Kathleen has been an online writer for over six years. Her articles often focus on pet care and the outdoors.
Does the Campsite Allow Dogs?
It might seem like the obvious thing to do, but before you do anything else, find out if the campsite you will be traveling to allows dogs. If they do, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with their particular rules. You will need to find out where dogs are allowed and the areas where they are not. Many national parks do not allow dogs. And, while state parks and nationals forests are a bit more relaxed, they still have regulations.
Is Your Dog Trained?
The most important thing you can teach your dog is reliable recall. Not only should your dog be trained to come when called, but he should also learn the “leave it” command, or a version of your choosing, in order to stop what he’s doing immediately or to drop whatever he may have picked up in his mouth.
Your dog should be trained to remain in your car until you invite him to come out. This will avoid any potential accidents or injuries that might occur if your dog leaps out of the car without warning, especially if you are near a busy road.
Even if your dog has only showed aggression one time, it is best to leave him at home. Whether it was toward a human, another dog, or a wild animal, there are too many things that can go wrong. It is best not to take the risk.
People generally go camping to relax and enjoy the quiet of the outdoors, away from their everyday lives. Keep this in mind if your dog is a barker. There is nothing worse than planning a camping trip to get away from it all only to hear a dog barking constantly during your entire trip. Believe it or not, the sound of a dog’s bark can carry a long way, especially over water. If you cannot keep your dog’s barking under control, it’s best to leave him at home. For your own sake, and for your fellow campers.
It is important to be sure your dog is up to date on all required vaccinations, especially rabies. Discuss appropriate flea and tick control with your vet and ask if you should vaccinate your dog against lyme disease, which is tick-borne. Be sure your dog is protected against heartworms, which are transmitted by mosquitos. According to the American Heartworm Society, heartworms have been reported in all fifty states.
Fleas and Ticks
It’s a good idea to apply flea and tick medication in advance of your trip, in order to give it time to soak into your dog’s skin and cover the entire body. Check your dog’s skin and fur often for ticks. If you need to remove a tick, do it promptly by grasping it near the skin, then pull it out gently and slowly. Never handle ticks with bare hands, as they can transmit disease not only to your dog, but to you as well. Always be sure to wear gloves when dealing with ticks. Be sure to brush your dog, especially after hiking. Check for ticks behind the dog’s ears, under his collar, and in his “armpit” area as ticks will hide anywhere that is snug and warm.
Your dog should always wear a collar or harness with identification tags. Be sure to list a cell phone number where you can be reached at any time. If your dog becomes separated from you, this is your first line of communication with the person who is able to make contact. Microchipping your dog is an added measure of protection if he gets lost. It’s important to register the microchip and to keep your information updated regularly, especially if you’ve moved or changed phone numbers.
If you have enough time before your trip, it’s a good idea to use an instant pet name tag machine, like the ones you see at pet stores, to create a tag with your camping information on it. For example, “Fido, Yogi Bear, Campsite A-4, 8/18/16 - 8/20/16.”
Tattoos are another option for dog identification, but according to Coyote Communications, “Tattoos are often hard (if not impossible) to find on the dog, and hard to interpret once they are found.”
What to Bring Camping With Your Dog
- Water: Always bring clean water for your dog to drink. You never want your dog to drink out of puddles or standing bodies of water. That being said, don’t forget your dog’s water bowl!
- Food: Your dog’s diet shouldn’t change just because you’re going on a camping trip. Pack enough food and treats to last your entire trip, even a couple of days extra to be safe. Remember to pack your dog’s food bowl! Food should be packed in airtight plastic containers.
- Bedding: Don’t forget bedding for your dog. Whether it’s his favorite bed, blanket or pillow, you want to keep his nighttime routine consistent.
- Toys: Dogs get bored just like people do. Be sure to bring toys to keep him occupied. Something he’s familiar with will help him feel more comfortable in his unfamiliar surroundings.
- Health and vaccination records: It’s a good idea to bring along copies of your dog’s health and vaccination records just to be safe, especially when crossing state lines.
- Poop bags!
- Towels: Even if you’re not going anywhere near water, bring a couple of extra towels specifically for your dog. Camping shops and pet stores both sell towels that are extra-absorbent, and they not only soak up large amounts of water, but dry quickly, usually within a couple of hours.
- Medication: If your dog is on any special medication, do not forget to bring this along.
- A flashing red light: A flashing red light that you can hang on your dog’s collar or harness so he can be seen better during twilight and evening hours.
