By PATTI MURACZEWSKI, CPDT-KA, CABC, BA

I was 40 years old when I presented at my first dog camp: A camp designed for dogs and their owners who want to have a great time in nature. I wasn’t prepared for being wowed, and after 20 years of presenting at dog camps, I continue to be wowed. I am proud to be an instructor with Camp Dogwood, the only dog camp in Wisconsin, and one of only a handful across the country.

Staff and campers find it hard to explain why this experience is so addicting, so much so that many campers vie to get a spot for the next camp before the current one is even over. The closest word that I have heard used to describe this experience is “magical.” I think this is because everyone attending is enjoying valued time with their best friend or best friends as campers can bring up to three dogs at Camp Dogwood. However, that is just one part of it.

People who attend are like me; they want to learn more about activities there that they can continue to do with their dog at home. The camp offers very active sessions such as hiking and lectures about all dog-related topics, as well as hands on activities such as baking for your dog. An incredible bond is formed. It is like what young people often feel when they attend a children’s summer camp. What is different is these camp friendships are not as fast to slip away because social media makes it easier to keep in touch afterward.

Camp Dogwood was started at Camp Henry Horner in Illinois but a few years ago moved to Perlstein and Chi Resort up at the Wisconsin Dells. The move opened even more experiences to share with your dog specific to the Dells area. Every fall and spring, campers are given the opportunity to take a ride on the Wisconsin Dells Ducks and yes, with their dogs! The hiking paths are long and the camp acreage is large and beautiful.

Most of the camps throughout the country are attached to a lake that provides a great place for dogs to swim at the spring and fall camps. At Camp Dogwood in the wintertime, if there is solid ice on the lake, dogs can learn to pull a sled or mush on the lake. Last year, a pair of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels seemed to have a better time pulling than even the Nordic breeds.

The variety of activities are vast, but camps pride themselves in introducing sports and activities that are on the cutting edge. This means you can count on something new being added to almost every camp. Some of the newest activities added at Camp Dogwood are core conditioning for dogs, dog friendly yoga, shed hunting and brush hunt. This always keeps the camp fresh.

Like any type of camp, crafts are offered. Most crafts offered center around dogs such as handmade leashes, dog bowls, etched glass, friendship stones, flirt poles or snuffle mats. Dog camps vary in the number of days they run. One of the camps out east, Camp Gone to The Dogs, offers a week of activities while other camps run for three to four days. Alysa Slay and Dave Eisendrath co-founded Camp Dogwood in 2001. Alysa found that some campers wanted a longer experience. Camp Dogwood now offers extended camp, and this allows the campers to come a day early just to chill. Needless to say, extended camp has become very popular. The cost of this experience varies, but it can average around $225 per day, which includes lodging and meals.

National Camps

If anything in this article appeals to you, take the time to look up and research the various dog camps to discover what they have to offer. There are a number of camps throughout the country, and each camp has its own flavor. Here is a list of some of the existing camps: Camp Dogwood, Wisconsin Dells, Wis.; Camp Gone to the Dogs, Stowe, Vt.; Camp Unleashed, Mass. and Georgia; Canine Club Getaway, Lake George, N.Y.; Dog Scouts of America; and Maian Meadows Dog Camp, Lake Wenatchee, Wash.

It is not unusual for someone to travel across the country to attend a camp. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see different states with your best friend.

By LAUREN NELSON

Whether it’s a day trip to a dog-friendly state park or a weekend away at a disc dog competition, preparation is key. But where does one start to prepare when a simple Google search can deliver an abundance of overwhelming recommendations? Easy. Start here!

Before any shopping begins, make an appointment to visit the vet. Having a dog up-to-date on vaccines and ensuring their microchip is working will make trips away from home less stressful. A quick checkup can also prevent any minor unnoticeable injuries from escalating while hiking or participating in any physical activity. After getting the go-ahead from the vet, pack these five essential products that are a must-have for an easy, breezy trip.

1. Harness With Leash: Choosing a harness over a traditional collar can prevent injuries and can give the handler more control. A harness disperses the pressure from one smaller area on the neck, to the back and the body. Harnesses are also great training tools as they discourage pulling. When a dog is wearing a collar and pulls on the leash, they are still moving forward, which makes them think the pulling is successful. A harness, whether attached on the chest or between the shoulder blades, redirects them. There’s no reward because pulling doesn’t get him anywhere. Harnesses have varied features and uses to help decide which caters best to the specific needs of each dog. Do your research before deciding on the best fit for your dog. Consider the safety, durability, style, comfort and cost.

Some options may include:
• Nylon
• Soft mesh
• Fleece
• Cooling
• Reflective or light-up LED
• Easy-walk
• No-pull
• Heavy-duty
• Padded neoprene
• Front-clip, back-clip or tightening
• And more…

2. Poop Bags: Being a responsible dog owner means picking up after your dog and being mindful about how the bags affect the environment. GreenLine Poop Bags are strong, durable bags that are designed to be biodegradable anywhere, even in landfills.

