Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Canine Campers

Try out fun sports, perfect skills or just chill at dog camp

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

If you loved going to camp when you were a kid (or even if you didn’t), think of how great it could have been if you’d had your dog with you. Now, going to camp with your dog can be a dream vacation if you love the great outdoors, dog sports, traditional camp activities like canoeing or swimming, or just spending some down time with your best friend.

Dog lovers can find canine-oriented camps across the country, including ones aimed at kids. They go to try out new activities, hone skills their dogs already have or build a dog’s confidence.

“Camp gives you a different way to see how dogs learn and affords your dog the opportunity to try any and every sport of interest to you or them,” says dog trainer Bev Blanchard, who started out as a camper and now teaches freestyle, agility and canine massage classes at Camp Gone to the Dogs in Vermont.

Most dog camps offer a variety of activities, including barn hunt, dock diving, flying disc, herding, lure coursing, rally, tracking and therapy dog training. Others specialize in a single sport, such as agility or nosework. They are ideal for competitors who want to improve their skills in a specific activity.

“The trust, teamwork and focus that was built with my dog in a marathon series of searches -- with lots of breaks for my dog -- could not have been replicated anywhere else,” says Mary Wakabayashi of Aliso Viejo, California, who went to nosework camp with her dog Hina. “The instructors built on what my regular instructors say and gave another dimension and perspective to being a better teammate for my dog.”

Hate the idea of organized dog sports? You and your dog can still have fun. Go swimming, canoeing or hiking, try stand-up paddleboarding, make doggie crafts or just lie under a tree together watching the birds.

“Some people come with their older dogs, and that’s what they do,” Blanchard says.

Here are 10 camps where you and your dog can play to your heart’s content:

-- The mother of all of dog camps is Camp Gone to the Dogs (camp-gone-tothe-dogs.com), which celebrates its 28th anniversary this year. Camps take place in Marlboro, Vermont, or Stowe, Vermont.

-- Camp Dogwood (campdogwood.com)in Lake Delton, Wisconsin, offers camp experiences in fall, winter and spring.

-- Camp Unleashed (campunleashed.com) has sessions in Blue Ridge, Georgia, or the Berkshire Mountains in Becket, Massachusetts.

-- Try “barks and crafts,” learn canine CPR, study dog nutrition or play outdoors at Canine Camp Getaway (caninecampgetaway.com) in Lake George, New York. Human campers will appreciate the on-site bar/lounge and spa.

-- Learn backcountry safety at Canine Wilderness Companion Adventure Camp (citydogcountrydogtraining.com/camps-classes) at Yachats on the central Oregon coast. Skills include trail manners; hiking, camping and kayaking with dogs; and wilderness first aid.

-- Dogs of Course (dogsofcourse.com) offers a three-and-a-half day nosework training camp in Wimberly, Texas, near Austin.

-- Camp is for kids, too. The Canine Coach in Minneapolis-St. Paul has a four-day Dog Camp for Kids (thek9coach.com/dog_camp_for_kids.php), geared to ages 5 to 13. Kids and dogs can go together, or if your home is lacking a dog, a trained dog who is familiar with kids will be provided.

-- Enjoy a rustic camping experience with nearby hiking and mountain biking trails with Maian Meadows Dog Camp (maianmeadows.com/2.html) at Lake Wenatchee in Washington.

-- Six days at Lake Tahoe’s 33-acre Wild Blue Dog Camp (wildbluedogs.org/home) includes Canine Good Citizen training, water sports, classes in Fear Free dog grooming and more.

-- Yellowstone Dog Camp (yellowstonedogsports.com/index.php/summer-camp) in Red Lodge, Montana, offers 90 acres with an indoor arena, hiking trails, ponds for swimming and sheep for herding. Activities include rally, tricks, retriever training, nature walks and flyball.

Q&A

I love you,

I knead you

Q: Why do cats like to knead their paws on our skin? Does it have a purpose?

A: One of the great colloquialisms of our language is the phrase “making biscuits,” used to describe that exact feline behavior. It’s especially appropriate when applied to a cat with white paws -- as if she’s coated them in flour before setting to work kneading the sticky dough.

But cats aren’t imitating our baking habits. Their habit of reflexively pushing their paws in and out on a soft surface such as a lap or blanket is a sign of contentment, one that is linked to a cat’s earliest experience: snuggling against mom cat and suckling her warm flow of milk. (Fun fact: Within two or three days of birth, each kitten chooses his or her own personal nipple, and, with rare exceptions, drinks only from that one.)

The kneading behavior is present at birth. Pressing against the nipples is how newborns stimulate milk production. Even after they are weaned, throughout their lives, cats revisit that behavior. It’s a signal that they are relaxed and happy. Cats also knead at other important phases of their life. For instance, females knead in advance of the mating process.

Cats are extremely sensitive to touch, especially in the area of their paws (maybe that’s why they don’t always enjoy having them handled). Cats who knead humans are delivering an extra-special message of love. Humans who have the magic touch (and a cat’s favor) can induce kneading behavior by petting a cat in her favorite spot, such as between the eyes or ears. If you are lucky, your cat will keep her claws retracted as she kneads your skin, giving you a fancy feline massage. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

THE BUZZ

7 tips on

rabbit care

-- Considering a pet bunny? Rabbits are friendly, entertaining and can be housetrained. Those traits make them good companions, but they have some special needs. Here are some tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association: Bunny newbies should stick to a single rabbit. Choose one who is alert and active with a full, shiny coat. Have males neutered to prevent urine marking and females spayed to prevent unwanted litters. Rabbits don’t enjoy being held close or carried around and can injure themselves in the struggle to get away. Rabbits require regular grooming, especially if they have long fur. Without appropriate toys and supervision, rabbits may chew dangerous or inappropriate items, such as electrical cords or expensive furniture. Rabbits should live indoors and with good care can live as long as 15 years.

-- If your dog’s nickname is Sir Barks-a-lot, take steps to teach him when it’s OK to bark and when he should hold his tongue. When you want him to stop barking, give a cue for him to do something else, such as “down” (some dogs don’t like to bark when their belly is on the floor) or “come.” Whichever you choose, praise and reward your dog for responding and for being quiet.

-- A fine-tooth comb is your best friend if you’re not sure your dog or cat has fleas. Run it through your pet’s fur, starting at the head and moving toward the tail. If your pet is harboring any of the nasty little bloodsuckers, they’ll be trapped in the comb’s narrow teeth. Check most carefully at the neck and the rear end, both areas where fleas are often found. If you find one, know that there are lots more that you don’t see. Ask your veterinarian about an oral or topical preventive to protect your pet. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.