First Aid Kit
It’s always wise to keep a first aid kit on hand, but one made specifically for your dog will come in handy should any accidents or injuries occur. Camptrip.com suggests including the following items in your dog’s first aid kit:
- antiseptic/rubbing alcohol (to clean and disinfect wounds)
- coated aspirin (for dogs to ingest if in pain. Do not give dogs regular aspirin and use extreme caution)
- butterfly bandages (to close wounds)
- waterproof surgical tape
- vet wrap (will stick to fur better than tape without pulling out hair)
- tick tweezers, tick key
- tick release
- ear and eye drops (a little Ottomax and Terramycin)
- Kwik stop/septic powder (to stop bleeding)
- sock (to put over paw if cut/injured)
- first aid gel for pets
- foot balm to protect paws in harsh cold/hot weather
It’s always good to know ahead of time where the nearest veterinarian is in the area where you will be camping. If your dog becomes ill or injured, do everything you can to keep him comfortable and get to a vet as fast as you can. In this scenario, giving your dog first aid will be to stop bleeding or prevent any further injuries while calming him down enough for transport.
Most people prefer the safety and warmth of their tent for their canine companions, but some like to keep their dog outside. There are many factors to keep in mind, as well as safety concerns for your dog.
If you prefer to keep your dog outside of your tent during the night, make sure that he is secured close to your tent area. A braided steel cable covered in a plastic coating is your best choice if you are going to keep your dog tethered. Remember, however, that a tethered dog should never be left unattended.
Place his bed in a safe area that is shielded from the elements, including rain, wind, heat and cold. You must place a plastic tarp underneath his bed to keep the cold and wet moisture from soaking up through the bed. It’s important that your dog stays warm during the night. Keep in mind that even in the hot summer months, it can cool down considerably during the evening and your dog can become chilled. If you’re camping during cooler months, 40 degrees F or 4 degrees C is far too cold for a dog to be sleeping outside. It’s important to remember that dogs are not wild animals and some will need extra help in keeping warm.
If your dog is forced to sleep out in the elements during your camping trip, he may have to contend with larger pests, such as raccoons, skunks, or bears. This could result in being sprayed by a skunk and having to deal with the aftermath, or even worse, being attacked by wildlife and possibly losing your beloved dog. It’s a good idea to put your dog’s food and water in secure containers at night to avoid attracting other animals as well.
Playing It Safe
Always keep your dog on a leash. This will keep your canine companion from wandering off, or disturbing other campers. Even if your dog is friendly and well-behaved, not everyone is a dog lover.
It’s a good idea to provide some activity time for your dog so he is not tied up all day and night. Dogs get bored too, and love the opportunity to play, be active, or even go on walks. Be sure your dog has a shaded area where he can go to cool off, as well as plenty of clean drinking water. Keep an eye out for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Safety For Your Dog
Keeping your dog safe when camping is probably a priority on your list, here are some suggestions on how to do that:
- Before camping take your dog to the vet and get up-to-date vaccination/inoculations, rabies shots and a tag for his collar, flea and tick preventatives, medications, prescriptions, paperwork and overall physical and behaviour analysis.
- Buy a First -Aid Kit and add some additional items especially for your dog. Become familiar with the contents of your first-aid kit and know what they are used for. We have a First-Aid Kit Checklist For Dogs Camping which may be a good resource.
- Try and keep your dog’s stress levels as low as possible before/during camping.
- Keep your dog hydrated with shade and water at all times. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion/ stroke and deal with them accordingly by cooling him in the shade and giving him lots of water. Since dogs cannot perspire, if he appears to be very hot you can also wipe the inside of his ears and bottom of his paws with rubbing alcohol – this will cool him down. Allow extra food for your dog as he will be burning more energy than usual.
- Make sure your dog is warm enough in the day/night especially in the cooler months. Remember that even in summer months the temperature at night can drop and become quite chilly. Keep your dog warm with his bed /blankets and be sure to put a plastic tarp under his bed to keep the cold and wet from soaking into his bed.
- Before you go camping, locate and retain details of the nearest vet to the campsite this way, if your dog needs medical attention, you know where to go straight away. Your goal when administering first-aid to your dog is to prevent further injury, stop bleeding and comfort your dog so that you can transport him to a vet.
- If your dog tears his paw, rub antiseptic ointment on it each night and have him wear a sock to protect the wound.
- Check for ticks (small bugs that burrow under the skin) at least once a day. Use Tick Tweezers , Tick Key or Tick Release from your first aid kit (take the tweezers to get hold of the tick close to the head and pull all of it out). You should also do a general overall body check of your dog to make sure everything looks as it should.
Tips for Camping with Your Pet
If you’re someone who loves camping, being able to share that experience with your dog might provide even more satisfaction. But before you take your pet with you, you should do some preparation.
Before You Leave for Your Trip
Check to see whether the camping area allows dogs, and familiarize yourself with the rules for pets at the site.
