Try out fun sports, perfect skills or just chill at dog camp
By Kim Campbell Thornton
If you loved going to camp when you were a kid (or even if you didn’t), think of how great it could have been if you’d had your dog with you. Now, going to camp with your dog can be a dream vacation if you love the great outdoors, dog sports, traditional camp activities like canoeing or swimming, or just spending some down time with your best friend.
Dog lovers can find canine-oriented camps across the country, including ones aimed at kids. They go to try out new activities, hone skills their dogs already have or build a dog’s confidence.
“Camp gives you a different way to see how dogs learn and affords your dog the opportunity to try any and every sport of interest to you or them,” says dog trainer Bev Blanchard, who started out as a camper and now teaches freestyle, agility and canine massage classes at Camp Gone to the Dogs in Vermont.
Most dog camps offer a variety of activities, including barn hunt, dock diving, flying disc, herding, lure coursing, rally, tracking and therapy dog training. Others specialize in a single sport, such as agility or nosework. They are ideal for competitors who want to improve their skills in a specific activity.
“The trust, teamwork and focus that was built with my dog in a marathon series of searches — with lots of breaks for my dog — could not have been replicated anywhere else,” says Mary Wakabayashi of Aliso Viejo, California, who went to nosework camp with her dog Hina. “The instructors built on what my regular instructors say and gave another dimension and perspective to being a better teammate for my dog.”
Hate the idea of organized dog sports? You and your dog can still have fun. Go swimming, canoeing or hiking, try stand-up paddle boarding, make doggie crafts or just lie under a tree together watching the birds.
“Some people come with their older dogs, and that’s what they do,” Blanchard says.
Here are 10 camps where you and your dog can play to your heart’s content:
? The mother of all dog camps is Camp Gone to the Dogs (camp-gone-tothe-dogs.com), which celebrates its 28th anniversary this year. Camps take place in Marlboro, Vermont, or Stowe, Vermont.
? Camp Dogwood (campdogwood.com)in Lake Delton, Wisconsin, offers camp experiences in fall, winter and spring.
? Camp Unleashed (campunleashed.com) has sessions in Blue Ridge, Georgia, or the Berkshire Mountains in Becket, Massachusetts.
? Try “barks and crafts,” learn canine CPR, study dog nutrition or play outdoors at Canine Camp Getaway (caninecampgetaway.com) in Lake George, New York. Human campers will appreciate the on-site bar/lounge and spa.
? Learn backcountry safety at Canine Wilderness Companion Adventure Camp (citydogcountrydogtraining.com/camps-classes) at Yachats on the central Oregon coast. Skills include trail manners; hiking, camping and kayaking with dogs; and wilderness first aid.
? Dogs of Course (dogsofcourse.com) offers a three-and-a-half day nosework training camp in Wimberly, Texas, near Austin.
? Camp is for kids, too. The Canine Coach in Minneapolis-St. Paul has a four-day Dog Camp for Kids (thek9coach.com/dog_camp_for_kids.php), geared to ages 5 to 13. Kids and dogs can go together, or if your home is lacking a dog, a trained dog who is familiar with kids will be provided.
? Enjoy a rustic camping experience with nearby hiking and mountain biking trails with Maian Meadows Dog Camp (maianmeadows.com/2.html) at Lake Wenatchee in Washington.
? Six days at Lake Tahoe’s 33-acre Wild Blue Dog Camp (wildbluedogs.org/home) includes Canine Good Citizen training, water sports, classes in Fear Free dog grooming and more.
? Yellowstone Dog Camp (yellowstonedogsports.com/index.php/summer-camp) in Red Lodge, Montana, offers 90 acres with an indoor arena, hiking trails, ponds for swimming and sheep for herding. Activities include rally, tricks, retriever training, nature walks and flyball.