Taking dogs camping can bring a lot of enjoyment and excitement to your next camping trip, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you allow your canine companion to tag along with you.
Dogs can go camping provided they are in a campground that allows dogs, and the dogs always remain under the owner’s control. Dogs should be confined to the campsite to avoid getting lost and kept on a leash during camping, hiking, and fishing activities.
Being prepared when you bring your dog camping can ensure that the experience is fun for you and your dog rather than stressful. Keep reading on to learn more about how to take your dog camping successfully.
Does the Campground Allow Dogs?
Before you jump in the car with your dog and head off camping, the first thing that you need to verify is if dogs are even allowed to be at the campground you’ll be staying in.
In national parks, dogs are generally allowed to visit, while in smaller parks such as state parks and local campgrounds, the regulations vary from place to place. In many national parks where dogs are allowed to visit, they may or may not be allowed to camp overnight.
Here are some reasons why dogs may not be allowed in a campground:
- Damage to property: Sadly, many campers do not pick up after their dogs, and leftover feces from someone’s pet is not the first thing other campers want to encounter when they move into a new site they just paid for. This bad behavior has led to many campgrounds banning dogs from staying.
- Disturbance to wildlife: Many backcountry national park sites do not allow dogs to camp because dogs are considered excessive irritation to the wildlife there. While a leashed dog doesn’t pose much of a threat, a dog’s barking and smell can threaten local wildlife or draw dangerous wild animals such as bears, closer to a campground.
- The threat of going missing or roaming: It is easy for a dog to get loose from their leash in the woods and to be suddenly very, very lost. Unlike if a dog becomes lost in the suburbs, a dog lost in the woods that heads deeper in rather than towards their campground may end up dying of exposure. Many campgrounds prohibit bringing dogs for their safety. Loose stray dogs can also be a threat to other campers and their (properly leashed) dogs.
It’s also important to consider that while you might be allowed to keep your dog at a campground, some campgrounds that are adjacent to the water on a lake or ocean may prohibit dogs on the beach. Since you won’t want to leave your dog unattended at camp, this may prevent you from taking in the shoreline like you want to.
If you’re unsure whether the campground you’re planning on visiting allows dogs, call ahead and ask. They can definitively let you know whether you can bring your dog along or not.
In parks, if camping with dogs is against the park regulations or there is a leash requirement, and yours isn’t leashed, and you get caught by a ranger, you may get off with them giving you a warning and asked to leave the park, or you may get slapped with a fine. The better solution is to make the five-minute phone call to verify that the dog is allowed before going through the trouble of being lectured by a park ranger after the fact.
Traveling with a Dog to Camp
Traveling with a dog can be one of the more stressful parts of camping with a dog, especially if you have people traveling with you or a dog prone to anxiety or motion sickness while traveling.
Van Camping Life Tip: If you are an avid camper and take your dog with you on most trips, consider having them microchipped. Microchipping provides a more permanent solution to ensuring a happy reunion with your lost best friend.
Below are some points to consider when traveling with your dog to the campground, especially if you’re planning on traveling several hours by vehicle:
Your vet can prescribe anti-anxiety or motion sickness medication if your dog is prone to either condition while traveling. Not only can this make your dog much more comfortable for the ride to the campground, but it can also keep you from having to pull over to wipe dog vomit out of the seat or floorboard of your car.
Your dog should be restrained in the vehicle for safety. Whether you keep your dog secured with a dog safety belt, put them in a crate, or install a divider between the front and the back seat, a dog should be prevented from moving around the vehicle’s cabin. Not only can this prevent a needless wreck if the dog interferes with the driver, but it can also prevent dogs from jumping out of open car windows or being ejected from the car in an accident.
An excellent option to secure your dog while traveling is to use a pet seatbelt. The Vastar pet seatbelt snaps easily into the seat belt receptacle of your vehicle. The belt is constructed from nylon, has a swivel snap, and allows your dog to stand, lie down and sit while in the vehicle. Why let your dog get hurt while traveling when you can give them the safety they deserve with this belt?
Withhold food before heading out on your camping trip. Plan on feeding your dog whenever you make camp, but fasting your dog before car travel can significantly decrease your dog’s chances of getting carsick. If you choose to feed your dog before traveling, make it something light, and consider supplementing with ginger pills, a natural anti-nausea herb that is safe for dogs to ingest.
