A dog really is (hu)man’s best friend—loyal, loving, and always up for an adventure. But taking your dog on your next outdoor excursion requires more than just leashing up and heading out the door. Hiking, camping, canoeing, and other summertime activities can pose some dangers and require a bit of extra preparation. Here are some tips for your taking your four-legged friend on your next summer adventure.
Where (and where not) to go
There are many national and provincial parks that allow pets, though it’s important to note animals usually need to be kept on a leash at all times, often even on your own campsite. Check the rules for your destination before you go; some parks offer off-leash zones and dog-friendly beaches where you can let your pet run free along the sand and in the water. However, even in these areas, you should keep a close eye on your pet to ensure he’s getting along with other dogs and people in the area, and carry a leash with you just in case he needs to be reined in.
You might want to avoid remote backcountry camping with your pet, as there is a higher risk of encountering animals such as bears, wolves, coyotes, and other predators that may have their sights set on your dog as a snack. While these animals may also enter populated front-country campgrounds, there is a decreased risk of Fido being cornered by hungry wildlife.
Bring more dog food and water than you think you’ll need, as well as travel-friendly dishes. As well, pack a leash and a lead and ground stake (so that you have something to tether your dog to), poop-and-scoop bags, a brush (he’ll very likely roll around and end up with little bits stuck to his fur), and if you’re camping overnight, a warm blanket or jacket. If you’ll be on or near water, consider bringing a doggie life preserver, even if he’s a good swimmer.
In case of emergency
Before you set out, be sure your dog is wearing a collar with her ID and your contact information in case she wanders off. If you’re camping, it’s a good idea to have temporary ID tags made with your campsite name and number, and a way for you to be reached while you’re not home like a cellphone number. For extra protection in case she gets lost, you can also keep tabs on your dog by having her wear a GPS-tracking collar. Some parks may even require you to bring proof of immunizations and registration, so be sure to bring all of your paperwork.
First aid for Fido
Just as you probably carry a first aid kit for yourself, it’s a good idea to also carry one for your pet when you’re out hiking or camping. Animal-specific items like vet wrap (which sticks to fur better than traditional tape), vet-prescribed pain relief medication, a muzzle (even friendly dogs may bite if they’re injured), and a tick remover tool should all be included, along with traditional items such as tweezers, scissors, gauze, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, eye and ear wash, antihistamines, latex gloves, and towels or a blanket. If gathering all of those materials sounds like a lot of work, you can buy a pre-made kit like this one from the Humane Society of Canada.
If your dog is new to camping, cottaging or lengthy hikes, you may need to ease him into the adventure. If you’re planning to take your pet on a long trek, be sure he’s comfortable with long walks first—just as you need to be in shape for strenuous exercise, your dog does, too. If you’ll be camping in a tent, get him used to his temporary home by pitching the tent at home a few times, and letting him explore it. You may even want to sleep outside with him in your backyard as a trial run. Bring a few of his favourite toys and treats to offer a bit of comfort from home.
One of the biggest concerns for pets in the great outdoors is wildlife. Your dog could become territorial and pick a fight with the wrong animal, or she could be curious and friendly when she shouldn’t be. To keep your dog (and you) safe, be sure your dog is always within your sightlines, especially from dusk to dawn. If you have to take her out for a break during that time, keep her on a shorter leash in an open area, and don’t leave her tied up outside all night. Wildlife such as skunks, racoons, wolves, and bears are more likely to emerge as night falls and before the sun comes up. As well, be aware of the seasons. It’s best to avoid taking your dog into the wilderness when it’s mating season, so as to not risk any aggressive—or amorous—advances from wild animals. If you’re hiking, put a “bear bell” on your dog’s collar so that animals can have a warning that she’s coming.
If your dog does end up coming face to face with dangerous wildlife such as a black bear, moose or coyote, stay calm and back away slowly, keeping your eyes on the animal (but avoid direct eye contact). Pick your dog up if she’s small, and try to make yourself look as big as possible, by holding your arms up and waiving. Talk to the animal in a loud, firm, but calm voice. Do not let your dog run, as it will trigger the chase instinct in wild animals.