Adventures with Fido: How to Camp with Your Dog

by Darren Bush on June 30, 2011 · 47 comments

in Travel, Travel & Leisure


This post is part of a series brought to you by RAM. For more information about RAM Series trucks visit us at: http://www.ramtrucks.com/en/guts_and_glory/. What’s this?

When John Steinbeck traveled with Charley, his standard poodle, the result was one of my favorite books. Fifty years after its publishing it’s still a great read, and it wouldn’t have been what it is without Charley.

The companionship of a dog can be one of the most rewarding experiences for a wilderness traveler.  As opposed to humans, they are quiet, low-maintenance, and easy to please. Dogs cannot be jaded; everything is new to them.  If you don’t believe me, watch your dog at a rest stop.  The pet exercise area is like a giant olfactory newspaper, and my dogs must read every article, especially the ones left behind by an interesting female.

But like anything, the key to a successful trip is preparation, and then more preparation. There are many more considerations in your wilderness trip prep work when taking a dog, and failure in one of them can create drama.  You are responsible for the health and safety of your companion.

Training


You don’t need a dog with a Ph.D, but be honest with yourself.  Does your dog listen to you?  When you give a command, does she* listen and respond?  I spent a long time training Gracie, my Black Lab, to respond to the important voice commands.  She doesn’t roll over or play dead, as they are cute tricks but have no value other than entertaining kids.The important commands that need consistent responses are:

Whoa:  I use this for stop, freeze, don’t move.  Useful for bird dogs so they don’t flush a bird when they’re on-point; it’s also useful when they see a squirrel and start chasing it across the street.  Whoa can save a life.
Come:  Self-explanatory.
Down:  Lay down, don’t move until I tell you it’s okay.
Okay:  We’re cool.  As you were.
Leave it:  Whatever is in your mouth, drop it.  If you’re sniffing a dead crow, don’t even think about it.

Whatever words you decide to use, you need a dog that will stop, come back, lay down, and drop the thing in her mouth.

Non-essential but useful is also the hurry up, which is basically urinate and defecate quickly.  Useful at rest stops.

Of course, you don’t need all these commands if you’re going to keep your dog on a leash all the time, but that takes away a lot of the fun for both you and your dog.

Aggression

Whether it be toward humans, other dogs or any wildlife, an aggressive dog has no place in the wilderness.  It doesn’t matter if it only happened once.  If your dog is aggressive, leave her home.  There are too many ways this can go wrong.  I don’t need to list them.

Breed and Temperament

Let’s be honest.  We are asking a lot of a dog to do the things we want her to do.  If a dog hasn’t seen a porcupine before and won’t whoa, you better have your Leatherman pliers and a day off trail to spare.  My experience is that most smaller terriers don’t handle things well.  Not that yours won’t, but a Jack Russell that sees a porcupine will most likely bark bring it on! in dog language and go for the throat.  That’s what they were bred to do, and they do it well.

The dogs I have known who handle wilderness tripping the best are usually smart and compliant.  Retrievers of all sorts tend to do very well, as do Chesapeakes. Pointers and other sporting dogs can do well, but a lot of that is individual temperament.  Our German Shorthair, Winnie (R.I.P.), was great, but she was a very chill GSP.  Some are more high-strung.  Standard poodles tend to do very well with a good short clip.  With a show cut, other dogs and animals will mock them.   Our Great Pyrenees puppy Alice is yet unproven, but she does appear to be a burdock magnet, so consider coat maintenance when taking longer-haired dogs.

Border Collies can be wonderful.  My friend Dana has a great BC who listens better than most teenagers.  Others would try to herd every animal in a five mile radius.  Again, individual differences.

Behavior Issues

Barkers

Sound carries a long way over water.  I can recall camping on an island in the Boundary Waters and a dog barked constantly for hours.  It seemed like she was just across the channel, but in fact the campsite was almost a mile away, within earshot of a dozen campsites.  Non dog-owners would have wanted to shoot that dog; I wanted to shoot the owner. The dialogue went thusly:

Dog:  Bark bark bark!
Owner: You shut up!
Dog:  Bark bark bark!

Repeat for three hours.

If your dog is a barker, leave her home.  If she becomes a barker, train her to not bark. I’m not a trainer, but it’s possible.  Yappers (Yorkies, Maltese, Shih Tzus etc.) are likely to drive everyone nuts.

Wanderers

If your dog is a wanderer, you’ll want to find a way to put her on a leash at night before bed time, and bring her into the tent when you turn in.  A friendly dog might visit the neighbors, and that can be a disaster.  Let the neighbors come to you.  If she steals a nice piece of hard-earned cheese off a rock near the campfire, you’ll hope for a friendly chastisement.  You may end up with an earful of profanities.

