As some of you know we have 6 kids that we take camping several times a year but most of you do not know that we also have three dogs that we take as well. Our dogs love going camping and the new sites and smells are almost overwhelmingly pleasing to them.
With that we wrote this article to guide anyone that is considering taking their dog camping with them.
Dogs absolutely love camping and spending time in the great outdoors, maybe just as much, if not more than, their humans. It’s completely possible to take your dog camping with you and have a positive experience. You will need to do some planning and research in advance though to make sure your camping trip goes off without a hitch.
Here’s what we will cover to give you and your dog the best experience possible.
- Reasons to Take Your Dog Camping
- Is Your Dog Ready For Camping?
- Are Dogs Allowed at Your Campground?
- Make Sure to Check the Weather
- Keeping Your Pet Safe From Wildlife
- Health Precautions to Take
- Packing the Basic Supplies
- Sleeping Arrangements for Your Dog
- Is It Safe to Let Your Dog Off Leash?
- Campsite Arrival and Etiquette
- Feeding Your Pet
- International Camping Considerations
- Have Fun and Enjoy Camping Together
- Related articles
Clickable Table Of Contents
Reasons to Take Your Dog Camping
You might hesitate at the idea of bringing a dog along while camping. Sometimes camping can be quite a hassle when you’re trying to pack things, deal with setting up a tent, and survive out in the wild without the comforts of home. So why add in the additional responsibility of bringing a pet along?
Chances are your dog is a huge part of your life and you love spending time together. Dogs truly are mans best friend and you want to do everything with your dog.
That includes camping and spending time in nature. Dogs are a great companion when spending time on your own and it’s nice to have a trusted friend along for the adventure.
Many dogs can also provide a sense of security and protection when you are camping. Especially if you are camping alone or in the backcountry, then it’s helpful to have your dog with you to alert you to wildlife in the area or other possible dangers.
Taking your dog along also saves you the trouble of finding someone to pet sit while you are camping. Not having to pay for a pet sitter or boarding at a kennel also saves you money that can be spent on your outdoor activities. Plus you can relax knowing that your pet is with you and well taken care of by your side.
Lastly, dogs just love being outside. All the fresh air, nature, freedom to run, and plenty of new smells will have your dog in seventh heaven.
It’s so satisfying to be able to take your beloved pet to a new location and let them explore and enjoy it. You may get more satisfaction watching them engage with nature than being their on your own.
Is Your Dog Ready For Camping?
Once you’ve decided that you’re going to take your dog camping with you, you will have to determine if your specific dog is ready for the trip. If your dog is still a puppy, is not well-trained, or has never spent time outdoors, then you may need to modify your plans a bit.
While exercise is great for dogs, you should start slowly to prevent joint damage and other injuries. One common rule is that a dog can have five minutes of outdoor exercise, twice daily, for each month of their age until they are fully grown.
Exercising outdoors while hiking can also be more strenuous for your pet than a few laps around the local dog park. If you are hiking over rough terrain or climbing in elevation, your dog may take some time to get acclimated.
Start small with some shorter day hikes and see how it goes. Be cautious for signs that your dog is getting over exerted and adjust accordingly. Make sure to provide plenty of time for your dog to rest so they don’t overexert themselves.
Another aspect of preparedness for camping is how well trained your dog is. You will want your dog to be well-behaved at the campground as well as out in the wilderness. This is absolutely essential not only to prevent being asked to leave a camping area, but also for your dog’s safety.
One of the most important things is that your dog will come when you call him, even if there are other dogs or distractions around. You can practice this at home or while on daily walks to ensure your dog will reliably come to you when necessary.
Another useful command is to have your dog drop or leave something they have in their mouth. If they pick up something harmful such as a snake, rodent, or poisonous plant, they must obey your prompt to drop it and leave it on the ground.
Of course the more your dog knows, the better and easier it will be when taking them to new places. They will remain by your side when necessary, come when called, and leave things that might cause harm.
It also means camping with your dog will be positive for you and any other campers who are nearby.
Are Dogs Allowed at Your Campground?
