Sometimes it seems like dogs have enough energy to power the world. Young dogs, energetic breeds, and – let’s face it – any dog in a new, exciting environment can quickly become too much to handle. And if you’re camping with your furry friend, it can be a challenge to keep your dog calm and under control in the campground. But don’t despair! By following a few simple tips, you and your dog can both be happy campers on your next camping vacation.
For a frisky dog, the tactics fall into three categories:
- Exercise - find acceptable ways for your dog to let off steam
- Training - teaching basic commands
- Control - learning to control your pet makes you and your dog happier and safer
The first is critical to any dog owner’s happiness. If your dog is energetic or easily excited, then it’s especially important to plan exercise time every day for your pet. This can be a long walk, a hike in the woods, or time chasing a favorite ball or toy. If you’re traveling, use the internet and recommendations from campground owners to learn about local dog parks – places where dogs can romp off-leash and, best of all, play with each other! If you can’t find a dog park, a play date with another dog allows for critical socializing (and energy-burning) time. Arrange for your dog to get what it needs – time to run and sniff – and you’ll be happier, too.
These play times serve another important purpose – they give you a chance to understand your pet. Is your dog motivated by food? By the chance to play? By the promise of a ball-throw? Use this motivational device during those awkward moments when your dog doesn’t seem to be listening to you. Keep treats in your pocket and train your dog to sit and stay for a reward (for more detailed instructions, look for a dog-training book from the library). Very gradually, increase the distractions that are around when you ask for a sit-and-stay. In time, your dog will respond to you (and the promise of a treat) even in the most exciting situation.
By the same token, it always pays to practice recalling your dog – asking it to come to you. This is worth practicing in any situation, whether you’re at home or in the dog park. Your dog, grateful for the treat, will learn to associate the sound of your voice with happy things.
Most campgrounds and RV parks require that dogs be on a leash at all times. Even so, it can be challenging to keep your pet under control, especially at pet-friendly parks that are full of doggy distractions. With all the muscle in a dog’s neck, it’s easy for a large dog to overpower the person on the other end of the leash. If your dog tends to tug, you might consider getting a Gentle Leader or Haltie for your dog. These leash-attachments go around your dog’s nose, making it uncomfortable for the dog to tug hard on the lead. A few light corrections on your part and your dog will learn not to pull you around. It’s important that you take steps to make walking your dog an enjoyable experience!
Dog owners often have problems when they have to leave their pet for an hour or two, whether it’s on a leash or in an RV. Lonely dogs can howl and bark incessantly, paw and chew at the door, or otherwise wreak havoc. Do what you can to distract your pet during these times of separation. One great technique is to hide a few pieces of kibble or a dollop of peanut butter inside a Kong or other durable toy. Your dog can spend hours “working” on this food treat. Another idea is to buy cheap stuffed animals (at garage sales, flea markets, and discount stores) for your dog to chew while you’re gone. For best results, keep these toys hidden until the moment of departure, so they seem new and exciting to your dog.
Your dog’s over-bounding energy is part of what makes it so special and fun to be around. By taking a few steps to unleash – and sometimes re-direct – this energy, you and your pet can become better camping companions.