Canine Camp Outs

“A dog is the best hiking companion you can have, and a great distraction for the kids,” says Cheryl Smith, author of “On the Trail With Your Canine Companion: Getting the Most Out of Hiking and Camping With Your Dog,” (Howell Book House, New York, NY, 1996; $14.95).

Of course, before you drive all the way there, make certain the camp site destination allows dogs.

While snakes and bears are included among theoretical hazards on trails, most of the common “bug-a-boos” are really bugs, like ticks and fleas. Owners can efficiently and safely protect their pets before they embark on the trip. Other bugs include a protozoa called Giardia, which there is now a vaccine for – and may be recommended for dogs that camp out a lot.

It seems like a great idea, bonding with nature, tossing sticks into the water and sharing marshmallows – but Smith concedes camping with a pooch is an extra responsibility, and it’s not always fun. For example, what if there’s rotten weather? Smith says plan ahead, and you won’t wind up in a pinch. Locate a nearby motel that allows pets, has movie rentals and an indoor swimming pool to keep the kids busy. Perhaps there’s a nearby amusement park or video arcade where the kids can spend the day. If you can’t find a pet friendly place to stay, most communities have a kenneling facility for the pooch. Amusement parks often have their own kennels. “Or you can tough it out and camp in the pouring rain,” Smith says. “From your dog’s point of view jumping in a mud puddle is a perfect way to spend a day.”

Smith adds, “You hopefully will never have to use Plan B – but at least you’ll have a plan.”

Meanwhile, bring towels with you for wiping wet paws, as well as extra water for the hikes. Naturally, bring your dog’s food, some treats and plastic bags. Smith always keeps a first aid kit in the car and a spare leash and collar. Your dog should be wearing ID and rabies’ tags. Your dogs’ “suitcase” should include a few favorite toys, and pampered pups can bring their own beds.

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