and donâ€™t let him bark at them â€“ itâ€™s very annoying to go camping in order to get away from loud annoying noises and then hear a dog barking at everything it sees.
Next up: dinnertime! Fido should stay away from the fire on his own, unless heâ€™s overly excited, so try to tether him so he canâ€™t get any wayward sparks on his tail. Bring plenty of food and water from home, along with plastic dishes that donâ€™t fall over. Let your dog eat its fill, and then put any remaining food into your car so wild animals and insects canâ€™t get to it. You can leave the water out, though â€“ itâ€™s important that your dog always has access to water. Donâ€™t let him drink from any streams or lakes while youâ€™re out and about because you donâ€™t know how clean the water is. Also, while youâ€™re outside, donâ€™t let your dog eat random things that it finds on the ground. You never know what kinds of bacteria might be growing there.
Your night should be pretty easy, especially if you have a tent so your pup doesnâ€™t have to be tethered all night. You should bring a blanket or a dog bed with you. To a dog, his bed is home, no matter where the bed is; and he will be much more comfortable both physically and emotionally. If itâ€™s a chilly night, cover your dogâ€™s entire body (including his head) with a blanket or let him sleep next to you to keep warm.
Hiking is a great pastime for both you and your dog. And most of the safety tips you follow yourself are things you should think about with regards to your canine companion. Keep a first aid kit in your backpack along with sunblock. You should apply sunblock to your dogâ€™s nose and ears as well as other exposed areas, especially if its fur is light and its skin is fair. Put your dog on a sturdy, short leash. Retractable leashes are no good for hiking because you want your dog to be close to you, where heâ€™ll be safest. If youâ€™re hiking in rocky or dangerous spots, near drop-offs or other such areas, consider having your dog wear a harness instead of a collar. Dogs donâ€™t have good depth perception and can slip through railings and fall off cliffs pretty easily if you donâ€™t watch them. And if you let your dog wander into the undergrowth, he can come back with oak from poison oak or ivy on his fur, which can easily transfer to you; and he could also become host to a tick stowaway or two.
Dogs can help you with your load too if you teach them how to wear a pack on their back. They can carry a quarter to a third of their weight, and itâ€™s safe to have them carry unbreakable items if theyâ€™re over a year old and donâ€™t suffer from hip dysphasia or other joint problems.
If you have a dog, you undoubtedly feel that heâ€™s a part of your family. He always enjoys tagging along with you wherever you go, and camping is no exception. Being in the outdoors, just you and your dog is a lot of fun - as long as you both stay safe. Enjoy the wilderness together!