Physical Capabilities

Just as a low-rider doesn’t do well off-road, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a Basset Hound would be a poor choice for backpacking over rough terrain.  Larger dogs are more suited for that sort of hiking.  For smaller dogs, consider smoother trails or canoeing.

Like a person, dogs need training.  Don’t use a backpacking trip as a weight loss program for your 90-pound Lab.  It’s bad because your dog won’t tell you she’s out of shape…she’ll just suffer, stoically.

You will both lose weight naturally.  This is the time to increase, not decrease caloric intake for both of you.  If your dog is on a low-cal diet, consider mixing a little more caloric food in her regular chow.  Do it slowly: a radical change in diet creates a lot of stomach distress.  Gracie can’t use words to tell me, so she lets her gas do the talking.  She can clear a room with one SBD.

Backpacking dogs should at least partially support themselves.  They should be able to carry about a week’s worth of kibbles packed in a dog pack.  Again, don’t make the trailhead the first time she puts on the pack.  Get it a month or two out, get her used to it, and gradually add a little weight.

Dogs are not wild animals, and some dogs may need something to keep them warm in spring and fall.  A small fleece blanket works for Gracie, but Alice doesn’t need anything. In fact, she’s a furnace and can add heat to your tent.  My buddy’s Border Collie finds a way to slip into the foot of his sleeping bag without waking him up.  Smaller dogs may want to share, so consider a larger bag rather than a mummy.

A canoe trip won’t require the aerobic capacity that a long backpacking trip would, but you might need a dog PFD.  Canine personal flotation devices are a must for non-swimmers, of course, but even dogs that can swim could use a little help.  A friend has a Staffordshire Terrier (Pit Bull) that loves the water but swims like a U-boat.  Dogs can get tired too, and like people, they can drown if they don’t monitor their fatigue level, and most energetic dogs don’t realize they’re tired until they’re really tired.

In some areas, I prefer to give my dogs water that has been purified.  This may sound overly cautious, and it’s true that most dogs can drink stuff that would send us to the ER.  But in some urbanized areas, there are pathogens in the water that you wouldn’t drink, so why subject her that same stuff?  Amoebic Dysentery can give your dog the runs.  Not good for disposal etiquette. Whether it’s filtering or a chemical treatment, just consider it.

So that’s the dog stuff.  What about the owner stuff?

Trail Etiquette

You love your dog, clearly.  Not everyone does, so if you’re backpacking, the etiquette is to step off the trail and control your dog.  An overly-friendly Lab can knock a backpacker off her feet, causing embarrassment at best and injury at worst.  So control your dog.

A dog that runs back and forth on a trail is fine, if you’re in a low-use area.  On some trails you’ll see a lot of people, and some of them came to the woods or water to escape civilization.  Some of them don’t like dogs.  Assure them your dog is under control and not aggressive.  I would stress the under control part first.  “Oh, she’s harmless…” is subjective, and if the other hiker or paddler has had a bad experience with a dog in the past, “she’s friendly” means nothing, whereas “she’s under control” means everything.

About Poop

If you came across a hiker taking a dumper in the middle of the trail and walking off, you’d be mortally offended and likely grossed out.  Dog feces are not pleasant for anyone.  No one expects you to carry out the poop, but you should handle it as you would your own, depending on the environment you’re in.  If you’re in cathole country, dig a small hole and put your dog’s little gift into the soil.

Now I can hear some of you saying, “Does a bear, well, you know…”  Yes, a bear is an arboreal defecator.  You can choose to take your dog off into the woods and make a steamer, but you are bringing a different type of poop to an area that is not used to it.  If a gentleman takes a dog as a companion, a gentleman deals with the ramifications.

Dog First Aid

A dog can be injured just as surely as you can.  Your dog is not necessarily a good judge of what she can and can’t do.  Winnie was cautious and trustworthy. Gracie is fearless, and she pays for it sometimes. Scrambling over rocks may be fun for you, but it’s an invitation to an injury if you’re not careful.  If your dog does hesitate, this means you should wake up.  Dogs can be smarter than you.

The most common injuries are to a dog’s foot pads.  They are not thorn-proof and a little thorn can cause a lot of pain.  Dog’s feet have a lot of innervations, just like ours.  There’s no walking it off.

Whether it’s a thorn or a fishhook, a lot of the first aid for dogs is the same as for you.  The big difference is pain management.  Dogs do not tolerate human NSAIDS or pain relievers.  Your veterinarian can prescribe a few good pain relievers, such as Rimadyl and Tramodol.

