Tips and Tricks for Camping With a Dog
Having our floofball companions on our canoeing and hiking trips adds so much joy to them, I know it does for us! Everyone posts those epic adventure dog pics; the dog wrapped in the sleeping bag atop a mountain, the mid run action shot on the trail - ears flowing in the wind... you know the ones. But no one talks about the chewed up tent, popped sleeping pad, how everything smells like wet, stinky dog, enough shedded fur in the tent to insulate a whole new sleeping bag, and all the extra things you need to carry along (or make the dog carry) and prepare for!
I want to share my own tips about how I make all those little things just a bit easier and less messy. It just makes our trips that much more enjoyable.
Aside from actually packing up my dog's food and bowl for the trip, there's a few things I like to do to prepare him ahead of time. First, make sure your dog has good training for whatever it is you may be doing. We take Grizz on multi-day canoe trips, so training him to behave himself in the canoe was an absolute must, being calm and quiet in the boat so we don't tip, dealing with distractions (like fishing as we go), teaching good "stay" and recall commands, and so on (the subject of training will be a whole other blog post). The second, is good nail maintenance! If you're like us and save your hard earned money to buy high quality camping gear, you'll want to make sure it doesn't get punctured by your dog's nails (and teeth obviously, but again, training).
To prep Grizz for our trips, I always clip his nails a day or two before we leave (makes sense), but then, I use a cheap nail file to quickly smooth out the sharp edges of his nails. This gives me a lot of peace of mind out there rather than constantly worrying about Grizz stepping on and puncturing our sleeping pads and tent bottom. I've been doing this on every trip and have never had an issue!
Last but not least, give your pup a real good brushing before you head out, it really helps with managing all the warm-weather shedding! I used the "FURminator" on Grizz's husky-hair, for those who wonder, great product! https://amzn.to/2n6RlBi
Camping in bug season is hard on us, but even harder on our pups, who can't wear bug jackets and face nets. We recently went on a trip where Grizz basically sat in the tent the whole weekend, except for a few relieving windy moments. If you're going to bring your dog on a trip during bug season, make sure to set up a bug free area as soon as you get to camp so your dog has a safe place to get away. We always use a tent in bug season with a big surrounding screen for good ventilation, and set it up as soon as we find a spot to camp. Many also use the "NoBugZone" by Eureka, which is a tarp setup with a fast clip-on bug net.
If your dog gets eaten up pretty bad, he may get a bad reaction and get sick. I have been told you can give them Benadryl to help, but I wouldn't do so without consulting your vet about it first (so, more pre-trip planning if bugs are a concern). But better to try to just keep them away from the bugs when not moving or swimming (or pray for wind!).
As far as ticks go, there are treatments and vaccines for preventative measures, but mostly I try to check Grizz over really well at the end of each day and I always have tweezers in the first aid kit to pull out any ticks who have latched (grab a tick as close to the head as possible, and pull it straight up, twisting them out will just break off the head, not the end of the world but it's definitely not ideal).
Minimizing the dank and the stank!
Bring your dog it's own small towel. Give him or her a good wipe down, head to paws, before they enter the tent, it helps clean away any lingering dirt and debris, keeps your gear clean and dry and of course soaks up any water and prevents the wet dog stank if they've been swimming or if it's a wet rainy day.
I would highly recommend a collapsible silicone bowl, lightweight and easy to stuff in the bag. I only bring one as we are usually camped near a water source and if not I just leave water in the bowl between meals. I also measure out Grizz's food before the trip and pack it into two ziplock bags, one for each side of his pack, then then use them evenly throughout the trip so that his pack doesn't get lopsided and uncomfortable for him. If you find that your dog doesn't seem to be drinking a lot out there, add some water to his food (if he/she's not picky that way). We do this with Grizz if he doesn't tend to stop and drink as we go, so that we know he's well hydrated. Bonus to doing that, if your dog gulps his food down whole, it forces them to eat a bit slower.
Also yeah, Grizz carries his own stuff. If you will be doing the same for your dog, make sure the pack fits really well; you want most of the weight near the shoulder blades rather than in the middle of the back or near the hips. The shoulders are much better for load bearing, whereas having too much weight on the mid-back and hips can cause a lot of issues for your pup in the long run. I would highly recommend Ruffwear brand as they are tried and true, and if you're unsure about proper pack weight, fit and distribution I will make a whole video about it on my youtube channel eventually, or speak to Ruffwear company themselves.
So! I know some of this seems pretty straight forward, but it's sbeen some trial and error for me since getting a dog to add to the great adventures we do. Hope this helps, and go ahead and check out some of my other blogs while you're here!