A dog camp is an alternative to a traditional dog boarding facility known as a kennel. They are a relatively recent phenomenon, emerging in select areas of the United States, Canada and Britain, and are a response to the growing realization that there are fewer public spaces for dogs to run free without leashes. While traditional kennels keep dogs in individual cages for the majority of their care, in most situations, at dog camps, however, the animals can play and socialize throughout the day, both indoors and outdoors, with supervision by humans. Because dogs are highly social animals, the dog group environment offered by camps provides a less stressful experience than a boarding facility where dogs spend the majority of time in a kennel. Some of the activities at a dog camp include running, fetching balls or frisbees, digging, chasing other dogs, tug of war, paw ball (soccer) and just hanging out amongst playmates.
Benefits for dogs and dog-owners include:
- Letting dogs run free. Since in most urban and suburban areas, dogs must be on a leash when outdoors, dog camps are, in part, a way to give the animals a chance to run unhindered and get exercise.
- Exercise for dogs. One 40-acre facility has an agility course for dogs. Some camps encourage dogs to get exercise by catching frisbees.
- Socializing experience for dogs. The benefit is an environment in which dogs can play with others of their species. However, dog camps are not appropriate for dogs that are not socialized. Breeds that are too aggressive to mix with breeds which are smaller, more timid or gentler are also not suitable to stay at a camp.
- Stress reduction. A report in USA Today suggested that dog camps were a way to help the animals "be themselves far from the stress of urban life." And a dog camp is less stressful than being confined to a cage while an owner is on vacation.
- Human-dog interaction. The camps helps meet a need for "canine-owner quality time", according to the Chicago Tribune. Many facilities have places for humans to live with their dogs while at the camp, such as cabins or tents.
- Training dogs. Some camps are devoted to teaching dogs a specialty skill. For example, one camp in Alaska specializes in training them to be sled dogs, and the program helps dogs learn to "compete in the gruelling Iditarod race" and the long rows of kennels look like "mini-igloos." Another camp helps teach dogs rescue skills, including teaching a dog to tow a troubled human swimmer to shore.
- Training humans to work with dogs better. A camp can be an ideal way to train dogs and humans to work together effectively. A reporter for The Guardian found that the camp experience was beneficial since it helped teach her how to interact with her dog; she wrote about her dogs that "they've been badly brought up -- by me -- it is me who needs the training." A report in the Chicago Tribune suggested that one camp which issues "merit badges" for dogs, helps to "promote responsible dog ownership and educate people about the importance of the human-canine bond."
- Special needs dogs. Some facilities are suited for dogs with special needs, such as puppies with specific problems, or older dogs who may need medical attention.
- Educating humans about the dog-canine bond.
- Distance. Since dog camps are usually located in rural areas, it is sometimes a long drive to get to the facility.
- Possibility of dog being injured. Some pet owners prefer the safety aspect of a Kennel, where their dog's cage separates then from all the other dogs.
- Disease. There is a slight risk of disease when many dogs come in contact with one another, unlike a kennel in which every dog is physically separated. However because boarded dogs are vaccinated this is rarely a concern.
|“||The other good thing about dog camp is that no one here minds if your dog misbehaves. At home in the local parks I am often a pariah, banished to deserted areas, scowled and shouted at, shunned by many other dog walkers. But here I am accepted, supported and understood. -- Michele Hanson in The Guardian, 2009||”|
Camps are usually located in rural areas such as Vermont or areas with woody areas, streams or lakes, and open fields which facilitate running and which typically have large areas. Some camps require reservations and there are reports of one of them being booked for years in advance. Typically, the owner or operator of the camp lives in close proximity to the dogs.
Dog camps typically screen potential canine guests for aggressive tendencies as they do not want to risk fights and injuries to the animals or to humans.
- Sara Blask of Columbia News Service (April 3, 2005). "Scout's honor, these dogs earn their badges". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
... Rocket also is a 19-pound Jack Russell terrier and a certified Dog Scout of America. ... But there's more to being a Dog Scout than just hiking through the woods, playing games of Frisbee or learning how to tow a person to shore. ... dogs and their companions promote responsible dog ownership and educate people about the importance of the human-canine bond.
- Janice Lloyd (Sep 2, 2010). "Dog camp: Unleashing the good times". USA Today. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
Sweet, now 40, said she saw a need for a place where dogs could run free and be themselves far from the stress of urban life.
- "Dog days". Boston Globe. 2011-06-22. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
The three-day dog camp is held twice a year at the 40-acre Camp Mah-Kee-Nac facility which includes cabins for guests to stay over, buildings for inside instruction, a lake for swimming, lots of ground for running and an agility course.
- Devin Rose (November 4, 2001). "Camp Dogwood: It's an outdoor adventure for canines and their companions". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
A handful of dog camps across the country have tapped into that desire for canine-owner quality time ... as with other established dog camps, reservations must be made a few years in advance.
- Michele Hanson (14 August 2009). "What I learned at doggy boot camp". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
... But it's not their fault; it's mine, because they've been badly brought up. By me. It is me who needs the training.
- WALLACE IMMEN (Jun 8, 2011). "Going to the Dogs in Alaska". USA Today. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
... kennels that look like mini-igloos. ... The Juneau camp is a training site for teams that compete in the gruelling Iditarod race and all the guides have competed in races including the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest.