Downeast Dog News
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Camping with your Favorite Bud

By Susan Spisak | May 31, 2019

Maine has so many wonderful regions--from the gorgeous coastal areas to the beautiful lakes, valleys, and mountains. What better way to explore the stunning scenery than by embarking on a good old-fashioned camp out? Take along your family, friends, or significant other…and don’t leave Buddy behind. Sharing these trips with your treasured dog will be rewarding and fun, and you’ll make great memories in this state that’s nicknamed “Vacationland.”

Before you throw your tent into the SUV, consider Bud’s personality in choosing the how and where to camp. Kathy Dyer, Executive Director for Maine Campground Owners Association, said there’s such diversity in camping now, including tenting, RV-ing, cabin rentals (full service or rustic) and glamping. You should be able to find the perfect type and location so everyone’s a happy camper.

If your dog’s a laid-back sort and fears nothing, traditional tent camping can be the ticket. Amanda and her husband, Matt, loved to go “tenting” with their Golden Retriever named Bella before she passed. To ensure that inaugural “vacay” didn’t present many issues, they let Bella sniff inside the tent and made a soft bed with her blankets.

By dusk, it was clear the Golden didn’t get the memo on snoozing. “When it came time to sleep on the first night, she kept trying to guide us back to the vehicle like, ‘Come on guys, it's getting dark...time to head home.” She finally settled in and lay down. Eventually, they realized she preferred her own air mattress. “It was very rewarding when we got to see how much she appreciated having one of these for herself…She seemed to be much happier in her camping experience after that.”

As far as daytime explorations, they planned activities to include her as well. They hiked, canoed, fished, swam at dog-friendly spots, and explored nearby towns. Amanda said since Bella was accustomed to tenting, they were able to camp at different places for new adventures. Since they had such positive outings with her, they’re excited to sleep under the stars with their new Golden, Phoebe. But first, they will set up the tent at home so Phoebe will be comfortable in it. (And you can bet she’ll have her own air mattress.)

If Buddy is skittish or thunder-phobic, think cabin. There are countless campgrounds with cabins and cottages (even tiny houses) across the state. The safety and security of a structure can be a godsend if a storm hits. I know this first hand--my rescued dog, Bo, becomes a bundle of nerves when an approaching storm is still hours away. (We joke he’s part meteorologist.) At that first clap of thunder, he pushes the cottage’s bedroom door open and runs for his preferred spot next to the bed--and out of the view of the window.

For those of you who like to get away in warmer months and have a senior or furry breed, a cabin will also be cooler (you can find air-conditioned ones). While you’re out sightseeing, he can stay behind and nap (if the campground allows pets left alone--if not, rent a dog-friendly cabin from a private owner at vrbo.com).

I know a couple who purchased an RV so they could visit state and national parks with their dogs. Their reason for the buy, besides that they like camping, was simple--one dog is a blind, one is deaf. By traveling and camping in the same vehicle, the dogs were acclimated to the space once and are content. You don’t have to buy a drivable or towable RV--some campgrounds have a few models available (and allow your small dog for a fee). Or rent one for a week or two--this allows you to get to a few different campgrounds and take in a variety of Maine’s regions. (Check out pet-friendly RV’s available at rvshare.com/rv-rental?location=Maine%2C%20USA.)

There’s nothing old-fashioned about the trendy glamping--it’s terrific for those who want a gentler camp for themselves and their pet. “Glamps” include decked out A-frames, safari-like designer decorated tents, yurts, and sturdy wood/canvas abodes, many with luxe beds, linens, baths, and electricity. It’s a growing option for those who like to sleep near nature without going rustic.

Enjoy camping and experiencing the outdoors in the great state of Maine with your family, friends, and beloved canine. With planning and preparation, you’ll have successful holidays. Read on for additional tips.

  • For tenting tips for newbies, visit campingtipsforeveryone.com/tent-camping-tips-beginners/.
  • If you’ve never camped, ease into it with an overnighter--if it’s a disaster you can pack up and go home. (Most dogs are resilient; chances are your dog will acclimate.)
  • Kathy advised to book early in the season if possible; campgrounds fill up quickly. She added that while there are many camp choices, keep in mind that their prices vary.
  • Call facilities for an impromptu midweek expedition--some may have cancellations or not be fully booked.
  • Adhere to the policies. Amanda and Matt kept Bella on her leash and close by per the rules.
  • If you want to try a day excursion and your dog’s not permitted or up to it, check ahead of time for a doggie daycare near your campground.
  • Amanda packed Bella’s food, her bowls, blankets, toys, treats, and grooming stuff. They also took a couple of leashes and gear such as a harness and a float coat.
  • They also made sure Bella was up-to-date on flea/tick and had her rabies certificate in case they trekked into Canada. (It’s a good idea to have all vet medical records in a smartphone app.)
  •  Sun season means sunscreen for you and your dog--he can burn, too. Skip any toxic zinc oxide formulas for him.
  • Always “clean up” after your dog.
  • Even if you have a GPS and smartphone, pack a map and compass. Better to be safe in case of “no signal” on hikes.
  • Amanda said they take precautions to insure animals stay away from their site. They remove all trash/waste, store all food in their vehicle, and utilize a travel fridge to block scent. They keep a fire going until bed, let it die down, and water it until out.
  • One final thought from Kathy: “Our camping guide is on the home page of our website CampMaine.com in a digital format. This is a fantastic resource for people interested in camping even if they are first time campers.” (nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/mecoa/campingguide2019/.)