We love bringing our dogs with us everywhere we go, but especially on camping trips and along for big adventures in the mountains. The days we spend in nature are most rewarding when everyone’s having a good time––our four-legged buddies included. If they’re stressed or unhappy, then we’re going to be stressed and unhappy too. To make sure we get it right and maximize the fun had by all, we tapped the coolest dog parents we know for their best tips.
#1 Keep Them Comfortable
“Ollie is my catalyst into outdoor adventure,” says Stephen Martin, a filmmaker, photographer, and the dog dad behind @explorewithollie on Instagram. “But when we’re in a new place, that can sometimes make Ollie uncomfortable.” Yes, even dogs who’re used to traveling can still get stressed in new and unfamiliar places. For that reason it’s crucial to give them a cozy place of their own—Ollie’s is a doggie sleeping bag—that they can retreat to whenever they need.
Professional athletes Adrian Ballinger and Emily Harrington, who also travel with their dog (@dogcalledcat), agree. In addition to bringing Cat’s travel bed on every trip, Ballinger and Harrington focus on additional variables they can control, like proper nutrition and a consistent feeding routine. For Cat, that means chowing down on her normal food, Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin, at standard times, even if that means pulling over mid-road trip for a food break. “We’re careful to always bring the food she’s used to, the food she knows,” says Ballinger.
#2 Bring Extra Treats
You know when you wake up before the sun and find it difficult to get your morning oatmeal down? That can be true for dogs, too: Martin, who has hiked 38 of Colorado’s 58 fourteeners with Ollie, noticed that the earlier they woke up, the less interested Ollie was in eating. Now he gives Ollie treats early in the hike and along the way, and then feeds him a hearty meal at the summit. In addition to bringing enough food and making sure your adventure dog is fueled up along the way, it’s important to bring the right food. Because Ollie is eight—senior, in dog years—Martin has switched him to Hill’s Senior Vitality, which is specially formulated with ingredients to support brain health, interaction, energy, and vitality.
#3 Do Your Research
And remember to think about things from your dog’s perspective while doing that research. “Where are the dog-friendly trails, the dog-friendly beaches, the dog-friendly coffee shop where we can be outside with her?” says Harrington. Doing your research ahead of time lets you enjoy the trip instead of scrambling to figure out local rules and spots to hang out (especially if cell service is spotty). Ballinger and Harrington always bring a collapsible bowl along to make sure they can give Cat food and water anywhere they go.
Planning shouldn’t stop with where your dog is allowed to be—you want to consider his comfort and safety too. When researching new campsites during the summer, Martin always looks for ways to help Ollie beat the heat. “It’s a bonus to try to find a place that has water nearby, like a lake or a river,” says Martin. He adds that bear safety applies to dogs too, so if the area you’re in has bears you should pack your dog’s food in a sealed container as well.
#4 Understand Your Dog’s Limits
While it can seem as if your dog has superpowers and boundless energy, it’s important to pay close attention to how she’s doing while out on adventures. Martin keeps an eye on Ollie’s body language and behavior. “It’s all about having fun. If your dog is showing signs of fatigue, remember that there’s no shame in turning around and hiking another time,” says Martin.
Harrington and Ballinger, who love to end summer days at the lake with Cat, agree. “I think when it comes to water especially, you have to think about safety and just know their limits.” Because Cat is short-haired and lean, she gets cold easily. So Harrington and Ballinger give her lots of breaks to dry off, warm up, and have a snack. “The most important thing we learned with Cat was to let her learn about playing in water at her pace,” says Ballinger. Now Cat’s unafraid of water, and swimming at the lake is one of her favorite things to do.
#5 Keep Them Safe
“If you want to do long hikes or bag peaks with your dog, having them wear a backpack is a great call for a couple reasons,” says Martin. Wearing one allows your pup to carry his own food and treats (and look super cute), but it’s also an important safety tool. “Most backpacks have a handle, which you can use to help your dog through technical or potentially dangerous sections of trail.” And even before setting out, Martin says, it’s crucial to ensure that your dog’s ID information is present and up to date.
Around camp, Martin puts some sort of reflective item on Ollie at night and has a leash or tether to keep him close. Before bed, he always checks Ollie for ticks. Harrington and Ballinger make sure Cat follows safety protocols in the car too. When they’re on a road trip, Cat wears a harness and buckles up, just like them. “Life always feels hectic on the road, and these little tips have helped us make it safe, fun, enjoyable for her, as well as for us,” says Ballinger.
At Hill’s, our nutrition is inspired by science, not trends, to create differences you can see, feel and trust. Science-led nutrition is designed to anticipate each pet’s ever-changing needs, keeping pet parents a step ahead so they can enjoy every day with their pet. Our food scientists understand the combinations of nutrients and ingredients that deliver unique nutritional benefits for pets of every age, size and need. Plus, more U.S. veterinarians recommend Hill’s products than any other brand. Hill’s Prescription Diet therapeutic nutrition and our everyday foods, Hill’s Science Diet and Hill’s Healthy Advantage are sold worldwide at vet clinics, pet specialty retailers and e-retailers. For more information about Hill’s, our products and our forward-thinking approach to nutrition, visit us at HillsPet.com or HillsVet.com, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.