The location of your campsite will depend heavily on whether or not a particular location allows dogs. If you are making a reservation in advance, make sure to call and confirm that dogs are allowed. Some places may also have restrictions on breeds, the size of the dog, and how many dogs you can bring along.
Also be aware that many national parks have restrictions and do not allow dogs so they may not be ideal for your camping trip. Instead, search out more undeveloped places such as wilderness areas and national and state forests.
Even if dogs are allowed at the campground, there may be additional restrictions and rules regarding vaccinations, particularly rabies. Make sure to check in advance in case you need to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian because finding one on the road might be difficult and expensive.
Make Sure to Check the Weather
Depending on the time of year and location of your camping trip, you will need to take additional measure not only for yourself, but also for your dog. Make sure to look into the high and low temperatures in the area and then plan accordingly.
It is easy for dogs to overheat, especially if they are more active than usual. One of the easiest ways to prevent this is to have plenty of water nearby or to camp near a water source that your dog can safely drink.
Not only is drinking enough water important, but being able to splash around and cool off will also be essential.
Try to find a campsite that also has plenty of shade so your dog can cool off and rest. Keep an eye on your dog to make sure they aren’t panting too much or more lethargic than usual, which could be a sign of overheating. If water isn’t nearby, consider purchasing a cooling vest to regulate your dog’s temperature.
For camping in the winter or cooler autumn months, keeping your dog warm might seem unimportant because of their fur coat. However, dogs can still experience problems due to the cold. Mostly you’ll have to be aware of what they are walking on because snow, ice, or melting water can harm their paws.
Look into getting some dog booties to protect their feet while they are outside.
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Keeping Your Pet Safe From Wildlife
After you’ve verified that your pet is ready for camping, one of the biggest concerns will be keeping your dog safe. There are so many dangers and hazards outdoors that can negatively impact your dog.
From wild animals to poisonous plants and annoying insects, it can seem like there’s no end to the mischief a dog can encounter while camping.
While you are at your campsite, keep your dog on a leash close to you. This will prevent any wild animals from attacking if your dog is roaming around. If there are predators in the area like bear, wolves, or coyotes, you will have to be especially vigilant.
While your dog may alert you if they detect animals nearby, don’t rely completely on them for this kind of protection and awareness.
Outside of predators, there are other animals like skunks or porcupines that can make your dog’s life difficult. While getting sprayed by a skunk isn’t necessarily harmful, it an certainly put a damper on your camping trip. The spines from a porcupine can certainly hurt your dog as well.
Depending on the size of your dog, the list of predators can be long or short. If you have a very small dog, for example, then you will need to worry about bigger birds. Other dogs in the campground can also intimidate a smaller dog as well.
In addition to direct harm, there could potentially be other animals your dog would be tempted to eat. These may be poisonous or simply not recommended for a dog to consume. So keeping your dog nearby and out of contact with local wildlife is in both of your best interests.
Lastly, you’ll have to be prepared for insects such as fleas and ticks. If you need any prescription medicine from your veterinarian, make sure to get it in advance before you leave to go camping. You can also consider a collar that can last for several months and is usually quite effective at keeping fleas and ticks off.
Other Health Precautions to Take
Just like packing a first aid kit for yourself, you will also need some similar items for your dog. Most of the items are the same basics for wrapping injuries, cleaning cuts and scrapes, and stopping an infection. If you don’t want to pack your own, you can find a dog-specific first aid kit for purchase.
If your dog is on any kind of medications, make sure to bring these along with you as well.
In addition to bandages and disinfectant, you should also bring some tweezers in case you need to remove ticks, thorns, or burrs. An emergency blanket is also helpful in case your dog gets chilled or wet and needs to be warmed up quickly.
For colder weather, booties are key for protecting paws from injury.
Another thing to be aware of is not letting your dog carry too much weight. While getting a vest or other pack so your dog can carry their own food and water, too much weight can harm your dog.
Wait until your dog is fully grown for them to start carrying additional weight. Start light and make sure they are able to handle it before increasing.
