Camping with a dog is equivalent to camping with a small child; while possible to have a great time, usually it ends up being more hassle than it’s worth. Some dogs take to camping better than others for sure. I tried once to take a small terrier mix that I found on the streets and he looked at me the entire trip, silently saying, “You saved me from being homeless; why are we pretending to be homeless? Let’s go home.” Another dog, a gorgeous full-blooded Chesapeake Bay retriever, went camping on a family fall trip to Pointset State Park down near Sumter Air Force base to do nothing more than lounge around the campground, eat food, and build large campfires. All went well except on our final day, which we planned to stay at a picnic shelter for our last big meal; a storm began to roll in after lunch as we were preparing to go. Brisko, the dog, was fearful of thunder storms and gun shots. He had been a great hunting dog, but after seeing a cow struck and killed by lightning he was too skittish to be any good. Whenever there was a storm, a Benadryl inside a hotdog would calm him down so he wouldn’t hurt himself. Before the storm started, the sedation was given to him by my mother. My aunt, afraid he hadn’t been given Benadryl, went ahead and gave him another without asking anyone. My grandmother made the same mistake again, so by the time we went to load the dog into the small trailer we brought with us, we had a 90lb dog that acted like he was at a Grateful Dead concert. He was so intoxicated, he couldn’t even walk, so my father ended up having to carry and place him inside the small trailer we had. At this point, the kind-hearted ladies in my family were fearful that this Chesapeake Bay retriever, a dog bred specifically to retrieve waterfowl in the frigid waters off of Maryland in winter, would freeze to death when it was 50 and drizzly in South Carolina. Using an extra garbage bag, they fashioned a poncho and slid it over this already soaking wet dog, who then promptly laid down in the trailer and fell asleep. We loaded the rest of the gear around the dog and took off towards home. We rolled into Camden around 9pm and apparently the city had not seen any rain. As is common in most southern towns, there were lots of people sitting on the stoop enjoying a libation or two, or too many. As we pulled in to the first stop light, Brisko popped his head out of the trailer and began howling like a stoned werewolf, “Awhooaohooooaoooo” causing a mass exodus from the stoop and I think a few more filled pews the next morning at church.
Don’t let this stop you from taking your dog’s hiking and camping with you though. While my success has been mixed, I honestly think it’s always been from the fact I had dogs that just didn’t want to go into the woods. If you try to drag your friend out on a 3 day hiking trip, and she’d rather go antique shopping, you’re going to end up not wanting to take your friend hiking again (and they probably won’t either). So far I’ve only had experience owning the antique shopping dogs, but I’ve got several friends who have regular Les Stroud animals. My one friend Dave has a small Jack Russel named Brunswick who has probably logged more time on the water than I have. He loves nothing more than to go canoeing and kayaking, so Dave enjoys bringing him along. Another friend, Scott, has a yellow lab that goes camping with him all the time; she doesn’t wander away from camp, bark at strangers, or make herself a nuisance. From talking with Dave and Scott, they didn’t do anything special or unusual; they just took the time and effort to train their dogs properly. It doesn’t require anything beyond regular training and there’s plenty of instruction on Animal Planet so I’ll leave it to the experts. Just don’t try to force your antique shopping dog into hiking 10 miles with you in a day. My aunt’s Corgi/Beagle mix loves to lounge around camp but couldn’t waddle more than 100’ without stopping for a nap and it’s not right to try to force her to.
If anyone has any secrets or big tips for taking a Dog hiking, kayaking, disc golfing, crocheting or anything of the sort, feel free to write in. And, as always, I look forward to hearing any questions or ideas that you have for articles.