Rimadyl is the equivalent of Ibuprofen for adults.  It can help with aches and pains and is good thing for your older dog the morning after an overly exuberant climb.  Tramadol is a synthetic opiate, so it’s more powerful but can make your dog drowsy.  For aches and pains, my vet recommends Rimadyl.  For more chronic pain, Tramadol works well.  When Alice strained her shoulder we put her on Tramadol for a few days.  It helped her stay a little more relaxed so she would heal better.

Then there are other critters, large and small, that can be a threat. Larger mammals such as bears and moose generally avoid humans if we avoid them, but a curious dog can be killed with a moose kick in seconds, especially if there are calves.  Porcupines, as previously mentioned, can be nasty.  Skunks and raccoons can transmit rabies with just a nip, and skunks have other capabilities that are unnecessary to explain.  Small mammals can scratch the nose of a curious dog.

Ticks can be a problem in tick country.  We do tick inspection every night, and it might take a little bit of searching, especially with deer ticks, the carriers of Lyme Disease. Wood ticks are easier to find.  Treat them as you would with a human.  If they’re not embedded yet, it’s easy.  I throw them onto the fire grate, where they sometimes make a satisfying pop.

Consider immunizing your dog for Lyme.  It’s a controversial subject, but I have done it for years with no ill effects.  Your dog, your call.

The big thing to remember when it comes to first aid and your dog is that if your pooch gets hurt when you’re out in the wilderness, you will have to find a way to get her back home. Keep that in mind when you’re planning your trip, thinking about the terrain you’ll be covering and how far out from civilization you’ll be, and calculating whether to take a risky detour.

All this shouldn’t discourage you from taking your canine companion on a wilderness excursion.  It just requires more planning and a little more awareness of your dog’s capabilities.  In finding that out during your pre-trip planning, you just may end up growing closer to your loyal pooch.

Some of my best wilderness expeditions have been solo trips with a well-behaved dog.  Sometimes they’re the perfect companion…they watch, they learn, they love, and they snuggle you at night. They’ll sit and watch the glowing coals of a campfire and fall asleep on your feet. There’s nothing better than that at the end of a long day.

Do you take your dog camping or on other wilderness expeditions? Share your tips for navigating the great outdoors with a pooch at your side!

*I use she because a) I hate the he/she thing, and b) all my dogs have been bitches.  My experience is that they tend to be smarter and lower maintenance once the plumbing has been removed.

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brian June 30, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I love backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park, but really wish I could bring my dog along (they don’t allow it). Any great places in the north CO or south WY area that people recommend for a weekend trip with the pup?

2 Jeremy June 30, 2011 at 3:01 pm

My wife and I love taking our dogs on camping trips. They just started kayaking too. I did it last year with our older dog, but we started practicing with them on dry land based on a previous article on here. Great article by the way! Thanks.

3 Mark June 30, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I take my Boykin Spaniel with me often on camping and backpacking trips. As long as I have him off his leash, he ends up doing twice as much hiking as I do – running up ahead and then sauntering back, probably wondering why I’m not seemingly half as enthusiastic as he is. His one noticeable weakness is the cold. Last winter I took him on a solo trip, on which he kept me up all night trying to climb in my sleeping bag, deciding it was too hot and squeezing out, then starting the whole process over again. A separate blanket for cold weather camping is a must.

4 Jessica June 30, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Great tips! We used to take our Chesapeake retriever on day hikes, but she tended to be a wanderer.. luckily she was friendly and would always make friends with someone else on the trail who would guide her back to us!

5 Andrew June 30, 2011 at 4:33 pm

I couldn’t help but notice the number of times you talk about porcupines. For those who aren’t aware porcupine quills are filled with air… cut the top off and they collapse, making them easier to remove.

6 Bill D June 30, 2011 at 7:26 pm

I don’t entirely agree with the “Small dogs shouldn’t go backpacking” or the Bassett hound critics. I do like that you stated that different individuals have different capabilities. But bassett hounds are actually very strong and, if in good shape, can hike very well. My Terrier/Beagle mix loves to hike and camp. She is 12 and recently did a 14 mile round trip over a single weekend. I couldn’t get her to stop walking. She loved it. She may not go fast, but she hates to stop. She knows there are more smells down the trail and she wants every one of them.

A few tips you left out, that I strongly adhere to.

First, If you are on a busy trail, keep your dog on the leash. When passing other hikers, always pull the dog in close. Other dogs can be aggressive and having yours on a leash helps to control the situation, and people aren’t always as happy to have your dog greet them as you are. It is polite to let the strangers come to you and ask to pet your dog.

Second, if you have a small dog, you really should have a pack with a handle on it. It made it really easy to pick up my little one when a creek got to deep, or a rock was to high to climb over. She was a little distressed seeing us walk through an area that she was unable to go, but when I grabbed that handle and she just flew right over it, she calmed down and each subsequent event was just a big smile up at me when she needed help. As long as she wore the pack, she felt like she would not be left behind and just kept going.

