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Canine Corner: Sharing the Great Outdoors With Man's Best Friend
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ImageDo you love spending time with your canine companion, but everyday life often gets in the way of your one-on-one time? If you’ve answered yes, your best bet is to sign up for the canine camp nearest you. Some local dog owners have found that canine camps are a good excuse to get away and bond with man’s (or woman’s) best friend, allowing both dog and owner to build a more trusting relationship with one another, and enjoy the benefits of a vacation that dogs aren’t normally allowed to enjoy.

Annie Brody, founder of Camp Unleashed, which is located in Becket, Mass., and Canaan, N.Y., was inspired to start a camp for dogs and their owners which allows them to experience quality time together while enjoying freedom and nature. While attending Camp Unleashed, all dogs are allowed to roam about off leash.

 “It came about because I was a city person and was so frustrated that there weren’t many places to go with a dog and allow them to be off leash,” Annie explains. “What I’ve experienced over the years is that camp is kind of therapeutic for dogs, because the rest of the time they have to fit into our human world. The experience of being at camp helps restore their natural confidence.”

At Camp Unleashed, dogs and owners attend a variety of dog-related activities, including agility, disc throwing or Frisbee, Clicker Training and Rally-O. There are also more far-fetched activities such as canine aromatherapy, doggie yoga (also known as “doga”) and musical freestyle, as well as a variety of other seminars and dog-related sports.

Camp Gone to the Dogs takes a somewhat different approach. Claimed to be the oldest, the camp has two Vermont locations, Stowe and Marlborough, depending on the season. Jeanne Richter, director of Camp Gone to the Dogs, explains that during the summer camp session, there are more camp activities offered for the dogs, which are very similar to the programs offered at Camp Unleashed. In the fall, the environment is more of a vacation setting for dog owners who want to learn more about their companions. They can attend dog-related lectures or seminars while also experiencing the Vermont countryside.

“We’re so geared towards doing stuff with the dogs, that they’re basically included in all the activities,” Jeanne says. A sampling of activities offered at Camp Unleashed includes agility, obedience, herding and tracking, and lectures on nutrition, search and rescue, and leash and toy making classes. “Obviously when we make leashes and toys the dogs can’t participate, but you can keep your dog with you all the time. The only place the dogs can’t go is the dining hall.”

And, like any vacation getaway, there are even massage therapy sessions offered at both camps. Camp Unleashed teaches owners to give their dogs massages, while Camp Gone to the Dogs offers side-by-side massages for dogs and their owners and sessions on how to give dogs massages.

Both camps have some general safety guidelines owners and dogs must follow. With 180 campers and 35 staff members in attendance at Camp Gone to the Dogs’ summer session in 2008, Jeanne stresses the requirements that have to be met.

“Dogs must be well socialized and get along with other people,” she says. “They should also be housebroken and walk politely on a leash. Safety is a primary issue.”

At Camp Unleashed, Annie limits the number of dogs to 60 at a time, but has learned that allowing the dogs off leash often helps them establish a pack.

“We always have an early morning play in the field, and then we take hikes together, which tends to bring back the natural pack order,” she explains. “They kind of sort out

their differences naturally that way. I’ve found that with so many people that take their dogs to daycare, dog parks or classes, that most dogs are used to being around new dogs. If you have a dog like a Beagle or a Greyhound that may take off, those dogs can come to the camp and stay on-leash.”

While planning your next adventure in the great outdoors, whether on or off-leash, canine camp may be in the near future for both you and your four-legged friend!

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