Many an outdoor enthusiast revels at the chance to take their canine companions along when they’re out hiking or trail running, and that makes sense: Studies have shown that physical activity reduces stress and that the presence of a dog can help lower anxiety levels.
Yet while taking your pup out for a walk might prove therapeutic, the thought of bringing your dog along on a camping excursion can be intimidating.
What do you need to bring? Where can you go? Is it safe?
We dialed up Ryan Carter, founder of the aptly named brand Camping with Dogs, to ask him for a few suggestions on how to make your first foray into camping with your furry friend a positive one.
Here are his six tips:
Tip # 1: Don’t overestimate your dog’s abilities
“Be cognizant of your dog’s skill sets. There are dogs that are naturally going to want to chase everything that has a tail, like rabbits and squirrels and whatnot.
“Or maybe your dog is the type that will, without a doubt, bark at everything they see. That’s what you don’t want to get into in a camping setting: a dog that barks incessantly or starts to chase everything it sees.
“If it does it at the house or on a short walk down the street, you can bet they’ll do that in a camp or a trail setting.”
Tip # 2: Use training methods specific to camping situations
“If you’re going to take your dog camping out in the woods, you need to employ built-in training techniques beforehand that specifically mimic hiking or camping so you aren’t setting your dog up for utter failure.
“Find out how your dog is going to react in certain settings. Take your dog to the local park and walk it past other people and animals like dogs and squirrels, and use positive reinforcement to teach your dog to be obedient and pay attention to its owner first.
“Otherwise, you’re opening yourself up to a world of bad possibilities. What happens if your dog gets off the leash and darts into the woods after some animal when you’re a long way from anything?”
Tip # 3: Make sure your dog is obedient on a leash, and clean up after it
“Honestly, I think this is the most important tip: Make sure your dog is absolutely obedient on a leash.
“National parks have leash rules and it’s always important that your dog can remain confident while on a leash. Those leash laws and rules are in place for a reason — to keep yourself and others in the park safe — and the only way to ensure that is if every dog in the park is able to be trusted on a leash.
“Also, don’t show up for a weekend camping excursion with your dog and no poop bags. You want to keep the trails in better shape than you found them, and nobody wants to walk through your dog’s mess in the middle of a hike.”
Tip # 4: Have your dog microchipped and be up to date on vaccinations
“One of the biggest reasons why a lot of parks don’t allow dogs is because of diseases: There are a whole host of diseases that are really specific to dogs that in other environments could be hurtful and potentially devastating to that entire ecosystem.
“So make sure your dog is up to date on its vaccinations and all of its flea and tick prevention.
“Also, making sure your dog is microchipped and wearing identifying tags is important, so in the chance it breaks loose and slips out of its collar, it can at least be scanned and brought home safely if it’s found by a nearby vet or animal-control group.”
Tip # 5: Make sure you bring the right gear
“First and foremost, you need a solid leash and a good harness. The harness is there for the added security it allows the owner of being able to handle their dog properly.
“But beyond that, recognize your dog has the same needs you do. Bring a water supply, food and a bowl for your dog to stay properly hydrated and fed.
“Take a first-aid kit; that way, if your dog steps on something sharp on the trail, you can care for it.
“Invest in sleeping bags and pads that are collapsible and can fit in a tent easily. If it’s too cold for a human to sleep on the ground, it’s going to be too cold for a dog, so you’ll need sleeping bags of all thicknesses to keep your dog safe in the cold.”
Tip # 6: Understand that your dog might not want to go camping
“Is your dog easily stressed? Do you have difficulty keeping your dog held back? Does your dog get anxious around people or other animals? Does it get easily bored and try to become an escape artist?
“These are all questions you’ll need to ask yourself before taking them out camping, because chances are those characteristics will only be amplified in a new setting out in the woods.
“And if that’s the case, you need to understand that camping might not be for your dog.”
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