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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Camping with the Dogs: Part IV--Success is in the Details

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Oliver Naps on the RV Chair

Did you catch Parts I, II and III? Just in case you'd like to catch up on all my tips for traveling with your dogs, you can access all three of the preceding posts by clicking the links.

This fourth and final part of my series on camping with your dogs will hone in on some of the miscellaneous details that will help make things go smoothly:

  1. Scouting campgrounds requires planning if you're taking Fido along, and even more so if Fido has housemates along for the venture. Starting with the AAA Campground guide, I quickly learned that the vast majority of AAA approved campgrounds that allow a dog, only allow "a" dog, and far fewer only allow a dog under 35 pounds. I moved on to the Internet after getting good input on KOAs and Jellystone Parks from my RVing friends who also travel with 3 dogs. Finding no KOAs or Jellystones near our destinations, I began using Google for a search of "dog friendly campgrounds". Here I met success at a site called Dog Friendly  that searches all types of destinations including restaurants, parks, hotels and more. I located 3 off-leash dog parks near our destinations and we did find time to visit Barker Field in Richmond. Tanner, my social butterfly, particularly enjoyed greeting so many new friends. Even after an hour's walk to get there, he was running the park energetically visiting each new visitor at the gate. I guess we can officially classify Tanner as an extrovert. He is comfortable introducting himself to anyone--anywhere.
  2. Water and food management took just a little forethought. The water bowl was only filled and available when the vehicle was stopped and there was time for a walk in the dog area. Ice cubes were given out occasionally en route, to appease thirst during the long ride. These are always welcome, and fun too. Plastic bowls with lids were used so that they could be covered after eating if washing was not possible until we camped in the evening.
  3. Reassurance and Safety: Little Oliver needs occasional reassurance and companionship. Allowing him to ride with Tanner worked most of the way. A few times, I rode in a seat belted table area with Oliver at my side, giving him his “Mom” time. With airbags in the front seats, this is no place for a dog. Even a large dog like Tanner, at almost 60 pounds, would likely have significant injuries if an airbag deployed in an accident.
  4. An easy barrier to keep the dogs out of the cabin/ front seat area was a baby gate placed behind the front seats. Wedged between the front seats and the rear facing seat behind them, the gate kept the pups from entering the front cabin area.
  5. Outdoor Exploration--Just for this trip I invested (not much!) in a “tie out” to attach the dogs to a long line, allowing them to investigate the campsite without running free. Rules are rules; no dogs off leash in the park. That’s okay, though; I don’t relish having to chase a dog through the woods if they catch sight of a bear. With a little spacing, we managed to place the dogs' pegs just far enough apart that they could all reach the same water bowl in the middle, yet not get their tie out lines tangled. This worked great. One note of caution, though. Tie outs should never be used if you cannot keep an eye on Fido.
"That was a Long Hike"

By now I'm sure you will all agree that I have completely cooked the camping with the dogs topic. I hope that in sharing our experience, you have learned something that will someday be put to good use. Even if you don't ever intend to camp, there might be a picnic in your future. Enjoy it with your dog.

*NOTE: If you, like me, are concerned about our environment, see my article, A Greener RV Vacation, at Organic Journey Online, my other blog. This version of the trip focuses on how to travel on an RV in a more Eco-friendly way.

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