We were lucky enough to have planned a camping trip with our best friend Sarah and I thought it would be fun to tell you about our camping trip with Millie, our greyhound and good friend of Hiro+Wolf.
Philip and I are used to taking Millie pretty much everywhere with us, and camping is no exception. Millie’s part of our family so it’s a no-brainier that she camps with us. Given that roughly 26% of adults in the U.K. own a dog it’s no surprise that going on breaks with our four-legged friends has been a growing trend over the past few years and is set to continue. Luckily for us here in the UK more and more campsites and hotels are cottoning on to the "Paw Pound" and understand that when dog-friendly or pet-friendly is done right it's an incredibly popular destination. Our dogs are such a large part of our lives so why would we abandon them just because we're heading off on holiday?
And so off we headed this week to Nethergong Camping, a beautiful dog-friendly campsite in the heart of Kent. It's been a favourite of ours for years and is a fabulous family run business, with Christine, Jed, Hannah and Dan always there with suggestions, help and of course, doing an amazing job running this joyous place! Well-behaved dogs on a lead are very welcome, precisely because this is a campsite for families. It's a far cry from the bare fields that some camping places offer, due to Jed's father's horticultural legacy. He planted 3000 English broad-leaved trees on the 26-acre plot of beautiful Kent countryside in the early nineties. The oak, ash, willow, elm and beech trees are their pride and joy and at 25 years old are now coming to maturity. This meant that for our short break with the weather stunning us with 27-degree heat the soft dappled shade offered a welcome cool home for a couple of days.
If you haven't gone camping with your hound it's really worth it. Millie has been several times since we adopted her and absolutely loves the very different environments. Being outside most of the time, and around her pack is her idea of heaven, especially with the good weather! (Being a greyhound with little body fat she's definitely more of a fair-weather camper, but we'll work on that.) Most of the time camping is in very rural areas so walks are always exciting with smells and sights that are different to her day-to-day.
On our first morning, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful surroundings and got up at 4.30 to take in the sun-rise. Although slightly bemused at our apparently faulty alarm Millie got in the spirit of it as soon as she got outside. The sunrise didn't disappoint with fuchsia rays breaking through low slung mackerel clouds and catching the tips of the wild grasses. With the garden of Englands' freshly harvested fields laid bare we could see for miles while Millie sniffed and explored the edges of the river bank walk. Here she is stopping to investigate what we suspect was a field mouse, it was quite hard to take my eyes off the sunrise but was so pleased to capture such a typical 'Millie stance':
Millie's Brambly Hedge research continues...
Having access to various byways and beautiful country walks meant that each of us had the chance to enjoy Millie's company on our adventures out. For most of the time we took advantage of using her Hiro + Wolf cross body, hands-free lead as its really helpful if you're heading off with picnic blankets and lunch, or heading to wash up your evenings' crockery - or just generally when we needed to make sure she was securely tethered while at our pitch.
It's important to remember that taking your dog camping always means keeping them on a lead, secure and safe with you and also so that other people and their dogs (or barbecue feasts) are safe and undisturbed. The cross-body lead was perfect for camping as the length and various clips meant that when Millie was with us in the camp she was tethered properly and wasn't too restricted, moving around and sleeping (as is her want) in various places at our pitch.
Her Shuka Blue blanket not only kept her cosy it also doubled up as a great picnic blanket, which Sarah decided was the way to go on a lunchtime sketching trip:
Sarah & Millie head out for another dreamy walk
Beyond thinking about your lead and collar or harness (it's worth checking they're in good condition so they don't let you down - especially if your pup sees something interesting on the other end of a field! There are some other things to think about when camping, and whilst I could wax lyrical about the beautiful Nethergong site, experience and its surrounding areas for weeks I'll get to the tips:
- It goes without saying that your dog needs to be microchipped and insured when you're going off and it's a good excuse to check that their vaccinations are all up to date. It's also important that you feel your dog is up to the trip.
- It's also worth administering preventative flea and tick treatment. If you're heading out for a walk through taller grass checking for ticks afterwards is a good idea.
- Make sure when you get to your campsite that your hosts recommend a vet close by just in case. You'll find most dog-friendly campsites have already thought of this and can help. Make sure your dog's ID tag is on any of your dogs' collars or harnesses. If you haven't already got your matching Hiro + Wolf tags get in touch! We can match them to various patterns and can have them engraved for you. In the UK it's legally required that to your dog has an up to date ID tag. You don't have to put your dog's name on the tag, this is optional. Sadly dog theft is a reality so if the thief knows your dog's name this may help them pass on the dog to the unsuspecting new owners because it appears they know the dog because the dog responds to their name.
- Make sure you all have plenty of bottled water and something your dog can drink from on your walks together.
- Calculate the food your pup will need while you're away and any treats that will be needed - and consider if they'll need refrigeration.
Remember your poop bags - and always bag and bin your dog’s poop in the campsite and off-site.
- A canopy or beach tent for shade, not all dogs are sun-worshippers and can get easily dehydrated. They're also useful if it's raining!
- Think about where they will be sleeping carefully. If it's raining or if your dog's been on beaches or in rivers then always make sure you have a couple of towels to dry them off after a wash as there may be limited sleeping options for a muddy pup. There are a couple of options: Some tents have porches or separate little rooms which are a great way to keep your dog safe and warm and contain any dirt and fur. You can also opt for a dog tent, portable cage or crate or their favourite rug or basket which mean there are a few options. A good blanket is crucial as the regular blanket that they have at home, indoors often may not be enough. Millie once wasn't warm enough until she had a North Face coat over her.
- Remember, if for any reason your dog is off the lead (or even on a very long lead) guy ropes (especially if they're dark coloured) can be dangerous to dogs (& people!) so perhaps think about putting some florescent materials or lights near or on them so they can be seen.
- Pack a first aid kit, the PDSA recommend including bandages – a roll of self-adhesive or crepe bandage (5cm width) Some conforming/open-weave bandages (2.5cm width); Some non-adhesive absorbent dressings (5cm x 5cm) to cover open wounds; Surgical sticky tape; a box of cotton wool; a box of sterile absorbent gauze; blunt-ended scissors, preferably curved; a thick towel and an Elizabethan collar if possible. If you have pet-specific antiseptic recommended by your vet that can be included but always remember if you need to wash a wound you can make a saline solution: Add approximately one level teaspoonful (5 ml) of salt (or Epsom salts) to two cups (500 ml) of water. The PDSA, RSPCA and Blue Cross all have First Aid tips or courses if you want to find out more.
- Don't forget either your cross-body/hands-free lead, rope or sturdy anchor to tether your dog while you’re cooking, chilling out or eating!
It's always worth remembering that some dogs find new situations stressful so as with all pet-ventures, stay tuned to how your dog is finding their new experience. Camping is an amazing and relaxing way to enjoy your pet and you'll no doubt discover new things about each other. Given the need for social distancing at the moment it's also a very sensible option.
Millie, who is a recue coursing greyhound, came to Philip and I with very little confidence in new places or situations. Each adventure with her is an opportunity to grow her confidence and expand how secure she feels with us, with new people and other dogs that she meets, and camping has been a joyous way to explore with her.
Wherever we go she comes with us!