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How to Camp with a Reactive Dog

Guest Post by Tadej Kožar

Patrick-hendry-eDgUyGu93Yw-unsplashWould you love to bring your dog with you when you camp? What if your dog is reactive and not reliable outdoors? It is possible to take a reactive dog camping with you, but you will have to consider a few things before heading to a campsite or out in the backcountry.

The worst scenario can happen at a campsite that is crowded with other campers and their pets. If your dog will react to any of them even while just passing through you could have a stressful camping experience.

First, it is important to know why your dog is reactive so you work with him to fix the issue. Here are the most common reasons for a dog being reactive:

The lack of socialization
This is one of the most obvious factors for a dog’s reactive behavior. If your pup wasn’t introduced early on to various situations with people and other animals he can be reactive. It is best that you introduce a young puppy to new things as soon as possible as the brain is more perceptive in the first 4 months of a dog’s life.

Bad past experience
If you got a dog from an owner who mistreated him, this can be a problem. Your dog could associate people with pain and bad things and react negatively. It is important that he gets your trust. You will achieve this by working with him on a regular basis and reassuring him that he can trust people.

Your dog could be in pain
Your dog’s reactive behavior could actually be a reaction to his pain. Take your dog to a vet to determine if he has any health issues that make him reactive.

How to help a reactive dog when camping

Dogs with behavior issues require work, patience, and good techniques to overcome the problem successfully. Here are some tips for how to camp with a reactive dog:

Research the campsite

As the owner of a reactive dog, your responsibility is to find a more peaceful campground with not so many people, pets and events. Your dog will have an easier time coping with a new environment, people, and situations this way. Campgrounds that have adequate privacy between pitching plots are the best options.

Set up a dog-friendly camp

When you arrive at the campsite, let your dog research the place first. This way he will get familiar with the new environment. Then prepare a specific place for him so he can enjoy the quiet and rest undisturbed.

Get a pet-friendly tent

If your dog likes to sleep with you or close to you, get a tent that is appropriate for dogs. Some camping tents have a vestibule that is breathable and big enough for you and your dog to spend the night inside. You can even opt for a tent that has a vestibule floor made of material so your dog’s claws won’t tear apart and destroy the tent.

Set up a crate or an x-pen

If your dog is used to being outside, you can set up a place for him to relax, eat and walk. You can buy an x-pen, crate, or portable fence where he will feel comfortable and not so anxious.

Additional help

If you have a very reactive pet you can cover up his crate or place where he relaxes when you have to cook a meal or collect firewood. Use tarps, blankets, or towels to cover the place where he stays so he can’t see “the triggers” that will make him react.

What to avoid

One big mistake dog owners make is putting their dogs on a short leash. If you restrict your dog’s movement, he can be even more anxious and aggressive. Instead, give him his own place (crate, x-pan, etc.) where he will have more freedom.

Dog-friendly activities

Enjoy the outdoors with your dog and make sure you provide activities that will make him calm and comfortable.

Long walks

Take your dog for a long walk. He will be occupied with discovering new surroundings and sniffing around. Sniffing is the most basic behavior that makes dogs calm and this is exactly what your dog needs.

A walk will keep your dog occupied and mentally and physically stimulated so he won’t be able to react to the possible triggers. However, if he still finds a way to change his calm behavior, take him away from distraction and talk to him calmly.

Have a morning and an afternoon walk so your dog can explore and release his excess energy. The purpose of such action is to stop the reaction and offer him a better, calmer solution.

Play with your dog

Bring along your dog’s favorite toys that he can play with. With an interesting toy like a bone, rope, or a ball he will be occupied and less triggered by other factors and situations.

Change your dog's behavior in a moment

Changing your dog’s behavior is the most crucial thing to do when he starts to show signs of feeling uncomfortable. When you see a trigger that he is most sensitive to, take him away or give him his favorite toy so he can be focused on other more familiar things. It is important that you know what triggers his problematic behavior and to react accordingly.