7 Darren June 30, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Bill, you’re right…I should have been more clear. Smaller dogs and low-riders like a Bassett are fine on smoother trails, It’s just that my experience backpacking is a little more rugged, probably. I’d hate to see a dog get high-centered. :-) And good advice on the handle. True for Dog PFDs too,

8 Darren June 30, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Brian, try the Snowies. Wilderness Areas are fine, so far as I know. I love it up there…a Lab and a snowfield in August is a recipe for laughter. Gracie is a snow-biter.

9 Marty June 30, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Another forgotten one:

Follow the rules. If no dogs allowed, leave them home. If they are required to be on a leash, keep them on a leash. I strongly believe that many of the outright bans on dogs in some places would have been avoided if people followed the earlier leash/cleanup rules.

10 Stephen June 30, 2011 at 11:00 pm

How do you teach a dog to defecate quickly by saying “hurry up” ? That seems like the hardest part of the whole process.

11 Nate July 1, 2011 at 8:20 am

In the past, I was able to take my Australian Blue Heeler mix (Suzy) Mt. Biking with me. She would follow so close that she had to put her head to the side to avoid hitting my back wheel. As she has gotten older, she hasn’t been able to come with me any more – It’s rough on her joints. I always feel bad if I am leaving with a bike and not able to take her.

I agree that good commands make all of the difference. Suzy listen 100% of the time, but most of the time, she did, and it helped her avoid trouble.

12 Mike July 1, 2011 at 9:27 am

I like hiking and have considered taking my border collie, but have yet to do so. I must say, the majority of hikers I talk to get pissy when I bring up the subject. 99% at the very least warn me to keep her on a leash at all times (regardless of if it’s required or not). Many don’t want to see dogs on the trails at all, which is unfortunate. Eventually I will get her out on the trail with me though.

13 Adam July 1, 2011 at 9:58 am

Where can I find one of the dog packs that are shown above?

14 Jared July 1, 2011 at 10:08 am

My wife and I take her dog Walter (he’s a fixed beagle mutt) out on trails with us. We will put him on the leash near trailheads and other high traffic areas, but for the most part we let him run free. He’s pretty handy in some of the “dicey” areas of the trails as he tends to pick efficient trails where it’s not evident that there is a trail. I’m not trying to say that we follow the dog blindly, but the fellow has a knack for finding safe routes up steep inclines.

15 Trev July 1, 2011 at 10:23 am

My wife and I took our new German Sheapard mutt camping earlier this summer and she loved it. We picked up a dog pack at PetSmart, though large outdoors stores usually have them (think Cabelas, LLBean, REI, or MEC for us Canadians).

16 Brian July 1, 2011 at 11:04 am

Darren,
Thanks for the excellent article. There’s lots of great advice in there, and much of it badly needed out in the world. (Unfortunately, you may be preaching to the choir here, but that doesn’t hurt anyone.)
One comment I take mild exception to is regarding commands, about “cute tricks” having no value except for entertaining kids. My belief is that teaching your dog “tricks” and skills other than obeying the commands you mention can have tremendous value. One thing it can do is help to break the ice, or lighten the mood, if your dog does happen to cause some discomfort with a fellow camper or hiker. Of primary importance however, and much more to my point, is that every “trick”, command, and skill you teach your dog re-enforces the bond between you, and heightens the dog’s attention and awareness toward you. Each new skill, regardless of how useless or meaningless it seems in practice, strengthens your dog’s understanding of your wishes and expectations for ALL the other skills (which of course need continuous and on-going practice). They can also be fun, which is what your dog lives for. This alone has value beyond entertaining children. Admittedly, I’m thinking along the lines of agility training, but everything counts, including “roll over” and “play dead”. (I know someone who could “shoot” his dog with his finger and a “BANG!”… the dog would go belly-up and remain motionless.) In my opinion, a dog’s response to a large vocabulary DEMONSTRATES a higher level of “control over your dog” – something you correctly emphasize later one.
Of course the commands you point out are the critical ones, especially when off-leash in public. I simply wanted to counter your suggestion that silly tricks have no value beyond entertaining children.

Adam,
A variety of dog packs are available from many pet stores, but especially from privately owned stores specializing in dogs, and many camping/hiking stores. Believe it or not, your better bicycle shops have access to fine packs made by Jandd, which specializes in bicycle touring equipment. The shop can get them directly from Jandd or through a major supplier called QBP.

17 David | Almost Bohemian July 1, 2011 at 11:50 am

I just recently read Travels with Charley and it inspired me to do a trip with a dog. My gf and I are planning a round the world trip and we are now thinking to try and do it with her little dog. It could be a lot of fun, though yes, even camping with a dog can be difficult.