Bring calming sprays or diffusers for dogs who are anxious on the road. These pheromone-based sprays can help keep dogs calm and happy during car travel and are equally good at calming older dogs as they are at calming puppies.
Bring a favorite toy for comfort. Bringing a favorite toy or comfort object along for the car ride can make a dog much happier on the trip, but it might be a good idea to leave the toy in the car when you get to camp. That way, there’s no chance your dog’s beloved stuffed animal will get lost or left behind when you pack up and leave.
Plan for plenty of rest stops and lots of fresh air. Your dog will need planned stops to relieve himself and stretch his legs, just like people would. When you stop, it is an excellent time to offer your dog a little bit of water in case he might be getting overheated in the car. Ventilation in the vehicle is crucial in making sure that dogs don’t get anxious and carsick.
Ensuring your dog is comfortable during the trip to camp can make a big difference when it comes to starting your camping excursion on the right foot.
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Living with Your Dog at Camp
Dogs can be lots of fun to have around the campsite, but you should also remember safety when you have them around. Ensuring your dog is a good fellow camper to other people at your site, and the sites around you is a vital part of bringing them along. Not only that, but it can also help you avoid negative attention from park rangers.
Restraining Your Dog at Camp
When your dog is not leashed at your side, you should restrain your dog whenever they’re at camp. No matter how obedient and trained your dog is, the forest is full of fascinating sights and smells that could cause them to bolt away from you. A dog that decides to take off into the woods to chase a rabbit may never come out again, so keeping your dog under your control is crucial.
Two ways that you can keep your dog restrained when they’re not on a leash include:
- A leash anchor, which gives you a stake to keep your dog’s leash attached to when it isn’t in your hand. Keeping your dog secure is easy with Intellileash Products Intelli-Stayk. The stayk is made from 10 mm solid chrome-plated steel, is rust-resistant, and allows you to clip Rover to keep him secure and safe easily. Perfect for taking on your next camping trip.
- A zip-line, which gives your dog an area to run between two points
While both leash anchors and zip-lines can provide a way for you to take a break from holding your dog’s leash, they don’t give dog owners an excuse to leave their dogs unattended at camp.
Fire Safety and Your Dog
Many dogs don’t have much up close and personal experience with fire, so it’s a good idea to make sure your dog is firmly leashed or anchored away from the campfire when the flames start rising. Not only can a dog be severely burned by leaping playfully around the fire if they aren’t used to it, but they may also accidentally knock logs out of the fire pit, causing a fire hazard in camp.
Feeding Your Dog at Camp
Feeding your dog at camp is also something you need to take into consideration before you go camping. Not only do you need to bring along plenty of dog food and water, but you also need to make sure to bring some lightweight or collapsible bowls for food and water.
Guardians make collapsible dog bowls perfect for traveling and camping. They hold 34 ounces, are very durable, have a carabiner to attach to a leash, backpack, or other places. Plus, they are easy to clean.
When it comes to food safety, you must consider both yourself and your dog if you bring a dog to camp. Ensure that dangerous human foods such as chocolate for s’ mores are secured tightly away from the dog to make sure that the dog doesn’t get into anything they aren’t supposed to.
Likewise, your dog’s food should also be tightly sealed, since the scent of both human food and dog food is a significant temptation for marauding wildlife such as raccoons and bears.
Your Dog’s Sleeping Arrangements at Camp
Sleeping next to your dog at camp can make campers feel both cozier and more secure in the wilderness. After all, a dog will not only alert you to an impending danger that you can neither smell nor hear; they can also act as an excellent bed warmer on cold camping nights.
When traveling in a camper van or RV, you can help your dog sleep comfortably by providing them with a bed. Lightspeed Outdoors has a dog bed that is perfect for taking in the RV. You not only love a comfortable bed after a day full of activities your dog will too. This bed opens up to 42″x32″x2,” making it big enough for your four-legged friend to get comfortable. It rolls up to make it easy to store during travel.
When tent camping, the biggest question you probably have is whether they should sleep in your tent. Keeping your dog inside your tent is the best idea in most cases since it provides safety for the dog and helps prevent them from barking at every little twig rustle. It also helps protect smaller dogs from potential predators such as coyotes.
If you don’t want to share a tent with your dog, there are also many pop-up tents made specifically for dogs. Many of these dog tents are entirely enclosed so that the dog can be zipped into them. These are ideal for smaller dogs who aren’t a threat of ripping out of their pop-up tent, but larger, more rambunctious dogs may need to share the main tent.
