I think Rob and I have been talking about going camping since we first met over 7 years ago. Then we got busy, adopted a dog, then a cat, then another dog, then another dog… So, the thought of going camping (for me at least) just got less and less exciting and became more of an effort. This is mainly because we would, of course, want to take the dogs with us.
I imagine a lot of people go camping with their dog all the time without issue, and if we only had Betty than we would have gone years ago. But as it is, we have 3 dogs, one of which who is not optimistic enough to handle the experience of camping straight away, two of them who are on daily medications, and one who has to be crated overnight to avoid conflict – it takes a bit of planning!
When it comes to any kind of training, I can’t stress how important it is to train FOR the situation, not IN the situation, and I thought that this camping situation was no different. A trial run would be a good idea for all of us, a chance to find out how the girls would each react to the equipment and changed sleeping arrangements.
Day 1 consisted of us putting the tent up in the back garden so the girls could get used to its presence. Betty was classic Betty and just didn’t give a flying fig about it at all, stomped on in like she’d always been living in a tent. Daphne, and a little surprisingly to me, Pickle, were hesitant. We didn’t force them though. We left the tent wide open for them to go in and out as they pleased. We spent a little time inside as well, so they felt a bit more confident going inside, and that was all we did that day.
It's really important not to force them, just let them investigate in their own time
Day 2 we inflated the air mattress we intended to sleep on and again let them come in and out of the tent. We also go them to jump up on the mattress and have a little bit of chill time there, so they were used to the feel, the height, and the proximity of the tent roof.
It's not your eyes, this is really blurry sorry!
Day 3 we decided to spend the night in the tent, but we still kept some creature comforts from the house to ease their transition into camping. We used the pillows and duvet from our bed so that was familiar. We also had Daphne’s bedtime crate in the tent (luckily it fit) so that her normal bedtime routine wasn’t disrupted. Again, Betty was Betty, trudged on in, clambered up onto the bed and was passed out snoring in less than a minute. I can always count on her to treat just about everything as a non-event. Once Daphne was in her crate, she was off to sleep in no time. Pickle though was the most unsettled of them all, which did surprise me a bit as I just assumed it would be Daphne. In order to get her to settle down for the night we let her sleep between us, which is probably one of the few rules we have in all honesty (no dogs between us), but it is what she needed in the moment and so we gave it to her. I think the girls slept better than me! I woke up to every small noise, checking that each of the girls were ok. Sure enough, they were all passed out cold. So, when 5am came around and I needed to pee, I called the camping experiment to an end and we all went back inside to the comfort of our bed.
While I’m sure it’s generally only people with children who have camp outs in their back gardens, I would strongly recommend doing this before venturing on your first camping trip with your dog. We will be doing a couple more practise runs before we venture out because we need to make sure Pickle can settle better and we need to phase out our bedroom bedding and introduce the camping bedding instead. When we do eventually go on that camping trip it is going to be much less stressful for all of us. Being in the wilderness is going to be arousing enough for the girls, so by having them already used to the tent and sleeping arrangements they are going to handle this excitement much better and we will be able to enjoy ourselves more. It’s not for everyone, but you won’t regret having a dry run before the real deal.
Until next time, enjoy the journey of becoming a mindful pet owner.