18 Chris E. July 1, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Darren, great article. My fiance and I take our 4 year old boxer, Bronson, everywhere with us, including camping, trail walks, car rides, literally everywhere we can. You nailed it, the number one thing is getting your dog to listen to you.

One suggestion for some that have a dog that doesn’t listen to keenly. Disclaimer – some agree/disagree with shock collars, but for me it worked wonders with our boxer. After going through the basics, doing something incorrectly, giving a verbal command then a beep and then the shock, he was able to relate the command to the shock and after about 2 days of training he realized if i had to “beep” (warning before the shock) then whatever he was doing he immediately stopped. After about 6 months we almost rarely used the beep and almost never use the shock button to this day. We only make him wear it when we’re at a large gathering of people and even then we just have to occasionally use the beep. This has been one of the best tools we’ve ever used and we’re constantly complimented by people saying how good he is.

The other piece of advice I can offer in general is don’t feed your dog table scraps. There is nothing worse then a dog that sits by you begging or scratching your leg while you eat and enjoy your meal. Just tell everyone you don’t feed him people food and be vigilant, there’s nothing nicer then when you sit down to eat a meal and your dog is off playing with a toy like nothing is going on while others are constantly battling with their dog to get it down or away from people while eating.

Just a few ideas. Thanks for the great post.

19 Peter Witucki July 1, 2011 at 12:39 pm

All sorts of wilderness dog gear (packs, PFDs, beds, leads) available from http://www.ruffwear.com – I get as geeked out on this site as I do on human-gear sites!

20 Leah July 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Great article! Dogs and wilderness go together. My girl loves to be outside and we’ve explored hundreds of miles of trail together. I’d add a couple of things:

1.) When your dog is off leash, rather than assuring other people that your dog is under control, demonstrate that she is. When encountering anyone on a trail while my girl is off leash, I always call her to me, step off the trail, and have her sit at my side or behind me – or if the other people aren’t moving (e.g. seated eating lunch) I’ll have her heel at my side while we pass. It may seem like overkill (especially since she’s rarely even interested in strangers), but I do this to demonstrate to others that she’s under control, won’t bother them, and is out of the way (very useful when encountering bikers or runners). Pretty much everyone we encounter is appreciative and impressed (even those who aren’t too keen on dogs). We get lots of positive comments. If anyone asks to say hi, I’ll release her and let her do her thing. If you have to assure anyone, it’s too late – your dog has already made them uncomfortable.

2.) I’d suggest beefing up your canine first aid kit a little bit. You want enough to treat the serious and unexpected – not just the common injuries. I’d recommend adding at a minimum:

Benedryl. It’s good for both humans and dogs (check with your vet for your dog’s dosage) to treat allergic reactions. It saved my girl’s life when she accidently disturbed a hornets nest, received stings , and started going into shock.

Enough bandages and dressings to treat a pretty significant wound. Puncture wounds (from running into sticks or broken branches) and lacerations are also common canine injuries. And remember a lot of the human wound care stuff, like bandaids and tape, doesn’t work so well on dog fur. Throw in a role of vet-wrap (which is kind of like a plasticized elastic bandage – that sticks to itself but not to skin or fur).

Eye drops / saline solution: Useful for rinsing debris (like grass seeds, sand, grit) out of dogs eyes. Also useful for cleaning a wound if needed.

Something to induce vomiting: Like hydrogen peroxide or a rx pill that you can get from your doc. You never know what your dog might sample while in the wilderness. Poisonous berries. Week old rotten dead animal? And some people still use poisoned bait in their hunting traps or out to get rid of pests.

21 alex July 1, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Anyone else notice how well this article is written? A lot of information without being overly detailed, humorous without being overdone. A very pleasant read. Thank you!

22 Chuck July 1, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Some additional tips:

Plan your trip as if you are bringing a child along. Be especially careful to have an “exit strategy” to get the dog out in case of injury/illness. Wilderness rescue organizations are generally not required to rescue animals along with the people, a few are forbidden to do so as a matter of policy. Travel in a group.

Locate and map the nearest veterinary emergency care clinics near your route and bring copies of the dog’s medical/vaccination records in a waterproof pouch.

As the author said paw pad injuries are common, protective booties are great but get the dog used to them long before using them on the trail. Train in animal first aid. The Red Cross has a very good pet first aid course at a modest cost. Bring EMT gel for minor cuts, scratches and insect stings. Expensive stuff but works great on the pooches.

Be careful with the doggie backpacks, they are more cutesy than functional. Dogs are not anatomically suited for carrying loads on their backs. Some dry kibble or a lightweight blanket is OK but nothing heavy like water, etc. Also those packs can throw the dog off balance if unequally weighted, this can easily result in injury. My advice is to skip the pack and carry the dog’s gear yourself. Better to have the dog in a life vest around water or in a coat when it’s wet/cold. The packs get in the way and are of limited utility.