Talk to your veterinarian and make sure your dog is healthy and up-to-date on all required vaccinations, particularly rabies. Ask your vet whether your dog should be vaccinated against Lyme disease, a tick-borne disease. Discuss appropriate flea and tick control. Be sure your dog is protected against heartworms, which are transmitted by mosquito bite and have been reported in all 50 states, according to the American Heartworm Society.
Have an appropriate collar or harness with an identification tag. Use a cell phone number where you can be reached at all times, not a home phone number, on the tag. Microchipping your dog will provide an additional measure of protection in the event that your dog becomes lost. Register the microchip – or make sure the information is up to date if your dog already has a chip — so that you can be contacted when your dog is located.
Bring water for your dog to drink if a water supply is not available at the campsite. Do not allow your dog to drink out of standing bodies of water. Your dog should continue to eat his regular diet during the trip pack enough food and treats to last for your entire stay. Pack a food dish and water bowl. Bring bedding and toys to keep your dog occupied as well. Take a copy of your dog’s health records and vaccination reports, especially important if you are crossing state lines. Other essential items include a leash and collar or harness, a carrier or other means to confine your dog when necessary, bags to pick up your dog’s waste, a first aid kit and any medications your dog takes regularly.
What To Do with Your Dog While Camping
Once at the camping ground, keep your dog on a leash or otherwise confined so that other campers are not disturbed and your dog is not at risk for becoming lost or injured. Be aware of keeping your dog away from things such as campfires and cooking utensils that can cause injury. A “leave it” command is also useful in case your dog begins to explore or picks up something dangerous in his mouth.
Keep your dog close to you during your camping expedition. If you are unable to supervise your dog, be sure he is properly confined. Do not leave your dog confined in a closed car or tied to a stationary object though. Provide a carrier, crate, or portable fencing unit instead.
While camping, check your dog’s fur and skin regularly for ticks as well as for plant material like thorns or burrs. Plant materials should be brushed free of your dog’s hair, if possible. In some situations, cutting or shaving the hair may be necessary to remove these items.
Remove ticks promptly by grasping the tick near the skin and pulling gently and slowly away from the skin. Wear gloves when doing so. Do not handle ticks with bare hands as they can transmit diseases to you as well as to your dog.
7 Tips for Taking a Dog Camping for the First Time
1. Do a Test Run at Home
Sleeping outside can be a bit overwhelming for most canines, especially if it’s their first time on a camp trip.
The best way to prepare your dog for the adventure is to set up a tent in your backyard, or even in the living room. Sleep there for the night, and see how it goes.
That way, you’ll have time to reassure your dog if he refuses to enter the tent or sleep in his travel bed/sleeping bag. Starting at home is a great way to train your dog for outdoor adventures in a safe environment.
2. Prepare Your Dog for the Drive
If your dog isn’t used to riding in the car for extended periods, now’s the time to practice and ensure that the ride is as comfortable as possible for your dog. Invest in a quality backseat cover, both for your pet’s enjoyment and to keep your car clean.
3. Do Your Research Beforehand
Not every campsite allows dogs. Likewise, some campgrounds require that you keep your dog on a leash, and others require you to pay a fee.
When looking at your options online, be sure to take the time to filter out those that don’t accept dogs, and familiarize yourself with the rules before you arrive.
In case you’re asking, ‘Where can I take my dog camping?’ Here are pet-friendly campgrounds in the US.
4. Check the Weather
Although camping is a year-round activity, when you’re taking your dog with you for the first time, try to plan it around good camping weather. Sunshine is far better than thunderstorms in terms of how much stress your dog could experience.
A little rain here and there is probably not going to hurt, but you should probably avoid extreme weather like strong winds or extreme heat or cold.
5. Treat Your Dog For Fleas And Ticks
Campsites are filled with fleas, ticks, and mosquitos that can irritate your dog skin and possibly expose him to diseases. Even though your dog should have flea and tick protection all the time, it’s especially important when you take him camping with you.
In this case, I’ll probably use a flea treatment that doesn’t enter the bloodstream, and instead spreads throughout the skin, glands, and hair. Most brands should keep your dog safe on camping and other outdoor activities, just be sure to follow the instructions.
6. Get a Tent Big Enough for Everyone
Some campsites won’t allow your dog to sleep outdoors, so you need to be ready to have him sleep with you in the tent. If it’s just you and your dog and you, you need to bring a tent that will fit both of you.
However, there’s no need to break the bank. A 2-person tent is more than enough room for you and your large dog. If you have a smaller dog, you can even fit another person in there.
7. Bring A Dog Backpack For Walks
A doggie backpack is a convenient, hands-free way to carry all your essential items if you go hiking. For example, food and water, bowls, waste bags, first aid, cell phones, etc.
Obviously, a backpack is more suited for medium and large dogs, since they can actually carry it. If you’re looking for a good one, check out my product recommendations below.