To camp with your dog, you need to make sure your dog is as comfortable at the campsite as he is at home. This means you need to do some planning and really consider what type of dog you have.
Do you have a dog who likes to explore? Does your dog have boundless energy? Does your dog like to sleep in and lounge in the sun? How does your dog react around strangers, children, and other dogs? Will your dog’s joint health support a long all-day hike or a day splashing around in the lake?
It’s important that you take your dog’s personality, age, and joint health into consideration when planning your camping trip. Hoping that your dog will be happy to rough it in the woods for three days sleeping in a tent, is a big gamble. You can’t convince your dog to do something he doesn’t want to do.
Before booking a campsite and planning your get-away – make sure your dog is a dog who wants to camp. Remember, camping can take on all formats, you can really rough it at a hike-in only camp site, stay in a more urban camping area, camp in a yurt, book a dog-friendly cabin in the woods, or even rent an RV and go for the deluxe version of camping.
Ultimately, you need to choose a camping style that works for everyone, including your dog. Once you’ve determined what will work, it’s time to get down to the fun stuff – planning your camping get-away with your best friend.
What You Need to Do Before Leaving for your Camping Trip
Before throwing a bunch of gear in the back of your car and hitting the open road with your dog for the nearest campsite, you need to do some preparation and planning.
Choose a Dog-Friendly Campsite
Not all campsites are dog-friendly. Don’t think you can sneak your dog into a campsite. There are reasons why some campsites and parks do not allow dogs.
If you’re planning on visiting a National Park, don’t assume that every park has the same rules. Make sure the National Park you choose allows dogs for day trips and for camping. If you plan to do backcountry camping, definitely confirm that the National Park allows dogs in the backcountry.
For state and local parks, make sure you do the same research. Every park has its own rules and regulations. If your dog is allowed, then make sure you know the rules around your dog staying at the park or campground.
Visit the Vet Before your Camping Trip
Before hitting the great outdoors, visit your vet to make sure your dog is healthy and has all of her required shots. According to the AAHA The Standard for Veterinary Excellence, you should ask your vet about preventive medicine for fleas, ticks, and heartworm.
Make sure your dog’s microchip information is up-to-date and keep a copy of your dog’s vaccine records in your car or in your backpack. Don’t forget to update your dog’s tag should any information have changed.
If your dog has any existing conditions such as arthritis or another mobility concern, talk to your vet about your plans for your camping trip. Ask questions about hiking and walking in rougher terrain and know the signs that can indicate your dog is sore or has done too much.
Put Together a Dog First Aid Kit
Be ready for anything and this means bringing a dog-specific first aid kit. Put the following in your dog’s first aid kit:
- Bandana: can be used to cool your dog, as a muzzle, or to help wrap a wound.
- Tick kit: flat-bladed tweezers and mineral oil to make tick removal straight-forward.
- Space blanket: ideal if you or your dog gets cold or is injured.
- Multi-purpose tool: especially important is the plier function which can be useful for removing thorns, porcupine quills, slivers, etc.
- Booties: in the event the weather changes, you run into unexpected snow, or if your dog cuts her paw.
- Contact information for the nearest veterinarian.
During your pre-camping vet visit, ask your vet what you should include in your dog’s first aid kit. Make sure the kit can easily fit in whatever pack or bag you plan to carry with you on hikes, beach outings, or other activities away from the campsite.
Pack Your Dog’s Supplies
Your dog is going to need some supplies to make the trip enjoyable and safe. Bring your dog’s leash and a stake – your dog needs to on her leash at the campsite. A portable dog bed and a comfortable blanket will make it easier for your dog to rest her joints and sleep comfortably. A collapsible dog food bowl and water bowl make it easy to carry these with you when out hiking or exploring. Don’t forget dog friendly toys such as a favorite ball or frisbee. And yes, you need to bring the poop bags!
Test Sleeping in a Tent
If you plan on sleeping in a tent, it’s a great idea to test out the sleeping arrangements before you arrive at your campsite. If you can, set up your tent with all your gear in your backyard for a couple nights of sleep practice.
This gives you the opportunity to confirm the tent is big enough for you and your dog. You’ll find out quickly if your dog is comfortable sleeping in a tent. And you’ll be able to test out your sleeping bags, camping pads, and dog bed inside the tent.
How to Have a Fun Camping Experience with your Dog
To have a fun camping experience with your dog, you just need to do a little bit of planning and packing beforehand. Remember a happy dog is a fun dog. Bring your dog’s favorite chew toy, dog treats, and a leash and collar he’s comfortable with.
Plan activities that will be fun for your dog. Your dog might be a bit nervous sleeping outdoors so think about how the unexpected nature and campsite noises will impact your dog.
Here’s to many new camping adventures with your dog. Maybe you’ll even venture into winter camping with your dog!
Tell us about how you camp with your dog – leave a post on the Leaps & Bounds Facebook Community page or tag us in your camping trip photos on Instagram.
About the author
Michael Bentley, President of SierraSil Health, has twice been recognized by Optimyz magazine as one of Canada’s top 100 health and wellness influencers and in 2019 was honored by the Canadian Health Food Association with the John Holtmann Industry Leadership Award. He is also a Trustee of the BC Sports Hall of Fame and past Board member of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, Family Services of BC and other non-profit organizations.