Summertime means playtime! And for many of us, it’s an ideal season for camping with our four-legged best friends. Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or a casual car-camper, these tips for camping with your dog will help you make the most of your summer. Most importantly? Prepare your dog, research the campsite, get the right gear, and have fun. We’ve got all the details below.
Know your dog’s camping personality
Before you embark on a wilderness adventure, it’s important to assess your dog’s camp-readiness. Is she a lounge hound? A relaxed trip to a family-friendly campground 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 you’ve been thinking about!
Be honest about your dog’s personality, and plan your trip accordingly. If you’re uncertain, try taking a few day trips and picnics before planning a campout.
Research dog-friendly sites
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 campsites 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 she’s under voice control (and you pick up the poop, of course).
Refresh your dog’s 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 her 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.
It’s a good idea to do some outdoor training sessions before your big camping trip; this ASPCA guide to training your dog for outdoor adventures is a great place to start.
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
- Flat-bladed tweezers and a small container of mineral oil for tick removal
- An emergency fold-up blanket (space blanket) for treating shock or cold
- A folding tool 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
Gear up (but pack light)
Camping with your dog 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 camping packing list for your dog will get you started:
- Dedicated doggy water bottle and collapsible/lightweight food and water bowls (remember to bring a packable filtration system if you’ll be relying on a water source at the site)
- Dog backpack for day hikes
- Sleeping pad and blanket to keep your pooch cozy at night (a kid-sized sleeping bag from your local thrift store is a great option)
- Reflective leash/collar and clip-on flashing light
- First aid kit as described above
Keep in mind, 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.
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 and a certain four-legged friend is determined to snag a sausage of her own). If your dog is crate trained, a portable, lightweight, fabric-walled crate is an invaluable addition to your camp kit!
Camping with your dog 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.
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!