A Dog’s Eye View: Let’s Go Camping

A Dog's Eye View - Let's Go Camping

Several weekends ago we went camping in Maine, with all four of our dogs, a tent, and a trailer full of canoes. All of our gear, including the dogs’ crates fit nicely in the back of our truck, which has 2 windows between the cap on the bed and the cab. We purchased an inflatable square which you can put between the windows so the air conditioning can flow through the whole truck and the bed, the theory being, all eight of us will be comfortable on those long summer rides. I probably look like a lunatic, as I’m the only one wearing a sweatshirt on an 80 degree day as we sail down the highway. But at least the dogs aren’t panting.

We get to the campground, set up the tent, set up the crates under the trees outside the tent, go visit some friends at the campground, walk the dogs and settle down for the evening. Everyone else is still enjoying the fire, but four dogs and I are tired, so we went in the tent to sleep. So I thought. I failed to realize that Phoenix is a very observant Husky, and had been watching and learning. He figured out how to unzip both layers of the tent, and off he went. He found the rest of the family, and we decided that his crate is coming in the tent. The next morning I was walking Phoenix while everyone else was sleeping, and look, there goes Yukon and Smokey, cutting through some other campsites. Apparently, more than one Husky can play this game. That evening, all the crates were in the tent-I’m all done with wise-guy dogs. Fortunately, it’s a very large tent, and the Huskies didn’t do what they usually do when I call them-they didn’t run. Only the Pug couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed.

We go camping with our dogs at a seasonal campground where we keep our camper. The dogs have not figured out those door handles yet, though they can turn a door knob, and know how a sliding door works. They can lock car doors and stare you down also. Somewhat annoying when trying to get to the vet’s office. Thank God for key-less entry and car remotes.

Since our dogs are runners, we can only walk them on a leash. Fortunately, they are not barkers, so they don’t annoy other campers. There’s usually a pile of small bags at the far corner of the camper that we get rid of at the end of each day unless I’m lucky enough that they’ve done that part of their business before we reach any of the dumpsters along our path.

An important part of camping with dogs is knowing how they’ll react in certain situations. Phoenix is terminally happy in the head, and will bolt at 60mph to any other dog or person just to sniff them. He’s a big, strong dog, so I know to walk him where there’s not much to distract him. Ironically, squirrels do not interest him, but he’s starting to like rabbits. Smokey does not like like large dogs, bicycles or skateboards at all. We are not sure why, so if we see one in the distance, we need to pick him up and he’s fine. Nothing seems to bother the other two dogs, so we can take them anywhere.

Having a good idea of how your dog will react in a given situation is very helpful for you and anyone you may happen to meet, since you can avoid those he doesn’t like, most of the time. Starting with day trips can teach you and your dog many things. Always notify someone where you are going and when you expect to return, especially if your going to a remote area, like a National Park. Cell phones are not always reliable in the woods. Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations, and that he is wearing his tag. I always leash my dogs, but I see some dogs that usually really will stay by their owners. If yours is not 100% reliable, leash him. 99.9% of all dogs will chase that squirrel-it’s in their blood, they can’t help it. When bedding down for the night, don’t forget to protect your dog as well. Cold & dampness seeps up from the ground in any tent. If your dog is shivering, he’s either cold, in pain, or afraid. For the future traveling enjoyment for both of you, figure out the problem and deal with it. Bringing extra dog food, towels and a first aid kit can be useful. If you have an animal aggressive dog, consider bringing a muzzle, as they are much cheaper than lawsuits. Sometimes carrying a soda can filled with some pebbles in it or an air horn to distract the dog if he starts to posture like he’s looking for a fight can help, although it doesn’t work with some dogs. Some people carry pepper spray. If you’re camping during hunting season, consider getting a brightly colored vest for your dog, and maybe even you. Watch for signs of heat stroke, like rapid panting or a bright red tongue, and make sure there’s plenty of cool water to drink for both of you. Remember to pick up after your dog so you’re not contributing to other people’s bad feelings about dogs, and taking the chance that your campground will stop allowing dogs to camp there.

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