Camping With Your Dog: Tips For A Fun and Safe Outdoor Adventure

man camping with his dog

Did you know that June is National Camping Month?  When you think about it, isn’t this an excellent time to pack up your gear and experience nature – especially with your best buddy?

We’ve got a few suggestions to enjoy the great outdoors – both for the humans and the pups.

For the Whole Family

Whether you like roughing it or prefer to “glamp” it up, it’s important to keep some things in mind.

  • You’re going to need water (and so is your pup!). That might mean packing it in.  No worries though – the load gets lighter the further you go!
  • A first aid kit could come in handy (better safe than sorry).  Make sure the kit contains a pair of tweezers to remove thorns or ticks (or both if your pup’s like mine).  A bandana is also handy.  It’ll keep the sweat off your brow but can also wrap a cut, or used as a sling or even a short leash.
  • You’ll probably want to take non-perishable food (granola bars, jerky, peanut butter, chocolate bars, and dried fruits, especially if you are not taking a cooler) AND if there are critters in the area – make sure you know how to store your food at night!  You are also going to need food for your pup, AND if you are hiking, probably more than you would normally feed – your dog is going to likely cover 10x the distance that you do!  Run ahead, to the side, back and forth…. You know we’re right!
  • Be prepared for unexpected weather!  Definitely take a hat and sunscreen. And a towel for the pup could come in handy.

Around the country, there are a variety of campsites available. The more modern campsite includes showers and recreational facilities. These often include water hookups and parking pads for RVs and campers and cabins to rent as well as more primitive sites with no electrical hookups designed for tent usage.  Other parks only allow primitive camping and require everything you pack into the park to be packed out. So, seriously consider your needs if you are hiking into the park for your stay. These are not for the glampers.

For The Pups

Your dog is going to love going with you!!!  Super fun and exciting, so many new sniffs and places to explore.  Here’s a few doggy specific items to think about…

Many dogs of all shapes and sizes love the great outdoors, and if your dog fits this bill, it’s likely partially because you also love to be outside and enjoying the bounties of nature! Such is the case with my little family – we go on an extensive amount of camping trips, both in the winter and summertime. 

Spending time with your dog is an essential way to build a strong bond based on trust, communication, and most importantly love, and what better place to build such a bond than out in nature? Whether this is your first or fiftieth time camping with your dog, here are some helpful tips to make sure you and your furry friend stay safe, healthy, and having a great time on your adventures.

Preparation is Key!

While on your excursion, your dog is likely to experience many new sights, sounds, and smells. You can expect to run into crowds, other pets and wildlife, and potentially a long car ride. One key part of the preparation process is simple obedience training. Make sure that your dog knows how to walk on a leash, respond to your commands (sit and stay are very important basics), and interact with unfamiliar humans, animals, and situations.

Check The Campsite About Rules for Dogs

There’s nothing worse than driving up to your destination with your happy pup beside you and then seeing a sign that says, “No Dogs Allowed”!   We recommend researching online – it’s usually a simple google search, but there are sites out there that can make it a bit easier.

Many campgrounds are very welcoming of dogs, especially if they’re well-behaved, but it’s always a good idea to check ahead on the campground’s website before your camping trip. If the website doesn’t specify if pets are allowed, try to contact them by phone just to make sure you won’t be turned away for arriving with your furry friends. If your campground does allow dogs, there are likely regulations that you also need to be aware of, such as:

  • Leash requirements: Your dog will most likely be required to remain leashed for your entire trip. Many campgrounds state their leash must not be longer than 6 feet, or that their leash may not be retractable. Check with your campgrounds for their leash specifications.
  • Barking and “quiet hours”: Our canines tend to be vocal in many ways, including barking. While most people will be understanding of this, almost every campground has a noise ordinance in place declaring that “quiet hours” are from 10 pm to 8 am, or some variation of that time frame.
  • Aggressive behaviors: Any dog that is growling, snipping at, biting, or otherwise scaring people is not going to be welcomed in the campground environment. Consider your dog’s reaction to unfamiliar people, places, and things before taking them camping. It really is safer in the long run for, your dog and everyone else, to leave dogs that may not respond well at home.

Another consideration before you take your dog camping is their overall health. While dogs are remarkably resilient, and will most likely bound around outside even with an illness or injury, it’s the responsibility of a pet owner to regulate your dog as needed.

family out camping with their dog

Ensure the activities you have planned are age and ability appropriate for all your traveling companions, including the furry ones. Also, consider:

  • Up-To-Date Vaccines: Rabies vaccines are mandated by law throughout most of the United States, and many campgrounds state that they may ask for proof of this during your stay. Other vaccines, such as distemper and parvo, are recommended as well, especially because these diseases are transmitted by rodents, which are, of course, abundant in nature.
  • Flea and Tick Prevention Fleas and ticks are also abundant in the great outdoors, so speak with your vet about the best options for you and your dog. If you can’t get into the vet before your trip, consider buying an over-the-counter flea and tick preventative anyway.
  • Microchipping: Although not required by campgrounds or laws, microchipped pets are much more likely to be reunited with their owners in the case they’re accidentally separated. While a collar is a decent alternative, microchips cannot fall off or be lost.
  • Grooming: It seems counterproductive to get your dog groomed before they go make a mess of themselves in nature, but the proper coat and nail hygiene can prevent injuries (liked snagged fur and nails) while camping. Long-haired and dark-coated dogs are also more likely to overheat in hot temperatures, so consider your dog’s breed and heat tolerance when getting them groomed as well.

