As soon as the weather gets warm enough, you and your family are ready to grab the camping gear and find a place to pitch the tent. But what do you do with Rover? You take him with you of course! After all, he’s an important member of your family.
Camping with your furry four-legged friend can be a fun, bonding experience for everyone. Dogs make great outdoor companions. They love being outside, exploring new sights and smells. And nothing beats sitting around the campfire with your faithful dog beside you!
With a bit of planning you can make sure that Rover has a safe camping trip, and that you remain calm and stress-free.
Planning Before You Leave
1. Is your dog ready for camping?
Before you plan your outdoor adventure with your dog, ask yourself if he’s ready for camping. After all, you know your dog better than anyone. Does he bark a lot when you’re at home? Does he respond well when he’s on the leash? The answers to these questions will make a difference in how you plan your camping trip.
Take into account the age of your dog. Younger dogs with a lot of energy will need more physical activity than older dogs who are more content to lie around the campsite. Older dogs may not be able to do a lot of outdoor activities, like hiking and swimming.
2. Physical capabilities
What are the physical capabilities of your dog? You want to be sure he can join you on all your camping activities. How well will he do on long hikes? Most larger dogs do okay on rugged hiking trails. But if you have a smaller dog, he might not be up for hiking on the back trails. Smaller sized dogs are better kept on well groomed paths and easy walks. Plan accordingly depending on the size and type of dog you have.
3. Outdoor training
If you haven’t already, consider doing some outdoor training with your dog, taking him out to local parks and trails. Train him to walk with a leash and harness. You can do the training yourself or check out classes at the ASPCA or kennels.
4. Choose a dog friendly campsite
Do some research ahead of time to find campsites that are dog friendly. Some campsites allow dogs while others have a strict “no dogs allowed” policy. Also find out about leash rules both in the campsite and on trails. You’ll need to know if you can let Rover run around off leash.
5. Visit the vet before you go
Rover should be up to date on his vaccinations. Include preventive vaccines and medications for fleas, heartworm, and ticks. Also check that his microchip information is up to date.
6. ID and vaccination records
Your dog needs to be wearing his ID dog tag at all times. The tag should include your cell phone number so if he gets lost while you’re camping, and someone finds him, you can be reached quickly. Bring along important information, such as copies of his health and vaccination records.
Whatever food your dog eats at home will of course come camping with you. Include a small container so you can pack some dry kibble in your backpack for when you’re away from your campsite. Don’t forget the treats and chew toys!
Remember not to leave food out. When your dog has finished eating, safely store away any leftovers with the rest of your food. Otherwise you may be attracting unwelcome insects and wildlife to your campsite.
Your dog isn’t able to sweat so it’s essential that you have lots of fresh water available for him to drink. Buy a collapsible water bowl that easily fits into your backpack – it’s ideal for hiking or anytime you’re not in your campsite. It doesn’t take up a lot of room and you can fill it with water anytime that Rover needs a drink.
Always carry an extra bottle of water with you. At the campsite, have a bowl of fresh water available at all times.
9. Towels and blankets
You’ll be glad your brought towels and blankets for dog use only. If you’re camping near water, you’ll want to dry Rover off before you let him into the tent with you. Old blankets are perfect for him to sit on around camp or in the tent.
10. First Aid Kit for your pooch
Put together a first aid kit for your dog for emergencies. Include the following in the kit:
- Bandages – look for the stretchy kind.
- Tweezers – for pulling out ticks and small thorns.
- Mylar emergency blanket – keep your dog warm if he’s injured, to prevent shock.
- Saline eye wash – flush out your dog’s eyes if he’s sprayed by a skunk or gets some dirt or rocks in his eye.
- Muzzle – if hurt or scared, your dog’s instinct may be to bite. A muzzle protects both of you.
- Dog booties – if your dog injures his feet, dog booties will give him some protection.
Sleeping Arrangements with Your Dog
One of the things you’ll need to plan for is where your dog is going to sleep at night. You may think that he’ll sleep anywhere. But dogs are a lot like children – they’re overwhelmed when they’re in unfamiliar surroundings. Do what you can to provide a safe and comfortable place for your dog to sleep. Otherwise you may have a barking and whimpering dog on your hands when everyone is trying to sleep.
11. Choosing the best tent
Your tent should be large enough for your family and Rover to comfortably sleep in. Remember to account for room for a dog bed or crate. Choose a tent that’s lightweight and has plenty of ventilation for air flow. You’ll also want a tent that has a thicker floor, so it’s not easily damaged by your dog’s sharp nails. As well, look for a tent that’s easy to wash up after your camping trip is over.
12. Dog bed…or your sleeping bag
Bring along the dog bed and your dog will have a comfortable place inside the tent to sleep and call his own. If your dog sleeps with you at home, there’s nothing wrong with sharing your sleeping bag while you’re camping. Or make a bed with a pile of blankets.
