Sunday, July 19, 2015

Camping With Dogs

It's late.  It's chilly and you're cuddled close to your significant other under zipped together sleeping bags on the cold ground. The wind rattles the tent, and in an instant 60 pounds lands in between you.  Our pound puppy got startled and will wedge herself in between us for the rest of the night.  Forget rolling over and realize that one side will go numb and be sore in the morning.

Flash forward two years: our hand built trailer boasts a huge roof top tent with annex room.  Something disagreed with a belly and the same pound puppy stirs in the middle of the night.  I don't have children but I understand "mom hearing" and know that if my champion sleeper is stirring, something is wrong.  Cold, I climb down the latter, unzip the tent and let her out.  She returns, I climb up and go back to sleep only to be woken 20 minutes later.  A sour belly means no more soft tent bed, but sleeping on a pile of dog blankets with a sick dog.

Flash forward one more year: we upgraded to a SoCal Teardrop.  The pound puppy sleeps with us, still, taking up precious mattress space.  How is my fussy German Shepherd the easier dog in these situations?

Recently I read an amazing article written about Overlanding with Your Dog on Expedition Portal.  The writer hit the nail on the head. It is incredibly rewarding to camp with my dogs, it is the whole reason we made the transition from camping off the KTM 990 to going with a Jeep.

But there is a lot to take into consideration.

Bring extra.  Your dog will be more active while camping or on the road.  And my champion eater can be finicky while camping, so think about bringing things to encourage them to eat their food like canned pumpkin (which can also be great for sour bellies), coconut oil or peanut butter.

Snacks/Treats.  I didn't do this the first year.  My dogs always drop weight while camping because they are 100 times more busy.  The last few years, I have brought jerky and treats to supplement throughout the day.

We pack fleece blankets and light weight beds for them to snooze on.  Dogs can miss the comfort of home too.  Our pound puppy, Elly, (she's 7 years old but will always be my baby) does not have a nice undercoat like our shepherd, Rommel, does.  We were a little surprised with how chilly summer nights can be in Colorado and we modified a child's sweatshirt for her.  She actually prefers it to a dog coat, since it covers her belly.

Camping:  Most campgrounds will allow dogs, however, they must be leashed.  For us, this is a headache.  Our dogs are off leash trained and will remain at our sides.  But rules are rules and must be followed.  We do our best to avoid campgrounds as we prefer the seclusion that off site camping can give.  National Forests are great places to find these areas.

Parks:  National and State Parks generally do not allow dogs on trails.  Do yourself a favor and research the places you want to visit before leaving, and paying entrance fees.  We ran into a lot of "No Dogs Allowed" signs on beaches in California.  A few minutes on google before you leave can save you frustration.  National Forests are generally free of many restrictions and we spend a lot of time frequenting them.
Restrictions:  You have your dog with you.  If a park, store or restaurant doesn't allow dogs, be prepared to forgo that steak dinner, National Park or cute little shop.  If we're walking through town, Mike will stay outside the shop with the dogs.  We purposely camp in cooler climates, so leaving them to snooze in the Jeep with the windows down while we grab a quick bite to eat isn't the end of the world, but remember how quickly a car can get hot.  Think take-out dinners to eat at a picnic area.

Injury/Illness:  Thankfully, we've avoided a lot of this.  Elly caught a stomach bug and didn't feel well for a few days, but she bounced back.  Rommel pulled a muscle but nothing a little aspirin didn't cure.  Dogs can take aspirin and benedryl.  We keep a comprehensive medical kit in the Jeep.  Thankfully our brush with a rattle snake happened at home and not on the road - it may be a good idea to know where vets are along your route.

Know Your Dog:  Every dog is different.  Not every dog likes other dogs, can be trusted off leash, is easily susceptible to injury, allergy or illness.  Sometimes the pooch should stay home with a friend.  Our old man (miss you Bear dog), stayed with a friend his last few years while we went camping.  His advanced age and sore bones couldn't handle the stress of our long trips. 

Elly can get really grouchy after a few days camping from lack of rest.  Realize that camping is rough on your four-legged companions too.  Maybe that strange child shouldn't be allowed to pet your normally friendly pooch.  If that means being brutally honest with a naive stranger, so be it.

Our dogs are family.  They have gone everywhere with us since they were puppies.  We have spent many many hours training them to be on leash, off leash, voice trained, and socialized.  I am proud every time a stranger marvels at how well behaved our "kids" are.  We understand that traveling with a dog impacts not only us but others.

We take the good and the difficult (because none of it is bad) and will always travel and camp with our dogs.  Elly and Rommel enrich our camping experience forcing us out of the Jeep to run a field, trail or beach.

Have dog.  Will travel.

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