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Summer is a dog’s dream, with long, bright days full of hiking, swimming, soaking up the sun, and if they’re lucky—camping! I love to take my own dogs camping at state parks and national forest campgrounds. But even here in the Pacific Northwest, the height of summer can get pretty darn hot.
We know how to keep our dogs cool indoors with fans and A/C, but how do we prepare our best friends for summer camping? These tips will give you ideas for how to cool your dogs down at the campsite—and how to make the most of the camping season with your pets.
1. Pack a Cooling Dog Bed
There are loads of cooling dog beds on the market to keep your pet chilled while she’s chillin’ on a hot summer day.
An easy alternative for travel or camping, a cooling dog bed is usually a gel-filled mat that cools down via your dog’s own body weight—all without needing to be plugged in or operated by a battery. These foldable mats provide a cool surface during hot afternoons at the campsite.
An elevated cot bed allows for airflow all around your relaxing dog, as well. However, it’s bulky to carry. Unless you’re car camping and you’ve got a huge trunk, you might want to leave this at home.
2. Keep it Shady
If your campsite doesn’t offer natural shade, create some for your dog (and for the humans!)
You can offer your dog access to cool shade by stringing up a tarp, cloth, or using a shade screen. Pop-up sunshades are also easy to use. Look for the ability to tether it to a tree or stakes in the ground, as otherwise, the wind can send them flying!
The Alvantor popup tent, pictured here, is a popular, fairly sturdy sun tent that comfortably fits at least two dogs—and it packs down very small for easy transport.
3. Go for a Cooling Dog Bandana
You can purchase a cooling bandana made especially for dogs, which works by dipping the bandana into cold water, wringing it out, and putting it around your dog’s neck. Check the sizing to be sure it’ll fit, especially for bigger dogs.
For a quick, budget-conscious cooldown, try dipping a towel or dog blanket in cold creek water, and then wrap it around your dog’s neck for a DIY bandana.
4. Slather On the Dog-Friendly Sunscreen
Dogs with short hair, white fur, and/or pink skin can get sunburns, so it’s important to protect them the same way you protect yourself with sunscreen, shade, and limited exposure to direct sunlight.
There are dog-specific sunscreens available, and we’ve got recommendations here. Some human stuff is okay, too, as long as your dog doesn’t ingest it. I’m partial to the baby sunscreen in stick applicator form because it fits in a pocket and is easy to apply.
Apply sunscreen to your dogs’ snout, ears, and other areas with little coat coverage. If your dog won’t do sunscreen but likes to relax in the sun, try putting an old t-shirt on her for extra protection.
Of course, the best way to avoid injury or illness is to limit exposure to the sun: take your dog for walks around camp during morning and evening hours when sunlight is indirect, an limit time and exertion during the hottest part of the day.
5. Snag a Pair of Doggy Shades
Not just a fashion statement (though they do make for great Instagram pics), a good pair of dog sunglasses are a must if you plan on outdoor activities with your dog this summer.
Doggles makes a variety of cute colors, all with 100% UV protection to keep sensitive dog eyes safe and stylin’ on a hot summer day.
6. Protect Paws from Hot Surfaces
While the forest floor or campground dirt won’t be as hot as scalding concrete, dog shoes can still be helpful for dogs while camping. For one thing, they’ll protect sensitive paw pads from rugged terrain and prevent injury.
For camping with your dog, we love the booties made by Ruffwear. Just be sure to snag them a few days before your trip so you can give your dog time to adjust to wearing them.
7. Go for a Swim
Many adventurous dogs love a little time in the water, and some breeds are especially great swimmers, like Labs and golden retrievers. For water-loving dogs, a dip in a cool creek, fresh stream, lake, or river can be a fabulous respite from the heat. Just be sure that it’s a safe swimming area without a strong current.
Even if your dog isn’t a strong swimmer, splashing in cold water is a great way to cool down.
If you’re unsure of your dog’s swimming ability, or you have a dog that isn’t a natural swimmer, it’s worth it to invest in a quality float jacket to keep them safe.
8. Gear Up for Hikes
Camping trips are a great time to take a hike with your dog, and you don’t need much more than a knapsack, sunscreen, and plenty of water to get started. Just be sure to go in the morning or the evening to avoid the hottest hours of the day, especially if your hike is largely unshaded.
If you want to get serious with your dog-friendly summer hiking, consider investing in a camping kit for your best friend.
A dog backpack is a great way to give your best friend a job to do while letting her carry her own supplies for the trip. Just be sure to let your dog get used to wearing it around the house, and gradually add weight to help her gain comfort and strength in carrying a pack, before hitting the trail.
9. Whatever You Do, Stay Hydrated
If we can impart just one essential summertime camping tip for dogs, it’s this: make sure your dog is drinking water and plenty of it.
Dehydration can be deadly for dogs, and summer heat paired with summer fun can be a dangerous combination if your dog isn’t properly hydrated.
Whatever fun summer activities you get up to, be sure to keep plenty of cool, clean water nearby. Pick up a portable water bowl or one of these water bottle/bowl combos for easy access, and make sure you take plenty of water and rest breaks during your summertime fun.
- Is My Dog Drinking Enough Water?
- 7 Tips for Camping with Your Dog
- How Cold Is Too Cold for my Dog to Swim?
- Heat Stroke in Dogs: Learn the Signs
- These 3 Things Made it Easy to Go Camping with my Crazy Dog
- 23 Secrets I’ve Learned about Successfully Hiking with Dogs