Even anxious dogs can learn how to have a great time on a camping trip. All it takes is patience, care, and awareness. The tips in this article can help you learn how to help your anxious dog feel comfortable while you’re camping.
The most important aspect of camping with an anxious dog is knowing how to resolve problems before they start. Anxious dogs can be prone to running, barking or snapping and they need careful guidance to avoid escalating behavior. Understanding the signs of fear, adapting to meet your dog’s needs and providing them a safe space are key ways to help an anxious dog feel safe.
This is really just a snippet of the information that can help your anxious dog. While it may seem like a near-impossible task to have an easygoing camping trip with an anxious dog, this article can help.
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Read on to learn how to make camping fun for your anxious dog!
- Preparing To Camp With your Dog
- Tips For Camping With An Anxious Dog
- 1. Stay Aware
- 2. Practice Training
- 3. Prepare For The Weather
- 4. Don’t Leave Them Alone
- 5. Bring Some Doggy First Aid
- 6. Remain Constant
- 7. Consider Your Campsite Privacy
- 8. Give Them A Safe Space
- 9. Give Them Plenty Of Exercise
- 10. Socialization Is Impactful
- 11. Avoid Punishing Fear
- 12. Create Escape Plans
Preparing To Camp With your Dog
There are a lot of benefits that come with taking your dog out on a camping trip. If anyone knows how to have fun in the outdoors, it’s a dog. Not only do they add joy to the experience, they can also help to protect you from wild animals. To learn more about how dogs can help to keep other animals away from your tent, check out our article here!
Whether your dog is anxious or not, they need to be prepared for a camping trip. The following tips will help to make sure you have your bases covered. Don’t forget to check them off your list before you take your canine companion off into the wilderness.
Chips And Collars
Any dog can get lost while you’re camping. Leashes and tie-outs can break, thunderstorms or nearby fireworks can frighten them, and it can be a terrible experience for both you and your pet.
It’s because of this that making sure your lost pet can be found is key. To begin with, ensure that your dog has a solid collar with tags that tell people how to contact you. If your dog is microchipped, there may also be an indicating tag that you can keep on their collar as well.
On that note, microchipping your dog is invaluable. People who find lost dogs are likely to take them to a veterinarian or shelter. While they are there, there’s a good chance the dog will be scanned for a chip. If your dog has a chip and the information connected to it is up to date, it will be much easier for your dog to make it back home.
Ensure that you have everything you need to keep your dog comfortable. Things like food and water, bedding, a carrier or kennel, toys, a tie-out, a harness and leash and anything else your dog needs to be happy and healthy.
For some dogs, this might also include prescription medications or food that needs to be specially-prepared. It all depends on your dog. Anxiety-prone dogs are likely to need a few extra things to help with staying calm, which I’ll touch on later in this article.
You’ll also need things like gloves and plastic bags to clean up after your dog. Many campgrounds expect dog owners to do this so that other people or pets don’t end up walking in your pet’s mess.
Know The Rules
If you’re heading to a campground, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the rules regarding pets. Many campgrounds will have some of the same rules, like keeping your dog on a leash, cleaning up after them and ensuring that even your pet adheres to the rules set for quiet hours in the campground.
Once you’re familiar with those rules, you’ll need to make sure to follow them. Not only do these rules keep you and others safe, they also make sure that there is a baseline of harmony in the campground overall.
Make sure to be courteous to other campers who may be nearby as well as your dog. Try to avoid letting your dog bark a lot. Your dog may be barking because they are anxious and need to be distracted or soothed. Additionally, other campers may find the sound to be jarring.
Keep your dog on a leash or tie-out at all times. Even if your dog behaves well off the leash, other dogs in the park may not. There may be other dogs in the park who are anxious as well, and who won’t react well to your dog running up to them.
Keep an eye on your dog to make sure they aren’t being destructive to the environment around them. Aside from the annoying possibility of stepping in dog mess, there are other ways that dogs can affect the natural environment. Our article on how camping can negatively effect the environment is a great source of information for learning how pets can affect the environment as well.
Naturally, an anxious dog should be kept on-leash for their own safety. It helps to keep them safe, as you can get them away from other people or dogs more easily. You’ll also just be able to keep track of them more easily.
Tips For Camping With An Anxious Dog
Camping with an anxious dog can difficult. They often don’t have as easy of a time enjoying the experience as dogs who don’t experience anxiety often.
I have spent a lot of time around anxious dogs in my family, especially in the context of camping. I can tell you that it’s essential to understand what causes your dog to become afraid and how to make them more comfortable.