Make your dog feel comfortable

Every dog that exhibits reactive behavior needs to feel calm and comfortable. Use your dog's name and talk to him quietly when he feels threatened. Try to get away from the trigger. This is an important step in the rehabilitation of a reactive dog.

Pack his gear

No matter where you take your dog camping you need to take care of his gear. He must have some sort of blanket or a bed where he can relax. If he is not used to resting in the vestibule of your large group tent then give him a sleeping area that reminds him of home.

Leash or harness

Use a leash or a harness when you walk with him. Don’t let him wander around the campsite by himself as he could get triggered easily by wild animals and smells. He can still enjoy a walk if he is restrained.

Treat pouch

A treat pouch is basic gear for a reactive dog. It will come in handy on walks and when you want to divert your dog’s reactive behavior. Give him a treat from time to time when he behaves and also use a small treat when you want to divert his attention to a triggering situation, human or an animal.

Having a reactive dog demands a lot of work, patience, and techniques so you two can camp together peacefully. It is crucial that you know your dog's triggers so you can prepare for them while you camp.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Tadej Kožar is the founder of Camping Valley. The site is an extension of his lifestyle and passion for the outdoors. Tadej believes we live in a technological era but nature is reminding us more and more that we should go to the places where our heart and soul feel like home.


Blessing of the Pets - Mills River, Sept. 18

Celine-sayuri-tagami-2s6ORaJY6gI-unsplashOn Saturday, September 18 at 10 AM,  Mills River Presbyterian Church will host its 13th Annual Blessing of the Pets on the church grounds for all types of pets — dogs, cats, rabbits and any other pets people would like to bring.
 
The half-hour service celebrates the life of both current and former pets. Residents of Henderson County and throughout the Asheville are invited to bring their cherished pets to the outdoor blessing.
 
Recreating the Rainbow Bridge: New to this year's service will be the opportunity for people to remember and recognize cherished pets that are no longer with them. Brightly-painted rocks, created by the children of the church, will be available for people to write the names on of past pets. Then, the rocks may be placed under a “Rainbow Bridge” for the event. After the service, the recognition rocks will be relocated to a permanent memorial site on the church property.
 
As is the tradition with the event, each pet will receive their own personal blessing. Rev. Merriam Alexander, the dog mother to two Boston Terriers, will lead the service and offer the individual blessings. Special messages, prayers and readings will be shared during the service.
 
A free will love offering called the “Dog Bowl Donation” will be collected during the service to benefit the New Hope program at Blue Ridge Humane Society. People may also contribute dry pet food.
 
Mills River Presbyterian Church is located at 10 Presbyterian Church Road in Mills River off School House Road and accessible from Haywood Road or Highway 280. For more information, call 828-891-7101 or visit www.millsriverpresbyterian.org.

Photo by Celine Sayuri Tagami on Unsplash


Get Out There Mondays and Wednesdays!

Screen Shot 2021-04-21 at 2.30.17 PMNothing could be finer than a hike in Carolina in the morning... especially with dogs! If you're looking to enjoy the beautiful outdoors with some deserving dogs and animal lovers, consider becoming a volunteer hiker for Asheville Humane Society's "Mountain Mutts." The more hikers, the more dogs that get some quality time outside of the animal shelter.

Mountain Mutts convenes in the parking lot at Asheville Humane Society (Forever Friend Lane, off Pond and Brevard Roads near the WNC Farmers Market) every Monday and Wednesday morning beginning at 8:30 AM. The Monday hike is about 4 to 5 miles, while the Wednesday hike is slightly easier at 3 to 4 miles on flatter trails.

New hikers are encouraged to join Mountain Mutts, but you must first register as a volunteer and go through some basic training. If you have an interest, please contact the Asheville Humane volunteer coordinator, Kelly Paul by email: volunteer@ashevillehumane.org or by phone: (828) 761-2001 ext. 307.

Image: Asheville Humane Society Mountain Mutts