Guide to Camping With a Dog

Camping is one of our favourite summer activities. Even more so now that we can share the experience with Shiva. We’ve learned a few things over the last couple years – mostly what NOT to do – that help make the adventure more fun for us all. Since I am so kind, I thought I should dispense some of this knowledge and prevent others from learning it the hard way.

Please note, Shiva now has her own chair. She is very grateful to those who campaigned on her behalf.

1. Book Ahead

If you can, call. Our provincial parks have this nifty online reservation service but unless you know the park really well, you could end up with an open sight right next to the showers. What looks like an isolated, well-treed spot on the park map could actually be the least desirable site in the park. We have had great success asking for private sites with lots of trees. The extra space is great when you have a dog who barks at strangers.

2. Get as long a tie-out cable and as strong a stake as possible

I hate having to tie up my dog as it can create frustration and reactivity. But rules are rules. I don’t want to be the irresponsible owner whose dog runs wild through the park, ruining it for everyone else. Shiva’s line is about twenty feet long. I want to be sure she can get to all of the places in the campsite that we can so she doesn’t feel restrained. We also make sure to locate the stake far enough back to prevent her from reaching the road.  Expect to spend a lot of time untangling the line. Expect the tent to fall over at least once per hour.

Furthermore, it’s a good idea to make sure the ground in which you plant the stake is dry. Otherwise you end up with this:

And your dog on the road sniffing a miniature Schnauzer.

3. Stick to Your Dog’s Routine as Much as Possible

As we all know, routine is crucial to a dog’s sanity. Camping is incredibly stimulating for a dog that is used to living indoors in the city. There are hundreds of new smells and sounds and it can be difficult for a dog to adjust. If you normally walk your dog at a certain time of day, try to do the same when you are camping. Keep feeding times as similar as possible. Also, try to keep the rules the same. What you don’t allow at home, such as jumping on furniture or begging, don’t allow when you are camping.

4. Bring Along Familiar Objects

To go along with number three, I think it is crucial to bring along your dog’s favourite toys and blankets. If you have a crate or a dog bed that is suitable for the outdoors, bring those as well. You want to make sure your dog feels safe in such a brand new environment. Shiva has a very difficult time relaxing in new situations. She spends most of the time on high-alert. We try to help her with this by bringing her bed and creating a space for her to retreat if she feels overwhelmed.

5. Keep You Dog Busy – And Out of Trouble!

There is a lot to do when you first pull in to a campsite. There is the tent to set up, the firewood to chop, the air mattress to blow up. None of these activities are very dog-oriented. Because we like to get all the work done quickly so we can relax, the first forty-five minutes often leave Shiva to her own devices. A dangerous concept.

The Nina Otosson Pyramid is one of Shiva’s favourite toys. Because it is so loud on our laminate floors she doesn’t often get to play with it at home. It is perfect for camping and keeps her busy while we do other things. It also prevents her from freaking out at all the new distractions.

My PH is starting the campfire while Shiva is blissfully unaware there is something dangerous she can get into

6. Always Bring Extra Water

All campgrounds have water pumps available. But you never know how close they will be to your site. If your dog is anything like Shiva, he will probably knock over his water at every opportunity. It can be a pain to have to walk across the campground every twenty minutes.

Another thing you might want extras of: poop bags. It may just be our dog but Shiva gets into a whole bunch of disgusting things while sniffing the forest. The results aren’t always pretty.

7. Plan Activities For You and Your Dog to Enjoy

I am sure this can go without saying but so often I have seen dogs left alone at their campsites while their people are off visiting friends or having fun in town. It breaks my heart. We go camping to spend time outdoors doing something new. Having our dog with us adds to the fun. But if you are going to be too busy with friends or visiting dog-unfriendly attractions, it might be best to leave your dog at home or in a kennel. She will probably be much happier.

Did I leave anything out? If you have any camping tips you’d like to share, please feel free to add them in the comments!