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Camping With A Dog

Dan A. Nelson
March 27, 2012
Filed under Feature Stories, Top Stories

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Pete Lake and Squaw Lake hikes with family

Pete Lake and Squaw Lake hikes

Like all campers, dogs enjoy forgetting their domestication and rediscovering their wild side. They love getting out and playing in rivers and lakes, roaming through forests and meadows and generally reveling in their primal instincts.

Inviting your pooch to join you camping provides rewards for both. Dogs also love the new sights, sounds and smells — especially the smells — only found in the wilderness But, it’s not all fun and games for canine campers; your four-legged friends also have to understand that the wilderness has limits. Dogs in camp must remain domesticated enough to be well-mannered.

Of course, dogs depend on their owners when it comes to understanding the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Dog ownership means accepting certain responsibilities. First and foremost, provide proper care, diet, exercise and recreation for your dog. You must also focus on providing obedience and manners training when camping with a dog. Owners who live up to these responsibilities will be rewarded with a good dog. Those who fail, end up with a dog that exhibits unwelcome and unacceptable behaviors. In short, they can end up with a bad dog. Dogs who are properly trained and respected will generally be acceptable to the public. Then you can, and should, be out camping with your dog.

Caylee by the Creek

Caylee enjoying a hike by the creek

Before camping with a dog, take the time to make sure you have planned for any problems that may arise on your trip. A quick visit to the vet prior to your trip will ensure that your dog is healthy and ready for travel. During that visit, you can also pick up copies of vaccination records which are helpful to have on hand if your dog goes missing, or has a negative encounter with another pet and you need proof of vaccination.

Keep those records in your vehicle or camper, and include some recent pictures of your pup in case you need to make a lost dog poster while on the road. In fact, it can be a lifesaver to have a pre-made flyer with your dog’s picture, your contact information (cell phone number and even email address if you can access it on the road) include a blank space where you can write the location where your dog went missing, and the phone number of the campground where you are staying. Hopefully, these lost dog flyers will never be needed, but it’s good to have them pre-made just in case your dog gets spooked and runs away while you are on the road. Even the best-trained canine can be spooked into flight-mode by an array of unexpected events (booming thunderstorms, wildlife encounters, noisy neighbors, etc.). ­

camping with a dog

Trail to Goat Lake, through Jordon Basin, in the Goat Rocks Wilderness Area.

Finally, before you head out, check one last time with your destination(s) and make sure camping with a dog is permitted, and what the restrictions are on their presence in and around camp. Most national and state parks allow dogs in the campgrounds, but require leashes while in camp. Nearly all national parks prohibit dogs on park trails, but the National Forest Service lands are generally open to dogs with few restrictions beyond leashes in campgrounds. Y­­ou can find more information about state park campground rules and restrictions by visiting www.hikewithyourdog.com.

Deadhorse Ranch State Park, Arizona

Located across the Verde River from the town of Cottonwood, this 423-acre park offers a mix of forest, river and desert to explore during your stay. More than 7 miles of trails loop through the park and the adjacent Verde River Greenway State Natural Area. Your dogs can swim in the river or the park’s lagoons while you fish for bass, catfish or trout. The waterways, and the trees and vegetation they support along their shores, attract a wide variety of birds, as well. Keep your dog on leash – a requirement for the entire park – and let it help you locate species ranging from pipits to prairie falcons. The park has more than 100 campsites, most with full hookups. Deadhorse Ranch provides easy access to popular towns Sedona and Jerome, hikers will appreciate the close proximity to the trails of the Coconino National Forest. Contact the park at azstateparks.com/Parks/DEHO/index.html or call 928-634-5283.

Rifle Falls State Park, Colorado

This small park is big on natural splendor. With just 13 drive-in sites (and 7 walk-in sites for tent campers), Rifle Falls provides a vast camp environment from those who get in. Three short trails meander through the park, while native east-slope cutthroat trout, rainbows and browns, inhabit Rifle Creek to tempt fly fishers. The park, just northwest of Glenwood Springs, provides easy access to the vast recreational opportunities of the White River National Forest. Great hiking for you and your dog can be found from the Three Forks Trailhead in the Rifle Ranger District of the Forest. For more information, go to www.parks.state.co.us/Parks/RifleFalls/Pages/RifleFallsHome.aspx or call 970-625-1607.

Sometimes getting dirty is all part of the fun!

Medoc Mountain State Park, North Carolina

With a high point of just 325 feet above sea level, Medoc is more like a molehill than a mountain. Thirty-five million years ago, the mountain was a towering peak in a volcanic range. Time and tectonic activity took their toll, leaving Medoc a bit more modest than it was during its Paleozoic heyday. Dogs can romp in the tall grasses or roam through the cool woodlands, and fall asleep with their humans in one of the park’s 34 campsites (12 have hookups). Located just a couple of hours east of the Triangle Park area of the state, Medoc Mountain is a world away from the hustle of the cities. Seven trails weave through the forests and along the trout-rich creeks of the parkland, offering more than 10 miles of hiking paths. Contact the park at www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/memo/main.php or call 252-586-6588.

Little Missouri State Park, North Dakota

Nestled along the shores of a western arm of Lake Sakakawea, this 5,749-acre park supports 30 campsites scattered throughout rugged badlands terrain of western North Dakota. Teddy Roosevelt earned his rough-rider skills as a rancher in this country long before he took on San Juan Hill or the White House. This is a great park for camping with a dog and provides more than 47 miles of trails. Dogs will find ample water thanks to the numerous artesian wells that feed troughs and tanks along the trails. Most of the 30 campsites offer electrical hookups. Located just 20 minutes from Killdeer, North Dakota, the park provides easy access to nearby Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the place where Teddy’s concepts of nature and conservation were formed and matured. After moving into the White House, Roosevelt declared, “I never would have been president if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.” Little Missouri State Park provides campers a chance to reside in the same general area that shaped a United States President. For more information call 701-764-5256 or browse www.parkrec.nd .gov/parks/lmosp/lmosp.html.

Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon

Sophie enjoying a long hike

Dogs love the beach as much as their humans do, and Fort Stevens offers miles of beach for two- and four-legged beachcombers. Some stretches are remote-and seldom-visited except by dedicated walkers. The park is located just west of Astoria at the southern shore of the Columbia River at the point where it enters the Pacific. You’ll be able to see this great northern shipping route in action from the beach, and the long jetty at the north end of the park. The campground offers 174 full-hookup sites, and another 302 that have electricity and water, but no sewer hookups. Families can also rent yurts and cabins, several of which are now pet-friendly. In addition to more than 5 miles of beach, you’ll find an extra 5 miles of inland hiking trails and 9 miles of bike paths to keep yourself and your dogs well entertained. Contact the park at www.oregonstateparks.org/park_179.php or call 503-861-1671.

Lake Carmi State Park, Vermont

With more than 7.5 miles of shoreline, Lake Carmi is the fourth largest natural lake within Vermont’s borders. A 140-acre peat bog abuts the 1,375-acre lake, creating a vast aquatic world that draws in squadrons of birds, legions of wildlife and flotillas of fish. The bog, a designated state natural area, creates a natural division between the park’s two camping loops. Loop A is dog-friendly with every one of the rental cabins open to pooches, and the majority of the park’s 140 campsites fill Loop A, so camp dogs will find plenty of places to stay, too. The Missisquoi Rail Trail runs adjacent of the park, providing seemingly endless miles to hike or bike right from camp. For more information, go to www.vtstateparks.com/htm/carmi.htm or call 802-933-8383.

Great Gear For Camping With A Dog

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