At night put an LED beacon on the dog’s harness/collar especially if unleashed. Finding a black lab on a dark night usually takes until the following morning.

The pet market is saturated with doggie adventure gear that, quite frankly, is crap. I design and build equipment for Search & Rescue, Military and K-9 Unit dogs. Dogs don’t really need a lot of gear out in the field but the things they do require should be high quality and purely functional.

Happy Trails.

23 Darren July 2, 2011 at 12:24 am

Wow…there’s a lot of smart people here! Great additions. Leah, there’s good stuff there, thanks. Benedryl is a good one…never had to use it, but basically my first aid kit is a human one with the addition of Tramodol and Rimadyl. I use vet wrap on me too! And when I said to tell people “She’s under control,” I meant show it too. So yeah…people who are afraid of dogs don’t care what you say. They care what you do.

Brian, that’s an interesting perspective on the tricks…and I agree with it. I never spent much time teaching those tricks. They do a little high-five and do the nose-treat-flip thing.

Stephen, about the hurry up training…it’s fairly easy. Training 101 is linking a reward with a behavior. When the dogs were puppies, we’d follow them outside and say “hurry up.” As soon as they urinated or defecated, they got treats and a lot of praise…Good hurry up! Good hurry up!

You could just as easily say “Water the lawn!” Or “lay some cable!” Now I let them out, say “Hurry up, ladies,” and within a few moments they pee.

Brian, the shock collar thing is indeed controversial, but I agree with you that it can be a valuable training tool. Luckily my dogs are good listeners…but there are quite a few that aren’t, and it can be related to breed. Alice the Great Pyrenees does not listen nearly as well as Gracie, but she’s still a puppy so it takes more time and training. My only problem with shock collars are the dumb-ass people who don’t know how to use them. They are not to punish the dog, they are to get their attention. Stupid people push it when they’re frustrated, and there’s a good chance the communication between dog and the guy with his finger on the button wasn’t optimal.

Lastly…I speak about porcupines a few times for a reason. Actually, 57 reasons. A multi-tool in the first aid kit is a must.

24 Don E. Chute July 2, 2011 at 2:47 am

I’m a CAT guy…when are you going to do ‘How to Camp with Cats?

Pure case of animal racism, in my opinion…PITA will be contacting soon.

Aloha From Sunny South Florida & a Blasting 4th to All!

25 Teri July 2, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Great article and advice. I have a border collie/sheltie mix and she is an amazing dog. She indeed listens better than most teenagers! I started canoeing with her last year and it is amazing how quickly she adapted. I would love to start camping with her too, she does have a backpack and fairs quit well with it.

I also want to add that most veterinarians I have spoke with disagree with cutting the tips off porcupine quills – in fact that just shortens the quills often making it more difficult to pull them out as there is less to grab on to.

26 Frederick July 5, 2011 at 9:45 am

Do not give your dog ibuprofen. It is toxic to them. As well as a couple of other human pain killers. Check with your vet first!

27 M Johnson July 5, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Our family loves climbing fourteeners (14,000 ft. Peaks) here in Colorado. We always take our dog (Australian shepherd), and she has never gotten hurt or even become tired out on one of these strenuous hikes. For those looking for a great hike where your dog can come along, fourteeners are a great option.

28 Taylor July 5, 2011 at 10:38 pm

My 10 month old Boxer Elbow ( my 22 month old daughter named him last Christmas) loves camping here in western Washington. He is a real trooper, he will play with my daughter all day and then go on hikes with me in the afternoon. He has so much energy that all the kids at the campsite love when he comes along. We use a Ruff Wear Singletrak Hydration Dog Pack and he will bring all of his own food and water for the day… well sometimes on longer outings he will use some water out of my camelbak. He is crate trained and when we all turn in after a long day he will sleep in the back in the Jeep where we have a couple of fleece blankets laid out for him and a collapsible bowl of water.

29 Mike M July 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Be especially careful camping with your dog in the evening. Sitting around the fire and him/her lying near you is great, but they can see SO much farther into the darkness you’re not aware of the raccoon or some other critter they’re ready to take off after and surprise the be-jezees out of you as well. Don’t ask how I know this. My German Shepherds go camping regularly with me, and it is always a great experience. Excellent article, thanks.

30 K July 11, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Great article with really useful tips. I’m taking my dogs on their first road trip and am wondering if you can offer any tips on how to keep them as comfortable as possible. Beyond the obvious like not leaving them in a hot car, what are things I should look out for? I’m nervous about converting a car ride into a road trip and what this transition takes.

