Hello again from Cherie O’Boyle, author of many dog stories. See them all at www.cherieoboyle.com
Who would you most like to go on vacation with next summer? Who could you spend a whole week with in the mountains, hiking, swimming, and enjoying the breeze in the pines, and never once get into an argument? Who is your most favorite companion when you just want to chill, read, and nap?
Trick question. Your dog, of course.
Dog summer camp. It’s just like the summer camp you knew and, I hope, loved as a child, only better. Hanging out with your best friend and making new friends, learning to weave a lanyard (or a new leash), tromping through the woods, everything you and your dog love doing, and doing it together.
There’s lots more to dog summer camp, including an almost endless variety of classes from “puppy socialization” to “dog massage.” Agility, certainly, from beginning to distance. Lure-coursing, learning to kayak with your dog on board, nosework, and reliable recall.
Before you go, your dog should be well-socialized with other dogs of all sizes and ages, able, for example, to hop in the back of an SUV with a couple of other unfamiliar dogs for a ride to the trailhead. There will also be times when your dog will need to be crated and should be willing to wait quietly while you go to the dining hall for meals. Not much can disturb the peace of the forest quite as much as a screaming, howling, distraught dog.
You need to have highly developed social skills as well. When the camp director suggests that crates housing reactive dogs need to be moved away from heavily used pathways, you should be willing to notice that she’s talking to you. Being able to be vigilant as to how not only your behavior, but also your dog’s behavior, impacts on others is a prerequisite for a successful camp experience for all.
Lastly, I am going to suggest that even if you have and love more than one dog, you choose just one to take to camp. Juggling your own needs and wants with those of one dog is hard enough. Two is almost impossible. Fido wants to walk down to the beach for a swim. Muffy hates the water but loves that tracking class back up in the woods. You have walked your feet off already and just want to sit and visit with the other humans. Who wins?
I am sometimes asked how I ever discovered camps for dogs, and that is kind of a fun story. Like the rest of you, I love to read stories about dogs, and I also love mysteries. So naturally I found Susan Conant’s wonderful mystery series “for dog lovers.” One of Susan’s books is Black Ribbon in which the protagonist takes her dog to summer camp. I read the story, and then said to myself, “Wait, there’s such a thing as summer camp for dogs?” The rest is history.
This year was Shiner’s sixth year at camp, and he starts whining with eager anticipation the minute we get to the entry gate. Most summer camps for you and your dog are located on the east coast and mid-west, but since we live in northern California, we go to Lake Tahoe for our annual week together in the mountains. There are also getting to be lots more resorts and retreats that welcome dogs. Do you know of a great place to vacation with your dog? Comment below with your favorite places so we can all check them out.