There’s simply nothing like camping. The air is fresh. Your senses are stimulated by the smells of campfire smoke and toasted marshmallows, the sounds of crickets singing and bullfrogs croaking, and the sights of an endless starry sky and dancing fireflies.
Yes, there’s nothing like a good old camp site, but it’s certainly different from home sweet home – especially if you’re a puppy on your first camping trip.
I remember my dog Heidi’s first camping trip. She wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when my family and I packed up the tent, cooler, and sleeping bags for a weekend out in the great outdoors, and she really didn’t know what to do with the air mattresses after they were inflated.
But how do you bring home to the outdoors?
You’ll be happy to know that it’s much easier than you think. Dogs naturally enjoy being outside to begin with, so it really just boils down to having some basic comfort items and general necessities.
Puppy's First Campsite: Bringing Home to the Outdoors
If you're like me, you enjoy getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and settling in to a campsite in the woods. It's quiet, you can hear the birds chirping, and it's quite possibly one of the most relaxing vacations you'll ever take. You can really get in touch with nature by swimming in a fresh body of water, hiking, and taking nature walks.
Your dog will really enjoy camping too! Dogs love nature. It's their natural instinct to want to romp and play in the great outdoors. But our domesticated dogs aren't quite as tough as wild dogs. Companion dogs still long for some of the creature comforts of home, and it's up to you to make sure they are comfortable and safe while camping.
What to Pack
You'll have a lengthy packing list of your own if you're heading out into the wilderness for more than a day or two, but your dog will need his own supplies. You'll think of most of the common sense items yourself, but you can never be too prepared. Making a list beforehand and sticking to it while packing is the best way to ensure that you have all your pet's necessities.
It’s just as important to keep your dog hydrated as it is to keep yourself hydrated. Make sure your cooler is fully stocked with enough water for everyone on the trip, including your dog.
Using standing outdoor water from ponds or lakes is not a good substitute for fresh water. Standing water may contain bacteria that could make your dog ill.
Whether your dog eats kibble or wet food from a can, don’t forget to pack it! It seems like commonsense, but you’d be surprised how easy it can be to forget the most basic of necessities when you’re not used to having a furry friend along on your camping trip. After your dog has finished feasting, always put his dog food away unless you want to attract some other critters!
You’ll need something to serve your dog’s water and food in. You can choose to bring your dog’s actual bowls or opt to use some other type of containers. Some people like to use disposable bowls while camping so they don't have to worry about lugging around their dog's heavy duty bowls from home.
You may also want to invest in a set of travel dog bowls if you're going to be camping or traveling with your dog on a regular basis. Most of these bowls collapse into flat objects that are much easier to pack and store while not in use. They are also usually very easy to clean, since you'll probably be rinsing them out in a lake or stream.
Who doesn’t love comfort food? Dogs are no different when it comes to a comforting snack, and besides, if you’re going to be chowing down on s’mores, you can bet your bottom dollar your dog’s going to want a treat too!
Treats may also come in handy when trying to coax your dog into doing something they may be nervous about, like riding on a boat or climbing in a tent. Dog treats don't take up a lot of room and they aren't heavy, so even if you don't use them, it's not a large inconvenience to carry them along.
A favorite toy, blanket, or any other comfort item can do wonders to calm a nervous dog. The familiarity of the object will ease your dog’s mind and remind them of home. If you accidentally forget a comfort item, a T-shirt you’ve already worn could do the trick because of the familiar scent.
There are also dog beds specifically made for outdoor use if you're planning on taking your pet camping often. These beds usually have more stuffing to keep your pet up off the ground and typically the bottom of the bed is waterproof so the damp ground doesn't effect your pet's comfort.
There are many different arguments about which is better and safer for dogs: bones or rawhides. Whichever side you agree with, bring that particular chewing object along on the trip. Dogs tend to chew when nervous or bored, and the last thing you want your dog chewing on is your tent posts or air mattresses!
If you haven’t noticed by now, having your dog along for a camping trip is similar to going somewhere with a baby because you basically bring your entire house with you to make sure they stay happy. It’s worth it every time though, trust me.
Okay, so now you’re at the campsite. Everything is all set up, and you’re all settled in. Look around you. Do you see all the doggie dangers in your campsite alone? The fire pit. The lighter fluid. The marshmallow roasting sticks. Now take a look at the dangers beyond your little campsite. Neighboring dogs. Passing vehicles. The lake. They’re all potential culprits to injuring your dog.
So how do you keep your dog as safe at the campsite as you do at home? After all, we’re trying to make the outdoors as homey as possible. You’ll be happy to know that this is easy to do as well. All you have to do is pair some commonsense with a few simple tools.
Let’s start with the center of every camping trip: the camp fire. Never allow your dog near the fire pit, even if there is no fire going. Dogs are curious animals, and a ring full of ash can be quite intriguing. In order to keep your dog from accessing the fire pit, use a leash to tie him up at a safe distance away. Don’t tie your dog so far away that he feels left out or can’t see you. This will cause your dog to panic.
If you use lighter fluid to get your fire going, always keep your dog away from it. He could accidentally knock the container over, causing lighter fluid to flow everywhere and create a hazardous flammable area, or worse, your dog could ingest the fluid and be poisoned.
Even those marshmallow roasting sticks can cause some serious damage to your dog if not stored properly. It’s imperative that you cover the pointed ends of your roasting stick and store it in a place where your dog can't get to it when you’re done making s’mores. Failure to do so can result in your dog running into the stick and accidentally getting stabbed in the eye or nose.
One of the biggest precautions you need to take in the campground is being aware of your surroundings. Neighboring dogs can make great playmates, but unruly, untrained dogs can cause some issues. Always know where your dog is and keep an eye on neighboring dogs if you notice they’re misbehaving. If all else fails, discuss your concerns with the park ranger.
Although people are supposed to be driving at a slow speed through a campground, not everyone follows the speed limit signs. Keep your dog on a leash whenever possible in order to keep him out of harm’s way.
Many campgrounds have some body of water nearby, and whether it’s a lake or a river, you need to make sure your dog is properly equipped. If you plan to go swimming or boating with your dog, make sure he has a life jacket. You can find life jackets made especially for dogs at some pet and sporting goods stores. They come in a variety of sizes and are reasonably priced, but you really can’t put a price on safety, now can you?
Bringing home to the outdoors is all about familiarity and safety. As I said earlier, dogs naturally enjoy the outdoors, so making them feel at home is surprisingly easy. With a few key dog supplies and a little common sense, your dog will be happy and safe during your camping adventure.
See you around the campground!