For many of us, one of the great joys in life is being outdoors — camping, hiking, backpacking, mountain climbing, anything to just be in nature enjoying clean air and the sound of birdsong. And for many of us, only one thing makes these outings absolutely perfect: having our four-legged best friends right there with us. When dogs are like family, it doesn't feel quite right unless they're out on the trail with us.
And it's that bond that spawned an idea. Camping With Dogs is an online community for people who love to be outside with their dogs. The group's Instagram and Facebook following has grown like wildfire as people celebrate their outings with the #campingwithdogs hashtag. Meanwhile the group is building an app to help people find dog-friendly parks and trails. They have created something else: the first ever National Camping With Dogs Day which will be held on Sept. 5, 2015.
We connected with founder Ryan Carter to talk about what this day is all about, and how dogs and their humans can celebrate it.
MNN: When and why did you start up Camping With Dogs?
Carter: The idea of Camping With Dogs came in November 2014 around 2 a.m. I run a social media agency in Nashville called Parachute Media, and for some reason I found studying micro-communities on Instagram more important than sleeping. Initially, I wanted to see if I could take a few passionate micro-communities or simply put, hashtags, and drive all the engagement to one focal point. I decided to begin with one of my own passions — being active with my two dogs, Bailey and Cooper. The idea was and still is very simple: to share experiences that build a community around people who love to hike and camp with their dogs.
I've watched your following grow significantly since the day you launched. What has surprised you most about the response from people since creating Camping With Dogs?
I’ve been surprised with how quickly things have grown. It’s been absolutely insane. I have people that stop me all the time asking how Camping With Dogs is doing and if their dog can be featured!
It’s getting more difficult now, but I try to read every comment and tag we receive on Instagram and I’ve noticed several interesting things.
Dogs are a huge part of relationships. The majority of comments we receive are people tagging their significant others saying things like, “When are we taking Max camping again?!” Or my favorite is comments about National Camping With Dogs Day. One girl tagged her boyfriend in a comment and said, “We have till September 5th to get a dog so we can go camping on this day!”
That was eye-opening to read because it shows that our community is not just dog owners that love the outdoors. It’s also soon-to-be or hopeful dog owners that enjoy feeling what the experience of dog ownership would be like through our page. That’s powerful.
I’ve also noticed that people want information on dog-friendly places as they travel and full disclosure, we’re working on that!
Speaking of getting information, you do some how-to articles on your website about being outdoors with your dog. What are some of the most common questions you get from people who want to head out into nature with their four-legged companions?
We receive a lot of questions regarding leash walking and off-leash obedience on trails, but the most common questions we receive revolve around dog gear for specific conditions. Our community has been wonderful to chime in with products that help their dog adapt to different climates and terrain. That’s my favorite thing to witness with our brand. Everyone is supportive and naturally helpful.
And just so you know, readers, we have a few resources here on MNN that are helpful for getting out in nature with your dog:
- How to train your dog to wear a backpack
- How to hike with your dog: Tips, rules and great gear
- Camping tips: How to enjoy the great outdoors with your dog
- A complete guide to taking road trips with your dog
What made you want to launch a national day for getting out with dogs?
We came up with the idea of National Camping With Dogs Day as a day to promote being active with your dog. If bacon, cheesecake, and guacamole can all have their day — and they absolutely should — why not have a day about being with your dog? We wanted this to be an event that could stand on its own which meant we needed proper branding.
We contacted Valerie Jar, who created the national park badges for National Geographic, because she has a natural style that fits with our brand. She hit a home run with the design, and we will have a few items for sale with a portion of the profits benefiting The Pedigree Foundation. One hundred percent of everything The Pedigree Foundation receives goes directly to shelters that help dogs in need. That’s something we can get on board with!
What are your goals for this event?
My goal for celebrating National Camping With Dogs Day is simple. I want
to give people a reason to collectively celebrate the greatest hiking
and camping companion on the earth, our dogs. It's cool to see so many
people creating group outings with their dogs. I hope it's a memorable
day for everyone who participates.
When camping with your dog, be sure to follow the rules of the area, including any leash laws. When dog owners are responsible, the risk for losing access for dogs in natural areas is minimized. (Photo: Camping With Dogs)
What are some of the biggest hurdles for people who want to hike or camp with their dogs?
The biggest hurdle is obedience and being respectful of your surroundings. Dogs can make the best trail companion or the worst headache for not only you but everyone else you encounter.
What you don’t want is for your dog to bark incessantly, chase everything that moves, annoy other campers or put you in harm's way with wildlife. Those are not small hurdles. They are serious issues that must be addressed before you venture out.
Dogs and wildlife don't always coexist so well, which is the primary reason dogs aren't allowed on many hiking trails or even in some parks at all. What are the most important responsibilities you feel people need to remember when they're out with their dogs? What can dog owners do to help ensure that existing dog-friendly parks and preserves remain that way?
I think we forget that our dogs are actually animals. We try so hard to humanize everything they do. I’m definitely guilty of this. Both of my dogs have human voices with very distinct tones and personalities!
In reality, our dogs are instinctive animals and outside of their Tempur-Pedic beds and cuddling, they are going to act just like an animal would. As dog owners, it is our responsibility to be a leader for our dogs and teach obedience.
If you want your dog to perform well in the backcountry or a crowded campground, you have to put in the hard work at home. Mastering leash obedience and voice/hand commands will make going out with your dog safe for both natural wildlife and you and your dog.
Also, we can continue to use existing dog-friendly parks by simply following the rules. My dog loves to be off-leash, but it’s not worth the risk of putting us in danger or losing the privilege to be in a dog-friendly park. There’s no sense in ruining a great experience for everyone else just because you can’t control your dog and/or follow park and trail rules.
How can people get involved to celebrate?
You can be as involved as you want to be! When you take your dog out that day, use the hashtag #NationalCampingWithDogsDay and tag us @campingwithdogs on social media.
If you want to sponsor a group hike or camp, follow the instructions on our Facebook Event, and we will add the information to our website where people can search for events to participate in their state/city.