While camping, a dog should never be left tied out on a leash anchor or zip-line overnight. Not only does this leave them unprotected from wildlife, leaving a dog on a leash or zip-line unattended can put them at risk of strangulation.
Hiking and Fishing with Your Dog While Camping
Hiking and fishing are fun activities you can undertake with your dog when you take them camping. These activities can also be the highlight of your dog’s trip, but as always, when you’re in the wilderness with your dog, you should consider safety first.
Here are some tips for safely bringing your dog along on hiking and fishing trips while camping:
Make sure your dog stays leashed. Leashing will prevent your dog from bolting off into the woods or falling off the boat while on the water. In a camping situation, no dog is trustworthy enough to fall outside the bounds of this rule. In many cases, you are required by park regulations to keep your dog leashed while there.
Consider buying a hiking backpack for your dog. If you have a larger dog, a hiking backpack can let your dog carry their share of the supplies, such as water and treats. One Tigris manufactures a dog backpack that provides room for dog food, treats, water, and more. The zippers are designed to keep your dog’s hair from getting stuck, and the nylon composition allows for better comfort. To help keep the pack in place, it has a belly strap with buckles, a clip for a leash, and the adjustable straps allow you to use it on dogs of different sizes.
Many paws make light loads, after all. For smaller dogs who may become tired and unable to keep up on longer hikes, bringing along a backpack meant to carry the dog may be a better option.
Get your dog a life jacket. Dogs are included in many family activities, and many times that includes taking them boating while on a camping trip. If your dog manages to fall overboard (or jump) while boating, a life jacket can help save their life. It can help keep them afloat if they’re weak swimmers until the boat can circle and grab them, and a brightly colored life jacket can also prevent other boaters from accidentally running over the dog.
Bring plenty of extra water. If a dog is pushed too hard without cooling down properly during strenuous exercise, it can cause heatstroke. Strenuous activity is a significant problem for puppies and senior dogs, who are less able to regulate their body temperature efficiently. Getting a dog bowl water bottle can help make water more accessible for your pup. Be careful not to push your dog further physically than they can handle, especially older dogs.
Tuff Pupper has a stainless steel dog travel bottle and water bowl that works perfectly when camping. This easy to use bottle keeps your dog hydrated, it is BPA-free, and quickly provides your thirsty pet with fresh water to drink while hiking and traveling. The top flips to provide a cup for drinking. It is available in 27 and 40-ounce sizes and comes in four different colors.
Hiking and fishing with your dog can be pure enjoyment, but you need to keep your dog’s health and comfort in mind while you do it.
Insect Control at Camp with Your Dog
The same kind of insects that plague dogs at camps like mosquitoes, midges, and ticks, can also afflict people, so it’s in the best interest of both parties to control insects as soon as arriving at your site.
The following are things to consider when it comes to insect control with your dog while camping:
- Get your dog on a flea, heartworm, and tick preventative. If your dog has fleas, you’re not going to want them to sleep in a tent alongside you. A flea and tick preventative will also help keep your dog from carrying ticks into the tent. Mosquitoes cause heartworms, so bringing your dog into a mosquito-infested campground is putting them at risk if they aren’t on a preventative.
- Aromatic dried herbs such as sage can be burned to deter mosquitoes and gnats. Dried sage can be tossed onto a campfire to create an herbal-smelling smoke that will drive off many winged insects that harass campers.
- Check both dogs and humans for ticks after going out into the woods. Ticks are small but present a considerable danger in the form of Lyme disease, so after every hike, you should check both yourself and your dog for tick stowaways.
Van Camping Life Tip: Make sure your dog’s collar has ID tags before leaving on any camping trips. Include your cell phone number and home address. Additionally, you might want to add a small tag with the campground information on where you will be staying.
Tips for Camping with Your Dog
So you’ve packed all the essential gear, and you and your dog are finally out camping. Great job! But there are still some things to remember that can make your camping trip with your dog extra special.
Below are a few ideas to improve your camping experience with your dog:
Don’t forget your camera. Because let’s face it, your dog is the most Instagram-able dog of all. A camera is perfect for capturing life-long memories that you can frame and cherish decades after your beloved friend is gone.
