*Guest post by John Woods
Camping always has risks, from accidentally sleeping in poison ivy to encountering the local bears on a trail. That shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a holiday outdoors, especially with your canine companion. Here are our six favorite tips to help keep your family pet safe out on your next adventure.
Consider Their Personality
Some dogs just don’t like other people or animals, so taking them to places where they will encounter these risks isn’t the best idea. Your dog should be known for having a stable temperament, being able to adapt to the strangeness of not being in their home, hearing new noises, and smelling new smells. Day hikes in the places you’d like to camp are a good way for getting your pooch acquainted with all the new sites and smells.
Your dog should have a good grasp on the commands you give them, especially “leave it” and “come.” These are extremely important commands just in case you do actually come in contact with a wild animal and your dog is off leash. It’s also just good etiquette for your pooch to stay near when you’re in shared campsites with other people and dogs.
Familiarize Them with Equipment
A tent can be a pretty scary thing to any animal that has never seen one before. Have them smell a disassemble tent while providing a lot of treats while setting it up. Spend some afternoons with the tent up in the middle of the living room and gradually move it outside in the backyard.
Also make sure to get them used to wearing boots that will protect their paws from any debris that might cause irritation or harm. Coats or flotation aids can help dogs when camping so make sure they are comfortable wearing their equipment prior to setting off on a camping trip.
Research Where You’re Going
Making sure your dog is actually allowed into the campsites and hiking trails you want to go to.
Most national parks have a set number of rules regarding having dogs on the premises, so take a look at the National Park Service’s website to see where Fido is welcomed.
Keeping track of weather is extremely important when going out on a camping trip. I don’t think anyone would be happy to have their walk ruined by a lightning storm, mudslides, or flash floods, depending on what environment you’re in.
Once you’ve done all your research and evaluated your dog’s camping potential, there’s nothing like a true test of character than actually getting out into the woods. Hop on in the car and get a move on!
Bring the Essentials
Bring enough food to feed them for only the amount of days you’re out camping. Never leave it out to sit around the campsite because it will attract the local wildlife to come investigate; thieving racoons are not welcomed guests when you just want to have a weenie roast (the hotdog kind of course).
Collapsible dog bowls are nice to have because they can be stored away and are typically light to carry around on the trail. You’ll need a basic travel kit that includes a veterinarian’s contact information, the dog’s medical certificate, a water feeder, a favorite toy, and some washable dog diapers. Yes, diapers solve gastrointestinal disorders that mess around in tents.
A dog medical kit is extremely important to have when you’re out camping. Kits should have supplies that can temporarily treat bug bites, cuts, and sprains until you get to an animal hospital.
Always Keep Them on a Leash
While we want our dog to be able to roam alongside us, you can’t have full control over them without having them on a leash. There is no guarantee that they won’t go chasing after a squirrel or go through a thorn bush.
This rule also applies to them when the group is settling down for the night around the campfire or in the tent, you don’t want them bolting into the woods in the dead of night. Dogs can harm local wildlife, get harmed by bears, coyotes, mountain lions and other predators. Even eating rotting matter in the woods can lead to illness for dogs, so it’s best to keep them on leash at all times.
It is important to stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings when out camping, especially with your canine, but the most important thing is to have fun. Relax and rewind in the outdoors with your best friend on four legs.