happy camping dog

Dog Training Tips for Happy Camping Trips

This is a guest blog post by Jenny Schneider from OnDog Training Academy.

Thinking about bringing your pup on your next adventure?  With careful preparation, you can ensure both you and your dog have a great experience! 

Health & Safety Considerations

The safety and well-being of your dog should be your top priority.  

  • Destination Conditions:  Know the environmental conditions of your destination and route.
  • Check the weather… Is it appropriate for your dog?
  • Know what plants and animals to avoid (snakes, cactus, etc.)
  • Consider changes in elevation (can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, dehydration)
  • Veterinarians and Vaccinations:  Schedule a vet appointment 7-10 days prior to ensure they are in good health and up to date on vaccinations.
  • Chart your route with the nearest emergency vet hospitals 
  • Consult local veterinarians for additional vaccination recommendations  (eg. dog flu, yellow fever) and preventatives (eg. Heartworm, Nexgard) 
  • First Aid Kit and Medications:  Create or purchase a first aid kit specifically for dogs, especially if you'll be away from stores.
  • Anticipate potential emergencies such as animal encounters (eg. bear spray, pliers for porcupine quills) or a fractured leg (eg. splint, muzzle)
  • Include medications (eg. antidiarrheal, antiseptic, hydrogen peroxide) 

Socialization & Conditioning

Reduce discomfort and fearfulness by familiarizing your dog with the activities and situations they'll encounter well in advance.

  • Confident Exploration:  Socialization goes beyond meeting people or dogs; it's getting them comfortable with the world through safe, positive exposures.
  • Gently encourage your dog to explore new things on a regular basis
  • Keep your sessions short and sweet with lots of yummy treats
  • Gradually introduce them to things that may be a little scary (eg. unsteady surfaces, loud noises, moving objects)
  • Desensitizing Triggers:  If certain things unsettle your dog, try to avoid them until you're able to actively work on getting them comfortable with it.
  • Gain support to work your dog through their fears with systematic desensitization and counter conditioning 
  • Consider possible encounters on your trip; if they're too prevalent, leave your dog behind until they are better prepared
  • Avoid rushing the process beyond what they can handle
  • Environment Familiarity:  Provide safe exposures to various elements of your trip (eg. bonfire, boat, tent, woods) well before you bring them along.
  • Introduce one new thing at a time so they don't get overstimulated
  • Provide one element of difficulty before moving to the next (eg. boat on dry land before being in the water)

Basic Manners & Obedience

Proactively train your dog what you want them to do and what behaviors to avoid. 

  • Recalls ("Come"):  This potentially lifesaving skill is crucial for them to learn regardless of leash laws. 
  • Practice getting your dog to come to you regularly for yummy treats
  • Do frequent check-ins to ensure they stay in your sight
  • Monitor entrances to prevent accidental escapes; use gates and teach them to wait to be released before being allowed to pass through
  • Leash Etiquette:  Ensure your dog is comfortable on a leash (and with the collar/harness you're using) before you even pack your bags.
  • Teach them to walk without pulling; consider a headcollar or anti-pull harness to reduce their strength
  • Always get permission before approaching other dogs/people, and expect the same from others
  • Provide identification with cell number and check the fit; they should be tight enough to prevent them from slipping out of it 
  • "Leave It":  Be certain to teach your dog that when you tell them to leave something alone, it means they can't ever have it or move toward it.
  • Use under your full supervision to prevent your dog from getting into something dangerous before you can intervene 
  • Practice this skill regularly at home and everywhere you go
  • Never allow them to get the item you told them to leave alone; pick it up and give them a treat from your hand instead

Environment Setup & Management

Creating your temporary home environment just takes a little forethought 

  • Crate/Kennel:  Giving your dog a safe space to be in while you're traveling or going out to dinner is the best thing you can do for them (and your neighbors).
  • Regularly practice crate training at home and in vehicles to keep them accustomed to it lifelong
  • Soft-sided crates are convenient, but not if your dog will attempt to escape - make sure they can handle it first
  • Keep the crate away from windows and cover it if there are no blinds
  • Outdoor Containment & Boundaries:  Levels of containment vary… ensure the progression of freedom you allow your dog is a very slow process.
  • Keep your dog on-leash, especially if they are young or new to camping
  • Consider using an exercise pen to create a safe space (eg. remove debris)
  • Some set up a rope system (never leave them unattended/unsupervised)
  • Only those trained in advanced obedience should consider using an electronic collar and/or going off leash 
  • Comforts of Home:  Traveling with familiar items from home can provide comfort and maintain normalcy amongst changing environments.
  • Pack plenty of their regular food, bowls, puzzle toys, chews, bones, etc.
  • Bring their favorite toy and/or blanket (unwashed so it smells like home)
  • Remember training essentials (eg. traffic lead, water bottle, treat bag)
  • Consider bringing their dog bed and/or raised cot for them to relax on

Practice Runs & Routines

Prepare for your trip well in advance to have time to practice skills, gradually expose them to things they may encounter, and help them adapt to routine changes.

  • Gradual Exposures:  Don't expect immediate acceptance of everything… take your time to ease them into new experiences, one at a time.
  • If canoeing/boating, get them comfortable wearing a life jacket 
  • Set your tent/camper up at home a few times so they can explore it
  • Have bonfires and keep them on a leash so they maintain a safe distance
  • Consistent-ish Routines:  Consistency is important, but they can become more adaptable with slight variations in their daily schedule.
  • Vary feeding times and locations occasionally so they'll accept changes
  • Take them on a short car ride periodically (safest is a sturdy metal crate)
  • Diversify their exercise so they don't depend on something that's not feasible during your trip (eg. 6 mile run every day)

Understanding what your dog can realistically handle and taking proactive measures to prepare beforehand can increase your chances of a happy camping trip! 

If you're interested in learning more about consistency in dog training, we welcome you to check out our free mini-training, "The 3 components of training your dog to be well-behaved through consistency" where we cover:

  • Gaining the confidence to know What to Do AND When
  • The #1 way to get your dog to Listen to You
  • How to continue consistency around Other People

  Click here to learn more!

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