Depending on the location of your campground or nearby hikes, you will also have to be prepared for some worst case scenarios. What will you do if your dog falls and breaks a leg? What if they get bit by a poisonous snake? If these are possibilities, then plan accordingly.
For snakes, the best tip is prevention. Having your dog obey your command to come if a snake is spotted could save their life. Alternately, you can talk to your veterinarian about rattlesnake vaccines.
If your dog does get injured and is unable to walk, you will need to have enough equipment to transport your dog back to safety. This could include materials to create a makeshift stretcher to carry your dog or supplies in case you need to leave your dog behind to go for help.
Before you go camping, make sure your pet’s information is updated, including their microchip information and the tags on their collar. Make sure your contact information is also included and is current.
Also write down the name and number of a nearby veterinarian that you can call in case of an emergency.
Is It Safe to Let Your Dog Off Leash?
While camping you will probably decide to take some hikes nearby. Make sure to follow all the posted instructions for rules on the various trails. If dogs are required to be kept on a leash, make sure to do so. Those rules are there for a good reason.
If there is no requirement for a leash, don’t let your dog go off leash unless they are trained enough to come when called. Alternately, if you know there are no wildlife in the area and the space is open and free of any impediments that could harm your dog, then you can consider letting them off-leash.
One of the best things about camping with your dog is the opportunity for them to run around and explore new places. However, if you are concerned about your dogs safety, you can tether them on a long leash.
Another way to provide additional freedom is to bring along a portable pen that can collapse for travel and be set up at the campsite.
Anytime you are at your campsite, your dog should always be on a leash and never left unattended. Never leash your dog close to the campfire though. Instead, you can tie a leash to a picnic table leg, or door of a vehicle.
Packing the Basic Supplies
The first two essentials for any camping trip for humans and dogs alike are food and water. Make sure to bring plenty of extra food in case you end up extending your trip or find your dog’s appetite increases from all that fresh air and exercise.
Any food or treats you bring along should also be securely stored so they don’t attract other wildlife who would like to have it for a snack, leaving your dog hungry.
For water, you can bring your own water or rely upon water at the campground. Many campsites will have potable water available and you can call ahead to verify. If a clean water source is not available, pack a water filtration system that is easy to use and works quickly.
Although it may be difficult, try not to let your dog drink out of bodies of water because they could contain harmful bacteria or parasites.
Collapsible bowls are also very convenient because they are lightweight and don’t take up a lot of space. They can be taken along on hikes and packed away when you aren’t at the campsite.
For good campsite etiquette, it’s necessary to clean up after your dog. Consider packing some bags to clean up your dog’s waste in case none are provided at the campsite.
The next item is a leash and collar. While your dog should always wear a collar with their updated tags, consider purchasing a reflective or lighted collar for camping. This can be helpful at night so your dog does not get lost and so your dog is visible to other campers.
A leash is also essential as well to keep them secured at the campsite. If there is nowhere to tie a leash, you may also need to bring a stake along too.
Another essential to bring along are blankets and towels. Chances are your dog will end up getting very dirty while camping. Before letting your dog into a tent or vehicle, you’ll need to clean and dry them off.
Blankets can double to keep them warm and comfortable as well as protect the seats in your car.
A good brush may not be an absolute requirement but can be useful if your dog gets into debris that will tangle their hair. It can also prevent their hair from matting and getting tangled if they get muddy and wet.
Sleeping Arrangements for Your Dog
At night you’ll have to decide on a place for your dog to sleep. Usually the choice comes down to letting your pet sleep with you or giving them a place of your own.
If you are sleeping in a tent, your dog can join you but you may need a bigger tent depending on the size of your dog. You will also have to take into consideration cleanliness and smell if your dog has been outside playing all day and has gotten dirty.
Sleeping in an enclosed tent with a fragrant dog might not be the most pleasant experience. Not to mention that the tent can be hard to clean if your dog is a little dirtier than usual.
Another option is to let your dog sleep in a vehicle if you have one at your campsite. A pickup truck bed, for example, is a great option because it does provide some security. You can also bring along a dog bed or crate and put that in the bed for your dog to sleep in.
