July 25, 2014

How To Go Camping With Your Dog

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Our favorite spunky four-legged fur balls make every adventure better.

We here at Airstream love it when man and man’s best friend get out and Live Riveted together! Mallory McMorrow, Contributing Design Editor for Road&Track online recently embarked on an adventure with her three-year old rescue pit mix, Detroit. Read her top tips on how to go camping with your dog below:

There’s a reason dog is man’s best friend. Our favorite spunky four-legged fur balls make every adventure better. But like any new experience, hitting the road with your dog for the first time can be a challenge.

My boyfriend and I adopted our girl Detroit a mere five days before heading out for our first-ever Airstream adventure, so to say this would be a weekend of firsts would be an understatement. After all, this adorable three-year old rescue pit mix was still adjusting to our home – how would she handle a long weekend away? And more importantly, how would we handle it?

We packed up our Ford F-150 on a Thursday and headed north to Airstream LA to pick up our trailer. Sweet Dee was visibly nervous, and understandably so. The last time people had packed her up with this much stuff, they were on their way to surrender her to a shelter.

Her tail remained tucked between her legs as we got out of the truck, hitched the trailer to the back and talked up the team at Airstream. We could sense her nerves, and while we couldn’t wait to have our first Airstream experience, we worried if we were putting too much stress on her with a long weekend away from home.

But something miraculous happened when we got settled at the campsite. We opened the door to the truck and Detroit’s black and white whiskers started to twitch as she took in the sights and smells around her. She hopped down and met Marly, an older lab mix that came with our friends Sam and Nate. Her tightly-tucked tail finally loosened up – and even started to wag. Throughout the weekend, this shy, nervous dog who had been too afraid to come out of her crate at home slowly came out of her shell. By the end of the weekend, she was sleeping at the foot of our bed in the back of the Airstream, taking on hiking trails like a seasoned pro, and lounging in the sun at the campsite with Marly.

In fact, it turns out that this camping trip was the best thing we could have done for her, and for the first time – gave us a look at our new four-legged family member’s true personality.

That weekend taught us a lot about our dog, ourselves, and how enjoyable it can be to camp with pets. Our friends, seasoned campers themselves, also taught us a lot about how to plan ahead to have a great camping trip with your furry family member. Here are five tips for happy trails and happy tails:

1. Bring a familiar blanket or towel

A familiar smell will help your dog get comfortable in an unfamiliar surrounding. Ideally, bring along a blanket or towel that your dog regularly uses in their bed or crate. This will help reassure them with a familiar piece of home full of smells they recognize. Routine is key for dogs, so make sure to place the blanket or towel somewhere in the Airsteam that your dog will sleep every night.

2. Bring a retractable leash or long cord

While a lot of professional dog trainers don’t recommend the retractable leash for daily walks, we’ve found that they’re great for bringing along on camping trips. If you’re dog is new to camping, or even new to your family like ours was, the long retractable leash will allow you to loop it around a tree at your campsite. This will allow you to keep your dog close, while still giving them some freedom to roam within the campsite.

3. Collapsible water bowls are key

We learned that Detroit is a natural when it comes to trails. But being out in the sun on long trails can dehydrate you and your dog pretty quickly. To make sure you both stay well-hydrated, pick up a durable water bottle for you – the Camelbak Eddy is a tried-and-true favorite, and a collapsible water bowl for you dog. I use a silicone bowl that folds flat and dries quickly for easy travel. Clip it to your backpack to worry less about carrying stuff and more about enjoying the trail with your dog.

4. Stay alert around dogs, people and wildlife

No matter how long you’ve had your dog, you never know how they’re going to react to new surroundings, new dogs or new people. If you’re dog lives in a more urban or suburban area and isn’t trained off-leash, keep your dog on a sturdy 4-6 foot nylon leash so they won’t ever waver too far on hikes, and always be careful when approaching other dogs, new people, and keep an eye out for wildlife! Learn your dog’s stress signals, such as tail tucking or ears going back, and adjust as necessary. Just like you wouldn’t subject your friends or family members to anything outside of their comfort zone, keep the same in mind for your dog.

5. Keep a flexible schedule

Maybe you’ve been camping for years and you can go from sunrise to sunset non-stop. Or maybe you’re a newbie who wants to pack as much adventure as possible into your short vacation time. But remember, you’re not just planning for yourself when you bring your dog along. Like any member of the family, you need to be considerate and understand that any new adventure can be stressful. Of course plan ahead, but keep a flexible schedule and watch your dog’s signals. If your dog has had it for the day, head back to the campsite and relax!

Finally, be patient and have fun! The great outdoors is a drastic change from life at home, so while there may be some challenges, listen to your dog and adjust along the way. They’ll learn to trust you more as you go, and like anything else – with practice, you and your dog will be seasoned adventurers in no time.

Photo Credit: Mallory McMorrow 

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