A dog is an indispensable companion on a camping trip. It will smell and hear things before you do, can help guide you through sticky underbrush, and, if well trained, find lost members of your camping crew.
A dog can warm you up, devour scraps around the fire, and just be there when the full moon rises.
I’ve slept next to dogs on several trips. Here is a short list of things I’ve learned about camping with a dog:
1. Pack extra stuff for your dog.
Bring a chew toy and some doggie snacks to keep your hound happy during the trip. There should be more than enough stuff to chew on in the woods, but just to make sure the dog doesn’t grab your hiking shoes or some other valuable piece of gear, bring a bone. If you have a bigger dog, it might be useful to strap a bag around his torso.
Photo by D G Brown.
2. Bring a whistle or leash or whatever it is you use to keep your dog under control.
I always like to let hounds run loose through the woods and chase some voodoo, but most dogs I have had will return when I call or whistle.
3. Bring a first aid kit for your dog.
He might end up finding a porcupine or, even worse, a badger or bobcat. If you’re camping, say, along the Appalachian Trail, beware of boar; in Alaska, watch out for bears.
4. Learn to recognize potentials dangers.
In addition to wild animals that might hurt your dog, remember all the weird and wonderful flora and fauna that your dog might ingest in his quest for knowledge.
A dog’s mouth and stomach are pretty tough and they can vomit up all sorts of things, but it’s good practice for you and your dog to get acquainted with the poisonous fungus and/or toads lurking in your neck of the woods and what the various treatments are. You might need antidotes; you might need to induce vomiting.
Photo by bugeaters.
5. Keep the human stuff locked down or tied to a tree.
This is good practice regardless of what kind of camping you are doing, but be sure to keep your dog away from the food supply. It doesn’t do to have your supplies torn into in the middle of a trek.
This goes for important gear as well: waterproof shoes and bags, flashlights and your compass, good woolen shirts, and the like. Dogs will tear into stuff when they’re excited and nothing is more exciting for a dog than a camping trip with Master.
6. Tie up your dog at night.
A lot of critters are about at night and your dog might be tempted to chase them; this could be fatal. Not only are you protecting your dog when you tie him up, but he is protecting you: nothing can come near your camp without your dog knowing.
Photo by Northern Xander.
7. Utilize your dog as a scout.
It is wise to sometimes send your dog first into caves, groves, gulleys, and other areas that you cannot see into. You might think this is cruel, but this is what dogs have been doing for millennia and they are good at it. In fact, they love it.
8. Form an ideal team with your canine.
A dog that listens to you, can anticipate your movements and is smart enough to balance out your blundering is a best friend indeed. Dogs operate in packs and you are the pack leader.
You might notice that in time you can just look at your hound, or make a small noise, and he will know exactly what it is you want. They like to circle around your path and come back to check in on you; they like to lead the way, and sometimes they like to have you lead the way.
Ten thousand years ago, men and dogs hunted together and were successful enough to build great civilizations. Put yourself in the shoes of prehistoric man and you will have a blast with your dog.
Going on a flight with your dog? Check out our article, Ten Tips for Traveling with Pets.
Goods: Need more advice? Check out Camping & RVing with Dogs
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