Camping with your dog can be even more fun than going it alone or with other humans as companions. Dogs notoriously love being outdoors and having open spaces to run around, play in, and explore. If you’re worried about your dog getting bored during downtime while camping, there are plenty of activities to keep them happy on any trip. By preparing in advance, you can easily ensure an excellent time for you and your canine friend.
So what do you do with your dog when camping? Keep your dog engaged and happy by playing simple games like fetch. Also, if you are out hiking, take them with you, so they do not get anxious in unfamiliar surroundings.
We are going to give you tips on what to do with your dog before the trip as well as during the drive and at the campsite to make sure they are fully prepared.
Here’s what we will cover to insure a great trip with your pet.
- What to do with your dog before going camping
- Things to do with your dog on the way to the campgrounds
- What to Do With You Dog Upon Arrival at the Campground
- Activities With Your Dog While Camping
- In-Town Fun and Activities
- Recognizing and Preventing Dog Boredom While Camping
- Related articles
What To Do With You Dog Before Going Camping
Prior to any big camping trip, it’s necessary to get your dog ready for the big adventure, especially if they’ve never camped before.
- Take a trip to the vet
Take your dog in for a routine check-up to ensure they are healthy and up to date on any shots or vaccinations that might be required by the campground where you’ll be staying.
- Get a first-aid kit
Make sure you have a first-aid kit on hand that is full of supplies specific for your dog such as coated aspirin (dogs should never be given regular aspirin), tick tweezers, eye/ear drops, foot balm, etc.
- Find an emergency vet near the campsite
Look online or ask your vet for a recommendation of where to take your pet should they get injured far from home and need medical attention.
- Update your information
Double check to see that your address and contact information engraved on your dog’s collar is accurate in case they get lost. Also, make sure your dog’s microchip is fully functional.
- Get used to a tent
Set up your tent in the backyard and camp outside so your dog can get familiar with the situation and feel more comfortable sleeping in the tent and being around it.
- Become comfortable with car rides
Many campgrounds are located far away so a long car ride will be in store for your furry friend. If they aren’t used to travel, take them with you while running errands so they can get used to traveling by car.
- Familiarize them with the outdoors
Most walks may consist of a city park or walk around the block which doesn’t put your pet in contact with the great outdoors. If there is a wooded area or forest nearby, take them on a walk there to help them get used to the sights, smells, and sounds of nature.
Things to Do With Your Dog On the Way to the Campground
- Keep your dog contained
On long car rides, make sure to contain your dog in a carrier or crate. This will help keep them safe and prevent you from being distracted as you drive.
- Don’t leave your pet alone
When you stop for a break or to grab a bite to eat, don’t leave your dog alone in the car, especially if it’s warm outside. Dogs can easily overheat in a car or become sick due to extreme temperature changes.
- Make lots of pit stops
Stop plenty of times along the way to allow your dog to relieve themselves, stretch their legs, and get a drink of water.
- Put down a blanket
Before you leave, put down an old blanket on your car seats to protect them from fur, dirt, water, or anything else that might spoil them. Also, in case your pet gets motion sickness, it will make cleanup much more manageable.
What to Do With You Dog Upon Arrival at the Campground
- Take a tour
After you arrive, let your pet out of the car and allow them to stretch with a walk around the campground. This helps them become familiar with their new surroundings and feel more comfortable spending time there.
- Sniff things out
While exploring the campsite, allow your dog to smell all the new scents that may be assaulting their nose. This is one of the ways they investigate new places and helps them see the world through smell.
- Keep your dog nearby
While you unpack and set up your tent, always keep your dog near you and within eyesight. Don’t let them wander around off leash or disturb other campers. Not only is this polite pet owner etiquette, but it ensures your dog stays safe and secure.
- Make them a bed
Try setting up a spot for your dog upon your arrival, so they have a place that is just their own. If they sleep on a specific bed or blanket at home, bring it along so they have something familiar and will feel calm. Give them some treats or some toys to play with, so they don’t get too bored while you unpack.
