Camping With Your Dog
Most dogs love camping! Bringing your dog on your next camping trip can be fun for everyone, provided you’ve thought through a few of the hurdles.
Preparing to Bring your Dog Camping
Time to get your dog used to tents, car rides, other animals and pets, and noises. Before any camping trip, set up your tent in the backyard and practice sleeping in it with your dog (or make the kids do this – they’ll enjoy it more). If your dog has a hard time tolerating car rides, ask your vet if any medications are appropriate, and plan to make frequent stops. Be sure your dog is social: arrange for some doggy play dates before you camp, since it’s likely your dog will encounter other dogs at the campground.
Be sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and properly licensed. Check and then double-check the pet policy at the campground or camping resort, first making sure your dog will be allowed. Some campgrounds have a different policy for large dogs versus small dogs, and practically all campgrounds have leash requirements and noise regulations.
Pack for your dog: make sure you bring the essentials, just as you do for yourself. Your dog will need water and food bowls, fresh water to drink, and her usual dog food. In addition, pack the usual dog bed or crate used at home. It can help to also include a comfort item, such as a favorite toy or blanket.
Troubleshooting Common Issues with Dogs at Campgrounds
Most dogs are beloved at campgrounds, but there’s always one causing a problem, right? To make sure it’s not your dog, follow these easy fixes.
Here’s what to do if:
- Your dog barks at anyone and everyone: First of all, if your dog does this at home (sometimes more prevalent with smaller breeds), you shouldn’t bring her camping. If she is simply overexcited by the other humans and dogs in the campground, consider taking her on a leashed walk at least twice a day to “meet” the neighbors. Never leave a barking dog alone, day or night; your new camping friends will not appreciate it.
- You need to leave your dog alone at the campsite for a length of time: Firstly, try not to leave your dog unattended – he came with you to be a companion, right? If you do need to leave him, make sure your dog has a safe and reliable place to be contained. Dogs should not be tethered (with a long leash) unattended; instead, use a crate or fencing, or keep your dog in your RV or camper if it remains cool during the day. Be sure to allow for shade and protection from the elements.
- Your dog is well trained, but others in the vicinity are not: It’s a bummer, but another untrained dog can put a damper on your camping trip. Try explaining the situation to the dog owners first, and, if necessary, go to the camp hosts next. Law enforcement can be called if the dog is dangerous or threatening.
Dog Safety and First Aid
Expect to encounter a few health concerns while camping with your dog that you may not experience at home. In many parts of North America, for instance, ticks are common in wilderness and countryside areas. You’ll want to check your dog for ticks (paying special attention to “hidden” areas, such as the armpits and groin) each day. Consider using a flea and tick collar.
You can also expect your dog to get his share of mosquito bites. A natural insect and tick repellent spray designed for pets can help alleviate the discomfort of insects while camping, but overall, you’ll be more bothered by biting bugs than your dog.
Some plant species can also harm your dog at a campsite, including stinging nettle or poison oak or ivy. In the case of the latter, it’s unlikely to bother your dog, but will bother you should you pet your dog after exposure.
Your dog will be curious about wildlife while camping, and this is where her training will be most important. If you have a big dog, only other dogs or brown bears could possibly be a threat (if you’re in their habitat). If you have a small dog, coyotes, mountain lions, and sometimes even big birds need to be added to the list to keep an eye out for. Ensure that your dog will respond reliably to a recall and you won’t need to fear wildlife while camping. You can practice this at home before going on your trip.
Always bring a dog first aid kit when camping with your dog, as it will contain specialized medical supplies to help with common injuries such as torn paw pads, scratches, and ear irritation.
Do a little research and jot down the phone number and address of the closest veterinarian to your campground, just in case. Bring a photocopy of your dog’s health records (easy to request from your usual vet) and keep them in your car. This is a good practice for any type of travel with your pet.