Our trip to Congaree National Park (South Carolina) and Assateague Island (Maryland) was our first camping trip with Rigby. Traveling long distance is not new to her–she’s been to Alabama and Tennessee–so we knew she could handle the travelling. Camping with a puppy was bound to be a new experience.
Rigby is a superstar puppy. She’s a bundle of energy and love at the same time. We got lucky with a dog that has an incredible temperament. She’s a Portuguese Water Dog and true to her breed she loves swimming. When it comes to Portuguese Water Dogs, they require a ton of exercise and have energy that will outlast the most exuberant human.
We definitely learned a few things while camping with her. That inspired me to write up our Top 5 takeaways from camping with her so we could share them with anyone considering camping with a pup:
1. The most important thing of all is having a good training foundation.
Talk about a trip full of frustration if you don’t have basic commands nailed down. Responding to their name, sit, down, stay, loose leash walking and knowing their emergency recall are critical. We knew this was going to be the case from the very beginning of our lives with Rigby so we have put her through training class after training class (Shout out to Tails U Win for being so amazing) and we continue to spend a lot of time working with her at home.
Nobody wants to be dragged through the campsite by their dog and you want to be able to quickly redirect their behavior when they’re not doing what you want them to be doing. Don’t leave the training at home; train your dog while you’re camping. Training stimulates their mind, teaches them how to act in new environments, and it can be fun for everyone.
2. Know your dog’s routine and try to stick to it.
Dogs have an eating schedule and a bathroom schedule. They’ll be more comfortable and you’ll also be happier with them if you stick to that schedule. We drive through the night so Rigby sleeps through almost the entire car ride. When we stop for our own pit stops, we take her for a walk. At the campsite we found that Rigby would not go to the bathroom in our camping area so we would have to walk her in order for her to take care of her business. This may or may not be the case for other dogs. We appreciated her cleanliness and who doesn’t like a walk when you’re already enjoying the outdoors.
3. You’ll probably bring things you don’t need.
Rigby has her travel backpack that we fill up with stuff. The essentials were food, food and water bowls, water bottle, treats, tether, leash and her brush. We didn’t need any of the toys we brought except for one chew toy; she didn’t have the same playing habits on our trip. Everything that’s going on outside is far more exciting than toys. Her chew toy helped settle her down once we got into the tent at night. We also did not use the first aid kit, although we’ll keep bringing that along just in case
4. A tether will save your life.
We have a tether that screws into the ground and works well in the sand. Attaching her to the tether made it super easy to go about our business while she did her own thing around the campsite. It’s a good idea to keep them in range of the fire so they can sit with you (unless they don’t do well with fire), but just out of reach of the tent so they aren’t dragging dirt into the tent without you brushing it off them first. IMPORTANT: Always attach dogs to tethers using a harness, not their collar. If they are the running type they may run too far and hurt their neck or get seriously injured. A harness is a safe way to balance the pressure if they pull too hard.
5. Guarding instincts may kick in at the campsite.
At least for our dog they did. I call Rigby “Neighborhood Watch” when we’re home. She’s the first to know who’s moving around the street and she’s always at the window huffing, barking, or staring down whatever car or person dares to tread on her territory. She was very much like this once we set up our tent. It can be embarrassing when they make strange noises at your camping neighbors or bark at people passing by. Distraction is a good technique. She met a few of our neighbors and really liked them, which was good, but then wanted to play with them whenever they went by. Be prepared for some barking and huffing at the neighbors is our advice. It’s natural. As long as they are not disturbing other campers.