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Warmer months, especially during summer, means playtime! For many of us, it’s an ideal time for going camping with our four-legged best friends. Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or a casual car camper, these tips for camping with dogs will help you make the most of your summer.
We’ve got all the details on how to prepare your dog (and yourself!) for getting out there and having fun.
1. Know Your Dog’s Camp Personality
Before you embark on a wilderness adventure, it’s important to assess your dog’s readiness. Is she a lounge hound? A relaxed car camping trip might be the best choice. Is she a daring doggy athlete with plenty of outdoor experience? Maybe it’s time to take that weeklong backpacking trip!
Be honest about your dog’s personality, and plan your trip accordingly. If your dog is bold and adventurous in new surroundings, you will plan a very different trip than if you have a cautious dog who needs some encouragement to try new activities. If you’re uncertain how your dog will adapt to camp life, try taking a few day trips and picnics before planning a campout.
2. Research Dog-Friendly Campsites
There’s nothing worse than hitting the road with your four-legged friend only to arrive at your destination and find a No Dogs Allowed sign. Whatever kind of camping trip you have in mind, be sure to call ahead or research online to find dog-friendly campgrounds and trails.
Check on leash laws, too; some campsites only welcome restrained pets, whereas others are okay with your dog being off-leash as long as they respond promptly to voice command (and you watch where they poop so you can pick it up, of course). You may find that many campgrounds will have rules that change by season and are more dog-friendly in the off-season than during peak summer months.
3. Refresh Camp-Friendly Training
Whether you’re headed for a back-country trek or a campground off the highway, your dog will need a reliable recall command to keep them out of danger (and away from other campers who might not be so into dogs). You should also brush up on the “leave it” command in case you encounter snakes, bears, or other wildlife on the trail. Consider doing some outdoor training sessions before going on your big camping trip.
4. Prepare for Emergencies
Before you leave on your camping trip, make a laminated card with your dog’s identifying information, vaccination record, and health history, plus all of your contact info. You should also make sure your dog’s microchip info and tags are up-to-date.
Nature can be unpredictable, and so can dogs, so it’s important to be prepared for anything.
The U.S. Forest Service recommends carrying the following dog-specific first aid items, many of which you probably already have at home:
- A bandana for a makeshift muzzle
- Tweezers for tick removal
- An emergency fold-up blanket (like this space blanket) for treating shock or cold
- A folding multitool that has needle-nose pliers for extracting a large thorn or a porcupine quill
- Booties for protecting injured paws (toddler socks work great!)
- A small first aid book with instructions for treating pets
- The name, phone number, and directions of a nearby veterinarian or pet emergency clinic
Chances are, nothing will happen to your pup, but remember the Boy Scout motto: be prepared. At a minimum, a good pet first aid kit will include antiseptic, bandages, tweezers, and tools to help treat minor injuries.
Looking for a pre-made kit that already has everything you need? This medical kit includes all of the recommended items above, plus additional first aid items for you and your dog.Find on Chewy
5. Gear Up (But Pack Light)
Camping with dogs means being prepared for anything, but you don’t want to overpack and risk having too much to carry, or no room in the RV for your pooch! This packing list for your dog will get you started:
Dedicated dog water bottle and collapsible/lightweight food and water bowl
Bring along a packable bowl that pulls double-duty for food or water, and make sure you’ve got an additional water bottle that’s dedicated to keeping up with your dog’s hydration needs.
This dog bowl comes highly recommended by reviewers. Ruffwear’s cinch-top bowl/bag combo is a wise investment because it’s the perfect portable food container to take out on the trail. Just fill it with the amount of kibble you’ll need (remember to feed your dog extra on a tough trail day), cinch the top, toss it in your dog’s pack, and go. It’s also an ideal water vessel; the waterproof liner ensures no leakage, and the larger size holds up to six cups, meaning one bowlful can quench all the dogs in your party.Find on REI
Depending on where you’re headed on your canine camping excursion, reliably clean water may not be available. We recommend investing in a filter to keep human and pet water safe for consumption.
Dog backpack for day hikes
Doggy backpacks are a wise investment for hiking with your dog, but even if your idea of “hiking” is hanging out around the campsite all day, a pack is a useful tool. Your dog’s backpack can help keep them busy and visible at the campsite, and it’s a handy, easily-accessible storage space for the aforementioned poop bags and treats.
This is one of the more popular dog packs out there. It has a comfortable, safe design with a padded harness; sturdy D-ring for leash attachment; and reflective trim for maximum visibility on the trail.Find on REI
Dog sleeping pad
Keep your pooch cozy at night with a warm, padded sleeping surface. You could let them snuggle up in your own sleeping bag, or set up an inflatable sleeping mat on the ground, but for ultimate dog camping comfort, a doggy sleeping bag is the way to go.
Hurtta’s sleeping bag/dog bed features an outer layer made from water-repellent material, a foil lining that reflects body heat, and is lightweight so it can compress down and attach to your dog’s backpack.Shop on Chewy
One of the best parts of camping is enjoying the night sky way out in the wilderness, but it can get awfully dark out there. A collar light is an affordable way to keep your dog visible even in the darkest camping site.
Illumiseen makes a rechargeable LED collar with three light modes. The glow helps you keep tabs on your dog while camping, of course, but it’s plenty useful any other time as well. It also comes with a lifetime guarantee.Find on Amazon
You don’t have to break the bank to get your dog geared up for camping. If you’ll be hiking, check out our hiking gear guide for some helpful essentials. But if you’re just headed out for a relaxing campsite stay, there’s a good chance you already have the “gear” you need at home.
6. Practice Good Campsite Etiquette
Once you arrive at your campsite, it’s important to be courteous to your fellow campers. Use a leash or that rock-solid recall command to keep your dog out of strangers’ campsites, and be sure to pick up and properly dispose of your dog’s waste.
For optimum safety and enjoyment, your dog should stick near you at all times, and should never be left unsupervised at the campsite, in a vehicle, or on the trail. Remember: weather conditions can change, wildlife can appear, and a host of other unpredictable situations may arise.
Of course, sometimes you may need to confine your pup for safety or convenience (say, while you’re roasting hot dogs over the fire under the determined eye of a certain four-legged friend). If your dog is crate trained, a portable, lightweight, fabric-walled crate is an invaluable addition to your camp kit!
7. Have Fun!
Camping with dogs is a great way to get away from it all and bond with your best buddy. Far away from glowing screens and a million distractions, you’ll take in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature with a true connoisseur of all three.
Nothing beats snuggling up with a dog in a cozy tent, the scent of campfire still lingering in the air. With a little preparation, you and your dog will be all set to heed the call of the wild and have a blast!
Further Reading and Viewing
Learn more about gear ideas for your dog and other dog safety camping tips in the video and articles below.