Thursday, September 15, 2011

Is your dog a happy camper?

Do you remember when Labor Day weekend marked the end of summer vacation?  School started the following week so you had to make the most of your 3-day weekend.  Although things have changed and many schools now start in August, the passing of Labor Day weekend still gives that melancholy feeling of another summer gone.   But just because summer has ended doesn’t mean your time outdoors has to end.  With cooler and crisp weather, fall happens to be the best time of year for a quick getaway on a local camping trip.  And if your dog enjoys the outdoors too, why not bring him along?
Camping with your dog can be a bonding experience or an experience that makes you want to leave your dog in the wilderness.  Before you get to the point of taking off Buddy’s leash and letting him wander away from your campsite, learn what it takes from you and your dog to successfully carry out a camping trip.
5 Questions you should ask yourself before camping with your dog
1.       Is my dog easy-going and calm?
If your dog does not do well in the outdoors, on a leash, around strange places, or new people then he may not be cut out for an overnighter in the wilderness.  If he gets out of hand and won’t stop barking you will be asked to leave the campsite.  This kind of stress is unnecessary and unfair for you and your dog and will ruin any chance of a future camping trip.
2.       Can I handle my dog while camping?
You need to be in control of your dog and his behaviors at all times while outside of your home.  If you can’t physically or mentally control your dog and keep him from barking or attacking another living thing then you will have a problem.  An out of control dog can annoy the world’s biggest dog lover.  You need to be respectful of other campers, in your group and on the campgrounds.
      3.       Am I prepared to have my dog with me at all times?
There are no breaks from your dog while camping.  Everything you do you do with him.  Whether you tether him while you make breakfast or ask your camping buddy to watch him while you use the restroom, you need a plan as to where he will be if he isn’t with you. 
      4.        Do I know the campground rules about dogs?
If it’s a dog friendly campsite they will have rules as to where the dog is and is not allowed.  Some campgrounds require a dog to be on leash at all times and others require that leash to be no longer than 6 feet.  Some campgrounds do not allow dogs on the beach or in the picnic area or on certain hiking trails.  In Tahoe, dogs must be confined to a vehicle or tent from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.  And lastly, some campsites charge extra for dogs to stay.  Look up your campsite rules and be sure you know where Buddy can and cannot be while camping.
5.       Is my dog vaccinated for the great outdoors?
While we all think of bears and wildlife as a possible threat to our dogs we don’t consider the more likely threat of viruses and parasites that Buddy could pick up.  Be sure he is current on all of his vaccinations as well as a tick and flea medicine.  Ticks and fleas can jump onto your dog in a split second (whether he has had contact with anther animal or not) and if he is cuddling up with you at night you are at a greater risk as well.  You should carry a first-aid kit that has supplies (like tick tweezers) for humans and dogs incase anything should happen.

While answering these five questions will not completely prepare you for camping with your dog, they do give you insight as to whether camping is the right weekend getaway with your pup this fall.  For more information and a thorough guide to camping with a dog, check out There are hundreds of dog friendly campgrounds in California alone.  Each campground is unique and attracts visitors from around the world for various reasons.  Be sure to research your area before going so you know what to expect for you and your dog.  Here are a few choice areas to go camping in San Bernardino County:
Big Pine Flats (in Big Bear), 19 sites available on a first come, first served basis. Closed in Winter.
Serrano Campgrounds (in Big Bear), 132 sites with showers, close to big bear lake and the solar observatory. Closed in Winter.
San Bernardino National Forest has several trailheads and picnic areas along Highway 38 on the way to Big Bear
Joshua Tree National Park (starting in Twentynine Palms), 492 sites available most on a first come, first serve basis.   
Rainbow Basin Natural Area (in Barstow), 22 sites available at Owl Canyon Campground on a first come, first served basis.
Afton Canyon Natural Area (40 miles east of Barstow), 22 sites available on a first come, first served basis.
Mojave National Preserve (in Needles), 65 sites available on a first come, first served basis.
Moabi Regional Park (in Needles), 130 sites available on a first come, first served basis.

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