How do I car camp with my dog?
March 7, 2019 8:28 AM   Subscribe

Spring is (almost) here and I'm interested in doing some solo car camping with my dog. I'm envisioning driving to the lake, setting up a tent next to my car, cooking in a fire ring, and then walking around the lake on a gentle trail with my dog. I would like tips on how to make this go as smoothly as possible.

Relevant information: I'll be alone with my dog (large, low energy, senior greyhound). He has not been off-leash trained, I have no interest in off-leash training him, and I do not trust him off-leash. He is very friendly to other animals and humans and doesn't have a strong prey drive. It isn't so much that I think he'd run away, as I think he'd wander away (or chase after a random squirrel) and get lost and/or hurt. He does not have a crate. I could get one, if necessary, but he has never been crated with me and if I buy a crate it would be large (like the size of me).

Specific questions:
1) What should I do with him while I need to go to the bathroom? Tie him up? Put him in the tent? Put him in the car? Does the answer change on whether it is a short bathroom visit or a longer bathroom visit?
2) He sleeps on a large dog bed on the floor at home. I plan on bringing this with me and placing it in the tent, because I want him to be as comfortable as possible. Is there a better set up for sleeping arrangements?
3) What should I do while I am taking care of things at the camp site? Tie him up? Does the answer change depending on what I am doing (setting up the tent vs cooking vs eating vs tending to the fire).

Any assistance would be helpful. It's not so much the camping or being outside that's worrisome, it's the dealing with a dog that requires a leash while alone and outside for an extended period of time.
posted by lucy.jakobs to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps your local greyhound rescue (or are you on a local greyhound Facebook group?) has a lightweight folding/expandable dog pen you can borrow? I've seen these used at greyhound events to contain them, and a senior like yours wouldn't be likely to jump out of one.
posted by QuakerMel at 8:36 AM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I camp with a dog I put the dog on a tie-out at the campsite, usually with one end attached to the picnic table. If I'm alone and have to go to the bathroom I'll either bring the dog into the bathroom with me on a leash or leave it in the car. Dog bed in the tent seems perfect. If you're going to spend a lot of time just sitting around the campsite, you may want to put the dog bed out where he can lie on it during the day and move it into the tent at night.
posted by Redstart at 8:42 AM on March 7, 2019 [8 favorites]

The first time we camped with our dog Rupert, I woke up, in the middle of the night, to see him disappearing out the tent door that had been zipped closed. I managed to grab hold of his tail and hauled him back in. I slept the rest of the trip with him leashed, and the leash loosely on my wrist. Mildly annoying, but something to consider.

We also had a tie out that we attached either on the picnic table or a tree. It was long enough that he could get us if he wanted, or have a mooch around the campsite. We also put a bed near him so he could use that, and water.

My husband had suggested that we leave him on the tie out over night (But in the tent with us) so that I didn't have to hold the leash, but I didn't want him to have access to outside in the night unless we were with him.

I can't say that Rupert loved camping. He tolerated it very reluctantly.
posted by Ftsqg at 8:57 AM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Pick up a large, sturdy 4" carabiner to use as a clip for your leash so that you can hitch the dog safely to the parked car for a few minutes if your campsite ends up being a place where the dog simply cannot join you while you use the bathroom. The rest of the time you can use it to attach the dog to your belt if you are doing a task that requires two hands. Use an actual belt, not just a belt loop, so it can't rip.

If your dog does not ordinarily wear a harness, it may be a good idea to start getting him used to one. I'm a big supporter of a harness over a collar in a situation like camping where there are a lot of variables, because the dog can't slip out of it no matter what.

I myself would not plan on making a campfire during a camping trip that involves my dog. I bring a small camping stove for cooking, a lantern for light, and some warm blankets and chemical hand warmer packets to tuck into my sleeping bag in case of a cold night. I know that a campfire can be one of the great pleasures of a camping trip, but the risk to a dog who is not used to a fire would personally be too high for me. And camping is so great even without a fire.

Also, pack any emergency gear that the dog might need. Bring a tick key and go over him carefully several times during the trip to make sure he isn't being bitten. Bring tweezers and tape for splinters. Pack a back-up leash just in case something crazy happens to the first one.

