10 Essential Tips For Camping With Your Dog

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Camping is a classic way to enjoy a fun, affordable vacation with friends and family. It doesn’t matter whether your style ranges from extended expeditions through challenging terrain or a simple weekend getaway of car camping in a nearby state park – chances are, there’s a campground for you! Even the more remote locations are offering great amenities these days.  From refurbished shower stations and picnic areas to camp stores, ice cream counters, and free wi-fi, camping is more accessible and welcoming than ever before. And if you think you’ll love camping, it’s nothing compare to how much your dog will!

Camping and dogs are a natural fit. So many nooks and crannies to explore, so many squirrels to put in line, so much delicious mud and dirt! Chances are, your dog will LOVE a camping trip and will be begging for more!

And now, more than ever, we’re looking for ways to travel AT ALL, and camping is it for many of us.

Things To Think About Before Camping With Your Dog

While many think that camping is just setting up a tent and hanging with your dog and nature, that’s not necessarily the case. Particularly now where even outdoor parks and campgrounds have restrictions on who can be there, how many can be there and what you can do.

When you’re planning to go camping with your dog, you’ll want to be sure to do your research. Some places that maybe allowed dogs before simply may not now. Many national parks and wildlife refuges won’t allow dogs on hiking trails. This means that maybe they ARE allowed to be on the campground with you, you’ll have to have a plan for them should you decide to hit the trails wherever you’re staying. (We know it goes without saying but leaving them at the campground is never an option.) You may not even want to tackle those places for camping if your dog being with you will mean you’ll not be able to do much of anything and you’ll want to know this BEFORE YOU GET THERE. Imagine getting to your destination and find out that your dog is basically allowed to be at your tent or your vehicle? Not good. Not good at all.

You also need to look at what will be good for you and your dog. Sure, you might want to go to some amazing overlook, but how will your dog feel about it? Choose places that your dog will also enjoy–massive moutain hikes are probably not super-realistic. One thing you can do is call the visitor’s center of the places you’re planning to camp and simply ask how dog-friendly they really are. They don’t want you and your dog there but miserable any more than you want to be, so they’re going to tell you the truth.

Also ask about how many dogs are allowed. You may be able to bring one dog, but if you have a pack? Good luck choosing who gets to go and who doesn’t. If you plan to backpack your pet, consider not just his comfort level with that but YOUR comfort level (and ability) as well.

If your dog will be walking, remember that even if dogs are allowed to travel with you, most places will not allow dogs to be off-leash, for the safety of the wildlife around as well as other hikers. Don’t be that person who says, “Oh but Fido is great with wildlife and people.” Sure he is. Until a random rabbit takes off and then? Even the best-trained dogs may just not be able to resist the temptation.

The good news, though, is that with some research and a really honest assessment of your and your dog’s ability levels and preferences, camping with your dog can be an amazing experience. He may come to love seeing you pack up the tent because camping does lend itself to lots of together time, and what pup doesn’t love that with his hoomans?

Here are ten tips to make the experience a safe, smooth, successful one.

1.)    Talk to your vet. If you are spending time outdoors, they can recommend preventative tick medication, vaccines for Lyme disease, and even provide information on the safety of the lake water. Make sure your dog is in good health if any long hikes are planned.

Related: Rustic Tips To Remember When Camping With Dogs

2.)    Prepare your papers. Crossing a national border will require vaccine papers, as do some state parks (for proof of rabies protection). If your dog decides he hates camping and wants to check into a Pet Hotel, they will also require vaccination records. Medication should be accompanied by prescriptions and it’s always a good idea to research local veterinarian services, just in case.

3.)    Enjoy the ride. Make sure you stop on route so Fido can stretch his legs – he might be a bit cramped with all the camping gear packed in! Keep a bottle of water and a collapsible bowl with you at all times and offer frequent drinks.

4.)    Pick your site with care.  Depending on your dog’s temperament, it might be wise to choose a more secluded patch of land to pitch your tent. A campsite next to the washroom or water tap means increased foot traffic near your site, which not all dogs will appreciate.

Related: Hot Dogs And Campfire Safety

5.)    Call in the rangers! Park rangers are a wealth of information and they can help with everything from recommending the best site for privacy, which nature trails are pet friendly, and even what sections of the beach welcomes dogs.

6.)    Priority setup. Before you pitch the tent (or crack open the first beer!), take care of your dog. We first walk the perimeter of the site with our dog Chester so he has a chance to check everything out. We have a special 12 foot cable that we use in lieu of a leash. We set up his food and water dishes, taking care to bring his bowls from home. We also set up a sun shelter if our site lacks natural shade. Shy pets will greatly appreciate the creation of a “fort” or “den” where they can get away from it all. A large sheet draped over a picnic table does the trick.

7.)    Nap time. If setting up camp tires you out, imagine what it does to your dog! We try to have nap time every day. One of us will read in the tent while Chester naps – it’s a great time for both of us to refuel. Pets should never be left alone in a tent. Just like a car, the temperature inside a sealed up tent can soar and a panicked pet could hurt themselves trying to fight their way out.

8.)    Long live the leash! It’s so tempting to just let your dog run free but at a campground, but always obey the leash rules. If you’re not convinced to do so out of consideration of other campers or for your pet’s safety, maybe the thought of sharing a tent with a skunk sprayed pooch will do the trick!

9.)    Bugs and sun. We use a child friendly mosquito spray on Chester and also apply a gentle sunscreen to his nose area.

10.) Bath time! Congratulations! Your dog now smells worse than ever before! We always time our campground departure to coincide with a professional grooming once we get home.

We’ve camped with Chester on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in northern Prince Edward Island, in the middle of the fall colors in Northern Vermont, and along the sand dune swept beaches of Lake Ontario. No matter what the season, the location, or the duration we always have a wonderful time and having Chester with us only enhances the fun. I hope you can employ these tips to make your next pet friendly camping trip one of your best vacations ever!