CAMPING | 5 Essential Tips for Camping With Dogs

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If you are both a dog lover and a camper, or even if you have never taken your dog camping before and would like to, then this one is for you!

I’m Tiff, and along with my boyfriend Gareth and our two dogs Norman the Boxer cross, approx 3 years old, and Bobby the Collie, approx 1 year old, we have a love for everything outdoorsy, and can often be found either camping or floating down the River Avon or Severn on our river boat.

Our combined passions: camping (check out my blog, Outdoorsy Type) boating, walking, running, snowboarding (me), skiing (him indoors) photography, music, food and drink, travel, doggies.

Me with my doggy boys- Norman and Bobby, by our tent in a picturesque, quaint campsite adjacent to the River Severn. Me with my doggy boys- Norman and Bobby, by our tent in a picturesque, quaint campsite adjacent to the River Severn.

Gareth has a life-long experience with dogs having had various Labradors in the family since he can remember, and also co-running a dog rescue centre in Spain where he lived for six years. Me? Having always loved and had animals as pets, stepping over to the doggy-side happened properly about five years ago.

One of the things you sometimes don’t think about after taking the decision to combine your love of animals and need to do something good for the world, which in mine and Gareths case has turned out to be taking in dogs from rescue centres, and leaving us currently with two new four legged family members, is that, just like having a baby, you can sometimes be a little limited with what you can do in your leisure time.

If you’re an inside-dwelling, adventure and fresh air-adverse type of person, sitting in every night with your elderly Jack Russell may be fine, but if like me and Gareth you prefer to get out and about, and want to include your dog(s), you may find that camping is the perfect activity to please both you and your dog(s).

Whilst we love taking our boys camping, I will however be the first one to admit that outdoors activities, camping in particular, are not all sunshine and smiles when you factor one or more dogs into the equation. So whilst I will happily extol the virtues of camping with dogs, I will also cover some of the trickier aspects of camping with your pooch. New and seasoned dog owners alike will hopefully agree, that any negatives are out-weighed by the positives, as long as you plan and take into account the many various challenges that arise when camping with dogs.

Dog’s and The Outdoors are A Perfect Fit

I’ve always had dog envy over the years when camping. Seeing the way dogs always seem so over the top ecstatic, the fact they’re endlessly bounding around like idiots seeming ridiculously happy to be around their camping companions made me think, I’d love to have a doggy of my own some day to go camping, walking, and boating with. (To be honest, the main thing I wanted to do aside from helping some unwanted rescue dog was to stick a paisley bandana around their neck and rock around together. Looks so cute doesn’t it?) Where Gareth has had years of experience caravaning and camping with dogs as he was growing up, the whole outdoorsy thing with your dog lark was new to me before we got our first dog together as a couple.

So, three years ago when Gareth and I rescued our first dog, Norman the curious Boxer-Bulldog-Bull terrier mix, it came as a bit of a shock to realise you couldn’t just grab your camping gear and head off to your nearest camp site, without putting in some serious planning and preparation.

 When it comes to camping, you have to first and foremost have to be a responsible dog owner, which in turn makes you a considerate camper

Now we have our second dog child, Bobby the mad OTT Collie in tow as well, that “courteous and responsible dog owning camper” ethos couldn’t be more important. In all honesty, camping with your dog, or in our case dogs, can honestly be a bit testing at times – happy camping really does take teamwork and planning.

Tiff’s 5 Tips for Camping with Dogs

1.  The sound of a dog yapping and barking should not be a soundtrack to anyone’s weekend away camping!

If you can’t control your dog(s), and they’re not well behaved around people and animals, don’t take them. Camping in the evening and mornings especially should be about relaxing chill-out time. Sure it can be lively and a little loud sometimes in the day and early evening, but once it’s getting towards bedtime, be it 9:30 or 12:30, nobody wants to hear excessive barking from the mutt 6 tents down.

On our weekend away camping last weekend, there was one annoying dog we could hear on and off barking in the morning and evening Saturday and Sunday. We were saying to each other- what on earth is the owner doing not telling them to shut up? It would get on my nerves if my dogs barked too much, let alone other peoples nerves. Be thoughtful.

Now don’t think I’m one of those smug dog owners who has two perfectly behaved Crufts Obedience class winning dogs, not in the slightest. They both have their moments of having selective hearing, (Norman more so sometimes. It must be the stubborn Boxer genes inside him.)

