Camping with your canine buddy is an activity that can be shared and enjoyed any time of the year. The change of venue and routine combined with smells of the wild can be a welcome addition to your pooch’s life as well as your own. While most folks prefer to camp during warm-weather months – spring through autumn – some outdoor adventurers also enjoy the invigoration of winter camping. The big question is, will your dog feel the same way?
Consider your Dog’s Tolerance for Cold Weather
Most dogs will be enthusiastic when it comes to playing in the snow or going for a walk or run during cold weather. However, those shorter jaunts don’t compare to the prospect of having your dog spend many hours and/or overnight in continuous cold temperatures. In order to ensure that your buddy will stay happy and healthy on a winter camping trip you need to take several things in to consideration.
How Cold is Too Cold?
Most dogs can tolerate temperatures around the freezing mark as long as attention is paid to keeping them warm and dry.
Size and Coat Will Dictate Cold Tolerance
Your dog’s body mass and coat can generally be an indicator as to how well he will handle extended periods in the cold outdoors. Larger dogs with heavier coats are, obviously, going to be better at retaining body heat than a tiny, short-coated dog. The size and coat quality of your dog doesn’t, however, preclude your taking a smaller pooch on a winter camping adventure – you simply need to be more aware of his requirements when it comes to keeping him comfortably warm.
Winter Camping Equipment for Your Dog
With your first priority being to keep your canine buddy warm and dry you might want to consider a cozy, waterproof reflective coat for him. Winter camping trips can throw anything at you, from torrential downpours to snowfall. A reflective coat is also a good idea, depending on where and what time of year you are winter camping – early winter trips may cross over into hunting season in some areas, and you don’t want your buddy being mistaken for wildlife.
You might also want to purchase a harness and a pack for your pooch so that he can carry his own supplies and equipment. A sturdy leash is also imperative, and if you can find one that attaches to your own pack so much the better.
Depending on the terrain, time of year and the state of your dog’s feet you might also consider purchasing booties to protect his paws while winter camping. Icy trails can wreak havoc on tender pads.
Whatever you end up purchasing in the way of specialized equipment for your dog, ensure that he is accustomed to it and comfortable in it before you head out on your winter adventure.
Additional Measures to Keep Your Dog Happy
Once you have the basics covered, you need to think about other aspects of keeping your dog comfortable and happy during a winter camping trip.
Be sure to pack towel(s) and a brush to facilitate drying if he gets wet, and ensure that he is totally dry before bedding down for the night.
While you may not want to pack his comfortable bed from home due to weight and bulk, there are specialized landing pads and sleeping bags for dogs available on the market. Or you can pack a warm blanket from home to keep him cozy overnight.
At the very least, ensure that your pooch will have a sleeping surface off the ground, some sort of shelter and something to wrap around him to keep him warm while sleeping.
Nutritional Needs May Change
Prolonged exposure to colder temperatures and more exercise may mean your canine buddy will require more food and water, so be sure to pack enough of each to cover the length of time you expect to be away. A set of collapsible bowls for feed and water is also a good idea – they are more compact and lighter than a standard bowl or bucket that you may use at home.
Be Sure to Pack Documents
It’s always a good idea to pack copies of any documents pertaining to your dog – vaccination paperwork, medication requirements, etc. If your dog is on medication of any sort, be sure to include that in with his supplies for the trip.
Be Cautious and Aware
Depending on the time of year and where you are camping you need to be cautious about several things.
If you are camping near a river, stream or lake and there is ice on it, ensure that the ice is solid before you let him go exploring. The last thing you want to be doing is trying to fish your buddy out of icy waters, which could also put you in danger.
Be aware of the signs of hypothermia in your dog. If he is trembling and shivering, lethargic, whimpering or whining or has cold ears and body he may be hypothermic and need warming up.
Dogs, like people, can also suffer from frostbite. Exposure to cold water can exacerbate frostbite in your buddy. Warning signs of frostbite include the skin becoming very pale, with a bluish-white hue. Ice may also form around the affected area, and when that area is touched it may feel very cold or brittle, and it will be painful to your dog.
Carefully planned, a winter camping trip can be a great adventure for you and your dog. No bugs, probably very few other campers and a totally different experience await. What’s not to love about that?
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