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How To Go Camping With Your Dog

        
          

Camping with a pet is a favorite pastime for many people.  However, there is more to camping with your dog than simply showing up to a campground, dog in tow.  Here, everything you need to know about camping with your dog will be discussed.  

Choosing a Campground

The first step is to choose a campground.  Even though it seems obvious that dogs would be allowed at every camp site, you should always double check to ensure that rules have not changed.  Many state parks, for instance, do not allow four-legged friends.  

After you have double checked that dogs are, in fact, allowed on-site, know the rules and regulations.  If you plan to allow your dog to join you for off-leash hikes, make sure dogs are allowed off-leash in that area.  No matter how well-behaved your dog, it is imperative that you follow the posted ordinances.  

Finally, consider the amenities that the campsite has to offer.  Will you be in close proximity with other people and (potentially) their dogs?  Will there be plenty of room for your dog to exercise, either on or off-leash?  How close is the nearest veterinarian should an emergency arise?  Is there a risk of your dog interacting with dangerous wildlife, such as bears, coyotes, or porcupine?  Keep all of these details in mind when making your decision.    

Accommodations

There are three common types of camping:  tent, RV, and cabin.  Each type of camping requires unique considerations for you and your pet.  

Tent Camping

There are generally two types of tent camping:  wilderness and at a designated campsite.  If you are wilderness camping there are likely to be few, if any, restrictions on your dog.  However, wilderness camping can pose a number of unique challenges.  For instance, what will you do with your dog while you are away from the campsite?  Many dogs cannot be safely left alone inside a tent, for fear they will damage the tent or tear apart its contents, such as a down filled sleeping bag.  

A second option is to use a tie-out lead that is staked into the ground with a lead attached to your dog’s collar or harness.  For mild mannered dogs that are used to the outdoors, this option works well when the animal is supervised.  However, if wildlife such as bears or coyotes are present this setup can provide predatory animals with an easy target.  The safest option for leaving your dog at a campsite is inside a kennel, inside the tent.  

Another consideration is the size of your tent and where the dog will sleep at night.  If your tent is small and cramped, it can certainly be uncomfortable to invite your dog into your tent – especially on a warm night.  If you plan to camp often with your pet, consider a larger tent for comfort’s sake.  If you intend for your dog to be outside of the tent overnight, a destruction-proof kennel is your safest option, or to have your dog sleep in your car (with the windows slightly cracked or a portable fan blowing on your pet).  

If you are camping at a campground, many of the above rules apply.  However, it is also necessary to find out whether there are any breed restrictions for the type of dog you can bring into the camping area.  

RV Camping

Another popular way to camp with a pet is with an RV.  Indeed, this option provides the best of both worlds:  it allows for the freedom of camping without many of the safety concerns that come with tent camping.  However, it is important to first find out whether the RV park you have chosen allows dogs.  When sitting outdoors, a tie-out leash can provide freedom for your pet without violating leash laws.  

Cabin Camping

Cabin camping is another option that provides the freedom of camping as well as safety for your dog when you are away.  However, be aware that many campgrounds require additional security fees and deposits when animals will be lodged inside a cabin.  If the campground or camping area has a cleaning staff, be sure to keep your dog kenneled any time you are away from the cabin.  

Camping with your Dog:  Canine Camping Gear

When camping with your dog there are certain items that will make the experience easier.  

Collapsible Food and Water Bowls

When you are camping you do not have a lot of additional storage space.  Look for bowls that maximize space, such as the types that collapse.  There are many varieties to choose from, and pet owners are guaranteed to find a bowl that fits personal preferences such as style and budget.  

Food Storage Containers

Another consideration is keeping your dog’s food safe from predators.  Durable, weather-proof food bags are a great option that can be rolled down to save space as the food is consumed.  Always make sure you overpack food for your pup.

Dog Bed / Sleeping Bag

Your dog needs a comfortable place to rest at your campsite.  Depending on the weather conditions, a canine sleeping bag can be ideal for cold weather camping.  In hot conditions, consider a raised dog bed that elevates your dog off the ground and keeps him or her from trapping body heat.  If opting for a normal bolster-type dog bed, look for one with a water and insect-repellent bottom.