The following tips can help you to make the trip as easy as possible on your canine friend. Consider them carefully as you plan your future camping trips.
1. Stay Aware
Helping your dog begins with understanding them. Begin by learning as much as you can about your dog’s past. If you’ve adopted your dog from a shelter, it may be possible that the information you can gather on this subject is limited. At the very least, try to remember that like in humans, anxiety in dogs doesn’t come out of nowhere.
Additionally, take the time to learn about how anxiety functions in dogs and the signs they display while experiencing anxiety. Knowing the signs can help you to stay in tune with your dog. You’ll be able to watch for the initial signs of fear and find a way to remedy the situation before it has a chance to escalate.
Keep in mind that too much fear can result in a dog who may snap at people or other animals. In no way does that mean they are a bad or aggressive dog. It simply means their fear has become overwhelming for them. If you pay close attention and resolve problems when your dog begins to look anxious, you can keep the issue from reaching that point.
2. Practice Training
Training is a great way to build trust with your dog. It can also help to keep them focused on you rather than becoming overstimulated by an anxiety-inducing situation. A well-trained dog is much more likely to stay safe than one who isn’t.
For example, if for some reason a tie-out or leash breaks or comes loose it can be a dangerous time for a dog. Some may take off running, while others may try to hide. If you have an anxious dog, odds are they aren’t going to be saying hello to all the nearby people.
If your dog is well trained, they will be more likely to head straight to you when you call them. Furthermore, you’ll be able to rely on them to stay nearby while you fix the situation. On the other hand, a frightened dog that lacks training may end up lost and alone in the wilderness, or worse.
Take your time to train them patiently. The idea is to build trust and comfort. The more your dog sees you as a safe space, the better off you’ll both be.
3. Prepare For The Weather
Before you head out into the woods, make sure to check the weather conditions ahead of time. While the weather isn’t often a problem with regard to dog anxiety, thunderstorms can be a huge issue for anxious dogs.
If you know you’re going to a place where thunderstorms are relatively common, bring along something to help with calming your dog. Things like thunder jackets, weighted blankets or anxiety medications prescribed by a vet can be very useful.
In addition to that, you can work on training your dog to fear thunder less ahead of time. Often, this includes putting on videos of thunderstorms at a very quiet volume and gradually raising the volume. Over time, your dog will get used to the sound.
4. Don’t Leave Them Alone
You are your dog’s safe space.
This is especially true if you have an anxious canine. Many dogs with anxiety also become especially fearful when they are left alone. If you plan to take your dog out on a camping trip, prepare to have them with you at all times.
Naturally, there may be some times when you need to get away from them for a few minutes, such as trips to the bathroom or shower. If there is a friend or family member they trust, your dog can be left with them temporarily.
While it may seem convenient to just leave your dog on a tie-out or in the car, this is just going to make anxious dogs even more anxious. They may bark or become destructive to the space around them. In some cases, the car may also be too hot. It’s not generally recommended to leave a dog in the car alone for more than a few minutes, when absolutely necessary.
5. Bring Some Doggy First Aid
This is a tip that is important whether your dog tends to be on the anxious side or not. Having a dog first aid kit on hand can help to keep them safe if they accidentally get injured.
For an anxious dog, you might choose to include some items that help to calm them down as well. That might include medications, weighted blankets, sources of soothing scents or anything else that might bring them some comfort.
Anxiety might not seem like an emergency, but it can become one for some dogs if they don’t have a way to calm down.
6. Remain Constant
Your dog looks to you for security and guidance. They need to know that you are someone they can rely on.
One aspect of this includes making sure that you behave the same way while camping that you do when you’re training at home. Unless there is an extreme need for urgency, make sure that you continue to remain calm and patient with them.
Shouting at them or otherwise becoming an intimidating presence isn’t going to help them to calm down, and it certainly won’t help them to listen and obey commands given to them. Greeting fear with sudden anger will instead make them more fearful.
7. Consider Your Campsite Privacy
If you’re the owner of an anxious dog, then you know it might not take much to set them off. In more populated campgrounds, this might become problematic. People and other pets are sure to be walking by in front of your site quite often. Anxious dogs who are more reactive may feel that they need to bark at every intrusion.
Because of that, it’s a good idea to try to pick a campsite where your dog won’t be able to see as many other people. Try to grab one of the more secluded spots if you can, with plenty of surrounding trees and a driveway that is a bit longer than usual.
