It’s not unusual that many people like to go camping with their friends, be they two-legged friends or four-legged.
The High Country can be an ideal place to camp with their dogs as long as the welfare of the dog is taken care of. Taking a dog along a trail is not unusual during the summer, and they can be fun companions for winter walks, too.
But consideration for that dog includes keeping the dog warm, fed, watered and rested. Dogs can get cold, hungry and thirsty just like their human counterparts, and precautions must be made before the camping trip even starts.
Footsloggers team member Ben Gibbs, have both taken their dogs camping with them.
Gibbs recommends that people consult their veterinarian before taking their dogs camping. They can get advice on what length of trip they should take their dogs, where they should camp and the type of food, medicine and other supplies should be brought on the trip.
They should also remember the dogs’ fitness level.
“Depending on the nature of activity you’re doing, you should consult your veterinarian,” Gibbs. “We have a staff member who did take a dog for a hike on the Appalachian Trail, so you need to make sure that dogs’ fitness level and diet is dials, because that could be an issue. The weekend is fine for most people.”
Gibbs said the most important thing dog owners must remember, when it comes to bringing the dog to a park or a campground is to maintain control of the dog. Gibbs also uses a harness to keep control of the dog.
“The most important thing is that the dogs must be on a leash,” Gibbs said. “You can’t have dogs roaming free in the campgrounds, in the parks or the national parks.”
Gibbs said some people allow their dogs to run free, but he does not since he is not sure how people will react to his dog if there is a confrontation with a person or another dog.
“You don’t know how someone is going to react to a dog,” Gibbs said. “My dog is very friendly, but if he comes up on another dog that I don’t know, I’m not sure how he’s going to react.”
The comfort and the safety of the dog are also important. Gibbs has his dog sleep in his tent and brings a bed for the dog. Gibbs also brings insulation to put bottom on the bed to keep moisture and cold separated from the dog.
“Some people hammock and then leash their dogs under their hammocks,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs said all types of dogs could go camping. Gibbs’ dog, Ollie, is a Kerr Hound, a dog that weighs around 45 pounds and is similar to “Old Yeller.”
Gibbs has a soft-shelled jacket and winter boots for Ollie. Gibbs said the boots are important for dogs when they are in the snow to keep the snow from building up in the pads of their paws.
Salt that can get caught into the snow can also build into the dogs’ paws, which can be painful to the animal.
“It can crack their pads,” Gibbs said. “There is high sensitivity there.”
Gibbs said people might want to leave the dogs home if the snow is deep or if conditions are wet. Walking through deep snow can be difficult for dogs, particularly smaller breeds.
“If you are going to trail where is high traffic,” Gibbs said. “There aren’t many clearance issues. You don’t want have your dog fight through snow because they’ll probably tire more than you will and a lot of people don’t realize that. You also want to avoid wet conditions with the dog. Their core gets wet and it’s going to plummet. Humans have more mass, so it’s easier for us to stay warm. You can’t get that moisture off their fur.”
Of course, people should remember to bring plenty of food and fresh water for the dog. Gibbs said to treat the storage of food like one would store food to avoid attracting bears.
“I have basically a sealing container that is smaller of my large dog food storage and I’ll take that with me,” Gibbs said. “Or, I’ll use a dry bag, basically a roll-top bag to keep it fresh,” Gibbs said. “Either store them in bear bags or in the vehicle. Don’t leave it out.”
Dog owners should also be respectful to other people when it comes to dealing with dog waste.
“If they are pooping on the trail, 100 percent always pick it up,” Gibbs said. “If you’re out in the grass and somewhere like a national forest, I’m not going to be as strict with that. If it were a park, I would always pick up the dog’s feces. Also, you have to be aware of what they are eating. You don’t want to introduce anything into the environment that is unnatural.”
Gibbs said a good place to camp with a dog is Price Park at Moses Cone on the Parkway. He added that Elk’s Knob is a popular place for campers who have dogs.