Good luck and enjoy!
posted by DSime at 9:06 AM on March 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you do tie him out, remember never to use a leash longer than 6 feet with a greyhound, or attach a leash to move along a cable. They reach full speed in three strides, and a sudden stop could mean a broken neck.
posted by QuakerMel at 9:17 AM on March 7, 2019

Also, never tie a dog up on a neck collar; it’s a dangerous choking hazard. Get a harness that goes around their shoulders and chest. We like Ruffwear’s Front Range harness.

I strongly recommend a tick preventative and even a Lyme vaccine for your dog if you camp in tick-prone areas. Remember to make water available while a dog is tied up.

You can also set up a dog run line between trees - tie a line across the two about shoulder height, then use a carabiner to clip the end of the leash on it so the dog can walk between the two trees.
posted by amaire at 9:34 AM on March 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

My dog will get tangled on any line in about 10 seconds, so he usually goes in the car or just comes with me to the bathroom, since he prefers to be where I am. He is reasonably recall-trained, but I keep a short leash on him at all times while camping, and add a longer leash for a walk.

I really like camping, outdoor fire, sleeping outside. For my dog it's a festival of smells, so I try to take him for a walk soon after arrival, because the environment is so tantalizing.

Lots of people bring dogs to campgrounds, many dogs are poorly trained, so put him in the car when you have to be away from him and the site.

If it's really hot & sunny, leave the car running with AC. A spare key in a magnetic holder on the outside of the car is a requirement for camping. And because dogs get loose, your number on a collar tag.
posted by theora55 at 9:36 AM on March 7, 2019

> He sleeps on a large dog bed on the floor at home.

I bring my dog's bed when we're camping (and even backpacking), plus something to throw over him and the bed for warmth (otherwise he's inclined to join me in my sleeping bag, which can be cozy but a serious squash). With a greyhound that might be extra useful; my dog is woolly and small not skinny and large.

He also does better with booties in summer when the ground is full of stickers.
posted by anadem at 1:11 PM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Every dog should be taught to tie and stay quietly without crying or escaping. It's a useful life skill.

Having said that don't leave a tied dog alone unattended where other animals can get to it: tied out at night, tied out when you leave for extended periods camping etc. It's fine if you have fencing or more than one large and noisy dog or are in an area with no predators (like outside a coffee shop) but not overnight when you are camping and not right there to protect the dog. It's dangerous for the dog.

I also don't leave a dog tied where an unattended child can get to it because my dogs aren't used to kids. So if put the dog in the car at a public campground if I were leaving the campsite.

Tying the dog while you hang out is totally fine. You can also set up an overhead cable so the dog can move around more
posted by fshgrl at 4:22 PM on March 7, 2019

For tying up, give some thought to using chain clipped to a harness rather than rope or leash material. I was surprised at how quickly and quietly an enterprising dog can chew through the lead to get out and sniff while camping.
posted by Pomo at 5:18 PM on March 7, 2019

All of your suggestions are super helpful and appreciated--I have a lot more confidence that we'll be able to easily do this. I marked the two answers that gave me the most specific and concrete tips.

For anyone interested, this is my plan:

I am definitely going to buy a dog pen, as suggested by Quaker Mal. I've seen them and contemplated buying one in the past, but didn't make the connection that it would be great for camping. My dog sleeps all day and I have a feeling he'd really like being outside, but in a contained "protected" area while he sleeps. I think that'll be a great place for him to hang out while I'm hanging out at the camp site.

He has an up to date tag with my phone number on it (and he's chipped) in case of emergency. We already have a harness and I'll make sure he lives in that when we go camping. I'll be sure to pack an extra leash and I already have a long lead and a yard tether (in case we can't find a picnic table or tree to attach it to) for when we both are hanging out at the campsite. It sounds like putting him in the car for my trips away from the camp site is the way to go, and I'm glad to know that's pretty normal. I was also very glad for the tip to leave a spare key--it was another example of something that makes sense, but I wouldn't have necessarily done automatically.

Finally, I just moved to a really lyme heavy area (Anecdotes: a new friend is dealing with lyme disease and another new friend just lost her young dog due to complications with lyme disease!) so I am grateful for the suggestion to be aware of ticks, use tick preventatives, and consider getting a lyme vaccine for my dog. This is a definitely going to happen before we go!
posted by lucy.jakobs at 7:49 AM on March 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

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