Overall, this will help your dog to feel safer. They’ll be more likely to relax without strangers capturing their attention every few minutes. That means a more peaceful trip for everyone involved.
8. Give Them A Safe Space
Some dogs just may not be comfortable when they are outdoors. In other cases, loud noises or other sources of stimulation may cause too much stress for your dog.
When the campsite itself isn’t helping your dog to feel safe enough, it’s a good idea to provide them with their own safe space. An example of such a space might be a carrier or kennel that you bring with you. Lay down some comfortable blankets as well as their favorite toys.
The idea here is to give them a spot where they can feel they are hiding away from the stimulation. Your dog gets a chance to spend some time quiet time to themselves where they can calm down.
Just remember not to use this space as a punishment. Otherwise, they will be less likely to view it as a safe space when it needs to be used as such.
9. Give Them Plenty Of Exercise
Just like in people, anxiety in dogs can often be fueled by an excess buildup of energy. When that energy isn’t being used in a productive way, it can become a problem.
In humans, it often results in things like rumination. Dogs are less prone to worry about bills, jobs and the like but they may end up a bit more jumpy and tense. As a result, they may become more reactive, whether that means barking, snapping or just a lot of shaking.
Making sure that they get plenty of time walking, running and playing can allow them to relax more easily in the downtime. That exercise is not only beneficial to them physically, but it helps their mental state as well. With less energy to spend on anxiety, you and your dog are more likely to enjoy your time camping.
10. Socialization Is Impactful
Before you go on your camping trip, spend some time helping your dog to socialize. Start where they are. Some dogs may just be a little nervous, while for others the fear might be more extreme. Consider what level of fear your dog has and work slowly from that point.
There can be any number of reasons dogs are anxious. In many cases, they may have had a frightening experience with people or other animals at some point in their past. This is something that can be improved with plenty of positive socialization.
Introduce them to new people and friendly pets carefully, making sure to praise every positive interaction. Treats can be a fantastic part of this process, as they help to create happy experiences for your pet. Get a friend or two to come by and give them some treats. In time, your dog will become more comfortable with others.
Be careful not to push them too quickly, or it can cause the fear to worsen. It’s a very slow process, but it’s one that will aid in developing a happy life for both you and your canine companion.
11. Avoid Punishing Fear
You cannot force a dog to be less fearful.
Punishing them for the symptoms of their fear is only going to make the situation worse. Remember that anxious dogs might bark, refuse to be near certain things or go in certain places. In some cases, anxious dogs might also snap at people or other pets.
Nobody wants to see their dog try to bite at someone, but the situation creates a key moment where you need to think about why they are behaving in that way. Dogs don’t often bite without cause.
When your dog is anxious, your first step is to stay calm. If you need to, remove your dog from the immediate situation. Get them away from that person or pet if they have been snapping. At that point, you’ll need to assess what happened. Did someone accidentally step on your dog? Were they feeling threatened by a new dog entering the area?
Consider the situation carefully and decide how to best keep that event from happening again. For each dog, the solution may look a little different. The key point is to remember that your dog isn’t a bad dog, it is a frightened dog. Address the fear rather than punishing the action, and you’ll make better progress in keeping it from occurring again.
12. Create Escape Plans
No one knows what triggers your dog more than you. If you know that certain situations will make them incredibly fearful, it’s best to formulate a plan to avoid the problem by keeping them out of the frightening situation.
As an example, if your dog is highly frightened of other dogs then you may need to be aware when other dogs present and adapt with your dog accordingly. When you’re taking them out on a trail or somewhere else to use the bathroom, you may end up seeing another dog around before your dog has a chance to notice them.
At this point, it’s a good idea to calmly head away from the other dog. You can also bring along a toy or other positive distraction to get your dog’s attention off other dogs in the vicinity.
Mainly, keep an eye out for situations that might cause anxiety for your dog and take steps to keep their attention away from it in some way.
13. Know Their Limits
Anxiety in dogs can come at different levels, and they may react to that anxiety in different ways. As their owner, it’s important to understand where your dog is in that spectrum and what they can handle.
If you know that your dog is incredibly fearful of strangers, other pets, the outdoors or other factors that will definitely show up while you’re camping then consider not taking them. Forcing them into situations they aren’t ready for will leave them more frightened.
Anxiety needs to be addressed slowly if you want to achieve long term results. Make sure that your dog is ready for a camping trip before taking them. If you aren’t sure they can handle it, you will both benefit from leaving them with a trusted friend or family member who knows how to care for them. Focus on meeting their needs first, and the enjoyment of getting to camp with your dog will follow.