3. Water Jugs & Bowl: When traveling anywhere with a dog, bringing water is a must, and there are several different collapsing bowls or traveling mugs. For instance, Kurgo’s Collaps a Bowl makes it very easy to give your dog water on the go. This travel companion is barely an inch thick and collapses to fit anywhere. It holds up to 24 fluid ounces and is dishwasher friendly as well as BPA free. When thinking about packing water, the ASPCA recommends bottled water to avoid upsetting your dog’s stomach with new tap water.

4. Food and Treats: Every dog works up an appetite when taking on new trails or participating in high-flying competitions, so packing snacks is non-negotiable. It’s also a good idea to keep kibble and treats on hand to reward good behaviors throughout the day and work on obedience training. Choosing the right food or treats is subjective. So go with your gut since you know your dog best.

5. Flea and Tick Collar: In the outdoors, fleas and ticks wait to pounce and can cause some serious health issues if they find their way under your pets’ fur. In addition to using preventive care every year when going outdoors, especially during the spring and summer when fleas and ticks are most active, it’s important to have extra protection. Earth Animal Flea and Tick Collars have a special combination of Virginia Cedar, Peppermint and Almond Oil, and the collars to repel both fleas and ticks. They are safe for animals, humans and the environment. When returning home, don’t skip checking your pets’ fur for fleas and ticks after they’ve been in the outdoors.

By LAUREN NELSON

After the polar vortex brought in wind chills of -55 degrees at the end of January, it’s safe to say every pup is ready to stretch their legs and embrace spring with fresh and fun things to do. Searching for new activities for dogs to get involved in can be tricky as they range from dog-sports to simply finding mind-stimulating games to give dogs on a rainy day. Whatever the activity level of your furry friend, there’s sure to be something here they can happily put their paws into.

High Activity Level:
Flyball is a new, unique, fast-paced team sport for dogs. The relay-style race is a perfect match for all healthy, high-energy dogs regardless of size, age or breed.

The sport goes like this. There are two teams made up of a minimum of four dogs. These two teams race side by side down a course of four jumps that are set to five inches below the shoulder height of the shortest dog on the team. Once they complete the four jumps, they get to a Flyball box. The box holds a tennis ball that ejects when the dog hits the front of the box. The objective of Flyball is for each dog to go over the jumps, hit the box, catch the ball and return over the jumps as fast as they can with the handlers remaining behind the start/finish line. Each dog takes a turn running the course and the round is complete when all four dogs have passed the finish line with no errors. The win is determined by the fastest team who completes three out of five heats.

The first step to entering the Flyball world is to first schedule and examination of your dog with your vet. It’s important to make sure they don’t have any underlying conditions that might be triggered by the impact of the sport. After the all-clear from the vet, command and obedience training is key.

Flyball encourages the improvement of focus and motivation and is different from agility because it requires teamwork between all dogs and handlers on the team. To be successful, they all must work together throughout the entire challenging, complex and fun sport. Other activities high-energy dogs excel at and require handler interaction and training are agility, disc training and dock diving.

Moderate Activity Level:
Canicross is cross country running with a dog companion and is dog-powered. The dogs are harnessed and attached to the human, and they work as a team to complete the race. The human acts as the driver, directing the dog where to go from behind the lead using voice commands. It’s an easy, low-impact sport for both dogs and humans. It also provides a method to get a human and a canine fit but works the dog’s mind and allows them to use their brain in a work mode. Any breed is welcome into the sport as long as they are fit, healthy and able to run distance.

Low Activity Level:
Dog puzzles and games are a perfect fit for low-energy dogs who prefer to be more stationary. Interactive toys are designed to help keep dogs working, challenge them mentally and get their heart pumping. Every dog is different, which is why different personalities and breeds may dictate the most successful puzzle or game. Regardless of the toy that works best for each dog, the bottom line is that an occupied mind makes a happy dog. Some of the highly reviewed puzzles and toys include the Dog Tornado Puzzle, Treat Maze, Bob-A-Lot and the Dog Brick Puzzle.

By CHERESE COBB

Don’t we all want our pets to have the latest and greatest gadgets? Whether furry, feathered or flippers a-flapping, they’re part of our families, after all. But there are so many products on the shelves that it’s hard to know which ones work and even harder to know which ones your pets will actually like.

So we’ve rounded up 10 unusually cool pet products that will make you say, “Why didn’t I buy this sooner?”

1. Pineapple Microplush Pet Bed
Nandog Pet Gear; $49
Nandog.com

Your pupperinos don’t have to have square pants or live in Bikini Bottom to nestle in this pineapple-shaped pet bed. Featuring a bright, tropical yellow exterior with a leafy green top, this cheerful and spacious cuddler cave is the perfect hidey-hole for a midday snooze or a sound night’s sleep. Designed with both comfort and convenience in mind, it fits snugly in tight corners and has a non-toxic, polyester cushion that can be hand-washed, keeping it as fresh as an island breeze.

