We recently did our first canoe camping trip with Biscuit and while the trip itself was a success, there were a few things we realized were lacking in his training. Also, it wasn't until after we got home that I started to think of other things that could have gone wrong, and how ill equipped we would have been to deal with them.
If you've read the trip report of our canoe camping adventure in Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands, you may remember Biscuit wouldn't sit still in the canoe. He bounced back and forth from side to side, attacking the water, pawing at it, and actually, his butt fell out at one point too. He's not exactly good at "go lie down" at home, so I suppose we shouldn't have been surprised he wouldn't stay still when he was so excited. Until this changes, I think we'll be doing short trips with the canoe...and I hope and pray none of them will be in turbulent waters like our return was.
When hiking the portage trails, he was pretty much walking on his back legs because he was pulling so hard. Not only was it nearly impossible to stop him, but it made an already difficult trail even more dangerous for the person holding the leash (me.) He's pretty good when I take him for walks when it's just us two, but if anyone else is with him, this is how he is. I think if we go for more walks as a family, especially on hiking trails as opposed to around the neighbourhood, he'll get use to it and calm down.
He was surprisingly good at the campsite. He didn't wander off, stayed with us except a few times he saw a squirrel or chipmunk. It was great for him to be able to run off some of his energy but there are some very valid reasons why most parks require dogs to be kept on a leash even in the back country.
BEARS: Many dogs will run towards a bear, barking and then realize "holy crap, that's more than I can handle in a fight." and run back to their owner, inadvertently drawing the bear behind them. Many people feel taking a dog with them in the back country can be good protection, but in this scenario, the dog is putting your life in greater danger. We didn't have any kind of bear spray, bear banger or other protection with us.
SKUNKS: I don't know about you, but I really wouldn't want to spend the night with a stinking dog in the tent. Biscuit likes to roll all over our sleeping bags before settling in the spot he deems most comfortable (usually my pillow) and the thought of him doing that with skunk spray all over him? Yuck!
PORCUPINES: I've never had to de-quill a dog, but I watched my parents have to go through it with dogs when I was a kid. Not fun. Imagine having to do that 3 days away from your car? Even the thought of having to paddle back a few hours with Biscuit freaking out, in windy, wavy conditions would make an already arduous paddle even worse.
Another thing to think about is how prone your dog is to eating things. Biscuit spent half his time rooting through the ashes in the fire pit, so I can only assume there was unburned food/garbage beneath the top layer. He's also pretty likely to eat berries he finds on bushes and mushrooms. It's gotten better the last few months, but after spending all spring dealing with the fall out of him eating rabbit poo in the back yard, the last thing I want to be doing is cleaning up doggie diarrhea in the tent.
Speaking of poo...when he's running around, it's hard to keep track of all his messes so they can be cleaned up. I kind of felt like I had to constantly watch him incase I missed some since I really didn't want to leave it for the next campers to step in. For some reason, Biscuit goes about ten times as often when we are camping compared to at home. During a recent trip to Six Mile Lake Provincial Park, Bubbie and I took him for a short walk while Chris and Squatch slept and he went five times! Thank goodness he didn't go a sixth because my roll of poopy sacks ran out on the fifth one.
I think there needs to be a compromise and in the future, we will let him run when we are able to fully pay attention, but when we are eating or busy with camp chores, he will probably be tied up. Also, as dusk approaches, I think tying him up would be smart too.
Everyone's dog is different, and this is a topic with a lot of varied opinions. I get the arguements for keeping a dog on leash in a front country campground. We've had dogs come close to peeing on our tent, had them rummaging through our food bin, and it's just plain worrisome to have strange dogs run up to your kids when there doesn't seem to be an owner around. On the other hand, I've seen people leave their dog tied up in camp while they left for the day and the dog barked, got tangled up and nearly strangled and tip over their water on a scorching hot day.
I'd love to hear opinions on this subject, or other things that can be a concern when camping with dogs.