You’re sitting around the campfire chatting with your friends when suddenly you realize your dog is missing. Maybe you hear barking, or yelling, from the campsite next door and realize your dog is over there sticking it’s nose where it doesn’t belong. Or maybe your dog has chased after a chipmunk and you’re panicked because he’s not coming when you call his name. Whatever the reason – etiquette or safety – it’s best to contain your dog to your campsite so they don’t run off.
So how do you make sure your dog sticks around? There are several options.
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Leash Your Dog to Something at the Campsite
This is probably the simplest but potentially the most inconvenient choice. All you have to do is tie a leash to something stable – a tree, picnic table, or an anchored dog tie-out driven into the ground.
This option can be inconvenient for both you and your dog for several reasons. First, you could trip on the leash. At the very least, you will probably have to step over it several times while moving around the campsite. Most dogs, at some point, end up wrapping the leash around a table leg or tree. We’d all like to think our dogs are smart enough to untangle themselves but experience tells me that isn’t so. You might end up playing a game of untangle the leash all night. Also, if the dog can get near the fire pit, you’ll have to make sure they don’t drag the leash through the fire and melt it.
Still, this method is simple. Your dog already has a leash (you can also use a long-line or tie-out cable to extend their reach… but also the potential for getting tangled up). If you go with the tie out anchor, this “additional equipment” doesn’t take up much space.
Pro tip: Placing a carabiner on the end of the leash makes it easy to clip the end of the leash onto something or wrap it around a tree or table leg and clip it to itself – no knots involved.
Create a Cable Run Between Two Trees
This is a variation on using a leash to tie your dog to something. In this case, you are tying their leash to a cable extending between two trees. This can minimize them getting tangled around things, allow them more space to roam as the leash slides along the length of the cable run, and reduce or eliminate you having to constantly step over the leash. It’s still very possible that your dog will wrap themselves around a tree at one end of the cable run though.
There is one very important thing you need to be aware of if you go with this option. Using rope, Paracord (thin rope) or wire wrapped around a tree can damage it. That is especially true if your dog pulls or lunges at their leash, causing pressure to grind the rope or wire into the tree’s bark. Of course, you don’t want to do that. It’s better to use 1-inch wide nylon webbing to create your campsite “cable” run so it distributes weight around the tree trunk more evenly. Still, be sure to regularly check the tree for wear.
Oh, and this is only an option if you have two trees close together at your campsite.
To easily create a cable run for your dog, tie one end of webbing to a tree close to the main part of the campsite where the action is but far enough away that your dog is out of the way. Tie the other end of the webbing to a nearby tree. Tie it to the tree as high as you need to to allow for the dog to lay down with a bit of slack in the leash. Use a carabiner to connect the end of the leash to the webbing so it can easily slide along the length of the “cable” (use a carabiner big enough).
Use a Dog Camping Crate
Using a crate to contain your dog may be a good option in some situations. If your dog has health restrictions, like a torn ACL or bad back, it can keep them from jumping or moving around too much when they get excited. When Gretel had her back injury and was on strict crate rest, we had to keep her standing and walking to a minimum. We still still wanted to take her on adventures though so we took her crate camping with us. When she wasn’t sitting in our laps, she was in her crate.
A crate can also be a good option if your dog gets anxious easily. If your dog sees the crate at home as their “happy place”, they might also find it comforting to climb in their cave when in an unfamiliar situation.
Keeping your dog in a crate while at a campground is the most limiting, and can also be the least fun, of containment options though.
Use a Dog Camping Pen
A dog camping pen, like the Carlson Portable Pet Pen, allows a dog more freedom than a crate but eliminates the issue of the leash getting tangled or your tripping over it. It’s like creating them a little room at the campsite.
The Carlson Portable Pet Pen is lightweight, collapsible, and easily thrown in your vehicle. Once you get to your camping destination, all you have to do is pick a spot by a picnic table or camp chair, expand the accordion-like folded structure, and step on the side lock that keeps the pen from folding up on it’s own. The reinforced mesh around the outside creates kind of a fence. Throw a camping bed for dogs, and blanket, in there and most pups will be happy as a clam.
To be honest, I don’t know how we managed without our pet pen. Up until about 6 months ago, we used the tie-the-leash-to-something method. Like I mentioned, it was frustrating because Chester and Gretel were ALWAYS getting tangled around something. Chester also fusses less in the pen (because he would fuss and bark if his leash was wrapped around something, which it almost always was). My stress level around the campsite has gone way down since using the Carlson Portable Pet Pen to contain them.
Even if you let your dog roam freely around the campsite on occasion, it’s always good to have a plan for when you need to have your back turned or are cooking and need them out of the way. Containment is an important tool when making sure your dog does run off to get lost, hurt, or to harass other campers.
What do you use to make sure your pet doesn’t run off when you’re camping?