The weekend gone when we went out on our boat and then set up our tent for one of the nights along the River Severn at a lovely campsite, Bobby the normally brilliant on recall Collie, embarrassed us no end by deciding on a walk to un-characteristically ignore us after telling him to come back when a more interesting poodle with its owner appeared on a walking trail. At least 6 yells and red angry faces later, he finally decided to remember his manners and come back.

That just goes to show that even the best behaved dog on a less then normal day, in unfamiliar surroundings, and a little over excited can be a bit of a handful. At least he wasn’t barking or being aggressive; he just wanted to play with the poodle and was doing his best to make the poodle feel exactly the same.

2. Aggressive dogs and camping do not mix

Know your dog. Use common sense and don’t let your dog wander up to other dogs or people off the lead if they’re known to be moody and snappy. I really can’t stress enough how there are only certain types of dogs that go well with camping, and that’s a dog with a good owner who has trained them to be polite.

Look mum and dad- we're sitting on our muddy paw towels like good boys. Messing about on the river.

Even if your dog isn’t aggressive, don’t let them wander up to other dogs out walking that are on a lead. Often owners don’t trust their dogs off lead for a reason, so just think; your dog may have harmless intentions, but the dog on the lead may be nervous and/or in training still, and at worse, aggressive with other dogs.

You must be able able to restrain your dog(s) in the presence of distractions if he/she is known to turn grumpy or aggressive. Make sure your dog also wears a collar with a name tag at all times, and of course it goes without saying they should be chipped, just in case anything should happen and they do spook and leg it off.

3. Bag and bin your dog’s pooh in the campsite and off-site!

Ok, so this is a general doggie rule and not specific to camping, but it’s one that I take very seriously. As a dog owner I curse that section of other anti-social dog owners who for some reason think it’s totally acceptable to leave their dogs mess all over pavements, walk ways, and trails. Showing this lack of responsibility and respect for other people really isn’t cool. I almost feel like I need to hold full bags aloft after I pick up after mine, just to show other walkers and joggers that some dog owners are responsible!

Of course, if your dog wanders deep into the undergrowth where you physically cannot get to pick up after them, fair enough, but remember, it’s not only pavements you should pick up from, it’s also fields and trails where lots of other people walk. Don’t ruin it for everyone else.

4. Do not over-feed your pooch

Do not throw your dogs lots of extra BBQ meat and other rich treats they usually wouldn’t have at home when camping. You will regret it in the morning when you spend the whole night wishing you’d brought a gas mask along, even if you would look like you were emerging from the trenches when you unzip the tent first thing.

When we take our dogs camping, or out on the boat, if anything, we feed them a bit less than what they have at home. When they get over excited or interested in their surroundings, and forget to go to the toilet when you walk them.

We feed Norman and Bobby mainly home cooked food with good quality biscuits. When we camp though, the brown rice, mince meat and carrots stay at home, and they get just biscuits with plenty of water (and yes ok, the odd piece of chicken sneaked under the fold away camping table, I admit it).

Staying as close to their usual diet and feeding routine as possible reduces smelly doggy-trumps and there is no mad rush to let them out to go to the toilet at impromptu times.

5. Take plenty of towels for muddy paws

This may sound trivial if you’ve never taken your dog camping before, but boy, you will thank me for suggesting this one if you hadn’t thought of it! Even if it’s a blazing hot July weekend camping (yeah right, what country am I writing this in again?) there will always be that stream or pond your lovable four legged child will find before you can even start to yell the word “Nooooo”.

We're being good mum, honest! Look mum and dad – we’re sitting on our muddy paw towels like good boys.

Even though they will come back soaking wet, doing that adorable panting doggy grin, they understand what all that fuss and noise is about from mum and dad, as you desperately try to herd them away from the tent and your bedding! To help with this, we always lay down at least two big towels in the entrance to our tent to mop up any unwanted wet invasions.

I hope some of these rules help you feel more confident to get your tent and dog and get out there into the country. Life’s too short to stick to the same boring walk day in day out with him/her. Our dogs have become even better mannered and socialised since taking them camping, so it’s defiantly a win win.

What are your experiences of camping with your dog? Do you have any additional tips to share? If so, we’d love to hear from you – leave a comment below!

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