Camping season is finally here again. As campsites open for the season and you start to get your gear out of storage, you may be thinking about taking your dog with you on your camping trip this year. If you are inexperienced when it comes to camping with a dog, this guide is for you! You will find tips on how to prepare for the trip, etiquette tips, safety tips to help keep you and your dog safe, and tips for building great memories together.
Consider first what your dog can handle and if camping would be more stressful than fun for you (and them!). If you have a hyper, disobedient, or whiny puppy and you are still learning discipline together, camping may not be the best time to test your progress. If your dog is well behaved and a little more mature, here are some other things to make sure they know before taking them camping:
- Teach them commands such as “leave it”, “whoa”, “come”, and “down” to make them drop something they may pick up in their mouths (think snakes and other dangerous animals), to keep them out of harm, and to keep them from bothering others.
- Make sure they are good at staying with you or staying where they are told to stay.
- Help them become accustomed to staying in a tent.
Where to Go
There are many beautiful places around the country to go camping, but not all of them welcome your furry friend with open arms. Before you leave for your trip, double check that your destination allows for dogs. Many dog friendly campgrounds have guidelines for how your pet should be restrained and how long a leash can be. Be prepared to follow all of these regulations.
If your dog is young, be careful of taking them somewhere that may require physical exertion beyond their current ability. Walking long distances or letting a dog carry any additional weight should be avoided until they are full grown, so consider the terrain. In preparation for a hike into a campsite, take your dog on increasingly longer walks to help them get physically fit for the adventure.
What to Pack
Just as you will need supplies to survive out in the wilderness, your dog is going to need supplies too. Here is a list to get you started:
- Clean water supply (if this is not available at the campsite)
- Food and water dishes
- Bedding. Bring extra blankets if necessary to ensure your dog will be warm enough at night. If you can, have them sleep in the tent with you to keep them safe and so you can keep each other warm.
- Leash and collar/harness/carrier
- Copy of dog’s health and vaccination records, especially if crossing state lines
- Doggy poop bags
- Small shovel
- Dog’s medications
- Doggy first aid kit (complete with vet approved pain relievers, gloves, tweezers, and a tick key)
- Life jacket, if you will be on the water
As you will likely share camping space with other humans (and possibly their dogs, too), here are some good manners to remember:
When you come across another hiker while hiking, step off the path and control your dog to let the hiker pass at a distance.
Bury or carry out all dog poop so others do not accidentally step in it.
Keep your dog and yourself as quiet as possible, so as to not disturb other campers and wildlife. The last thing anyone wants when they are trying to enjoy the tranquility of nature is to be kept up at night by someone’s dog barking and their owner yelling at them.
Your dog will encounter new dangers on your camping trip. Here are some specific dangers to watch for when camping:
- Fleas and Ticks: Check your dog regularly for fleas and ticks and be ready to remove any you may find. Never touch them with your bare hands, as some may carry diseases like Lyme Disease. When you return home, give your dog a good scrub down with a sulfate free flea and tick wash such as this one.
- Bad Water: Do not allow your dog to drink any standing water as it likely has collected chemicals or bacteria that could hurt your dog.
- Cooking Hazards: Keep your dog away from the campfire and cooking utensils to prevent them from getting burned or injured.
- Heat Exhaustion: Especially in the warmer weather and with the increased physical activity, keep an eye on your dog’s mood and energy level. Watch for heat exhaustion and keep your dog well hydrated and in the shade as much as possible.
- Abandonment: Do not leave your dog confined in the car (especially in hot weather) or tied to a stationary object. Always, always, always supervise your dog.
- Aggression: Do not bring an aggressive dog, a barker, or a wanderer into the wilderness. This will only cause issues for yourself and other campers.
Camping trips are often most enjoyable when you bring along your canine friend. As you prepare for your camping trip, remember the tips above and get ready for a memory making adventure.