Camping with Dogs 101

Camping with your dog can be an incredibly fun experience when done correctly. It’s a great chance for you to experience Mother Nature and the great outdoors with your fuzzy best friend. This guide is meant to serve as a resource to help you plan safe and fun trips with your fuzzy best friend.

Is camping right for my dog?

We’ll start by saying that camping isn’t right for every dog. Every dog, just like every person, is different; depending on your dog’s personality and temperament, camping may or may not be a good idea for your dog.

Some questions to ask:

  • Does your dog display aggression toward dogs or people?
  • Does your chase wildlife?
  • Does your dog tend to wander off or stay by your side?
  • Does your dog bark frequently at every little sound?
  • Is your dog obese or overweight?
  • Does your dog have the physical stamina to hike, walk, and engage in outdoor activities?
  • Does your dog tend to enjoy the outdoors?
  • Does your dog come to you when called?

Remember, just like humans, dogs need practice and training when it comes to the great outdoors. Try setting up a tent in your backyard and getting your dog used to the sounds and sights of camping. You can also take your dog on regular hikes to get them used to the outdoors.

Dog Camping Safety Tips

The great outdoors provides your dog with an endless playground, but there are some dangers that could make camping unsafe or difficult. Here are our basic safety tips for a fun camping trip.

Check your campground’s or park’s rules

Every campground has different rules and regulations as it relates to camping with your dog. Be sure to check your campground’s website or give the ranger station a call before heading out on your trip. Some campgrounds may require your dog to be on-leash at all times, and others require that you lock your dog’s food in a bear canister.

Know the area that you’re going to

Every outdoor area is different – with varying types of plants, animals, and terrain. Research what to expect at your campsite and the surrounding area. Are there bears? Do you need to be concerned about skunks? Is there poison ivy or poison oak? Do you need a life jacket for a lake or stream? Is the water safe for my pup to drink or swim in it?

Finding out this information ahead of time can help you plan appropriately and pack correctly for your camping trip.

Make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations

When was the last time you took your dog to the veterinarian? Double check that your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations, especially against diseases like rabies and leptospirosis if you’re going camping. You’ll want to make sure that your dog is protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Assess your dog’s current state of health

Every dog is going to handle the outdoors differently. While some dogs can hike 10 miles, others have difficulty making it one mile. Similarly, some dogs handle cooler or hotter temperatures differently. Knowing the activity level and temperature tolerance of your dog before you go to help you prepare for the activities you’ll be doing with your dog outdoors.

Update your dog’s ID tag and microchip

In the event that your dog wanders off or you and your dog are separated, proper identification is key. The first thing that you can do is to add a small temporary ID tag to your dog’s collar with your campsite number and the phone number for the ranger station. In the event that you don’t have cell phone service, this is one of the best ways to help make sure that your dog is safely returned to you.

In addition, make sure that your dog’s ID tag and microchip are up-to-date with your contact information. Tags for Hope is a great option for identification tags for your dog – it allows you to provide a variety of information in a small space.

Keep your dog’s preventive medications up-to-date

Your dog’s monthly dose of preventive medication is incredibly important in keeping them healthy. Talk to your veterinarian about which medication(s) your dog is currently taking and what’s best if you’re going to be camping. See if your area is prone to ticks and if they’re not on a tick preventive consider adding that to their preventive medication schedule.

Finally, don’t forget about heartworm disease. Mosquitoes pass heartworm disease, and mosquitoes and camping usually go hand in hand. When discussing preventive medication with your vet, be sure to bring up heartworm as an additional concern. 

Dog Camping Gear Checklist

Every dog and every trip will require a different list of gear and essentials. The best way to pack and prepare for your trip is to research the area, check the weather and temperature, and understand your dog’s needs. Knowing these things will best allow you to pack for your dog. Here’s a basic list of items to bring, along with a few expanded descriptions to help you pack for your trip:

  • Identification: ID Tags, Collar, and Up-to-Date Microchip.  Optional: Temporary Tag with Your Campsite Info
  • Leash & Harness
  • Tether – If you want to give your pet freedom to move around the campsite while keeping them on-leash
  • Waste Disposal – Poop Bags
  • Toys
  • Chews – Rawhide Free Wraps and Pig Ears can be excellent distractions for your dog
  • Water System – Provide your dog with clean and fresh drinking water; you can use a collapsible bowl or water bottle bowl combo-system for your dog.
  • Clothing – depending upon the weather, your dog may need a sweater or jacket. Fit these on your dog ahead of time and get them used to wearing clothes.
  • Shoes – depending on your dog’s paws and the area’s terrain, you may want to consider shoes or booties for your dog.
  • Food & Treats– bring your dog’s normal food with you in an airtight and waterproof container.
  • Life Jacket or PFD (Personal Flotation Device) – In the event that you’re going to be in or near water.
  • Safety Light
  • Dog Backpack or Trail Pack – If you’re going to do extended hiking, consider a trail pack for your dog. Dogs can hold anywhere from 10%-25% of their body weight depending on their breed and health. This can come in handy if you want them to carry their own food and/or water.

Dog First Aid Kit

A first aid kit designed for your dog is essential on any outdoors trip. You’ll want to tailor the kit specifically to your dog’s individual needs. Talk to your veterinarian about any concerns that you may have regarding first aid and your dog. You can also read our guide here on creating a basic first aid kit.

For a basic first aid kit, check our veterinarian-approved video to get started.

Additional Resources

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If you camp with your dog, we’d love to hear your gear suggestions, camping tips, and see your outdoor dog photos. Be sure to share them in the comments below. If you have any other questions about camping and hiking with your dog, ask one of our veterinarians – it’s free. Simply download our app and ask anything about fleas, ticks, heartworm and camping.

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