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Camping with your Dog

Dog Tents Out in the Field

On this page we've compiled some basic but, hopefully, useful guides to help you with your canine camping adventures. We've listed some preparations and precautions in relevant articles that you may wish to consider for both before and during you and your dog's travels.

To the Articles:

Tent-Trained or Crate-Compatible

Tips and advice for a content confined K9

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Dog Gone!

What steps to take when your dog gets lost

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Before You Go...

Things to consider before your first K9 camping trip

Tent Trained or Crate Compatiblecrate trained

As you’ve probably guessed, we read through a lot of reviews in order to find the best crates and tents available for dogs. In many of the negative reviews we come across, a common theme seems to emerge. It goes something like this: “My dog chewed right through the side and was out in 10 minutes!” But this will not always necessarily be the fault of a poorly made product. We suspect that quite often it will be the result of a poorly trained dog, or of a dog that should never have been enclosed in the first place!  In view of this we’ve created this little guide for newbies on how to best crate or tent-train their pet.

If you are going to go camping with your dog in the future and the plan is for him to have his own tent or crate on site for the first time, now is the time to get him used to it at home. It may seem premature, but the more time you have in advance to get him used to his portable shelter the better. The goal is to get him as comfortable and as content inside its confines as possible. He should be as familiar and as used to his new camping quarters as he is with his own bed or blanket. If this can be achieved it is much more likely that, when finally out in unfamiliar territory, he’ll remain happy, and staying inside his tent will be second nature to him. As mentioned before, this all may take some time, but it is time worth spending. The last thing your dog deserves is to feel like a punished prisoner when inside his tent or crate.

Having said all of the above, please bear in mind that some dogs will never be happy when enclosed: some will always become disgruntled and a few will always panic when confined. Those that suffer from 'Separation Anxiety' or weak bladders or bowels should not even be considered for occupying sealed tents or crates for any length of time. Just as with us humans, dogs come with widely differing traits and tolerances. This is another good reason to try your dog out early in controlled conditions at home.

If you find the tips below just don’t help with your own unique pet then you might want to reconsider your plans. Maybe your dog would be better off sharing a big family tent with you. Or, just possibly, it might not be a good idea to take him along on a camping trip at all. You know your own dog better than anyone. Be fair to him and be realistic about his attitudes.

The Process...

  • The Right Tent/Crate: That’s why we’re here! As you may have already seen there are many dog tents and crates available. It is essential that you first find the best one for you and your dog’s needs. Size and strength are very important things to consider along with portability and purpose. Take your time and consider carefully which would be the most appropriate tent or crate to purchase.

  • Comfort: Make your chosen tent or crate as comfortable as possible for your pet. An extra soft blanket (especially the dog's own) is a good thing to install in order to consolidate any padding that might already exist within a soft crate, whilst larger tents can usually incorporate the dog’s own bed.

  • Familiarity: Days before the real training begins, if possible, leave the assembled tent or crate in a family room – out of the way but evident. Leave its entrance open but don’t try to cajole your dog inside just yet (but don’t dissuade him either if he takes an interest). Just let the tent become part of the furniture; let it absorb the familiar scents of the living space that your dog will know so very well. Discreetly inserting one of your pet’s favorite toys and/or an old item of your own worn clothing will accelerate this process further still.

  • Tempting: After several days of familiarity it’s time to step up a gear: food! Still remaining covert, occasionally pop a few of your dog’s favorite treats in and around the structure. You should find that after several days of this your dog becomes much more interested in the strange new object in the corner of the room! At this stage you might leave the odd bigger prize to be found inside by a discerning wet nose! Hopefully, as this process continues, your dog will learn to love the friendly tent or crate, visiting it more and more often and, with a little luck, choosing to stay inside even when no treats are to be found!

