Love camping? Love dogs? Afraid to combine the two? Don’t be!
With a little planning, most dogs (even reactive or fearful ones) can enjoy camping right along side you. At A Pleasant Dog, we love taking our dogs with us to camp locally and at the National Parks, and you can too! Just follow these easy steps:
PACK WISELY. We know you all do anyway, but the items you pack for your dogs can make or break your trip. Here’s what’s on our list:
- Composure (sold at your Vet’s office) or Pet Naturals of Vermont’s Calming XL (sold locally at Chow Hound and others or online everywhere): This tasty chewable supplement contains a number of natural calming ingredients, including the supplement L-Theanine, which has been demonstrated in studies to reduce cortisol levels in the bloodstream by 50% . Dog afraid of fire pits, cars, packing and unpacking, or change? This is your best friend. Dose them up a half hour before leave, and twice a day while out on your trip. You may also safely double the dose or give additional doses prior to or just after scary incidents.
- Medications: Is Fido on an anxiety drug already? Insulin? Anti-inflammatories? Don’t forget any regular medications your dog takes.
- Food and Water: Bring your dog’s regular kibble and treats, so that they aren’t faced with tummy troubles. Gassy dogs and tents do not mix. You should also bring a bowl for each of food and water for your dogs. If you elect to use a collapsible bowl, make sure you acclimate your pups to it for a few days before while still at home.
- Leashes and Tie-Outs: Bring your regular walking equipment (a harness or collar or head halter) and a four to six foot lead with you, but also a long line or tie out. We tend to use retractable leashes for allowing dogs to potty away from us (not in the presence of others, and attached only to a harness (not to a collar or head halter) until the dog is fully trained on its use). We also bring a tie out cable to keep the dog contained at camp. Not a fan of tethering? We don’t blame you. An X-pen can be a great tool for containing your dogs at camp when you are occupied, but it’s bulky to transport. Do what works for you. But, whatever you do, do not leave your dog unattended on a tie out or in an X-pen, or off lead in new territory.
- Bed or Blanket: It’s helpful to have a familiar resting place. If you have time to acclimate your dog to a towel or blanket as a “place”, do so in advance and bring it with you on your trip. If not, stuff your dog’s regular bed on the floorboards of your car, and lay it out at camp. Having a familiar place helps with the uncertainty of new digs.
- Chew Items: The first few camping nights can be a little barky. Dog hears raccoon > Dog barks fool head off > Human fails to let dog out > Dog continues to bark. Having a tasty chew item you can pull out and give to a dog after asking for a sit can help them chew quietly off to sleep.
- Flea and Tick Prevention: Make sure your dog is up to date on parasite prevention, preferably one that includes coverage for fleas and ticks. There are also natural mosquito repellents you can purchase and apply to your dog in the woods. This helps make things comfortable for everyone. Is your dog prone to mosquito bites and irritation? Bring some Benadryl just in case (but clear it with your veterinarian first).
- Emergency Veterinary Numbers: Look up the number of a veterinary office nearby your camp locations. You’ll thank us if your dog gets too close to a porcupine.
- An Extra Key For Your Car: Plan on eating at a mom and pop restaurant on the way? Your dog can’t come with you, and even springtime temperatures can rapidly heat a car to dangerous levels. Bring an extra key for your car and leave it running with the air conditioning on. Lock the exterior door with your extra key, and voila! Mobile dog kennel. Just be sure to park in the shade and check the car every fifteen minutes or so to make sure the A/C is still working. It is also a good idea to leave a sign with your mobile number in the window, in case passersby become concerned about your dog’s welfare. We also use this trick when we have to run to the restroom or shower. But mind the 15 minute rule.
TIPS AND TRICKS.
- Exercise Exercise Exercise. A tired dog is a good dog, and the camping trip is no exception. Going on a long haul? Stop every couple of hours to take a walk with your dog. Your legs will thank you, and your dog will ride easier in the car.
- Have a determined barker? Try using an interrupter like the Pet Corrector (http://www.amazon.com/Pet-Corrector-Behavioral-Training-Aid/dp/B000UCH02O) or a citronella collar (http://www.amazon.com/PetSafe-Gentle-Spray-Bark-Collar/dp/B0002D31QU) to interrupt the barking, so you can use positive reinforcement to reinforce the quiet. Practice this for a few weeks prior to leaving.
- Reactive dog? Take time to acclimate them to people walking by them on a tether or in an X-Pen by throwing a high value treat in their direction whenever they pass. A distance of 25-30 feet should be manageable for most dogs. Can’t get them to adjust to this exercise? Use your car while you’re setting up camp, and keep your dog tethered to you the rest of the time. Don’t forget the treats. If your dog is very reactive, acclimatizing them to a muzzle for safety is a good idea. We can help.
- If you’re a back country camper, modify the prep list to work for you! You can do it!
- RELAX AND HAVE FUN! If you do your homework and prep your dogs before leaving, camping can be your most fun and relaxing adventure together!
Want to learn more? Call us today! (616) 633-6323. Happy camping!