Go to Summer Camp with Your Dog
Enjoy those childhood classics of cabins and outdoor adventures
There's nothing quite like the summer-camp experience; waking up in a cabin, spending the days exploring the great outdoors or doing fun crafts, then ending the day around a campfire. These days, camp isn't just for kids—it's also great for you and your dog!
For the past three years, Brenda Brennan of Long Beach, Calif., and Lucy, her 4-year-old Coton de Tulear, have spent a week at Dog Scout Camp in St. Helen, Mich.
"It's so much fun," she says. "There are always about a hundred things going on, so you can pick and choose what you and your dog want to do," she says. "Or, you can do nothing at all. It really is up to you what kind of experience you want it to be."
Everything you loved about summer camp as a kid—right down to singing songs around an open campfire—can now be enjoyed with your dog, and with summer camps like these popping up all over the country, it's easy to search online and pick one that fits what you both like to do best.
"At Dog Scout Camp, you earn badges, just like you would at Girl Scout or Boy Scout camp," Brennan says. "It really is a great chance to try things you wouldn't have thought of trying, or that you didn't know your dog would like to do."
In Lucy's case, that meant earning 11 badges, alongside Brennan, in three years for mastering the art of such things as swimming, painting, and backpacking.
Offerings vary from one camp to the next, but most provide a wide range of options to suit virtually every pair of friends. Most dog camps offer hiking, kayaking, water safety, and, of course, arts and crafts.
"People end up doing things they never would have thought of doing," says Susan D. Greenbaum, director of Camp Barking Hills in Hackettstown, N.J, who enjoys seeing dogs and their owners discovering new ways to have fun together. "They discover new things that their dogs absolutely love. Like skateboarding! People are like, 'Who knew?' "
Camp Barking Hills is unique in that it is offered only during Memorial Day weekend, while most camps run all summer long. Greenbaum began offering the camp in 2005, and today it draws about 60 dogs (and their companions) for the weekend. Greenbaum's encouragement for her camp counselors to create new programs has led to such unique offerings such as bowling and line dancing for you and your dog.
Dogs and their two-legged friends stay in cabins or dorms, just like a traditional camp setting. One of the great pleasures is that the dining-room rules are relaxed, which means being able to share a meal inside with your dog at your side.
As more and more camps spring up, there is an expanding array of options, with some camps specializing in certain programs. Greenbaum suggests that newbies start with a generalized camp, where they have plenty of options to choose from.
"You want to go someplace where you can try a lot of things," she advises. "The thing that surprises people the most is how well their dogs do, and how many new things they discover that they can do together."
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