  • Dinner Time: Even though on a camping trip your dog may well be having his dinner al fresco, serving your dog’s dinner in or at the threshold of his tent or crate whilst still at home is another step forward and reinforces the previous two points. By this time with, hopefully, secretive acts on your part no longer required, serve his dinner to him inside his new home. If he isn’t comfortable with that just yet, serve it at the entrance and move it a little further inside each day. Once he’s confident enough to do this it will be time for his next big test…

  • On Command: Now it’s time for your dog to go to his nice new home on cue. Get plenty of small treats at the ready and escort your dog to near the shelter. Pick a simple phrase such as “tent time!” and stick with it, using the same tone of voice on each occasion you say it. Show your dog a treat and throw it into the tent or crate, uttering your preferred phrase as you do so. Presuming he’s happy enough to go inside and eat it, praise him enthusiastically whilst he’s still inside and give him another little treat. (You may need to incorporate a ‘stay’ command into the routine which should also be rewarded with a treat if this order is new to him.) Repeat this process several times until you know your dog’s cracked the code.

  • Change the Routine: After a well-earned break (for both of you!) it’s time to go back and repeat the process again. Duplicate the above routine once or twice more to get back into the swing of things before then altering the system slightly. When you feel confident, still use the phrase you used beforehand but this time don’t provide a treat. If your dog still enters his shelter without a bribe then do praise him thoroughly as usual and do give him his reward. He may struggle at first with this slight change in the order of things, but with enough repetition he should soon get the hang of it. If he doesn’t grasp it right away, try going back a stage for a couple more times before trying the new routine again. Once he enters his new domain constantly just on your voice command he’ll be qualified to take the really big tests!

  • Closing the Door: After another suitable break, repeat the new routine above a couple more times but then add the extra action of partially closing the door when your dog is still inside. Pass him an even bigger treat through the now smaller opening and don’t forget to keep piling on the praise as you do so. Repeat this as you did the routines before, each time closing the opening up a little further. Eventually close the door completely – just for a brief moment – before opening up and giving lots of praise and treats. Do this several more times and then take another well-earned rest.

  • Stretching the Time: Start with the routine above and get to the point where the door can be fully closed again. After you’ve achieved this it’s time to repeat but with the opening closed for a little longer – but only for around five to ten seconds at first. On the next repetition try for a little longer still. But then on the attempt after that, a little less time. The idea is to reassure your dog that the door will open again – sometimes it will reopen more slowly than on other occasions, but it will always eventually open. Repeat this routine over and over again, inserting comparatively short periods between the longer waiting times but always slowly building up the overall average. And don’t forget to shower praise and gifts upon your dog on each successful attempt. As the average time lengthens, and if all is still going well, try then to move away from the tent or crate a little when the dog's inside. Move a little further away still on subsequent attempts before then leaving the room altogether on a few occasions. But don’t be too ambitious as far as the length of time goes in this challenge: aim to build up to a minute or so at the most and then finish for the day.

  • Final Stage: The routine above can be repeated over the following days and more minutes gradually added to the time your dog spends enclosed. As the times get longer try to reduce the number of treats on offer and start adding toys and chews to the equation. Be patient and slowly build up the timings without any big jumps. If your dog can eventually achieve an hour without too much fuss then the battle is, more or less, won. On a camping trip you’ll have some extra advantages that you don’t have at home. It’s likely that you and dog will spend long days together, only separating into your individual tents at night. By this time your pet’s tiredness may well work in your favor and he’ll only be too glad to spend a sleepy night in his cosy portable home. Also, presumably, your tents will be pitched close together. This will lead to extra reassurance for your dog whose knowing nose will sense that you’re nearby.

As stated at the top of this article, we can’t guarantee that this approach will work for every dog – some will never be content when confined. Be patient, try your best, but if it’s not working don’t try and force it to. And never blame your pet for any reluctance on his part – it’s just his way!

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Dog Gone!lost dog camping

It's a horrible feeling when your faithful four-legged friend goes AWOL. It's bad enough when he absconds from the family home, but on a camping trip things can get even more complicated due to a lack of familiarity with the local area - for dog and owner alike! Here's a quick list of precautions to make and, also, actions to take if the worst should still happen...


Precautions

  • Phone: Remember to take your cell phone with you (charged and paid up). It will be your most valuable asset in any emergency. If your dog happens to go missing in the middle of nowhere your phone can keep you connected and updated as your search for him progresses.

  • I.D.:  If you do nothing else before you go camping with your K9, ensure that he’s wearing a good quality collar with his name and your contact details upon it. Be sure to include your cell phone number also (see above).

