Ruffing it at Ontario Parks: a dog’s perspective on camping

This post is brought to you from our guest blogger Sitka the Border Collie, with help from her human Laura Myers, a Learning and Education Leader with Ontario Parks.

Hello! My name is Sitka and I’m a dog.

My humans love to camp! From the moment they brought me home when I was eight weeks old, they said, “I can’t wait for all the camping adventures we will go on, little one.”

Sitka standing pretty for a photo on her first hike.
Me at nine weeks old on my first hike

When I was 10 months old my humans packed up the car, and we went on my first camping trip! We went to my mom’s favourite park: Neys Provincial Park.

When we drove down the park road, my mom rolled down the windows for me so I could smell the fresh park air. It smelled great!

Sitka with her head out the window of the car.

Our trip was filled with hiking, swimming, campfires, hammocking, watching sunsets, and exploring the beach. Boy, was it fun! Since my first trip, I have traveled to many Ontario Parks!

Every time I go camping, my humans make sure I am comfortable, safe, and have a blast. I’m here to tell all dog parents how to make your pup’s camping trip the paws down best!

Sitka looking out the back of the vehicle laying her head on the pillow.
My humans gave me the whole back seat to myself, but I chose to sleep up here

This is not my home!

I wasn’t sure what camping was all about , especially this tent thing. My parents gave me lots of treats every time I checked it out so it was a magical place in my mind.

Sitka sleeping in the tent.
Me “ruffing it” at Neys Provincial Park

When it came to bed time, we all climbed into the tent. It turns out this is where my bed is. This wasn’t where I usually slept! It didn’t look, smell, feel, or…taste the same!

I learned quickly not to eat the tent or anything in it, after my humans looked very upset after I chewed the foam sleeping pad to pieces while they were sleeping… Sorry!

My parents brought lots of blankets so I was comfy. They told me it was bed time, so I finally decided to lay my head down and rest. After all, I was “pooched” after hiking all day.

Laura and Sitka looking out over Pic Island from the lookout platform.
Taking in the view at the Pic Island Overlook with my mom at Neys Provincial Park

My grandma recently got me a doggy Coleman sleeping bag. It’s great, it keeps me warm and comfy on the hard ground!

Did you say H-I-K-E?

Sitka drinking from a water bowl.
My water bowl fits on the bottom of my mom’s water bottle!

One of the best things about camping is going for long hikes. I get to smell everything and anything, see squirrels and birds, and shake off some energy.

My humans pack me snacks, water, and tell me I’m such a great hiker. To all the dog parents out there, choose a trail that’s suitable for your pup. Don’t overexert them, especially in hot weather. Water and lots of snacks are appreciated.

My humans keep me on my leash almost all the time in provincial parks, unless it’s a special dog area. They told me it’s for my safety and for the health of the ecosystem.

When I’m on a leash, I won’t come face to face with a bear, eat poisonous mushrooms in the woods, go running through a sensitive wetland, or disturb other wildlife or campers.

Let’s be honest, I would likely chase after the squirrels if they let me… It looks like they are having the time of their lives running up and down the trees!

Sitka and one of her humans walking on a boardwalk.
Hiking with my dad on the Whiskey Jack Trail, Quetico Provincial Park

Doggy paddle

What do I love more than hiking? Swimming! Nothing beats cooling down in Lake Superior on a hot summer’s day.

Me doggy paddling at sunset at the Rossport Campground, Rainbow Falls Provincial Park
Picture taken through the fence with a sign that says "leash free pet area" with Sitka in the background.
Playing at the leash-free pet area at White Lake Provincial Park

I love doggy paddling ‘til the sun goes down. Many of the provincial parks I’ve camped at have a dog beach. This is where four-legged friends like us can swim.

My parents bring a few quick-dry towels for me, so I can dry off before going into the tent for the night. They also bought me a waterproof leash because my regular leash gets wet and stinky!

Read this article for a list of pet exercise areas and beaches! When you arrive at the park, make sure you ask a park staff member where the pet exercise area or beach is located.

Hanging around camp

When we’re not hiking, swimming, or exploring, we hang out at our campsite.

Sitka eating out of her food bowl.
Me eating dinner at Agawa Bay Campground, Lake Superior Provincial Park

After exploring the park I’m often ready for a nap, so I just lay down and relax. While I am at the campsite my humans keep me on a leash and tie it to the picnic table so that I’m safe and never too far.

My parents often cook up delicious meals that smell way better than my kibble! When my parents eat, so do I! I have a lightweight food bowl which is great for when I go backcountry hiking. My parents make sure I have lots of food since we spend lots of time hiking and swimming.

They also make sure I don’t make a mess and that they store my food in the car. It is so that it doesn’t attract wildlife. They take great care to ensure we don’t have any bear visitors.

I also learned that it is Ontario Parks, not Ontario Barks! I got a bit excited when other dog campers walked by our campsite, but my parents told me I had to say hello quietly, so I decided tail wags were the best way to say “hi!”

Sitka resting her head on a hammock
Hanging out in a hammock at our campsite at Neys Provincial Park

Poop. For some reason, my humans talk a lot about poop.

If you’re anything like my humans, you may talk about your dog’s poop a lot! They even carry it in little bags, like it’s a little present. I’m not sure I understand, but I overheard them talking about how dog poop can be hazardous to wildlife and the ecosystem.

My parents have also talked about how it’s not lovely to step in poop, catch a whiff of it, or even see it laying beside the trail. I think that’s why they pick it up and throw it in the garbage can at their earliest convenience.

I recommend attaching a poop bag holder to your pup’s leash to avoid forgetting to bring the ever-essential poop bags.

Picture of Sitka looking up at the camera.
Just a cute picture of me because I don’t want to talk about poop anymore

Read more about picking up dog poop here.

Picture pawfect

All right humans, I’m sure you’ll want to take photos of your pup’s camping adventure! When my mom says, “say cheese for the camera!”, I know I’m going to actually get cheese. *Drool*. This means I should strike a pose and look cute!

Sitka posing for a picture.
Posing in front of the sunset at the Dog Beach at Agawa Bay, Lake Superior Provincial Park

Be sure to bring along your pup’s favourite treats to reward them when they pose for some pawfect photos! Bon a-pet-treat!

A tail-wagging good time

Sitka and all the gear she takes camping.

Sitka licking one of her humans face.
My humans are “cooler” than your humans! Just kidding, all humans are super cool

I’ve come to love camping, and I get excited when my parents start packing for a camping trip.

I know that I’m about to go on another great adventure with my two favourite people!

With a bit of planning, the right gear, and lots of exercise, your pup will have a pawesome camping trip too!

Where will you take your pup for their next camping trip?

I hope to meet you and your dogs while camping in Ontario Parks!

Fur-well for now!

Woof love,

Sitka the Border Collie

Thinking of going on a backcountry canoe trip with your dog? Check out this dog blog too!