Enjoying the outdoors with your canine companion

As the weather warms, the desire to spend more time outside increases and for many dog owners, that includes bringing along their pooches.  This week, we’re going to go over tips on how to prepare yourself for hiking and camping with your dog.  Last week, I was lucky enough to be able to bring Widget with me on a camping trip to Mount Laguna in California, to a campground called Burnt Rancheria.  It took some research, but we were finally able to find a campsite that allowed dogs not only on the campgrounds, but also on the trails.  Before planning your trip, make sure to contact local parks about what their rules are on dogs.  Some will allow dogs on campsites, but the dogs can only be taken to designated areas and not on the trails.  Even if you are just taking your dogs on a hike with you, be sure to check what the leash laws are.  Most will require that dogs are on leash at all times, whereas others may allow them to be off leash as long as they are on a strong voice command.  If your dog has a tendency to run off after critters, better to play it safe and keep them on leash.  A lot of parks frown upon any disturbance of the wildlife, so Fido coming back to you with a mouthful of squirrel probably falls under that category.  Also, it’s common courtesy to leash your dog, or at least hold onto them, as others pass by.  Your dogs may be very well behaved, but the other hiker might be afraid of dogs or may have a dog that is not so well-behaved.  Sometimes, you may have a horseback rider or a mountain biker passing by as well, so for safety reasons, it’s good to keep your dog out of their way.

We all want the chance to be able to give our dogs a chance to enjoy the great outdoors with us, which includes being respectful to other hikers/campers.  Being outside in nature is a sensory overload for dogs.  There are so many sights and smells and sounds that they rarely experience, so it is an unbelievable amount of fun for them.  However, if your dog is a barker and you have issues controlling them, perhaps it’s better to leave them at home until they get more practice in self-control.  Nothing ruins a camping trip faster than being kept up all night by a neighboring campsite’s talkative hound.

Things you should bring:

  • A bed or a doggie tent- You should not tie your dog out at night when you go to sleep.  Too many things could happen, such as a wild animal wandering into the camp.  I prefer to bring Widget into the tent with me, as she helps keep me warm and makes me feel safer.  However, for those who don’t like to share their space, there are always small tents specifically made for dogs that will keep them out of the cold.
  • A tie out stake- Most campgrounds require at least a 6-foot leash.  We have a longer lead to allow Widget to follow us around our campsite, without fear of her running off, but it depends on the campground hosts.  Some will be relaxed on the rule, depending on how well-behaved your dog is.  If the lead is too long and your dog is wandering into other people’s campsites, then you will probably be told to use a shorter lead.
  • Food and plenty of water- I always suggest bringing more food than you usually feed your dog.  If you are planning on taking them hiking with you, it’s advisable to feed them more; to be sure they have the necessary calories to burn.  Keep a bowl of water at the campsite and also bring a bottle and some sort of bowl along for the hike.  The collapsible bowls are fantastic for both food and water and are easy to pack.
  • A first aid kit- This should be something you should have for yourself as well, but first aid kits for pets can be bought at the pet store.  But many items in a regular first aid kit can be used for pets too.
  • Poop bags- This, this, THIS!  Understandably, in nature, wild animals will go potty wherever they please.  But, one thing we often forget is that dogs are not wild animals and most do not follow a wild animal diet, so their feces do not break down like they would if they were eating a completely natural diet.  Even so, if they did eat a completely raw diet, it’s still polite to pick up after your dog.  I’ve seen many beautiful trails ruined by owners that fail to pick up their dogs’ poop.

Optional items:

  • A dog backpack- I have found this to be a very convenient item to have.  Not only can your dog carry their own snacks and water on the hike, but they can carry their own poop bags as well.  I find it best to prepare the dog by using it at home on walks first and starting with an empty pack.  Increase the weight little by little, to get them used to carrying it, but avoid overloading the pack.  You want your dog to enjoy the hike, not struggle through it.
  • Dog booties- These may seem rather silly, but on certain trails, there can be a ton of sharp rocks, pines and plenty of things dogs can step on that can hurt the pads of their feet.  The ground can get very hot during the day as well and dogs can burn their pads on the hot sand or dirt.  Booties can help avoid them stepping on anything that can cause them injury.  If you choose not to use dog booties, be sure to regularly check your dog’s pads for any cuts or stuck objects.
  • Dog coat- Some dogs are more sensitive to colder temperature than others.  If weather calls for colder temperatures, especially at night, it might be a good idea to bring along a coat for your pup.  On our trip, it was nice and hot during the day, but it became quite chilly by nightfall.  Dogs have fur, but that doesn’t always keep them warm enough.  It’s better to be sure your dog is comfortable than not.

Camping and hiking with our dogs can be a great experience, as we share the adventure of the outdoors together.  Be sure to use common sense when it comes to safety and keep an eye out for signs that your dog may be overheated (such as heavy panting or a very red tongue and gums).  If you are unable to take your dog camping with you, contact sit-stay-play In-home pet sitting & more.LLC and we can take great care of your doggies while you enjoy time in nature without any worries!

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