  • Picture: If you haven’t already got a picture of your pet on the phone then add one before you go. A picture speaks a thousand words and anybody you may encounter during a search can be quickly shown a solid image of your dog, rather than listening to a possibly vague and frantic description of him. They are more likely to remember if they’ve already seen him, or come across him in the near future.

  • Chip: If you have yet to get your dog ‘chipped’ do it before you go. This adds another safety net if your dog gets himself lost. It offers another chance of him being identified when found and will provide you with a little extra peace of mind if your search proves fruitless. 

  • G.P.S. Collar: These range in size, price and in the services they provide, but they can be a very helpful tool for finding your absent hound quickly via your smartphone. There are many such devices available out on the market. Shop around and see if the extra expense might be worthwhile.

Actions

  • Don’t Panic: This might be easier said than done, but the calmer you can keep the more methodical and meticulous your ensuing search will become. The quicker you begin your hunt the better, but try not to turn into a headless chicken, running this way and that. Take a deep breath and try to remain systematic.

  • A Quick Scan: Do the obvious first: turn around and scan the near and far distance and, even you can’t see your dog, call his name in various directions; if you’re at your camp, briefly check inside both your and, if he has one, your dog’s tent; and if you are camping with others, alert them to the situation and have them prepare for a wider search. Also, if you’re on a dedicated campsite, try to contact the manager and/or staff and inform them of the problem.

  • Before Searching: Before you (and any other helpers) head off to search other areas, try to take these things with you: your cell phone (be sure it’s switched on!); your dog’s favorite treats and/or food – if either are in packaging that has a distinctive rustle or rattle that your dog will recognise that’s even better; if your dog has one, his favorite squeaky toy; and, last but by no means least, his leash!

  • Beginning the wider Search Alone: If you are on your own try and assess the most likely direction that your dog wandered in. Ask yourself – had he previously encountered other dogs or animals nearby? Or was there a particular location that he seemed intrigued with on your travels? If so, try this area first. If not, try and glean a clue by the local geography. Where is it easier for a dog to roam? And where would it be impossible for him to go? As soon as you’ve picked your best guess, set off in that direction briskly. Keep calling out his name and any other words and phrases that he might recognise and that might appeal to him. Do this in conjunction with occasional rustles and rattles of his treats or squeaks from his toy if possible. Try and do all this in a calm way. Don’t let any anger into your voice: it may make the dog wary of returning to your side. If you are not successful on your first attempt return back to where you started and begin again in a new direction. Remember to keep a note of where you have and haven’t been and search systematically. Also, remember if you have a picture of your dog with you, show it to anybody you may come across on your search – the more eyes the better!

  • A Search with Others: If you are fortunate to have a team at your disposal this, obviously, helps a great deal. Multiple targets can be organised at the outset and searched at the same time and a bigger perimeter explored. That which applied to the single searcher should apply to as many of the team as possible – make sure they take their phones and share out the dog treats!

  • Don’t Despair: Hopefully your absentee hound will be back with you in no time. But if you’re unable to find your dog quickly don’t despair. As you probably know, dogs are resourceful and blessed creatures. They have remarkable senses and are capable of extraordinary feats of navigation. If you’ve carried out an exhaustive search and had no luck, return to your campsite and wait there with dog food at the ready. You may find your pet already there, or he may return later on his own accord when his belly needs filling! If he doesn’t you should still have hope. If you’ve followed some or all of the suggestions in the ‘precautions’ section above there’s still a good chance he’ll be found, identified and, eventually, returned to you.

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Before You Go...dog found camping

We've put together a short, basic checklist below of important things to remember before leaving your home with your four-legged friend and heading off into the wilderness. We've tried to cover the most important aspects but nobody knows your dog like you do and what extra requirements he or she may need or appreciate. Plan carefully beforehand so you can relax on the road and enjoy your destination more!


Preparations

dog camping precautions

Better safe than sorry goes the old idiom and this is certainly true when planning a camping trip with your dog. This is going to be a great big adventure for your furry friend; he’s going to plunge into the alien surroundings and is likely to be very excited by a new world that urgently needs to be scratched and sniffed! He may be the fittest, most well-behaved hound in the world when at home, but predictability and obedience cannot be guaranteed out in the great green beyond. Here’s a list of preparations and precautions to take before his adventure begins. They give both protection for your dog and peace of mind for you, his owner.

