Taking your dog into the great outdoors

May 18, 2017

great-outdoorsWhen pondering any adventure to the great outdoors, it is only natural for dog lovers to want to go “with pooch.” But while this can make for great memories (and occasionally, great classic literature), it shouldn’t be assumed that Camp Canine will just come together all on its own.

There can be quite a bit of advance research and legwork involved to make sure both owner and pup has the best and safest possible experience!

In this article, learn more about what it takes to plan a successful backcountry camping trip for human-plus-dog…including when it may perhaps be a better choice to save Fido’s introduction to the wide open wilderness for another time.

Choosing a Dog-Friendly Camping

When planning any trip, the very first to-do item is usually to pick a destination. When you are traveling alone or with other humans, the backcountry is your oyster (i.e. “have tent will camp”).

However, camping options tend to become more limited when one of the campers is a canine. Not all parks or camp sites are dog-friendly, and it is always best to find this out before pulling up to the front gate of the campground!

Some great resources exist online and in books to find pet-friendly and dog-friendly camping sites, so be sure to check those out when planning any camping trip.

Trained and Ready…or Not

A pup’s age and level of training has everything to do with whether any great outdoors adventure is likely to be a success or not.

Dog training can begin as early as nine weeks, but many aspects of successful dog training, such as reliable potty training, may not become completely solid skill sets until the pooch-in-training is at least one year old (which is how long it takes most dogs’ plumbing to become completely mature).

All dogs who aspire to become campers should have rock-solid skills with basic commands as follows:

  • Come.
  • Stay.
  • Sit.
  • Down.
  • Drop it (or leave it).

In addition to prompt attentiveness to basic commands, a camping-ready pooch should also be generally well-behaved, well-socialized, friendly towards other people and pets, and highly responsive to being leashed.

Choosing whether to go off-leash is an individual (and sometimes campsite-wide) decision, but it is one best made with extreme caution since the great outdoors is, after all, home to many other species besides just humans and dogs.

Some dog owners choose to do some training reinforcement with nearby Golden or Lakewood dog daycare, dog boarding or kennel trainers before embarking on their first multi-species camping trip. This can be a wise decision indeed for every camper’s safety and enjoyment.

Packing for Your Pooch

In many ways, packing for a “with pup” camping adventure is not that dissimilar from packing for any trip that includes children. Sure, there are all the regular items any human camper would need – tent, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, rain gear, et al.

But then there are the other items only a canine camper may require. Dogs can’t take most human painkillers, for example, so if Fifi gets in a wrangle with the local alpha porcupine, it will be necessary to have something handy to deal with it or risk cutting the trip short for first aid purposes.

Just as human campers will need portable victuals and hydration, so too will canine campers require ample rations, and more than usual to make up for the extra caloric expenditure during each day of the trip.

Here, one way to determine whether any dog is truly ready for the camping experience is to test out whether they will tolerate wearing a pooch pack (similar to a backpack, but for dogs). This pooch pack can be used to store first aid supplies, water and kibble, although it shouldn’t be overloaded since pups, like people, can struggle to adapt to extra surprise exertion.

Planning for the Unexpected

Many people love camping precisely because there is never a way to completely know what will happen during any given trip. Surprise visits from weather systems, wildlife, campsite neighbors….experienced campers know it is best never to rule anything out.

With a canine camper along for the trip, there can be plenty of unexpected adventures arising from that particular quarter as well.

In general, it is wise to think through in advance how to handle certain more likely unknowns such as these:

  • Extreme temperature differences between day and night. Even the most romantic camping getaway can go south if the canine camper insists on sharing the sleeping bag!
  • The possibility of getting separated on a trail. This makes micro-chipping and laminated contact cards on your pup’s collar a trip essential).
  • The presentation of extreme temptation. Carrying a portable crate can really come in handy for times of extreme temptation, such as the sight of “free range” squirrels or the scent of roasting hot dogs over the campfire.

Finally, the Vet Checkup

Before departing, it is a vital final step to obtain a clean bill of health from the family veterinarian and an extra supply of any required medications (not just prescriptions for those medications)!

Consider Pet Peeves for Your Canine Companion While You Roam

If you are keen to head to the great outdoors to do some camping but your canine sidekick just isn’t quite ready to join you yet, why not give them their own separate fun and safe staycation here at Pet Peeves in the the Golden and Lakewood areas?

Our highly trained kennel, dog daycare and dog boarding staff can offer additional training and reinforcement in a closely supervised indoor/outdoor setting with a full range of recreational activities tailored to each pup’s needs and abilities (in winter, temperature-controlled versions of the same will be substituted).

Learn more about Pet Peeves’ many pooch-centric activities and offerings for day and overnight canine visitors.