We went camping with the dogs last weekend.
In our backyard. Why would we sleep on the ground in our yard when our comfy beds were just steps away? Here’s why: we wanted to see how the dogs would do with the whole camping scene before we were actually camping. It’s better to find out how the dogs are going to do while we’re still close enough to, well, go inside and sleep in our own beds if the whole thing falls apart.
We have a 10-man tent.
Not because we’re going to be camping with eight other people, but because we have four dogs. Many years ago, when we had only two dogs, we found out that a 4-man tent was tight for two people and two dogs. So when looking for a replacement tent, we went big — really big.
As you can see, even with a 10-man tent, when you have people beds and dog beds, space gets eaten up pretty quickly. We’d need every inch of that tent if we were really camping and needed to store our supplies in the tent with us.
Things to think about when camping with your dogs.
- Barking. Can your dogs be quiet at night? Or will they bark at any rustle, laugh, or truck backfire from somewhere else at the campsite? Turns out Schooner was a bit barky the first night, but settled down quickly for night two.
- Sleeping. Where are your dogs used to sleeping? Ours sometimes sleep with us in the bed. Which means they’re likely to sleep on your sleeping bag in the tent. It was ok with us, but it was a bit difficult to have four dogs sleeping on the sleeping bags and still have enough room to move. Sleeping bags are a bit smaller than a regular bed and we were feeling a little cramped until we convinced the dogs to lie in their beds.
- Friendliness. If you’re camping in a campground, it’s essential that your dogs are dog- and people-friendly. Quarters can be close, people can be chatty and want to be friends with your dogs. If your dog isn’t friendly, save him the stress of camping and find a friend to keep him for you while you camp.
- Outdoorsy. The Labradors loved camping. Schooner, the Great Dane, looked a bit bewildered. If given the opportunity, I think Schoons would have happily slept both nights inside while we did our camping experiment in the backyard.
- Weather. I know, you don’t have any control over the weather. But you will have a general idea of forecasted highs and lows, and the chance of precipitation. If it’s going to be hot, and your dog hates the heat, leave him home with a friend. We knew it was going to get chilly at night, so we brought the dog beds out, along with covers for the dogs. They all needed covers the first night when it got down to 40°F. Even we were cold and we were dressed for cold weather.
- Activities. If you know you’re going to be doing strenuous hiking and you have an elderly, arthritic, or sedentary dog, you may want to leave your dog at home with a friend. Tango, my yellow Labrador, has a bum elbow and he’s not happy walking or hiking more than about 1.5 miles at a time.
- Supplies. Bring plenty of food, probably a little more than your dog usually eats, if you’re going to be more active during the day than what your dog is used to. Clean, fresh water is essential — you don’t want your dog to drink out of puddles, ponds, or streams due to parasites and all kinds of nasties. Carry water with you — with a bowl — to hydrate both you and your dog on your hikes and walks around your camping site.
Play nice with other campers.
Rules to follow:
- Keep your dog on leash all the time. Period. End of story. Loose dogs aren’t fun anywhere, least of all in a campsite where they could run into tents, steal food, and wreak havoc throughout the campsite. If they chase wildlife, your dog could be lost in an unknown environment — gone forever.
- Barking is a no-no. If your dog is a barker, be considerate and leave your dog at home. No one needs to hear a doggie serenade at 3a.
- Pick up the poop! Yes, even in the woods! Yes, even though no one picks up after the deer, raccoons, squirrels, etc. You are a guest in the forest. Be a good one and pick up the poop!
Take a test run.
If you’re not sure how your dog will do, do what we did and camp in your backyard. It was fun for us, got the dogs used to the tent, and if things went haywire, we could walk a few steps and fall into our own comfortable bed!