First Aid Kit

Anything can happen when camping, especially in the wilderness.  Pack a first aid kit both for you and your dog (many items perform double duty).  Essential items include gauze, veterinary wrap, cotton swabs, non-stick pads, medical tape, gloves, benadryl, eye dropper, styptic powder, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, scissors, and hot / cold packs.  

Dog Tent

Small dog tents that are the perfect size for a dog are available.  While this option might not be a practical place for your dog to sleep, it is perfect for daytime use.  Tents made for dogs provide a convenient and shady area for your pet to retreat during the heat of the day, and an insect-proof place to lounge when sitting around the campfire.  

Dog Backpack

If you plan to hike with your pet, consider saddlebags or a backpack for your pooch.  These items allow you to carry all of the essentials your dog may require, without adding extra weight to your own backpack.  

Dog Hammock

If you are camping in an area where dangerous animals and insects commonly found on the ground are a concern (i.e. scorpions and rattlesnakes), a dog hammock provides a safe place for your dog to lounge comfortably.  

Life Vest

If you intend to engage in any water activities, a life vest for your dog is a must.  Look for a vest that will keep your dog safe without impeding his or her movement in the water.  

Booties

Campsites can have difficult terrain that are tough for dogs to navigate, such as rocks and debris.  Keep your dog’s paws safe by investing in booties if you plan to do a lot of hiking.  As a general rule of thumb, if the trails require hiking boots, your dog would do best with an extra layer of protection.

Collar Light

At night it can be easy to lose sight of your dog and panic.  Avoid this situation by purchasing an LED collar light that adds extra visibility to your pup.  

Preparing for Extreme Weather

While no one wants to think about extreme weather affecting his or her camping trip, it is best to be prepared just in case.  Here, special considerations to make when camping with your pet in sub-par weather are discussed.  

Cold

When the weather is especially cold, dogs will require extra calories if spending the majority of their time outdoors.  In fact, plan to give your dog up to 30% more food, depending on the dog’s size and activity level.  For instance, a medium-sized, short haired dog that is spending the entire camping trip outdoors and being active will require larger portion sizes.  A small dog that is spending the majority of his or her time inside a temperature controlled cabin or RV, however, will not.  

A second consideration is clothing.  Unless your dog is an arctic breed (i.e. Siberian Husky or Alaskan Malamute), he or she will require additional layers.  Dog parkas, snowsuits, windbreakers, and sweaters are all readily available at pet stores.  At night, your dog will also require special sleeping arrangements.  Consider a canine sleeping bag, or additional blankets if sleeping outdoors.  Beware that if your dog is sleeping in a kennel, too many blankets inside the crate could pose as a strangulation hazard.

Finally, make sure you have a way to keep your water supply from freezing in especially cold weather.  

Rain

Nothing dampens the fun of a camping trip like a rainy day and a wet dog.  However, knowing how to deal with this situation can make a huge difference.  First, if there is any lightning in the vicinity, find a safe location to wait out the storm.  

If rain is in the forecast, make sure to pack a large tarp for covering your camping area.  Sharing a tent with a wet dog is never any fun, so also pack plenty of absorbent towels.  If your dog has long fur, a brush is also useful for helping the dog dry quickly.  If your dog is prone to “wet doggy odor” pack a small can of deodorizing spray that will make being in close-quarters with your dog more manageable. When rain is a concern, having an extra tent for your dog can make everyone happier.  

Finally, pack a rain jacket for your pet if you know there is a chance of storms.  While a rain jacket will not keep your dog 100% dry, it will significantly reduce the amount of wetness  

Extreme Heat

Perhaps the most dangerous weather condition for your dog is extreme heat.  Your campsite should have a shaded spot for your dog as well as access to fresh water at all times.  If you have extra space, pack a small kiddie pool that your dog can use to cool off in throughout the day.  

Cooling vests and cooling mats are also essential items when the temperature soars.  These products are soaked in water and keep your dog cool via evaporation.  If you will be spending a lot of time hiking, make sure to take plenty of water breaks for your dog.  Know the signs of heat exhaustion, and beware that prevention is far more reliable than treatment.  