What Dog Supplies Should You Bring Camping?

What will your pet will need to be safe, healthy, happy, and comfortable on your adventure? I bring a separate bag for my dog’s belongings on camping trips, both to help keep things organized, and because it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared! Here are some suggestions on what to bring for your dog:

  • Dog food and an outdoor safe bowl (stainless steel is preferable)
  • Outdoor safe bowl for water (stainless steel is preferable)
  • Dog treats
  • Prescription medications (if applicable)
  • Stake, tether, lead rope, etc.
  • Extra “dog” towels (these are towels dubbed old or worn enough for dog use)
  • Dog first-aid kit
  • Outdoor safe dog toys
  • Leash or leashes (ensure you have short option available, such as 6ft or less)
  • Dog first aid kit
  • A current photo
  • Vet records and medical information
  • An ID tag, preferable attached to a collar (include information such as pet’s name, your name, and contact information)
  • Dog waste bags (Leave No Trace!)

The aforementioned supplies are what I consider to be “essentials” but I also like to try to plan for the particular activities and weather we’ll experience on our outing. If you’ll be hiking or swimming a lot, there may be other supplies you want on hand for your furry friend.

Check the weather for the area you’ll be staying in a couple days prior to your trip and plan around it (for yourself and your dog!) as best as you can. Here are some activity and weather preparedness suggestions:

  • Dog brush
  • Outdoor or waterproof harness
  • Swim safe (floating) leash
  • Doggy backpack (if your dog is able to carry some of their own supplies while hiking, swimming or otherwise adventuring, a small backpack will help them pull their own weight!)
  • Their dog bed (consider if your dog will sleep well without their bed)
  • Doggy rain jacket
  • Booties or other paw protectors (especially important for cold weather, especially if your dog is short-haired or ill-adept to the cold, such as mine)

couple and dog by a campfire

Having Fun and Being Safe

The arguably most important part of your camping trip with your dog is that you both have a fun, memorable experience, and come home all in one piece! In addition to planning dog-friendly activities, make sure you plan plenty of time to stop and take in the views while allowing your canine friend to eat, drink, and rest as they need to. This will help prevent overexertion and exhaustion in both you and your pet. Other important safety tips include:

  • Never leave your dog unattended: Even if your dog is a big, strong German Shepard, terrible things can happen to animals left unattended in cars, at campsites, and at dog parks. Protect your beloved pet by keeping them with you at all times.
  • Upgrade your supplies: Although your flower print leash and collar set is adorable for walks around the neighborhood, consider buying something more durable, water-proof, and even reflective for your adventures in the wilderness.
  • Keep your dog secure: Some dogs listen very well off-leash, and this makes owners likely to trust them, even while camping, but it’s best practice to keep your dog secured in some aspect at all times, even if is a long lead that allows your dog to access a large area. This will give them “free roam” of a manageable area, but also allow you to access them quickly in case of emergency.
  • Watch out for plants and wildlife: It’s very possible to encounter various kinds of wildlife on your camping trip. Most people fear bears and snakes, but even deer and rodents can be a danger to your pet. Never permit your dog to drink from stagnant water, and be wary of lakes, ponds, and rivers that could be infected with poisonous blue-green algae. Research local poisonous plants as well (especially plants that are hazardous to both humans and animals) and be knowledgeable on how to identify such plants. Be aware of your surroundings at all times, and prepared to react accordingly.

There are so many other factors to consider when taking your dog camping and endless what-ifs that we could discuss, but so long as you’re prepared with appropriate veterinary care, supplies (including the doggy first aid kit!), and knowledge of the area you’re going to be visiting, you have everything necessary to ensure you and your dog both have an amazingly memorable camping experience.

Does Your Dog Even Like Adventure?

Be honest, is your dog a hiker or a couch potato?  Is he or she up to the same level of activity as you?  Sometimes the answer is no, but that’s still ok, ‘cause you can carry your buddy in a pack – but if that isn’t the case, maybe plan for something a bit more sedate – car camping, anyone?

Recall – More Important than Ever!

We wrote about recall in our So, You Adopted A New Dog blog post, contending that it is the most important skill to teach any dog. We’re going to double down on that statement here! When you are out in the wild, you have no idea what you may encounter, and a rock-solid recall will be the key to keeping everyone safe!  Whether it is unsafe terrain, a snake on the path or something gross your pup decides to roll in, you need to get Buddy back to you lickety-split!

Another command that you might want to practice before your trip is “leave it.”  We recommend bringing along some Jiminy’s Training Treats to help entice your pup away from danger (or gross things you’d rather not see in his mouth)!

In Case You Get Separated

Make sure your dog has good identification on his collar.  Your mobile number is really important so you won’t be playing phone tag if you’re separated.  Also, if your pup isn’t microchipped, now (before your trip) is an excellent time to get that done!

HAVE FUN!

We know you’re going to have a blast!  Don’t forget your camera, because we want to see pictures!

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