My dogs love camping just about as much as I do, if not more. Buddy loves the fresh mountain air, running through fields of wildflowers and swimming in lakes.
As we pack the camper, Fido sits patiently in the window, knowing that soon he will be sniffing the scent of the wild and peeing on pine trees. And Fluffy is so excited that her water bowl was packed that she is now barking and spinning in circles. She just loves curling up by the campfire and howling at the moon.
Yes, I’m one of those crazy dog people who never leaves home without her dogs. Buddy, Fido and Fluffy are my family and they are camping dogs!
Now as much as I would love to turn them loose and let them enjoy the freedom of the wilderness, I realize that I must be a responsible dog owner. There are a few things I, as a responsible human, must do to make sure Buddy, Fido and Fluffy have a great, safe and fun dogcation and don’t disturb our camping neighbors either.
If you’re planning a camping trip with man’s best friend, consider these tips to make sure you and your pooch are set up for dog camping success.
Can you take your dog camping with you? Yes, of course! While some dog owners choose to leave their dogs at home or board them in a kennel, dogs really love the outdoors and would love to be included in your next camping escape. Fido is, after all, a member of the family, isn’t he?
But, there are a few things you’ll need to do first. When you make your camping reservation, make sure dogs are allowed. You’ll want to search for pet friendly campgrounds. Each state or national park has its own dog regulations and can be found on the individual park’s website. The United States Forest Service (USFS) has plenty of primitive camping opportunities if you prefer to camp in undeveloped areas, which usually means more relaxed dog regulations. Check with the USFS regional office in your area for information. If you are heading to a private campground, you’ll also want to call ahead to make sure your pet is welcome.
Some campgrounds have limits on the number of dogs per campsite or the size of the dog allowed. If you love your pooch and want to bring him along on your next camping trip, you can easily plan to go to a dog friendly destination, but it's best to know the campground’s pet policy before you arrive.
Check Your Dog’s Vaccinations and Maintain Health Some parks or private campgrounds require up-to-date rabies vaccinations for all pets. And even if it isn’t required, most dog owners want to keep up on their pet’s vaccinations current regardless. So heading out on a camping trip is just a good reminder of maintaining pet health.
Make sure you refill any prescriptions or medications including vitamins and training treats before you head out on your camping trip. Finding a veterinarian on the road can be a hassle and may be more expensive. Also, if your destination is in an area that has fleas or ticks, make sure to get the appropriate prescriptions from your vet before you go. If you can prevent tick and flea infestation everyone will be happier. A healthy dog is a happy dog.
What to Pack for your Dog Just like you, your dog likes the comforts of home at the campground. Bring Fido's kennel or dog bed, a leash, and his food and water bowls. Bring his favorite dog toys for chewing around camp or chasing at the lakeshore. Consider bringing a runner or stakes and cables, so your dog can be outside and free to roam around the campsite without wandering into the neighbor’s campsite. Bring treats for rewarding good behavior and any medications they may need. A nightlight for your dog’s collar is also a good idea, so you can see your dog at night.
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Protect your Pooch from Wildlife Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Depending on your destination bears, coyotes, mountain lions, or other wild animals are a possibility and unfortunately, can be a danger to your pet. Make sure your dog is leashed at all times during your camping trip. Not only is leashing your dog a rule at most campgrounds, but it also protects them from wandering into danger.
Though you’ll want to leash your dog, don’t ever leave Fido tied up and unattended at the campground. A dog that is tied up is in danger of being attacked by a wild animal and unable to defend himself. And a dog tied up outside is likely to bark, not only annoying the neighbors, but also inviting wildlife to visit your camp. Read more about how to protect your pet from wildlife.
You’ll also need to protect wildlife from your dog. Most campers love to see deer grazing in the meadow or birds chirping in the trees, but wild animals aren’t comfortable around an aggressive or barking pet. Don’t allow your dog to chase deer or other wildlife. And try your best to keep them form barking at the birds.
Make sure Fido gets Plenty of Exercise It’s easy to think that you don’t need to walk Fido, since you’ll be outside at the campground each day, but most dogs need to stick to their dog walking routines. Take your dogs on their normal morning and evening walks, so they can do their business outside of the campsite. And don’t forget to pick up after your pet as you would in your own neighborhood!
Since you’ve chosen to take your dog camping, you’ll want to plan your outdoors activities to include them. At home you might be able to leave your dog in the backyard or in the house, but that’s not as easy when you’re camping. Search for dog friendly adventures around your campground, so you can take Fido with you!
There are a lot of unusual sights, scents and sounds at the campground that might make your dog bark more than usual. A well-exercised dog is less likely to yap all night long because he’ll be tired and ready to curl up in the tent. Learn more about why dogs bark and how to stop excessive barking.
Selecting a Camping Tent for Your Dog If your dog is anything like mine, he likes to stretch out and sleep diagonal in the bed. When considering a sleeping space for a dog camping trip, make sure the tent is large enough for you and your pets to sleep comfortably. Consider your dog as a person when buying a tent. Learn more about buying a camping tent.
Also remember that dogs can easily claw their way out of a tent, so locking Fido inside could be disastrous if he decides he wants out. Your tent is not a good place to keep your dog when you are away from camp and should never be left unattended in your tent.
Camping in Canada and Mexico with Dogs If you are crossing international borders on your camping trip, you’ll need to carry a certificate of health issued from your veterinarian within ten days of travel and proof of current rabies and distemper vaccinations. Check the Center for Disease Control’s website for regulations on bringing your dog or pet back into the United States. Learn more about travel with pets to Mexico and how to cross the border into Canada with your pet