Exploring the Outdoors

Whitney Scott

For many North Americans, pets are increasingly a part of our recreational lives, not just our home life. Whether hiking trails, exploring destinations, or camping—more and more owners are taking their pets along to the great outdoors. Our research shows that more than half of campers in the United States travel with pets, which last year equated to 78.8 million camping households.

My family’s 95-lb Airedale, Barclay, is as much a fur explorer as any. Day trips and long weekends are planned around where we can take him. Strapping on our ski boots at a local mountain is an exercise in dog park etiquette, as locals unleash their pups to stretch their legs on the snowbanks around the parking lot. If you’re considering taking your pup along for your outdoor activities, here are some useful tips to keep your pet and your community safe and happy.

Scott and Barclay cross-country skiing in Red Lodge, Montana

Scott and Barclay cross-country skiing in Red Lodge, Montana»

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

The easiest things to forget are the items your dog needs to stay healthy. Collars, leash, bedding, food, and medication. Make sure to not only have water for you but your pet. If you are sharing water, make sure to have a collapsible bowl or cup that your dog can easily drink from. Here are some of my favorites:

● SCIROKKO Dog Water Bowl

● M&MKPET Dog Water Bottle

● Lesotc Pet Water Bottle

Always Leash Your Pet

Whether on a dog-friendly trail or at a campground, it is paramount to have your dog on a leash. No matter how well we believe our dogs are trained, they still have primal instincts. Further, many people and dogs are not comfortable interacting with off-leash animals. Many areas are cracking down on off-leash pets and threatening to close pet-friendly locations if pet owners don’t “snap in line.”

Tenting at St. Petersburg, Florida, KOA Holiday

Tenting at St. Petersburg, Florida, KOA Holiday»

A Puppy Party at Boston, Massachusetts, KOA Holiday

A Puppy Party at Boston, Massachusetts, KOA Holiday»

Make It a Good Night

If you’re staying the night, make sure you know the lodging rules and requirements. It’s easy to find pet-friendly accommodations and campgrounds if you plan ahead. All KOA Campgrounds are pet-friendly, with many Deluxe Cabins and Camping Cabins allowing pets (go to KOA.com for locations and information). Another good source for pet-friendly lodging is bringfido.com. If you’re unsure about rules at a specific hotel after reviewing the BringFido website, give them a call. There may be an associated fee for your pet to stay, but it’s most likely less than the cost of an extra person.

Read the pet policy. Because of insurance costs and differing government ordinances, establishments have policies that can cover anything from certain “quiet” hours to acceptable breeds. These are crucial to read for a relaxing and conflict-free stay.

National Parks Aren’t Always Fido Friendly

Many doggies and owners dream of running through Yellowstone National Park together; however, Yellowstone is one of many parks that doesn’t allow dogs, even on a leash. Because the park contains sulphur pools, high traffic, and immense natural wildlife—Yellowstone decided not to allow dogs in the national park. A few of the most dog-friendly are Shenandoah, Acadia, Petrified Forest, and Mammoth Cave.

Know the Car Rules

There are 28 states with laws that deal with pets in parked cars. Some are as strict as completely prohibiting leaving dogs and cats unattended in a motor vehicle, while others more specifically address temperature and safety concerns. If you do leave your furry friend in a car, park in the shade. Many studies show thata moderate temperature of just 70ºF outside can raise the inside of the car to almost 115ºF inside. And freezing temperatures are no better, as your vehicle will act as a refrigerator when the motor is not running.

The best decision is not to leave your dog or cat in the car. If you must leave your pet for more than an hour or so, look for boarding or day-sitting alternatives. If you absolutely must leave your pet in the car, make sure the temperature is safe and the windows are cracked open. Be as quick as possible. Leave water in easily accessible area for your pet.

For more camping and pet-friendly outdoor tips, go to koa.com/blog. Barclay and I look forward to seeing you and your furry friend on our next outdoor adventure!

Whitney Scott is the Vice President of Marketing for Kampgrounds of America. An avid outdoorswoman, she often can be found hiking, running, and skiing, along with her husband and dog Barclay.