We opened our 2016 camping season on Saturday, May 21, with a very quick and simple overnight just 10 minutes from home, on family-owned land. The test? Puppy’s first camp outing! Following are several tips and considerations to make camping with a pup more enjoyable!
When I wrote about camping with dogs, we’d had years of experience camping with our older dog, and with friends and their older dog. But camping with a puppy was something we’d never done; ours is now 3.5 months old and it’s the perfect time to get him used to adventures in the great outdoors!
Understand, however, that this post is about one camp adventure with one puppy and that experiences will vary greatly. This is just about what I observed and maybe it’ll help you if you’re looking to head to the wilderness with your young pup. Plus, puppy photos are always fun!
Puppies love to help you do everything at camp – by chewing on the tent during set-up/take-down, chewing on the tarp/tent footprint during roll-out, chewing on sleeping bags taken out of packs ... get the idea?
So – bring along plenty of:
Chews like rawhide or pig ears, etc.
Chewing toys (maybe a new toy that will pique interest!)
Puppies may wander (and not listen when called back), so be prepared with a long lead to keep your pup safely close. Thankfully, our pup follows the older dog all around so for the most part they stayed close by. But, we had a long lead prepared just in case.
Be extra mindful of predators – mountain lions, hawks, eagles – all may see a tender pup as a good meal. Keep your puppy in sight at all times.
Be extra mindful of local vegetation - the aforementioned chewing will have the pup eating, or at least tasting, everything in sight. It's good to be aware of poisonous plants in the area - ask your vet if in doubt.
Puppies will dig! My opinion? If it’s not hurting the environment, let ‘em have at it! The woods is the place to let loose a bit. You can always push the dirt back into the hole before you leave. We don’t let our pup dig holes in the yard at home but at camp he had great fun digging a pretty nice trench. Our son thought the pup was looking for ants to eat!
Puppies may be extra scared of all that goes bump in the night. Therefore, you might not get much sleep either. Depending on your puppy’s breed they might be extra sensitive to various sounds. Ours was scared by the dog barking across the valley every 30 minutes, and of the lively calls of what I think was a Northern Mockingbird (it was a full moon and that stinker was ”singing” ALL night). Nonetheless, by 1 a.m. our pup was exhausted (and so were we), so we got about half a night’s sleep.
Differentiate between the tent and the outside for potty needs. I took our pup into the tent for a few minutes, then made a big deal about “going outside to go potty” (or whatever terminology you use), walked around until he did his business, then praised him. We’ve been really fortunate that housebreaking wasn’t too much trouble, but I couldn’t automatically assume that a puppy would know the tent is like a house. So, extra attention up front will hopefully save headaches (and a mess) later.
Bring extra poo bags. Puppies poop A LOT (just like babies)! So, make sure you bring some extra incidentals so you can keep the woods clean.
Be mindful of cooler temps. The mountains bring a huge shift in temps; during this camp trip, the weather was in the 80s F when we set up camp, and down to the low 40s F during the night. Consider packing a sweater, fleece, and/or extra blanket for your pup.
Take time to see the world through your puppy’s eyes. For a puppy, the world is such as fascinating place, and every second is filled with fun! Oh, a stick! Oh, a butterfly! Oh, I’m tripping over my own feet and falling roly-poly! Puppy joyousness can add a real lighthearted dimension to your outdoor excursions. (And, it helps make up for the sleepless nights!).
At the end of this trip, we all agreed it was a success and went better than expected. Time to up the ante with some altitude next time!