Consider letting your dog sleep near you. This activity is especially fun on a camping trip if your dog isn’t usually allowed to sleep on the bed with you. There’s nothing quite like that pack-oriented feeling of waking up cuddled next to a dog at dawn in the wilderness. Plus, it can prevent them from being restless during the night and disturbing others.
Clean up after your dog. It’s only polite to make sure that you don’t leave any piles anywhere for other campers to clean up. Bring poop pick-up bags and a sealable plastic container to store them to be disposed of at a camp trash can before you leave.
Doggy Do Good has biodegradable, compostable, vegetable-based bags. The bags are extra-thick, leak-proof, and environmentally friendly. They are easy to open, detach, are strong, and break down in 90 days. Plus, a portion of the purchase price goes into helping no-kill shelters and rescues. Buying this brand is a winning situation, no matter which way you look at it.
Do not leave your dog by itself at the site. Leaving your dog alone is irresponsible of you and scary for the dog. Dogs left unattended at a camp are more likely to break loose and run into the woods looking for their camping group and vulnerable to wildlife attacks.
Start teaching your dog to camp young. The younger you get your dog acclimated to a camping lifestyle, the easier it is to camp with them. If you take an adult dog who has never been camping, you’re going to have a much more difficult time than you will with a dog that has been camping all its life.
Camping is an excellent time to bond with your dog and enjoy the great outdoors at the same time, so be sure to make the most of it.
Is it a Good Idea to Take Your Dog Camping?
Whether you should take your dog camping with you ultimately comes down to your dog’s personality. Some dogs are very freewheeling and easy-going and make great camping partners, while others become neurotic and stressed in the face of new environments and stimuli.
- Will there be storms or fireworks? Storms and fireworks are environmental stimuli that can cause otherwise calm dogs to react with panic and fear, increasing the likelihood that they may break loose and become lost.
- How many people will be there? If your dog is an experienced camper, it doesn’t matter how many people are going. But if your dog is still getting acclimated to camping life, it may be better to keep gatherings small until they’re more used to the idea.
- How tolerant is your dog of car trips? Some dogs get carsick or petrified with nerves in the vehicle no matter how much ginger or how much motion sickness medication they take, and it’s not fair to ask them to endure a long car ride if they can avoid it. While dogs have a reputation for enjoying car rides, this isn’t a trait that extends to all of them.
- How much space do you have to work with at camp? Keeping a large dog in your tent is like adding another person, so be sure to keep your dog in mind when planning accommodations like tent size.
- How physically fit is your dog? An old or obese dog may struggle to keep up on strenuous hikes, while smaller dogs may have difficulty keeping up just because of their stride. If your dog isn’t strong enough to complete a walk, are you strong enough to carry them?
- Are dogs allowed? Bringing a dog illegally into a campsite is never a good idea. For one, park rangers can drop by to check on you at any point, and dogs are a pretty obvious camp accessory. For another, you won’t be able to control signs of your dog’s presence, such as barking, as the sound will easily carry to other sites.
- How long are you going camping? It may be tiring to keep up with your dog on a camping trip for more than a few days. On the flip side, if you’re going on a very long camping trip, it might be less expensive, in the long run, to bring the dog along with you so you can avoid the costs of boarding for an extended period.
- How obedient is your dog? You don’t want to put your dog’s safety at risk. So it’s a good idea to ensure they have a solid foundation in basic obedience commands such as an emergency recall or the command “leave it” to prevent them from getting in trouble on a camping trip.
- How friendly is your dog? If your dog is threatening towards people or other animals, you won’t want to bring them into a campground where they might be in a position to bite someone or attack someone else’s dog. Dogs should be well socialized with people and other dogs before taken on a camping trip.
- Is your dog current on their vaccinations? Many campgrounds require proof of vaccination if a dog is going to be staying there overnight. You may not have to present it at the gate to the campgrounds, but you’re likely to be required to submit it at any time if approached by a park ranger. Don’t consider bringing your dog until they are up to date on rabies and everything else.
If the drawbacks of bringing your dog camping outweigh the advantages, it might be time to look into a high-quality boarding kennel or doggie daycare for your next trip.
Camping with Your Dog Can Create Memories to Last a Lifetime
Everybody loves hanging out on the couch with their favorite four-legged canine companion, but going out and exploring the world together can bring a much deeper dynamic to your relationship with each other. If you get all the necessary supplies and make sure that you keep safety in mind, you and your dog won’t be able to help but have a wonderful time on your next camping trip.