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A great activity for almost any breed of dog is getting out into the great outdoors on a camping trip. Although it may be a great idea, there are some practical issues that owners must consider before taking their dog or puppy on a camping trip and these will vary slightly depending on the age and obedience level of the dog.
The first and foremost issue is to determine how off-leash trustworthy is your dog. If he or she does not come back, has a history of chasing, or is a breed that is known to chase or get on a scent trail and simply ignore commands, owners must consider only taking the dog camping if they are on a leash or lead. Although this may seem a bit overprotective, consider the alternative. If your dog or puppy takes off and runs after a squirrel, rabbit or other animal through a forested area or wild area, he or she may be miles away before they realize that you are no longer anywhere near them. While some dogs will know to simply go back on their own track, many dogs will panic at this point and simply start to run to try to locate you. Needless to say this is very traumatic for the dog, not to mention the frantic people out looking through the area of the dog. Many dogs and puppies are lost in remote areas every year, most never being returned. Keeping a dog or puppy on a leash or lead unless you are positive they will respond to a call to return is absolutely essential. A retractable lead or very long leash can be a simple addition to equipment that can ensure you never have to worry about your dog becoming lost.
Preparing for the trip
If your dog or puppy has never been on a camping trip there are a few things that you can do to get him or her prepared. If the dog or puppy has never been outside overnight, a good idea may be to set up the tent in the backyard and have a "camping" trip right in the yard. This will allow the dog or puppy to get used to staying outside and sleeping in the tent with you if this is to be the plan. If you don't do this and the puppy or dog has never slept outside be prepared for a restless and sleepless first night.
If you live in the city and the dog has never been to the country or rarely is outside at night, there will be thousands of sounds and smells that will be very interesting to the dog. This usually translates into whining, barking and crying to get out and investigate. Once the dog become familiar with the noises and smells in the area this will usually decrease, but a couple of nights in the back yard can also help desensitize the dog to these issues.
In addition to preparing your dog it is important to consider a few additional things in your pack or equipment. If you are planning on leaving the dog at the camp area you may wish to invest in some type of safe ground stake or swivel tie that can be used to safely secure the dog to either a running line between trees or a single point. As with any type of dog tethering it is important to have a break-away component to prevent the dog from potentially becoming entangled in the rope or line or possible even choking. Teach the dog about the tether using a safe environment such as the backyard; gradually increasing the time the dog is tethered. Never leave the dog unsupervised during this training period.
A dog first aid kit is a must. Add some larger type bandages, a tensor wrap, gauze, disinfectant, tweezers, scissors and even a spray on bacterial treatment. Remember that dogs typically will take care of small cuts or injuries themselves, but they may need to be immobilized and carried out if they become seriously injured.
One of the biggest problems when hiking and camping is to provide enough water for your dog. Dogs, especially the pug nosed breeds or some of the longhaired dogs can be very susceptible to heat stroke. Talk to your vet or contact a breeder if you are not sure if this is a problem with the breed you own. Watch for any signs of excessive panting, disorientation, dizziness, fainting or muscle spasm as these can all be signs of heat stroke and dehydration. Carry lots of water, especially if you are walking or camping somewhere that natural water is not available. Avoid excessive running or even intense walking in the hottest part of the day if your dog has problems with these issues. If heat stroke does occur take the dog to a shady area and allow them to cool down. Running water over the dog's neck and chest area may help, as well as providing small amounts of water when the dog wants to drink.
Finally, check to make sure that the area that you are planning to camp in allows dogs. Many beaches, lakes and campgrounds now have a ban on dogs simply because owners where not in control and managing their dogs, and even though your dog may be on a leash and well-behaved you may still face a very steep fine for bringing the dog into these areas. Most government operated campgrounds will have some areas for dogs and some areas where dogs are banned so do some research online before planning on bringing your pet. If you are camping in a remote area bringing your dog is usually not a problem, especially if you have been to the area before or have the owner's permission to camp on the property.
Remember to check your dog regularly, ideally once a day, for ticks and to remove any insects or ticks that you find on the dog. Check with your vet if you are traveling out of your area to find out if any additional vaccinations or treatments are required, especially for heartworm and Lyme disease if this may be a problem in the area you are camping in.
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