31 W July 18, 2011 at 11:32 am

I use the RuffWear Palisades pack with my golden retriever and it works very well. Wolves are actually one of my biggest concerns when backpacking with my dog in remote areas of ID and MT so it is essential that my dog is under control and doesn’t wander. We rarely run other people, but have encountered wolves along the trail. I read several articles that suggested attaching a bell to the dog’s pack or collar which is said to give the dog a human sound.

32 J and M July 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Reading the article and looking at the pictures, i wouldn’t agree on bringing a young puppy out on trails for extended time, especially on rugged trails and also supporting saddle bags. This could be terribly bad for their joints in the long run and very bad for their back, since they are still growing and most dogs aren’t fully grown until age 2. It’s best to wait at the very least until the puppy is about a year old where their bones have almost completely grown. I have to agree with the Basset Hound statement, this will also go for Dachshunds as they are prone to back problems, and jumping and running could really injure their backs and i’ve seen Bassets and Dachshunds early back issues at a young age for having a lot of physical activity.

All in all i really enjoyed this article, i hike and camp with my 50lbs Lab, yes she is small, and she really enjoys all the hiking and swimming she gets out of it, we both do, and it really gets us into shape too. I have to be careful when we hike because my Lab is RAW fed so i have to go out double prepared and extra careful! But i’ve never had an incident where a wild animal (besides raccoons) coming to lick up left overs, so i guess we’re really lucky! Thanks again for the fun and educative article :)

33 Sam July 22, 2011 at 11:39 pm

This is a good article with lots of good advice. I camp with my Italian Greyhound, and he absolutely loves running amok all day, only to crash in the sleeping bag with me. I also ride trails, and I see a lot of people with dogs that haven’t ever seen a horse. If your area has a lot of horsemen and women, do both parties a favor and make sure that your dog knows what a horse is, and won’t go running up to a very powerful, very fast prey animal. A horse can spook easily, and a fast moving dog, especially coming out of brush or around a corner, is just the thing to do it. Riders, bystanders, and animals can all be very injured if this happens.

34 Blair July 26, 2011 at 7:21 pm

My German Shepherd loves the forest – what dog doesn’t? – and, similarly, camping in it. I find that she can comfortably carry 10-15 pounds without any problem at all, which pretty much takes care of a lot of our food or water. (She’s a pretty athletic dog, though.) Second the recommendation for Ruffwear backpacks. I’ve never put my dog on leash while on a long (multi-day) hike… but then, she never strays too far ahead/behind me.

35 Joe April 15, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Good advice. I have a Rhodesian Ridgeback that loves to run and chase squirels.

36 David June 7, 2013 at 11:08 pm

I like to go backpacking in Colorado. We usually camp for a week, do some fishing and hiking. One of those days is usually a strenuous climb up a 14er requiring rock climbing. I would like to take my dog camping, but I’m sure he couldn’t make the climb. Would he be okay if I left him on a leash at the campsite for the day we summit or would he run into problems with wild animals?

37 Andy June 13, 2013 at 8:51 am

Awesome article, a strong primer for people in the contemplative phase of pup hiking. My one year old Black Lab/Some-kind-of-shepherd-and-stuff Mix Kiera seems to have been born for the trail – she’ll run about twenty yards ahead off-leash and turn to look for me before proceeding, and she’s sharp with commands. We’ve done dayhikes but no overnights yet, but we’re excited to give it a try. One quick-access trick I’ve seen people use (and I’ll now use) for having your leash at the ready when other people come by or you’re approaching a trailhead/campsite is to clip the collar anchor end to the handle and throw it over your head and shoulder like a bandolier. When you need it, unclip it and you’re ready, all Quick-Draw McGraw style. Much easier than either carrying it in a hand occupied by a trekking pole (or a wife’s/child’s hand) or stowing it in your pack. Thanks for the advice!

38 K June 13, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Just a reminder accidents happen anywhere,… we usually take our two lab mixes camping/hiking and one time our female got too excited at the campsite as we were setting up and she backed into a picnic table somehow ripping her hind leg on a large splinter. It really didn’t look that bad so we chose to use the first aid kit, stay, and limit her activity. By the time we got home and took her to the vet she had a flesh eating bacteria in the wound and had rotted flesh. Emergency surgery and months of antibiotics later she is fine but I never thought a pup would get hurt in the campsite. Bacteria never crossed my mind as I washed it and covered it several times that weekend.

39 Sarah July 3, 2013 at 8:34 am

Loved this article, it is useful even to us camping here in Scandinavia. Unfortunately I cant carry my little shi tzu mix with me because she barks at every dog she sees and I have tried everything to make her stop, but she gets too fired up. My other dog a Danish-Swedish Terrier/Poodle mix is grea, he could not care less about other animals (except flies cus they are yummy!) and he listens well. Hopefully, there will be friends or family to watch the dogs once we go camping next time, otherwise I would have to give up on it.
Thank you for a great article and valuable tips, I have saved this on my pinterest for future reference!

