Summer Camps for You and Your Dog
Shack up with your pup in a cabin and live the summer camp dream together.
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The next time you catch your pup happily ruff’ing in their sleep, we know what they’re dreaming about: summer camp! A good, old fashioned kinda camp with rustic cabins and campfire songs where they can swim, run free and snack on watermelon--where their human can come and play (and nap) too.
That’s right: The classic summer camp experience you remember from childhood — swimming, hiking, boating, rustic cabins, campfire songs and lots of socializing — tailored to four-footed guests. That means days packed with agility, flyball, Rally-O, lure coursing, dock diving, clicker training, freestyle, even painting, not to mention well-earned naps. Two-footed campers can bone up on animal communication, canine massage and much more.
Here’s how to tell if summer camp is right for you and your pup: Good socialization and play skills make dog camp more fun for everyone. Your dog should enjoy playing with — or at least be neutral toward — other dogs and people. Young dogs should be able to read cues from other dogs and older dogs should be able to tolerate jostling by faster, younger dogs. Small dogs should be comfortable around big dogs. All dogs should be willing to share toys, and possibly cabin space.
Solid, basic obedience skills — sit, stay, coming when called — are critical for off-leash games, heavy-duty play, hikes, swimming and other activities. Good manners help everyone--pups and humans--relax. Research dog camps to determine which best meets your vacation goals. Some focus on competitive agility and obedience, others on off-leash games and hiking, and some are quite rustic.
Each camp has its own flavor, style and emphasis, but here are a few favorites:
Camp Dogwood — Lake, Delton, WI
Called the “Nirvana for dogs” by the Chicago Tribune, Camp Dogwood boasts 600 acres of fields, woods, and lakefront. Three times a year, about one hundred human and dog campers gather to partake in dozens of activities from — depending on the season — sledding to swimming to costume parades. In addition to athletic fun, there are informative lectures such as “‘You Say What?’ Reading Your Dog’s Body Language” and “Keeping Your Dog from Going Stir Crazy in the Winter.” Camp Dogwood makes space for dogs of any size, age, and experience level, with on-leash options and intensity accommodations for all activities.
Camp Gone to the Dogs — Front Royal, VA
Set against the scenic backdrop of Blue Ridge Mountains, Camp Gone to the Dogs is a place to celebrate your dog’s talents — and discover some new ones. Camp instructors employ positive-reinforcement techniques to teach your pup new skills, regardless of their age or experience level.
Camp Unleashed — Becket, MA; Blue Ridge, GA; Poyntelle, PA
Camp Unleashed is a 4-day retreat focused on rejuvenation and relaxation for you and your pup. If you and your pet are certified city slickers, this is a great opportunity to immerse yourselves in nature and bond in new ways. All activities are optional and the possibilities are endless, so you and your dog are free to choose if you’re craving parkour and hiking or massages and arts-and-crafts.
Canine Club Getaway — Gettysburg, PA; East Durham, NY
Canine Club Getaway is held at the Eisenhower Hotel & Conference Center in June and the Blackthorne Resort in the Catskill Mountains in September. Though the campground itself isn’t as spacious as others, the Canine Club Getaway has the added bonus of a dog-friendly bar, nightly entertainment, and nearby towns with activities such as shopping and kayaking. When you aren’t belting (and barking!) at dog-friendly karaoke, you can catch a seminar led by expert veterinarians and trainers. Canine Club Getaway is ideal for humans and pets who are creatures of comfort — you won’t have to miss out on private baths, air conditioning, wi-fi, or cable while you’re adventuring.
Dog Scouts of America — Saint Helen, MI
Dog Scout camps are held in the woods of Michigan in June and July, with “mini camps” held in August. This year, four-week long virtual camps are offered in the summer and winter. Participants can take classes and earn badges in topics like obedience, nose work, kayaking, dancing, and more while at camp. If you’re interested in a longer-term, community-based membership, Dog Scouts of America is the camp for you — events are held throughout the year all over the country, and you and your dog can earn badges on your own time.
Maian Meadows Dog Camp — Lake Wenatchee, WA
Located on the gorgeous Lake Wenatchee in Washington State, Maian Meadows Dog Camp is a weekend-long retreat for dogs and humans who want a rustic, outdoorsy break from modern life. Optional group activities include a dog costume contest, a dog poetry contest, and lots of games. Individual activities include swimming and hiking along the gorgeous Lake Wenatchee coast. Cabins are bare-bones and don’t include plumbing, so only choose Maian Meadows if you’re willing to rough it.
Yellowstone Dog Sports — Red Lodge, Montana
Yellowstone Dog Sports focuses on agility and obedience training. All levels are welcome at this four-day long camp where your pup can learn skills from herding to, yes, canine dancing.
Plus some camps just for dogs:
Eva’s Play Pups Countryside Dog Camp — Union Dale, PA
Eva’s Play Pups is a 66-acre, fenced-in farm in the Poconos where your dog can run and explore to their heart’s content, all while under the supervision of thoroughly trained Canine Camp Counselors. Swimming, hiking, and individual playtimes are just some of the enriching activities your dog can partake in.
Camp Bow Wow — Hoboken, NJ
Camp Bow Wow offers spacious play yards for your dog to explore with their new puppy friends. Dogs sleep in spacious boarding with a cot and fleece blanket. Anxious about leaving your pup? Camp Bow Wow has you covered — you can check in on your dog at any time through camera live streams.
Canyon View Ranch — Topanga Canyon, CA
Featured on Access Hollywood, Animal Planet, HGTV, and more, Canyon View Ranch is basically the Ritz for dogs. The large outdoor playlands are modeled after Disneyland and feature pools, agility playsets, and massive fenced-in yards.
Rebecca Wallick was a long-time contributing editor for The Bark and retired family law attorney. She lives with two dogs and runs mountain trails at every opportunity.