If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, enjoy camping and have a dog you likely want to include your dog in these outings. Some dogs will be suitable and some won’t, often depending on where you go and the type of camping you do.
If you’d like things to go as smoothly as possible, here are some tips to help.
1. Start Early
When you bring home a puppy, the socialization window is the best time to introduce things into their life that you may like to include your dog in such as camping. The socialization window closes anywhere from 12-18 weeks. Introducing your puppy to a tent or camping trailer is best done by making positive associations through gradual exposure and something the dog already likes, such as treats. If you have an adult dog, you will still want to follow these tips. Your dog doesn’t have to “do” anything with associative learning; we need exposures to be positive for the animal and go at their pace. Play some fun games in the tent or trailer, feed meals, practice going in and out of the trailer and utilize sounds that may be associated with camping such as blowing up inflatable toys. Since this is all new to your dog, it’s important to take the time to work on this with them.
Some other things to consider gradually exposing your dog to and making positive associations:
• quads and dirt bikes
• loud trucks
• chainsaws, cutting wood with an axe
2. When You Arrive
Go on a walk around the camping area immediately. Ensure your dog stays on leash since this may be a new place for them, even if it isn’t most sites require dogs to remain on leash. Always have rewards with you so that you can make positive associations when doing a walk through.
3. Crate & Exercise Pen
A crate can be a safe space for your dog as well as a management tool. Preparing meals isn’t the best time for your dog to be underfoot so crate time can be helpful. You’ll want to make sure you have already crate trained ahead of time otherwise it would be unfair to use a crate without making positive associations.
An exercise pen can give your dog more freedom vs a crate and has the ability for us to block sightlines by draping material over panels to help dogs that may bark or react at anyone passing by your campsite.
4. Mental Stimulation Exercises
Preparation and organization are essential. Bring several Kongs, food dispensing toys, bully sticks/chews and bones. Bring items to stuff Kongs such as nut butters, banana, canned dog food, or whatever your dog likes. Find stuffing ideas here:
5. Long Lines
Most campgrounds require dogs are not off leash. Keeping your dog inside your site will mean using a long line. If your dog has not been on one in the past, do some work before you go on the trip. Spend time with the long line on in your yard or at a park and work on some basic training exercises using rewards to make positive associations. Avoid leaving your dog tethered without supervision. If a stranger approaches your dog while he/she is tethered, this is a chance they will feel defensive and bite. If dogs approach your dog or campsite, your dog can become defensive in this case as well, so keep supervision constant.
6. Mat Training
Use a yoga mat at home and start working on a stay on the mat cue. Always reward your dog for staying on that mat. A detailed training plan that is incremental should be used and is something we teach in our classes www.bravodog.ca/manners If you have worked on this in a class or with a trainer then transfer from a bed to a yoga mat. They are durable and great for outside use.
I hope these tips will help you prepare and enjoy your upcoming camping trips with your dogs.