40 AnnaMaria July 10, 2013 at 6:40 pm

What I’d really love to know is where do your dogs sleep when you’re camping? My husband and I have a two-person backpacking tent, and there’s no room for our 85-lb golden retriever, not even in the vestibule. He loves hiking, but we’re not sure what to do about camping, so we haven’t even tried. He never barks at home, but wilderness seems to bring it out in him. I guess we’ll have to try car camping first and then upgrade to a bigger tent if it works out? Thanks for the great tips on being outdoors with man’s (and woman’s!) best friend!

41 Jen July 28, 2013 at 1:28 pm

In defense of Dachshunds, a fit, conditioned Dachshund is capable of some pretty serious hiking as long as you don’t let them jump down from a height higher than their shoulder, more or less. A harness with a handle is helpful for this. Our standard dachshund Bandit was a mighty fellow who climbed mountains and hiked many a trail in his 17 years with no back issues at all because he was never allowed to get fat. There is nothing funnier than the looks you get when your little Dachshund out – climbs someone’s overweight Labrador.

42 Bryan August 6, 2013 at 8:33 pm

I really enjoyed this article. Lots of good tips. I also have a bit of a problem with the basset hound part. I agree many small dogs would be a bad idea, but you have to know your dog. I take my basset hound Rosie on many overnight wilderness adventures. Even with her 6 inch legs she’s pretty good on rough terrain. She has even been my little climbing buddy on some mountains in Colorado. Sometimes I have to lift up onto ledges or over large rocks, but she patiently waits for help and never puts herself into danger. I really wish I could get a nice ultralight sleeping bag that was larger at the bottom as she loves to climb in and burrow down. Thanks for the good read!

43 Chris August 9, 2013 at 2:59 pm

These are excellent tips. I love to camp and just adopted a new dog so I am really looking forward to taking him on his first camping trip. I’ve been thinking about how to prepare for it so this article is awesome.

44 Anita October 13, 2013 at 6:48 pm

It took me 2 days to be able to read this but it was well worth continuing to get the page to load correctly. I am taking my dog camping for the first time and am reading everything I can find for tips and pointers. Won’t be doing any hiking so that is not something I need to worry about at this point. Just trying to see what I can find about having a dog with you when car camping. Most campgrounds if not all do not allow your dog to be off leash (which I could not do anyway) so I was looking for info on how to keep her happy and comfortable not being able to go out an explore. Any suggestions?

45 Robin January 12, 2014 at 1:41 pm

My concern is night time in the tent with out dog – he is new to camping and I worry about a small animal coming to the site and him tearing through the tent to get it or barking at a bear and causing a real problem any advice?

46 Jenny March 4, 2014 at 11:56 am

We’ve been taking our rottweiler camping since she was about ten months old, she’s now 2. We worked hard at teaching her how to act while there. We camp 6 weeks in the spring summer and fall and weekends when we’re not on holidays. She stays off leash 90% of the time. We hook her up at night and keep a glow collar on her so she doesn’t get stepped on or lost during bathroom breaks.
During the first few minutes of getting there I walk her around our camp site and show her our area. She then pushes the boundary out twenty feet and stays within that area the whole time. She will bark to alert us of people coming. But if she’s close to us, will just huff. We then tell her it’s O.K. and its over.
We never bother bringing toys. Sticks, digging holes around the campsite and sleeping take up most of her time. Other then that were off adventuring.
When hiking we call her back to us when we see people on the trail and when she was a pup would distract her with a treat as they passed. This now resulted in her coming back to us and passing by without a flinch. Also from when she was a pup we looked for wild life to use as a training tool, see turkeys, get her to notice, even let her start running and tell her to leave it and come. She always listens now. This is my first rottweiler and I love the guard dog mentality, she wants to stay with you. Plus the amount of training I did with her to have the perfect dog…. in my eyes.
She sleeps between us on our double sleeping bag in the spring and fall. Always on her comforter. In the summer we just put it on the ground beside the bed. I love packing the comforter because then she gets so excited and knows we’re going camping!!
We also started bringing a little tarp for wet days she has a dry spot to lay on around the fire at night….. Or if you need it, a trap for your shelter.
The only difference we’ve found with camping with our dog is, you always have to evaluate your day around how tired you dog is and if to sore to hike, go swimming! Frog hunting is one of Lunas new favorite things to do, she sucks at it, so no one gets hurt, but she has fun.

47 Roseline March 9, 2014 at 11:11 pm

Great tips I feel much better about taking my Boy with me on a trip to Gallatin this summer.

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