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Our dog friends are part of our family, and we love them. Bringing a dog to a gathering carries both special joy and extra responsibility. In many ways, dogs are like small children, and need as much attention and care as children do. If you are able to leave them at home, your gathering will be more spontaneous and worry-free, and your dogs will be much safer.
If you do decide to bring them, attach waterproof I.D. tags to their collarswith their names, your name, where you are camped, and your home phone number so you can be reunited if you become separated. Be sure they are current on all their vaccinations because there will be many dogs there, and contagious illness spreads quickly.
Be sensitive to your dogs’ physical and emotional needs. Offer them food and water often. Make sure shade is available. Even though you are busy, don’t forget to give them attention throughout the day. Be patient with them. They’re in an unfamiliar environment, and it may be exciting or confusing. It may take them awhile to learn what “out of the kitchen!” means, and you’d probably rather teach them your way than have someone else teach them.
Be considerate of others. Teach your dogs good manners. When coming to a circle, ask them to lie quietly beside or behind you. Keep them out of kitchens, compost pits, and shitters. Don’t let them fight with other dogs. Females in heat can cause serious problems, so leave them at home if at all possible. Spaying or neutering your dogs is always a responsible thing to do, and will spare you much hassle in a gathering situation.
Be environmentally aware. Keep dogs out of water sources and other sensitive areas. Pick up their poop, drop it in a shitter, and cover it up, just as you would your own. Remember that dogs are essentially pack animals. When they get together in the freedom of the open woods, they love to run. It’s not a good idea to let them do it. They can harm wildlife or get into serious trouble by chasing sheep and cattle. Tying a dog in camp for long periods of time can be unfair both to your neighbors and to your dog. Keep your dog at your side – on a leash if necessary.
As with so many other things at the gathering, respect is the key: respect for your own needs, respect for your neighbors’ needs, and respect for your dog’s needs. We can have it all. It just takes some attention to detail.