2. Playology Dri-Tech Rope Knot Dog Toy
Playology; $9.99
Playologypets.com

Do you find yourself buying expensive dog toys and watching them be chomped to bits in minutes or hours, if you’re lucky? Then let your destructo-pups roughhouse with this extra-durable rope knot by Playology. It’s infused with an all-natural chicken, beef, bacon, cheddar cheese or peanut butter scent that lasts for at least six months, even after being rinsed with warm water. Made with fibers that wick away slobber and can’t be swallowed, your woofers will be tied in knots while noshing on this game-changing chewer.

3. Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy™
PetSmart; $39.95
Petsmart.com

Crate training, thunderstorms and fireworks can make your dogs feel like cables that are being stretched too tight and beginning to fray. Melt away your dog’s stress and curb their bad behaviors, like excessive scratching and snarling, with the Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy. It features a real-feel, pulsing heartbeat that lasts up to two weeks on one set of AAA batteries and a non-toxic, disposable warming pack.

4. Noxgear LightHound
Noxgear; $55.95
Noxgear.com

Made with military-grade CORDURA® fabric, the Noxgear Lighthound is like a party on a leash, with solid-color flashing and slow-fading color modes such as cool comet, independence day and photon burst. With 360-degree illumination, reflectivity and fluorescence, it’s visible for over half a mile. The LightHound is weatherproof, lightweight and machine washable with micro-USB rechargeable LED lights that last up to 12 hours. It quickly slides over your dogs’ favorite collars, harnesses or jackets, making sure that they’re always homeward bound.

5. Petcube Play
Petcube; $129 with 1-year care subscription
Petcube.com

Ever wondered what your pets get up to when they’re home alone? While they’re probably not massaging themselves with your KitchenAid, they might suffer from separation anxiety, depression or boredom. If they’re nibbling on your Nike Air Prestos, puffing up at the mailman or swatting at your vintage Tiffany lamp, break their anxiety with Petcube Play.

Featuring two-way audio, night vision and 3x digital zoom, it has a built-in laser that can be set to autoplay. The WiFi pet camera also has a cloud recording video service that provides up to 10 days of timeline history, reporting major sound and motion events straight to your smartphone.

6. Chuckit! Flying Squirrel
Natural Pet Warehouse; $9.99
Naturalpetwarehouse.com

Here’s one squirrel who loves being chased. The Chuckit! Flying Squirrel is made from heavy-duty canvas that will withstand rugged play while its soft, curved sides are gentle on your dog’s mouth. Fling him by his bright orange “paws” for a far-flung game of fetch. He also glows in the dark for engaging outdoor play, ideal for pets who are active at night or pet parents who work mid-shift. With water-resistant rubber feet, he floats in water for a splashing good time at the pool, lake or ocean.

7. Pretty Litter
Pretty Litter; $22
Prettylittercats.com

Unless you’re able to toilet train your cat like Robert De Niro in “Meet the Parents,” you’re stuck with a litter box that has big, ammonia-smelling lumps and dust clouds. Tired of masking the smell of urine and feces with baking soda and lifting 20-pound bags of litter? Try PrettyLitter. Made of highly absorbent silica microcrystals, it traps odors and bacteria while allowing moisture to evaporate. So you’ll only have to scoop the poop. For a single cat, a four-pound bag lasts an entire month and detects illnesses early, simply by changing colors. Yellow and olive green are normal, while blue, red, bright green and orange are telltale signs of UTIs, inflammation and kidney issues.

8. Wooly Snuffle Mat
Paws 5; $39.95
Paw5.us

Handmade from a combination of virgin and upcycled materials, the Wooly Snuffle Mat is a playground for your canine’s nose. Hide kibble, treats or soft veggies between its fabric tassels and your dogs will snuffle, snort and sniff their way through dinner or snack time. Available in modern gray and machine-washable, this interactive puzzle toy encourages natural foraging skills by mimicking the hunt for food in grass. If your walks are growing shorter because of sour weather, your jam-packed schedule or your senior pet’s achy joints, it improves learning and memory while burning off excess energy.

9. Rover 7v Battery Heated Dog Jacket with Bluetooth
Cozy Winters, $119
Cozywinters.com

The Rover Battery Heated Dog Jacket is worth investing in before Mother Nature’s next snow parade. Made from a lightweight nylon fabric, it has a neck collar slot for on-leash activity and Phoslite reflective safety trim. This Bluetooth dog vest uses powerful yet lightweight rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that can last up to 13 hours. Change its temperature (90°F on low to 104°F on high) on-the-fly wirelessly with the MW Connect app or use the built-in touch control button. Available in navy or red, it also comes in “Rover” for larger dogs and “Rover Mini” for toy-sized pets.

10. The Fat Cat Backpack
Your Cat Backpack; $119
Yourcatbackpack.com

Whether you’re using the Fat Cat Backpack to explore the great outdoors or take regular trips to the vet, it’s never been easier or more adorable to carry your cat. Designed for big-boned breeds like Maine Coons and American Bobtails, this bubble bag holds nearly 20 pounds. It also has a bungee where you can clip a leash or harness so your cat can just hang out. Featuring mesh sides where you can stash treats and a water bottle, The Fat Cat has air holes in the front, a detachable bubble and a Velcro mat that’s machine washable. Available in charcoal or pink, it has enough room for your feline friend to lay down and turn around completely.