By Shelby Kisgen
On a general basis people go camping with their dogs and horses; cats are rarely taken into the woods, and if you are determined to bring Fluffy, do so at your own risk. This list of 8 tips for camping with pets is geared towards campers who want their dogs and horses to enjoy nature with them as well. Before you load up your four-legged pal, scan over this list to make sure you are prepared for a fun and safe time for everyone involved.
Dogs who live outside year long have fantastic digestive systems; they can eat a rotten skunk and be just fine. However, if your dog is an inside pet who is unaccustomed to eating whatever he finds, his system might be more delicate. Make sure you bring clean water for your pet if you are not camping near a fresh source of water. Lakes and rivers are clean enough for dogs and horses. Stagnant ponds should be avoided. Only allow your animals to drink from clear looking water. If it has a layer of filth or pollution, share your own water with your pet. Plan ahead with extra tubs of water if you are unsure of the conditions of your camping location.
If you feed your dog a delicate diet of wet and dry food, do not forget to pack it. Do not assume he can live happily on human food for the weekend; though his taste buds might like it, doing so is unfair to his digestive system and it could lead to vomiting or diarrhea. The best bet when feeding dogs and horses camping is to stick with what you feed them at home. Keep in mind that poisonous plants exist in the vegetation that might not be local to your back yard. Keep an eye on what your dog or horse is munching on. Also, review the guidelines for hay or pellets that you bring into the backcountry; many forests have regulations on what sorts of foliage can be packed in to feed your horse, as they do not want alien seeds mingling with the native plant species.
Most dogs like to chase squirrels and birds; let them have their fun, but do not let them take on skunks, porcupines, bears, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, deer, elk or anything too big or peaceful. Do not let your dog harass the wildlife or attack or kill the wildlife. Good-natured barking at animals that can escape is one thing; fighting wildlife is another. Most horses get along well with wildlife but keep in mind that if a horse is overly spooky, a predator might be nearby so get control of the animals and vacate the area if necessary. When in doubt, trust your dog or horse’s instincts when it comes to predators.
When you return home from your trip, check your pet’s coat for ticks and fleas. Also check them for skin conditions such as rain rot or poison ivy.
Please put a collar with identification tags on your dog. That should include your phone-number and name. For horses, put a plate on their halter that offers your contact information.
Keep in mind that some people are scared of dogs and horses from traumatizing previous experiences. If your dog jumps, restrain him when others are approaching. If he bites, keep him on a leash. If a horse kicks, tie a red ribbon in their tail as a universal danger sign to warn people away. Respect other campers when bringing your pets. If your dog is a notorious barker throughout the night, do not camp near others and keep them awake. Camping with pets is a privilege that should not encroach upon the enjoyment of other campers.
Animals are unpredictable. That is both forgivable and understandable. However, make sure that you have a basic level of control over your pet before taking them camping. The wilderness is a place to test yours skills and bond as partners, not the place to create ground rules. Your dog should come when called; your horse should halt when asked.
If you run three miles every day while your dog naps on the couch, respect the fact that his fitness level might not be up to climbing mountains. If you have not ridden your horses in a month, do not expect them to trot for five miles on the trail. Respect the fitness level of your pet, no matter where that level is. If it inconveniences your preferred pace, get them in better shape before you take them camping again.
Pets can liven up any camping trip. Dogs provide security against predators and unwanted humans. Horses provide quick transportation and fun gallops among the hills. The biggest tip for camping with animals is this: Take good care of your pets, and they will take good care of you.