Camping with Dogs: The Ultimate Guide
Summer is in full swing. The Fourth of July is right around the corner, temperatures are soaring, and it’s time for some fun in the sun. If you’re an animal lover who likes to get away for summer camping trips, you’re probably already dreaming about camping with dogs.
It’s true that a family camping trip wouldn’t be complete without your pup. Plus, camping is a family activity that many dogs genuinely enjoy. Most dogs can tag along on a camping trip easily — and safely.
But a fun and safe camping trip depends on making sure you have everything you need to help your dog enjoy his or her time in the great outdoors. Before camping with dogs, read this guide to make sure you’ve considered everything, from your campsite to the activities you plan to the supplies you pack, that will make your dog’s first camping trip a barking success.
Why Camping with Dogs Is a Great Idea
Let’s start with the basics: Why should you take your dog camping this summer?
There are so many reasons.
First, just because it’s fun! Camping is an activity that can involve your whole family, even four-legged members. It can also allow you to get some valuable bonding time with your pup.
Taking your dog with you when you go camping can also offer you some protection from dangers like wild animals or other people. This is especially true if you choose to go camping in a remote area instead of an established or well-trafficked campsite.
Another great reason to take your dog camping is that it allows you to meet other dog lovers — it’s a great way to make new friends!
But having a good time when camping with your dog depends on how well you’ve prepared for your trip. Here’s what you need to do.
Before You Go Camping with Dogs
Before you and your dog pack up your gear and head out, there are quite a few things you need to do to prepare for your trip.
Decide if Camping is a Good Fit for Your Dog
Not every dog will love camping, and it’s up to you to decide, based on what you know about your dog’s personality, whether taking him or her into the great outdoors is a good idea. If your dog doesn’t like change or doesn’t care for being outside, camping might not be his or her favorite activity. If you have a dog that barks at other people and animals, you might struggle at a campground where there are other campers. If your dog is aggressive around strangers or other animals, camping might not be for them.
Your dog should also be well trained in at least a few basic commands before you go camping. Even when off leash, your dog should come when called. He or she should also know to stop problematic behavior when scolded by you. Basically, you need to know that you’ll be able to control your dog and his or her behavior while camping. It will help keep you both safe, and ensure you and everyone around you can have the most enjoyable possible time.
Schedule a Vet Visit for Your Dog
Before going camping, make sure your dog has had a recent vet checkup and is in good overall health. It’s also important to make sure he or she is up to date on all vaccines, heartworm preventatives, and flea and tick medications. You should also get your dog microchipped, if you haven’t already. In case he or she gets lost on your camping trip, a microchip might help reunite you.
Research and Choose a Dog-Friendly Destination
When choosing where to camp, keep your dog in mind. If you’ve never camped with your dog before, you might want to choose a campsite with some amenities, and not go into the deep wilderness for your first trip.
Make sure your campsite is accessible for dogs, and that your dog is capable of getting there (for example, if it takes a long hike, an old or out-of-shape dog might struggle). Also make sure the campsite itself is dog-friendly — and that dogs are allowed.
When choosing a dog-friendly camping destination, research vets in the area and make sure you have contact information and directions for a nearby emergency vet, just in case.
Plan Dog-Friendly Activities for Your Trip
The good news is that most camping activities are very dog-friendly. You can take your pup with you to hike, explore, swim, cycle, canoe, or just hang out by the campfire. Remember to keep in mind your dog’s own likes and dislikes, as well as his or her physical abilities when planning activities.
If you’re planning a camping trip that will involve exploring towns or going for organized activities that don’t allow dogs, you may not want to bring your dog on the trip.
Supply Checklist for Camping with Dogs
Camping with dogs requires a fair amount of gear. Here’s everything you’ll want to bring.
- A dog bed
- Blankets for your dog (or a dog sleeping bag) in case it gets cold
- Bowls for food and water
- Leash and harness
- Your dog’s rabies and ID tags
- A crate, stakes, tether, or other system for restraining your dog
- A safety light that can attach to your dog’s collar or harness
- A Huan Smart Tag so you can track your dog’s location if he or she goes missing
- A first aid kit
- Dog-safe insect repellent
- A brush
- A tick remover
- Poop bags
- A jacket and boots if needed
- Lots of dog toys
- Extra towels in case your dog gets wet or dirty
One of the most important things you can bring camping with dogs is a Huan Smart Tag, which uses bluetooth to send signals to nearby smartphones and track your dog’s location on an app. Camping is a new experience for your dog. He or she may get lost in their unfamiliar surroundings, or may get scared and run away. If that happens, you’ll want to be prepared to find your dog quickly and safely. Huan can help you do it.
When packing for your dog, make sure to pack extras of everything — you’ll be glad you have them when you need them. And when planning the supplies your dog needs for a camping trip, take his or her size and breed and the weather into consideration.
How to Have a Great Time Camping with Dogs
The packing and prep work are done, and now it’s time for the fun part: Camping with your dog! Before you hit the road, check out these tips that will help you keep the trip fun and safe for you, your family, other campers, and, most importantly, your dog.