- Find a shady spot
Dogs can easily overheat in the sunshine, so it’s important to have a place in the shade where they can cool off. Always make sure they have access to clean water to stay hydrated. If there is no natural shade, consider making a sunblock out of a tarp.
- Keep them on a leash
Even if your dog usually stays close to you, make sure they are always on a leash. Pack a longer leash so they can roam around a bit if you have a larger campsite. But make sure they are secured and will not be able to run away or get into trouble.
Activities With Your Dog While Camping
- Play Fetch
This classic game can be played anywhere outdoors. If you forgot to bring a toy, you could always use a frisbee, tennis ball, or just grab an appropriately sized stick to use instead.
- Create an obstacle course
Use naturally occurring objects to make an obstacle course for your dog to enjoy. Have them jump over rocks, crawl under felled trees, and weave in and out of bushes. They’ll love the new scenery, exotic smells, and challenge of agility.
- Go biking
Get a leash that will attach to your bike and take your dog along with you on the trails. Or, if mountain biking is more your thing and your dog can run freely, you can race through the hills together. Your dog will love running along with you and exploring the variety of terrain.
- Play hide and seek
Take your dog out into the forest and then hide behind a tree or bush. Challenge them to be able to find you. This works especially well in the fall when trees are full of leaves, and there are plenty of places to hide that your dog won’t immediately see.
If there is a body of water nearby your dog will love to swim and splash around. Make sure the water is clean and that dogs are allowed to play in it. Swim with your pet or play water fetch using a floating toy.
- Scent games
Challenge your dog’s nose by hiding treats or burying a favorite toy. Try to create a scent pattern on the ground at first until they start to understand the nature of the game. Then make it more and more difficult for them to find things by putting them on a rock or log. Your dog will love the challenge and thrill of the hunt to find a delicious treat.
- Go boating
If you have a boat or rented one for the day, take your dog along. Other options include canoeing or stand-up paddle-boarding. Let your dog come along for the ride and make it easy for them to jump into the water for a quick swim or to cool-off. For extra safety, get them a pet life jacket to wear anytime you’re on the water together.
- Blow bubbles
Purchase some pet-safe bubbles and blow them into the breeze. Your dog will love to chase them, bite at them, or burst them with their paws and nose.
- Tug of war
Get a sturdy rope or toy designed for this game and play with your dog. Challenge them to defeat you and see who can win the most. Make sure to let your dog win a few rounds even if you are stronger than them to give them a sense of achievement.
- Take a nap
After playing all day, take a nap together in a tent or in a hammock if your dog can safely and comfortably fit with you. Curl up together and spend a lazy afternoon snuggling and catching up on some rest.
- Go on a picnic
Hike up a hill or find a scenic overlook, then spread out a blanket and take your furry friend for a picnic. Bring them some dinner and water along too, or treat them to a new type of food or treat.
- Take pictures
Capture memories of your big day in the outdoors by snapping some pictures. Put a cute bandana around your dog’s neck or click an image of that cute pose in the pile of leaves.
- Groom them
Being outside is the perfect place to brush your dog’s fur or go in for a full grooming session. You won’t have to worry about all that dander getting in your house, and it makes for easy clean-up because their hair will biodegrade right on the ground.
- Go skijoring
Depending on the size and breed of your dog, this winter sport might be perfect for you. It consists of a cross between dog sledding and cross-country skiing. Just harness your dog on a leash, put on skis, and let your dog run ahead while you glide across on the snow.
Fire up the grill or try roasting something over the campfire instead. Grill some meat or hot dogs and let your dog have one for dinner once it has cooled down.
- Play in the rain or snow
A spring shower is no reason to stay stuck in a tent or cabin. Let your dog run around and frolic in the water, splashing in puddles and enjoying the rain. Just make sure to have plenty of towels on hand afterward. Alternately, let them dig in the snow, roll around, sniff, lick, and experience the snow drifts while camping in the winter.
- Work on tricks
Being outside with lots of free time is the perfect opportunity to get in a little dog training. Practice obedience training or teach your dog some new tricks and reward them with lots of treats. Having an obedient dog is also essential for their safety when hiking or camping so they will come to you when called should a dangerous situation arise.