If your dog is crated at home during the night, plan on bringing the crate with you when you’re camping. It may seem like a lot of work setting up the crate, but it will make your trip so much more enjoyable. Unless you want to start teaching your dog new sleeping arrangements while you’re camping!
With his familiar crate, Rover will know what’s expected of him at night. Never leave the crate outside the tent. Not only are weather conditions unpredictable, there may be wild animals nearby.
Camping Gear for Your Dog
There are some supplies that can help make your camping trip safer for Rover…and easier for you.
14. Leash and harness
Don’t forget the leash and harness. Be prepared and bring along more than one leash so you have a spare one. Consider buying a reflective collar so you can easily see your dog at night. Even better, get one that lights up.
15. Stake and tie out lead
When you and your dog both want a break from the leash, using a stake and lead is a great option. Hammer the stake into the ground and attach the lead to your dog’s collar or harness. Rover will have a bit more freedom. And you’ll have peace of mind that he’s not going to wander off. Never leave him staked up alone at the campsite.
16. Doggie backpack
If your dog is open to it, get him his own backpack. Start by getting him used to wearing one at home. Some dogs are accepting right away of wearing a pack, while others take a little convincing. Getting him to wear a backpack when you’re camping means that he can carry some of his own gear, like food, water, and his collapsible water dish. And maybe a toy or two! Remember to check the guidelines to determine how much weight is safe for your dog to carry.
There are some guidelines you should follow when you take your dog camping, so you don’t annoy other campers.
17. Doggie bags
It’s good camping etiquette to always clean up after your dog, both in your campsite or when you’re out enjoying the wilderness. Bring along plenty of environmental-friendly doggie bags that are easy to dispose of in designated trash cans. If you’re out the woods and don’t have a doggie bag, dig a hole and bury your dog’s poop.
18. No barking-zone
You’ll have a great time camping with your dog, but you’re not the only one in the campsite. Use responsible behavior with your dog and do what you can to prevent excessive barking. When you first get to your campsite, walk your dog around and let him sniff the area.
Being unfamiliar with his new surroundings can cause him to start barking. Other times he may bark when he hears other campers that he can’t see. Consider taking him for a walk through the campground so he can meet and greet other campers.
19. Leash your dog
Most campgrounds will have a leash rule for dogs. Not only will a leash keep your dog safe, it keeps him from annoying others. Even if Rover is well trained and stays by your side, keep that leash on him. And remember, not everyone likes dogs. Respect the campground rules and your fellow campers!
There are a few things you’ll need to do to keep your dog safe and secure when you’re camping.
20. Never leave your dog unattended
Never tie your dog up and leave him unattended at the campsite. If a wild animal should attack, he’ll have no way to protect himself. As well, if you leave him alone, with so many new sights and sounds around, he may start barking. Not only will he annoy your neighboring campers, he may be attracting unwanted attention from wildlife, such as bears and coyotes.
21. Keep your dog cool
Dogs are more sensitive to heat than humans. It’s doesn’t take much for them to become dehydrated. Pitch your tent so that there will be shade during the hottest time of the day, keeping it cooler for the evening.
During the day, make sure to plan family activities in the shade. Not only will everyone be cooler, so will your four-legged camping companion. Always have water available and during really hot weather, add a few ice cubes to your dog’s water to cool him down even more.
22. Tents and dogs
Don’t leave your dog alone in the tent during the day or at night. During the day, the tent can get extremely hot, even if it’s not that hot outside. Besides the heat, leaving your dog unsupervised in your tent is just asking for trouble. It won’t take much for him to claw and chew his way out.
23. Keep safe from wildlife
Before your camping trip, find out what wildlife live in the area where you’re going to be setting up camp. Most larger animals will avoid you, but if you have a curious dog with you, the unexpected can happen. And it doesn’t take much for your dog to be injured by a bear or moose.
Smaller animals are also a concern. Raccoons and skunks can transmit rabies with just a little bite. It may be tempting to let Rover go off leash when you’re hiking off the trail, but don’t give in to this temptation. Keep your dog on leash so he’s safe from wild critters.
24. Check for ticks
With all that fur to hide in, your dog is at a higher risk than you for ticks. Check your dog a couple of times each day for ticks. Be sure to check under his belly. Your tick inspection may take a bit of time, but it’s well worth it. If you find a tick, remove it just as you would for people.
25. Check for burrs and thorns
Romping around in the great outdoors exposes your dog to new dangers. Burrs and thorns can be painful for your dog. Don’t wait for him to start limping from a thorn in his foot or being stressed about a burr tangled tightly in his fur. Check him over and remove any of these annoyances before they become a problem.
Have Fun with Your Camping Canine!
Dogs love being outside and taking yours along on the family camping trip is a great way for all of you to bond. Just be prepared and you’ll be able to enjoy your time together with no stress at all.