Start With a Small Trip
If you’ve never taken your dog camping before, start small. You may even want to do a trial run camping trip in your backyard before you go camping for real. This gives your dog a chance to get used to gear (like sleeping in a tent, which can be scary for some dogs). It also allows you to see how your dog reacts to spending an extended amount of time outdoors.
When you head out for your first real camping trip together, it’s not a bad idea to pick a campsite that isn’t very far away, and keep the trip short. One to two nights is a good starting point, and will give you a sense of whether your dog likes camping and would enjoy a longer trip in the future.
Keep Your Dog Safe On the Way
When on the way to your camping destination, use a harness that’s designed for keeping dogs safe in the car. Make sure to make plenty of pit stops so your dog can potty and stretch his or her legs during the drive.
Always Consider Temperatures
Make sure you’re prepared to keep your dog safe and comfortable at any temperature. If it’s going to be cold, bring plenty of blankets, consider investing in a dog sleeping bag (yes, they exist!), and plan on your dog sleeping inside your tent, car, or RV with you.
On the other hand, if it’s going to be hot, make sure you have plenty of water for your dog. Set up his or her bed in a shady area, and absolutely don’t leave him or her alone inside a tent or vehicle, where the temperature can climb much higher than outdoors.
Know and Follow Your Campsite’s Rules
While dogs are welcome at many campsites, there are likely to be rules in place to keep the area safe and welcoming for all people. If there are areas your dog isn’t allowed to go, take extra care to keep him or her away from them. If your dog is required to be on a leash at the campsite, follow the rules.
Set Up a Comfortable and Secure Spot for Your Dog
When you first arrive at a campsite, you want to set up your tent and chairs and get settled in. The same goes for your dog!
Make sure to set up an area that’s just for him or her, with a comfy bed, shade, and shelter from elements like wind and rain. Try to choose a spot that’s dry, not too buggy, and on terrain that won’t hurt your dog’s paws. It’s also a good idea to make sure this area has a tether or a crate so you can restrain your pup there if needed. Sometimes while camping, you just need both of your hands to do a job without having to hold on to a dog (like when you’re cooking dinner or tending to a campfire).
Give Your Dog More Water Than Usual
While camping, especially during the summer months, your dog is likely to need more water than usual, both to stay hydrated and to cool down if it’s hot out. Make sure there’s always fresh, cool water available at your campsite. If you leave the campsite for activities, be sure to bring a bowl and more water for your dog to drink while you’re away.
Try to Keep Your Dog’s Diet the Same
It’s tempting to sneak your dog bits of hot dog from around the campfire, but when camping, bring their usual food and try to keep their diet as consistent as possible. Too much unfamiliar food can make your dog sick, and a pup with an upset stomach is a quick way to ruin a camping trip for everyone involved.
If your dog typically isn’t very active at home, you might want to increase his or her regular food amount by a little bit while camping, to make up for the extra calories they’re burning with all that activity. Alternatively, a few extra treats should help fill their tummies.
When you pack your dog’s food for a camping trip, pack more than you need. In case of an emergency, you might need some extra.
Never Leave Your Dog Unattended at Camp
One of the reasons you should carefully plan your activities on your camping trip to include your dog is that it’s not safe to leave your pet unattended at a campsite. Your dog will be in an unfamiliar place, and if his or her pack of people leaves, it could cause serious stress or anxiety that could make your dog bark, act out, or even break free and run away.
Your dog is also vulnerable to dangers like wildlife and strangers when left alone at a campsite. Most people would probably leave your pup alone, but there are dog thieves out there, so it’s never a good idea to leave your dog unattended in any public place, even one that’s semi-secluded like a campsite.
Mind Your Neighbors
You love dogs, of course. But that doesn’t mean everyone does. Your neighbors at your campsite might not be dog people, and that’s something you have to keep in mind when camping with your dog.
Try to limit his or her barking, especially at night (and if you have a dog that barks at any and all strangers, a campsite with other people might not be the best place for you). Make sure your dog stays in your campsite and doesn’t wander off to others — especially if your neighbors are cooking or eating.
Keep a Close Eye On Your Dog’s Behavior
In addition to keeping your pup away from other campers who might not love dogs as much as you do, it’s up to you to make sure your pet’s behavior is respectful to the campground. Make sure your dog doesn’t dig holes or chew on anything inappropriate. The golden rule of camping is to leave everything exactly as you found it, and that goes for your dog, too.
Watch Out for Wildlife
When camping, you probably already know to look out for signs of wildlife that could be dangerous for your dog, like bears, wolves, coyotes, or snakes. But it’s equally important to keep an eye out for wildlife that your dog could be a danger to. Don’t allow your dog to chase squirrels, rabbits, or deer. If he or she has a high prey drive, keep a leash attached at all times to help protect local wildlife.
And don’t forget to watch out for the smallest of dangerous creatures: Ticks. After every hike or walk, and at the end of each day of your camping trip, check your dog’s skin carefully for ticks, and remove any you find.
Clean Up After Your Dog
This should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: When camping, clean up after your dog. Any dog poop should be scooped and properly disposed of in the campsite’s trash area, or brought home with you to throw away if there’s not an appropriate place to dispose of it at your campsite.