Pets: How to enjoy the great outdoors with your pup

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Before you head out on your next adventure, make sure your canine BFF is ready to go (File photo)
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By Kim Gilliam

Dogs are an important part of the family and many consider a summer vacation incomplete without them.

While your pup may not be able to participate in every vacation, camping is one where they can. Camping, however, calls for additional planning to ensure that both two-and four-legged campers have fun.

Consider your pup’s preferences

Before you embark on a wilderness adventure, take a moment to assess your dog’s camp-readiness. Large hounds may enjoy a relaxed trip to a family-friendly campsite, while adventure-seeking doggie athletes make be up for a week-long backpacking trip. Remember that not all dogs do well on camping trips. Think about your dog’s personality and preferences to decide if they would actually enjoy it. If they are easily stressed by new environments, it may be best to leave them at home.

Research the destination

Identify dog-friendly camping sites or parks in advance to make sure your four-legged friend is allowed, as well as on-leash laws. Some campsites only welcome restrained pets, while others are OK with your dog being off-leash as long as they are under voice control – and if you pick up after them, of course.

Visit your vet

Take this opportunity to make sure your pet is healthy and current on vaccinations and flea and tick medication. In addition, have your vet provide a copy of your pup’s vaccination records in case it’s required by any place you visit or stay.

Train outdoors prior to departure 

To make sure your pup is on board for fun outdoor activities, practice beforehand to see how they react and behave (File photo)

Never let your pet out of sight when you allow for off-leash playtime or exploration. Campgrounds are full of interesting sights, scents and wildlife they may want to chase after, so you will need a reliable recall command to keep them out
of trouble. Practice your “come” and “leave it” commands to help ensure their safety on your trip. Also consider the type of travel you will be doing. If your dog is not comfortable in the car or canoe, take steps to help them acclimate. One of our clients is preparing for an upcoming mountain trip by sitting in a canoe in the backyard with their pup.

Pack a crate

If you have to leave your pup alone at the campsite for some reason, do not leash them. A crate will ensure they stay calm and safe until you return. A crate is also the best place for them to sleep at night. Otherwise, they are loose in your tent and may be tempted to sneak out. 

Perform wellness checks and be prepared for emergencies

Regularly check your pup’s paws, mouth and ears for ticks, burrs and thorns and bring along the following dog-specific items, in addition to a standard first aid kit: a bandana for a makeshift muzzle, flat-bladed tweezers and mineral oil for tick removal, needle-nose pliers for extracting large thorns or porcupine quills, booties for protecting injured paws, a pet first aid book, as well as the name, phone number and directions to the nearest vet.

Finally, don’t forget these other essential items:

  • Ample water and collapsible bowl, as dogs dehydrate quickly in hot weather
  • A stake and long leash for tethering
  • A short leash for walking
  • A crate with blanket and bedding
  • Dog food, bowls, treats and toys
  • Dog brush and comb with flea and tick medication
  • Poop bags
  • Clip-on light or glow stick to attach to your dog’s collar at night

    Being prepared will help you avoid any potential crises in the woods and help make everyone’s trip more enjoyable.

    Kim Gilliam co-owns Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym in Alexandria, with her husband, Kevin Gilliam.

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