Dogs have been a part of my life since I was a teenager, and while I have never labelled myself a ‘dog person’, in reality, I guess that’s who I am.
We are lucky enough to be able to involve our pets in many family adventures. The benefits of taking the dogs with us are numerous: they are a great incentive to get out for a walk (I have seen many sunrises while on holiday that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise); if the kids have too much energy, you can send them off to walk the dogs; and, of course, you save on kennel fees.
Many of the adventures we take our dogs on are in the back of beyond, either camping in remote and wild spots or putting in a bit more legwork and tramping into a backcountry hut.
Camping with the mutts
Since buying our caravan a few years ago, we have been able to explore some gorgeous parts of the North Island, staying mostly at Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites. Many of these sites allow dogs (on a leash), and you can find this out via the DOC website.
The great thing about these campsites is that they attract others with dogs, so there is more tolerance for the odd bit of barking or doggy misbehaviour.
Our current canine family members include a miniature schnauzer and a young Labrador.
With the Lab being a bit feisty and playful, we decided that tying him up would lead to entanglement and many chewed ropes.
We solved this problem by purchasing a fold-up cage that is easily transportable and quick to set up. This has been excellent for camping with the dogs, as it gives them a safe place that’s close to us and keeps them contained.
Where to go?
The Anaura Bay campsite—an hour’s drive north of Gisborne—is a gorgeous spot and dog-friendly.
The beach setting allows for beautiful early morning and evening walks with the dogs, and the family-friendly atmosphere saw the kids making friends with others and taking the dogs along for fun.
With no phone coverage and no power, it’s a real ‘back to the ’80s’ camping experience and very relaxing.
In the Tararua Ranges, we have camped at both the Holdsworth and Kiriwhakapapa campsites and enjoyed having the dogs for company. With great bush walks available, there’s always somewhere to stretch the legs and run off some energy.
Otaki Forks and Catchpool Valley conservation campsites are on our ‘must-do’ list, and having investigated the Bay of Plenty conservation campsites online, we are looking forward to exploring further north this summer.
As for the South Island, we have yetto discover the conservation campsites down there, but a browse through the campsite brochure assures me there will be plenty of places along the way to stay with our canine family members.
If you can’t find a DOC campsite in the area you are exploring, many council campsites and some holiday parks allow dogs. We are lucky to live in the internet age where it’s easy to find out about these sites.
Tramping with the mutts
Tramping with our dogs has always been rewarding, whether it has been a two-hour hike or overnight tramp.
They love being out in the wilderness and are added entertainment and motivation, particularly for the kids.
Things to consider
Firstly, check if you’re allowed to take dogs into the area. We’re lucky enough to have the Ruahine and Tararua Forest Parks on our back doorstep and dogs are allowed on most tracks in these parks.
National Parks, however, do not allow dogs, along with other areas that have populations of endangered species. Checking on the DOC website is the best way to find out; it’s generally noted in the track information.
Secondly, how well-trained are your dogs? Ours have had avian aversion training—a special course that trains the dogs to stay away from endangered animals such as kiwi and whio (blue duck). You can find out about these courses by calling your local DOC office.
If you are still unsure of your dog’s level of obedience, consider a muzzle and keeping it on the leash. Our newest young Labrador is yet to be fully trusted.
Thirdly, make sure your dog can cope with the tramp you’re undertaking. After 12 years of being a purely Labrador family, the miniature schnauzer joined the pack as our lap dog.
He still loves his adventures though, and has been on several tramps with us. He generally copes well if there is a defined track, but a tramp in the Aorangi Forest Park involved boulder hopping down a creek.
Half way into a five-hour walk, he became a shivering, blithering mess and ended up being carried in my pack for the remainder of the tramp.
Finally, if you’re taking the dogs away overnight, you also need to carry dog food. This adds weight to already full packs and may put you off.
You can buy special dog backpacks that allow the dog to share the load. We haven’t tried those out yet. I am lucky enough to have a mule for a husband who doesn’t mind a heavy load.
Up-to-date information a must
Keeping up to date with current information is a must when taking your dogs into wilderness areas. Again, this is where the DOC website plays a vital role.
Dogs are particularly susceptible to some of the toxic baits used for pest control, so if there is an alert about a pest control operation, it’s best to leave your dogs at home or go elsewhere.
Track conditions and road access information is also important to check before you head off on adventures.
Ups and downs
I won’t lie. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows taking the dogs along, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Our dogs are a big part of the family and including them on our adventures comes naturally. We are lucky to live in a country where this is so easily achievable.
Other dog-friendly conservation campsites
(Check out the DOC website for the full brochures)
- East Coast—Okahu Road
- Bay of Plenty—Dickey Flat, Matata
- Central North Island—Waikoko, Clements Clearing
- Manawatu-Wanganui—Ohinepane, Simpsons Domain
- Hawke’s Bay—Waitara/Glenfalls
- Wairarapa—Putangirua Pinnacles, Corner Creek
- Wellington—Catchpool Valley, Waikawa
- Nelson/Tasman—Kawatiri, Teetotal
- Marlborough—Butchers Flat, Kenepuru Head, Rarangi
- West Coast—Kohaihai, Lyell, Goldsborough
- Canterbury—Craigieburn Shelter, Wooded Gully, Pioneer Park
- Otago—Boundary Creek Reserve, Twelve Mile Delta, Glencoe
- Southland—Mavora Lakes,
- Piano Flat