If your dog is already used to sleeping in a crate at home, then bring it along while camping to provide familiarity and security.
You can also purchase a tent made specifically for a dog. Most dog tents are lightweight yet very durable and provide the same level of security as a crate option. They are also easy to set up and have screened windows for airflow and cooling.
A dog tent is also a great way to give your dog a space of their own to hang out, nap, or just rest during the day. Bring along their own bed to put inside and some favorite toys and they will feel right at home.
If you do plan to let your dog sleep outside of the tent or vehicle on their own, make sure they are on a short leash so they cannot get far from the campsite. You’ll also have to be alert to wildlife that may come by in the night and disturb your dog or worse.
It’s recommended not to leave your dog sleeping all alone but, if it’s unavoidable, just make sure to take extra precautions.
Campsite Arrival and Etiquette
Upon arriving at your campsite, you will have a lot of work to do to get your camp set up. This can range from putting up a tent to cooking meals. It can be tempting to leave your dog in the vehicle while you set up. However, any time a dog is left in a vehicle, make sure there is plenty of ventilation so they do not overheat.
A better option is to put them on a short leash and keep them tethered nearby. The short leash will ensure they can’t roam too far or get under your feet while you’re trying to work. You can also opt to take them for a walk around the campground before you start unpacking so they can get familiarized with their new surroundings.
If you are staying in a campground with other campers nearby, you’ll have to take into account certain campsite etiquette. This includes always keeping an eye on your dog so they do not disturb those nearby.
Try to keep your dog’s barking to a minimum as well as this can be disturbance not only to fellow campers but the wildlife as well.
Feeding Your Pet
Always keep your pets food securely stored when you are not actively feeding them. This will stop it from attracting wildlife or any other pests. Only take food out at mealtimes and monitor your pet to make sure they don’t spill their food or leave scraps behind.
If there are bears in the area, for example, you may want to have a designated feeding area similar to a cooking area that is far from your tent.
After your pet’s meal, make sure to clean up and dispose of any leftover food and wash their food bowls. Don’t bury any leftover food or bones because this can attract animals to your campsite.
Your dog should always have access to water at the campsite so keep a bowl filled at all times. Make sure it’s located in a shady spot so the water stays fresh and cool.
While hiking or spending time away from the campsite, keep an eye on your dog to determine if they are thirsty so you can give them additional water.
International Camping Considerations
If you plan to travel outside of the country, even if you are driving across the border, you will need to do some additional planning in advance. The requirements to bring your pet to another country vary by location. One of the most common requirements is proof of a rabies vaccine.
Some countries also have restrictions on how many dogs you can bring with you. Mexico, for example, only allows visitors to bring two dogs into the country.
You will also have to get a Health Certificate issued for your pet no more than 72 hours in advance.
There may be additional rules on the kind of pet foods you can bring along as well. Certain countries will not allow food made from certain meats. If your pet eats a raw diet as well, there could be additional health concerns.
Because the rules and regulations vary so widely and can change frequently, it’s best to do some research in advance. You can also ask your veterinarian for advice because they have probably dealt with other pet owners traveling internationally.
Have Fun and Enjoy Camping Together
There are a lot of things to consider when you camp with your dog and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything you need to know. However, putting in the time to plan will make the trip go smoothly and be more enjoyable for everyone.
Once you’ve camped with your dog a few times, it will also become easier to do.
So don’t get discouraged from bringing your dog along. Keep safety in the back of your mind at all times, but don’t forget to have fun. If you’ve never taken your dog camping, you will be happily surprised to see how much they enjoy it.
One of the best things is sharing your love of the outdoors with your dog and creating new memories together. Don’t forget to take a lot of pictures to document your trip and share with friends and family when you return.
Start slowly and be patient with your dog if they are camping for the first time. Plan a trip that is more relaxed and doesn’t have a strict itinerary. That way you can both relax and get the most out of your camping trip.
Above all, enjoy spending time in nature with your dog and and experience the rewards of camping with your best friend.