Ask the Dog Trainer: We are going to the forest with the dog

Dear Kendall,
With summer coming to a close, my family is planning one last camping trip in a few weeks, and I was interested in hearing any information or suggestions you might have about spending time in the woods with your dogs. We will be camping at certain campsites using our trailer and a few tents for the kids and hopefully do some hiking and maybe even some fishing!

Dear Percy,
Camping with your dogs and family can be quite the adventure! My wife and I escape to the mountains every chance we get and love to spend up to three weeks fishing rivers, hiking valleys, and hiking mountain trails.
My first tip is to figure out the logistics of where your dogs will sleep. Often people forget this detail until 2 am and their dog refuses to climb the stairs in their trailer or simply cannot fit in the tent without their regular bed. With all your amazing activities, you don’t want to wake up groggy and tired after a sleepless night.
In my camping experience, our dogs do best when the schedule is as close to their routine as possible. If your dogs sleep in crates, then check if there is room in the trailer to put a crate. If they have dog beds, then try to squeeze them in. If they sleep in the bed with you, then try turning into a side bed so that everyone can fit in the bed of your trailer. If your dogs will be sleeping outside in the tent, be sure to bring jackets and bedding in case the weather gets cold. A foil emergency blanket draped over a crate can help keep your pup more comfortable.
If your dogs will be spending any time in the trailer, it never hurts to check that everyone can load and unload the stairs comfortably and safely. Most trailer stairs are too steep and some dogs refuse to climb aboard. I once had a lovely client who meticulously planned a two-week vacation in the Blue Lakes only to find that her 185-pound Saint Bernard wouldn’t fit in the trailer. When he came home after 14 miserable nights sleeping next to the dog on the outside of his beautiful trailer, we taught Maximus to use the stairs, but it was a lot of stress that could have been avoided. So check that everyone can get in and out of your trailer safely.
Once you are sure where everyone is sleeping and everyone can board safely, make a packing list. If you don’t have drinking water, you’ll want to bring enough dog food, an extra few days of emergency food rations, and drinking water. I make sure my dogs are up to date on their vaccinations and flea and tick medications. You’ll also need any medications or supplements your dogs are taking, and I always throw in some anti-diarrhea medication for some dogs. I also stock a lot of treats, chews, and yarn. Depending on the rules and regulations of the campsites you are staying at, you may want to set up a few long paths so that your pups have room to roam and still stay safely at your site.
If you have a dog that tends to graze in the woods, a muzzle may also be a good idea to prevent him from ingesting mushrooms, berries, twigs, and other items that are dangerous to his health. I am a firm believer in ethical oral training. Not only does it save lives by preventing mouth bites, it can also be used to prevent your dog from ingesting a rotting squirrel carcass.
Whether you’re planning a brisk walk on a well-maintained trail behind your house or preparing to hit the Pacific Crest Trail, I always suggest that clients take as many outdoor adventure classes as possible. Our beautiful mountains and vast high deserts are home to a wide range of temperatures, weather, predators and unexpected challenges. Canine first aid classes have saved the lives of many dogs we know personally. Knowing the signs of heat exhaustion, understanding how to safely treat a snake bite, and practicing wound dressing and evacuation are vital skills. There’s also extra training focused on jumping and long-distance recall, trail manners and snake avoidance to invest in your dogs’ safety.
Go now and have a great time on vacation with your family! Breathe in that fresh forest air, take a dip in our gorgeous lakes and raise a glass of whiskey to the stars. The mountains are calling. I hope you catch a big fish!
– Kendall
Kendall and Chandler Brown are the owners of Custom K-9 Service Dogs, a dog training business serving Minden/Gardnerville, Carson and Reno. For information, visit or email

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