Keeping your Dog Safe

The worst thing that can happen during a camping trip is that your dog becomes lost or injured.  Listed here are tips for keeping your dog safe during your trip.

Carry Identification

Even if your dog has never run off before and is good off-leash, always be prepared.  Make sure your dog is wearing a well-fitting collar that has up to date information on the identification tags.  Before leaving for your trip, have the vet insert a microchip in case your dog does not already have one.  Keep an up-to-date picture of your dog on your phone in case he or she goes missing.

Have Veterinary Records Handy

If your dog experiences an emergency during your trip, it is important that he or she be treated immediately.  However, transferring veterinary records from your dog’s veterinarian can delay this process.  Keep a copy of your dog’s records on hand so that you can ensure your pet receives immediate care.

Be Up to Date on Vaccines

Never take your dog into the wilderness without a vaccination update.  If your dog has never been vaccinated for leptospirosis, a disease that is transmitted by eating the feces of animals such as raccoons and rabbits, or drinking contaminated water, talk to your veterinarian.  

Use Preventatives

Do not forget to pack your dog’s preventative medications, such as for fleas, ticks, and heartworm.  Check your dog for ticks daily if you are traveling to a wooded region, and know how to remove a tick safely.  Consider purchasing a tick removal tool if you are concerned ticks will be prevalent.

Keep your Dog Leashed

Especially if other dogs are nearby, keep your dog leashed at all times.  Not only will this measure prevent your dog from running off after an exciting woodland creature, but will prevent any potential fights at the campground.  Even if your dog is friendly, it is not fair to assume that other dogs or people want to interact with your pet.

Brush Up on Obedience Skills

Even if your dog is trained in obedience, make sure your dog is up to date on his or her skills.  Obedience commands that are necessary while camping include “sit,” “stay,” “come,” “on,” and “off.”  

Leaving your Dog Unattended

During a camping trip it is unlikely you will spend every single moment with your dog.  However, leaving your pet unattended can be nerve-wracking and dangerous if you are not camping in a cabin or RV.  During the hot summer months, leaving your dog in a car is also a poor option.  Look for kennels and veterinarians nearby that may provide day care for your dog if you are planning a daytrip that is not dog-friendly.  Otherwise, do research ahead of time for breweries, restaurant patios, and stores that all allow dogs.  

Conditioning

If you are planning to go hiking or swimming while camping with your dog, make sure your dog is acclimated to those activities.  Additionally, if you are travelling to a warmer climate, be aware that your dog will be at a greater risk for heat stroke, even during moderate activity.  Know and understand the symptoms, which include excessive panting, a bright red tongue, pale gums, thick saliva, weakness, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, and collapse.  If heatstroke is suspected, lower your dog’s temperature immediately with cool (never ice cold) water and take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.  

Beware of Pet Poisons

Certain plants and animals are poisonous to unsuspecting dogs.  For instance, in the southwest United States specific species of frogs can cause seizures, shock, and coma in animals, even if the frog is merely licked.  Stinging nettle, poisonwood, poison ivy, and poison oak can all cause discomfort when a dog or pet owner comes into contact with these plants.  Unidentified berries and fruits may also be poisonous, as well as the leaves of these plants, so do your best to keep your pup from sampling the greenery.  

Packing List

Listed here are all the essentials for camping with your dog.

  • Food
  • Food storage container
  • Bottled water
  • Collapsible food and water dish
  • Collar
  • Identification tags
  • Microchip
  • Veterinary records
  • First aid kit
  • Leash
  • Extra leash
  • Tie-out
  • Treats
  • Bedding
  • Weather-appropriate clothing
  • Towels
  • Brush
  • Poop Bags
  • Dog Tent / Tarp for shade
  • Life Vest
  • Toys
  • Necessary medications

Camping with your best friend is certainly a lot of fun, but there are special considerations that must be made in order to have a safe trip.  By following these guidelines, you and your dog will be able to enhance your bond by camping together in the safest manner possible.  

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Anna Weber

Anna Weber

As a life-long dog owner and animal lover I have dedicated my adult life to rescuing and fostering dogs, particularly seniors and behaviorally at-risk animals.I believe that nearly every animal can be rehabilitated with love, kindness, training, and proper exercise.
Anna Weber