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Is Your Dog Camp-Ready?
A dog-camp pro tells us what to look for

Summer is here and it’s time for camp! Are you considering your first trip to dog camp, yet wondering if your dog is ready? Here are five skills and traits your dog should have to get the most out of the camp experience.

1. Coming reliably when called is high on the list for Annie Brody, creator and director of Camp Unleashed in Massachusetts. “This is a biggie, especially for hiking off-leash. We ask people to practice this in safe ways prior to camp if they don’t feel their dog’s recall is totally reliable. It’s also important for heavy-duty play, so you can safely control energy that might get too high.” Your nearby off-leash park is the perfect place to practice this one.

2. Good socialization. Young dogs should understand verbal cues from other dogs asking them to curb their enthusiasm, while older dogs should tolerate being jostled and bumped by frolicking youngsters, who often move like crashing waves through groups of people and dogs as they play. Little dogs should not be afraid of playful or sniffing big dogs. “Dogs must play well or at least be neutral with other dogs of all kinds and sizes,” says Brody. Your dog park is a great place to practice this skill, too.

3. Sharing. The most popular camp dog is willing to share toys—no hoarding that favorite squeaker toy!—as well as cabin space. A lack of jealousy when other dogs greet you or accept treats from you is also important. Share the love!

4. Napping. “They should be able to rest quietly in your cabin or in a crate without incessant barking,” says Brody. Just like toddlers, dogs get ramped up at camp. A nap each day helps them maintain their composure and manners while you enjoy meals with the group—or your own nap.

5. Patience. With you, when you ask him to wear a silly costume or show off his tricks for a camp contest, or when you take endless photos of him at various camp locations and activities. With the other humans, who constantly want to meet and touch him. With the canine co-camper who insists on sniffing, frequently and closely. And, finally, with having his usual day-to-day routine disrupted in such a wonderfully exciting way.
 

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 55: July/Aug 2009
Rebecca Wallick is an attorney and a Bark contributing editor; she and her dogs live in Washington.
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