  • Vets: Make sure you have your vet’s phone number and, if you’re going further afield, make sure you have a copy of your dog’s medical records and the number of a local vet there. You’re unlikely to need them but emergencies do happen and, of course, it’s best to be prepared. A health check for your dog before you go might also be a good idea.

  • Identification: Make sure your dog wears a good collar with his name and your name and address details clearly shown along with your cell phone number. Also, if your dog has not yet been chipped, now is the time to do it!

  • Ticks and Fleas: Prevention is better than cure but make sure you prepare for both. Good quality treatments are widely available and so don’t let little things like ticks and fleas spoil your dog’s camping experience.

  • First Aid: You should be taking along a basic first aid kit for yourself already. You just need to expand its inventory a little for your pet. Include extra bandages, gauze and antiseptic as well as a blanket, gloves, tweezers and 'dog' aspirin. Alternatively, you can find a good basic dog first aid kit on our Dog Tent Extras page.

  • Equipment: If you are taking a dog tent with you on your travels get your hound accustomed to it before you leave (see the 'Tent-Trained and Crate-Compatible' article on this page). Make sure he knows it’s his and that he’s comfortable within its confines. Before you go, if possible, try a test run or two out in the yard. Also, as well as making sure that the tent is up to the task, make sure that the dog’s leash and collar are also in good condition. It might also be worth taking a good stake and mallet along with you for securely anchoring your dog’s leash or tether to the ground for occasions when you have your back turned.

Essential Extras

dog camping essentials

You should know the essential things you need for a smooth and successful camping experience on your own, but when you take your dog along with you, obviously, you are going to need a few extra bits and pieces. These are mainly things your hound would need at home but it is easy to overlook some other items. Here’s what we suggest…

  • Dog Food: Yes, an obvious one but make sure you take plenty along and make sure it’s of a type that agrees with your dog’s stomach! Don’t experiment with a brand new brand of dog food on a camping trip! Also, take along some of his favorite treats to reward his good behaviour with, and to keep him loyal and out of any possible mischief!
  • Lots of Water: Don’t underestimate how much water your dog needs to keep hydrated. It’s better to take too much than too little. Don’t be tempted to allow him to drink from potentially bug-infested natural sources such as rivers. Lots of clean, safe bottled water is the key.
  • Bowls: Suitable bowls and containers for both of the above. There are lots of collapsible products out there for this very purpose that save both space and weight. (See the Dog Tent Extras page.)
  • Dog Bed: If your dog is happy in his own comfortable dog tent then this is not required. If not, however, then the bed he uses at home will help with his transition into the outside world. An object with which he his familiar, with its smell and feel, will make him more at ease – especially if he is of a nervous disposition. (A couple of his favorite toys might also have a helpful effect.)  If his bed isn’t designed for the outside make sure you insulate it from the ground with plastic sheeting.
  • Dog Waste Bags: It’s an absolute must that you clean up after your pet. As with any other aspect of camping you should endeavour to leave your site in the same condition that you found it. Show your consideration and be sure to bring plenty of bags and a scoop with you.

Tips for Travel

dog journey plan

If you and your friend are going on a long journey to your preferred camping area, have a basic travel plan in mind that would suit both you and your companion – especially if the latter gets carsick! Some dogs are more relaxed than others when it comes to car travel. Consider a dog crate if you feel it might help with a restless hound. Here are a few other suggestions for when you’re out on the road…

  • Breaks: Take regular breaks and give your dog a chance to escape the confines of the car or his crate and stretch his legs. On long journeys these little rest ups can also serve as bathroom breaks and feeding/drinking times for him and generally make him feel more comfortable and relaxed.

  • Air: We all know of the sin of leaving a dog alone in a car on a hot day, but even when you’re with him and driving along, be sure to crank a window open to circulate some cooling fresh air about the vehicle: your dog will appreciate it! A good vent is another option.

  • Water: As mentioned before, fluid intake is an important factor for a dog on a long journey. Be sure that you pet doesn’t become dehydrated in his fur coat – especially in hot and/or humid conditions. Be sure to have plenty of water available for him as well as a bowl.

We hope that this brief guide has been of some use to you. We also hope that your journey is a good one and that you and your dog have a great experience out in the country when you arrive!

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