By Todd Wasserman
When you start planning that trip to the Bahamas, do you ever wonder if your dog needs a vacation too?
That’s right. Instead of sending your dog off to a kennel, consider a dog camp, where a typical day may include splashing joyfully in a river, tumbling in the snow, or racing in a pack down a grassy field. It’s all about giving your dog much-needed exercise, socialization and the freedom to just be a dog -- and also about assuaging your guilt as you lie on the beach.
A Real Nature Experience
That was the thinking behind Glencadia Dog Camp in upstate New York. Will Pflaum, a Brooklynite, opened the camp in 2005 with a notion to offer city dogs some country living. His camp is 15 acres of unfenced, unfettered fun. “Camp is just a good way to describe it -- it’s rougher, exciting and fun,” he says. Camps are often a distance away from metropolitan areas to offer that authentic nature experience. Glencadia is 135 miles outside New York City, but it offers free shuttle service.
To send your dog to camp, you’ll need to meet some requirements. Like kennels, most camps require spaying or neutering your dog; vaccines for rabies, distemper, parvo and kennel cough; plus a dog license. Prices range from $20 to $40 daily -- a rate comparable to those of kennels in big cities -- with no extra charges for additional play times.
For that money, your dog gets a pretty good deal. Up in the snowy mountains of Southern California, for instance, at Double Dog Ranch , “dogs can run and play all day and have companionship,” says owner Dana Ridland. “It’s for dogs that like to be dogs and not little humans.” The camp environment is perfect for retrievers, pointers, herders, terriers and other breeds that are social and active, says Ridland.
What to Expect From Dog Adventure Camps
Be aware that being in the great outdoors can come with a risk of minor injury, Pflaum says. However, the benefits far outweigh those risks. “Better to have a physical injury, like a nick or a scratch, than a psychological one from being alone all day,” he says.
Good camps also ensure that everybody gets along. Michaela Hewett, a Glencadia regular, expects the humans to monitor canine clashes. For example, Pflaum put Hewett’s puppy retriever on a long leash until they were confident her dog was welcome in the pack. Technology can help ease any concerns you might have and let you know your dog is thriving. “When I check the webcam, I see the dogs are having a fantastic time,” says Hewett. That peace of mind can help you enjoy your vacation too.
If you’re looking forward to spending quality time with your dog after your time away, though, be warned: Your dog might need a vacation after its vacation. Dogs often come home bone-tired from all the excitement and play. But it’s a good kind of tired.