- Run through the sprinkler
If your campground has a sprinkler system or hookups with hoses for water, let your dog cool off by running through the water or spraying them down on a hot summer day.
- Jumping games
Bring some items along and play with your dog by getting them to jump through various obstacles such as a hula hoop or simply make a circle with your arms and have them jump through it.
- Hit the beach
When you’re camping near the beach or if there’s a large body of water with a beach, head down to the waterfront with your dog. Let them dig in the sand, play ball, or run with you in the surf and chase birds. If there’s a dock, let them dive from it into the water and splash around or swim back to shore.
- Go rollerblading
Paved trails that don’t have a lot of elevation gain make good places for in-line skating or roller skating. Grab a leash and take your dog for a skate, letting them pull you along or just run beside you as you glide or skate.
- Try dog scootering
Big dogs that love to pull things will love to try out this activity. It’s basically dog sledding but without the snow and using a scooter instead of a sled. Hitch up your pups and go for a run together on a trail or in a park.
In-Town Fun and Activities
If you’re visiting a national park or campground that is close to a scenic town, head out and spend some time exploring the local area with your dog.
- Visit an outdoor cafe
One of the most enjoyable things to do on a cool spring or warm summer day is to sit outside at a cafe or restaurant. Check ahead to see if they are dog-friendly although many places do allow dogs on their patios and often provide water bowls or dog treats. Take your dog along and enjoy a lunch or dinner out together with friends.
- Check out fairs and festivals
There’s almost always some kind of fair or seasonal festival happening on the weekend. Bring your dog along to explore the sights and smells while perusing the offerings and foods available on display.
- Go to the farmer’s market
Get up early on a Saturday and head out to the farmer’s market. Some markets do not allow dogs so verify in advance that you can bring your pet along. If so, stroll the market and grab some fresh produce to make a meal later or buy something ready-made to enjoy in a nearby park.
- Visit a dog park
If the town near your campground has a dog park, be sure to spend some time there so your dog can explore new places and socialize with other dogs. Off-leash parks are a great way to let your dog run around and explore while remaining securely within the confines of the fenced-in area.
- Hit up the food trucks
Check out the local food truck scene and grab a bite for yourself while your dog enjoys all the free smells. Some pet-friendly food trucks have started popping up though so you might be able to find your dog a treat of their own to enjoy too.
Recognizing and Preventing Dog Boredom While Camping
When the day comes to an end, and it’s time for some quiet relaxation around the campground, you might worry that your dog will be bored. Although all the fresh air and exercise will usually result in a much calmer dog come evening, there is still a chance that those with high energy or who have had an afternoon nap will need some extra stimulation.
Some signs that your dog is bored include:
- Destructive behavior
- Barking for no reason
- Following you everywhere you go
- Jumping on you
So what should you do if your dog needs some more stimulation or has energy to expend and you’re tired after a long day?
- Food dispensing toys
Bring along a toy with a small hole and fill it up with treats. Your dog will be occupied trying to get every last drop out of it and will expend energy rolling it around to dislodge the food inside. If you don’t have a toy, put some treats inside an empty water bottle instead.
- Get a puzzle toy
Prepare for boredom by bringing some puzzle toys along for your dog. There is a wide variety on the market such as those that dispense treats with the press of a lever or stuffed squirrels that you stuff into a plush log and your dog has to figure out how to remove them.
- Try frozen treats
Freeze some treats inside an ice cube or make popsicles out of dog-friendly foods that your pet enjoys. Use a bone or rawhide stick as the handle, so the entire treat is edible. Frozen foods usually take dogs a long time to lick or chew through so it will keep them occupied for a while.
- Give them some attention
Sometimes your furry friend just needs some attention from you and some belly rubs or scratches behind the ears will do the trick.
- Try a new toy
Buy a few new toys that your dog has never seen before and open them up during times when nothing else seems to work. Cross your fingers and hope they like playing with them for longer than five minutes!
- Bury something
Grab some treats or a bone and bury it somewhere around your campsite. Your dog will have to use their nose to hunt for it and then dig it up so they can chew on it.