RVing/Camping with Your Dog
by Ben Watson
Unsure as to whether or not you should take Sam along on the family camping trip? Does he sit there and look at you with those puppy dog eyes as you load the cooler and tent into the back of your pickup? The experience can be an incredibly enjoyable one for you, your pet and your camping neighbors, if just a few tips are followed . . .
Keep Sam on a leash at all times, even on your campsite. Virtually every campground requires this. It's a necessary rule to ensure the safety of your pet as well as the safety of other pets and campers. Even the best trained pet might be inclined to ignore your command of "stay" when he bounds out of the car and is inundated with new sights, smells and sounds. See it from Sam's point of view: The cute little boy next door has a ball in his hand, the site across the street has a cat, the man walking by has a juicy hamburger in his hand, it's like putting a kid in a toy store and telling him to stay by the door.
Leashes should be kept to under six feet when walking the campground. Sam might be the most docile, adorable puppy ever, but there are lots of people out there who are afraid of dogs - no matter their size or breed. I have seen grown men cross a street to avoid a poodle. A short leash assures other pedestrians, and other pet owners, that you have control over your pet. And by the way, putting a leash on him only to let it drag on the ground, is cheating.
Lady shouldn't be left alone on the campsite if she's going to bark. Squirrels foraging, kids on bikes, campers laughing and joking as they pass by, Lady will see, hear and smell them all. She will have to warn them not to step one toe, or paw, on her turf. Barking will ensue. She will get hopelessly tangled. Her waterbowl will tip over. She will be miserable. Your neighbors will be miserable. Most pets are much happier if left inside the camper or tent with music on low to mute outside noises. Bring all your pets favorite things such as their kennel or blanket to help them relax. If you take Lady camping from the time she's small, she can be trained not to bark excessively. But be warned, those breeds that are most territory-oriented may have a hard time accomplishing this. If your pet is one of these, and you have some "no pets allowed" day trips planned, don't worry. Most campgrounds are more than happy to pass along the name of a local doggie day care. Or try asking for the name of a teenager who might be willing to dog sit. Lady will be much happier, and so will the napping neighbor the next site over.
Don't let Max swim in the beach area. Sometimes I think my yellow lab would prefer to swim than eat. He would doggie paddle his way to China if I let him. Yet, nearly every campground has a "no dogs on the beach" policy that must be maintained in order to comply with health codes. Loose pets tend to go to the bathroom whenever they please. This is a very bad combination, because if the health code is compromised, the waterfront could be shut down. You wouldn't want Max to be the cause of closing a beach on a 100 degree day in the middle of July, would you?
Don't be afraid to ask if there's a place where Max can take a dip. In one of our favorite campgrounds, there's a small area out of sight of the beach where our pet can jump in and cool off. He's out of sight from the kids playing Marco Polo, so he's less apt to be distracted. He can shake to his heart's content without everyone within a one hundred foot radius ducking for cover. Keep in mind though, that you should still keep a very long leash on Max so you can maintain control at all times. He might forget to bring back the stick in favor of chasing a frog or a duck. Swimming is an excellent way to give Max the exercise he needs. The theory is, tire them out so they're calmer back on the campsite. Yet, if the campground says no swimming at any time, please honor their request and find an alternate way for Max to use his excess energy.
Make sure everyone in your family is ready and willing to pick up after Bear; yes, even that. Taking a pet out of their normal living arrangement, means their schedule might go awry. You can't rely on the knowledge that Bear has always done his duty at 8am right after breakfast and then again at 7pm after supper. Everyone, even the children, must be prepared when they take him for a walk. Or, they shouldn't walk Bear alone. In our camper, there's a bin of plastic shopping bags by the camper door (baggies work well too). They're easy to use; you put your hand in the bag to pick the mess up, turn the bag inside out, tie it and drop it in the nearest trash can.
So the next time Bear looks at you, whining to be included, open the car door wide and invite him along. If you are prepared with the essentials, and are willing to spend some of your camping time training, you'll have many happy years camping together as a family.
About the Author: Ben Watson is a lifelong outdoorsman that has enjoyed all types of camping from survival excursions to luxury RVing. He currently maintains The Webs Best Camping Guide