Getting out in nature is a great way to relax, de-stress and have a good time. Taking your dog a long for the ride is even better! But before you embark on your next, or first camping trip with your dog, you will need to make some preparations. From assessing whether your dog will be a good camper, to choosing the site and bringing the right supplies; the better prepared, the better the experience.
Is Your Dog Right for Camping?
Similar to our post on hiking with your dog, you need to consider your dog’s abilities. From their behavior to their fitness, these factors will determine where you go camping and for how long. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is your dog easily stressed, overwhelmed or excited?
- Does your dog get nervous or antsy around new people or dogs?
- Does your dog bark a lot?
- Does your dog dislike being tied or leashed?
- Is your dog difficult to control or manage when he’s excited?
- Does your dog have medical issues that would hinder her ability to hike and camp?
- Does your dog tend to wander off and disobey commands?
- How does your dog handle confined spaces?
- How does your dog handle long car rides?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, we recommend taking some time to work with your pup to ensure a fun and safe camping trip before making plans.
Here are some ways to combat the concerns you answered “yes” to from the questions above:
- Take your dog on short hikes in preparation for the camping trip. This can have many benefits, from gauging your dog’s fitness levels and the length and intensity of hikes they can handle, as well as get them used to seeing and interacting with other dogs and people on the trails.
- Take your dogs with you on longer car rides, or half day trips to help them get used to being in the car for long periods of time.
- Set up your tent and camp in the back yard with your dog to help him get used to being in smaller spaces.
- Practice dog training and make sure your dog understands and obeys basic commands like heel, sit, stay, and come. Another essential command while camping is “leave it”. This command tells your dog to stop what she’s doing, and drop whatever is in her mouth. This command is critical as camping in nature means playing well with the other wildlife and keeping safe.
Essentially, make sure your dog can handle the car ride, can sleep in or near tents, can handle long walks or hikes, and is comfortable enough around other people, dogs, and wildlife. Taking the time to ensure your dog is familiar and comfortable with camping customs will help ensure a safe experience.
Choosing the Campsite
When choosing your campsite, make sure it allows for dogs and then read up on any rules or guidelines regarding leash regulations. Each campsite will have different rules on whether your dog needs to be leashed the whole time or not.
It’s also important to choose campgrounds that have a lot of shade and water sources nearby. Dogs can easily overheat, so ponds or lakes they can swim in (if they can swim) will be great for cooling them off.
Don’t forget to factor in the terrain. If you have a small dog, make sure to choose a campsite that your dog can easily get to, and any hikes you embark on are covered in needles or leaves versus rocky trails. Larger dogs can handle harsher terrains, but you need to be mindful of what your dog can handle.
To ensure your dog’s safety and health, take care of the following before you head out on your camping trip:
- Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date including rabies.
- Apply flea and tick medication to your pup. You can use long-lasting medications like Frontline or pack pest repellant wipes. Be sure to bring a tick key and check your dog multiple times a day, particularly after getting back from a hike.
- Consider microchipping your dog if you haven’t already. If your dog runs off or gets lost, the microchip can be scanned by Animal Control, to ensure your dog is safely returned. Another great option, is a gps collar. These devices let you set up safe zones that alert you when your dog wanders away allowing you to track and find him quickly.
What to Bring
Alright, you’ve chosen a campsite, your pup is up to date on his vaccinations and you are ready to start packing, so what do you bring?
- Fitted collar with ID tags
- Safety lights for your dog’s collar
- Proof of up-to-date vaccinations (just in case)
- Sturdy 6 to 10 foot leash (check campsite guidelines)
- 10-20 foot rope and a stake for being tied out
- Collapsible food dishes
- Food and water to last the length of your stay and then some
- Water filtration system (if drinking water is unavailable at the campgorund)
- Dog treats to use for good behavior or when you really need to get your dog’s attention
- Poop bags if needed (check campsite guidelines)
- Sleeping pad, sleeping bag, pillow, and tarp for your dog
- Dog brush and tick key for removing pests and debris that can get caught in your dog’s fur
- Dog backpack with reflective strips. When using the pack, make sure that your dog can comfortably handle the weight you put in the pack. Don’t fill it too full! And remember to keep the weight evenly distributed on both sides.
- First aid kit, make sure to include the following for your dog:
- Flat-bladed tweezers
- Bandana for a makeshift muzzle
- Emergency blanket to treat shock or cold
- Needle-nose pliers to extract thorns, etc.
- Booties to protect injured paws
- Contact information for the nearby pet clinic.
5 Tips to Ensure a Safe & Fun Camping Experience
- 1. Be mindful of others and nature. Excessive barking can disrupt the natural quiet and calm of nature disrupting other campers and nearby wildlife. If needed, use dog treats to calm the barking, or put your dog in the tent with something to distract him from whatever was triggering him outside.
- 2. Keep an eye on your dog at all times. A lot of campsites will require that your dog is restrained in some way, so check the guidelines for the site. If you tie out your dog, make sure he won’t be able to get loose or hurt himself trying. If the campsite doesn’t enforce constant restraint, make sure your dog is in eyesight at all times and is close enough to hear your commands. Out in nature, there will be things your dog is not used to seeing which may spark some curiosity. Whether that be wandering off to follow a squirrel or spotting a snake on the ground. Monitoring your dog will ensure his and other’s safety.
- 3. Make sure your dog stays hydrated. Dog’s can easily overheat, so pay attention to coughing, excessive panting, and lethargy. If you notice any of those signs, stop, find some shade, and give your dog a water break. Your dog’s energy levels can also let you know when she needs a break. Take rest and water breaks often while hiking or during other activities to ensure your dog stays hydrated and happy. But remember; don’t let your dog drink standing water as it can contain harmful bacteria and viruses. Pack water and or purify any collected water.
- 4. Keep your dog warm. Your dog’s fur coat doesn’t make her impervious to the cold. Place a tarp underneath the sleeping pad or bag for your dog to avoid moisture from the ground. Bring an extra blanket just in case.It’s best to sleep with your dog inside the tent if possible. She’ll still be able to hear and smell what is happening outside without getting involved with the wildlife and critters while you’re sleeping.
- 5. Check your dog for ticks and scratches. Throughout each day, check your dog’s paws for cuts and scratches. Check her ears and nose for seeds and foxtails. Make sure to check for ticks, especially after a hike.
You should now be all set for your camping adventure. Remember, the more prepared you are ahead of time, the smoother the trip will be for you and your dog. Have a great time and stay hydrated!