Everything To Know About Camping With Dogs, According To Experts
Because pups are the cutest little adventure buddies 🌲⛺️🔥
As a dog parent, every trip is even more fun when your dog comes along — and that includes camping trips.
If you’re going to take your dog camping, though, there’s a lot you should know beforehand to be prepared and keep your pup safe.
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Crista Coppola, PhD, a certified dog and cat behaviorist at Senior Tail Waggers, and Dr. Corinne Wigfall, a veterinarian with SpiritDog Training, to get some tips for taking your dog camping and hiking.
Should I take my dog camping?
Before you go camping with your dog, think about whether or not he’ll actually like it.
“You might enjoy camping, but [your dog] may not,” Dr. Coppola told The Dodo. “The unfamiliar sounds and smells may cause him stress.”
If your dog isn’t well socialized or tends to get too excited or scared around other people and animals, it might not be a good idea to take him camping, since you’ll likely run into them on your trip.
Another thing to consider is the car ride. If your pup gets anxious or sick riding in the car, he might not enjoy traveling to the campground with you. “Make sure your dog can travel in the car without being nauseous,” Dr. Wigfall told The Dodo. “Starting a day hike after being sick is quite possibly the worst way to start a hike!”
But if your dog’s comfortable riding in the car and around other people and animals, you can definitely take him camping with you — just as long as you take safety precautions.
Tips for camping with dogs
Here’s everything you need to know to help you prepare for your camping trip so you can have a safe and fun time with your pup.
Check campground regulations
Before you head out on your trip, make sure the campground you’re going to allows pets. You should also check all the rules and guidelines. Even if dogs are allowed, the site may require them to stay in certain areas or have leash requirements.
Prepare before the trip
Let your pup get acclimated to the camping gear before you go.
“Know how [your dog] reacts to being confined in a tent if [you’re] tent camping,” Dr. Coppola said.
Have a practice run by setting your tent up in your yard and camping outside with your pup. This will allow your dog to get used to the tent, and you’ll be able to see how he behaves (and if he does or doesn’t like it).
And if you’re going hammock camping with your dog, let him get used to the hammock at home so he knows what to expect. Give him time to get comfortable with the feel of it, since it might be weird for him at first.
If you plan on having your pup wear booties to protect his paws, have him try them on before your trip to get used to how they feel.
Keep your pup close
Keep your dog on a leash, even at night, so he doesn’t wander off. “Dogs need to be kept on-leash if a reliable recall is not rock solid,” Dr. Coppola said. “Keep in mind a recall may not be as reliable as you think if your dog is faced with the opportunity to chase a squirrel up a tree or a rabbit through the woods.”
And always keep ID tags on your pup so he can be identified if he does get away. “Make sure your dog is wearing up-to-date identification tags at all times,” Dr. Coppola said.
Check his vaccinations
Make sure your dog is up to date on his vaccinations. “In the outdoors environment, he is more likely to be exposed to potentially infectious agents,” Dr. Coppola said. “Annual vaccines, rabies, leptospirosis, flea and tick preventative, and heartworm preventative [are necessary].”
Get your dog microchipped
In addition to updated ID tags, a microchip is essential to making sure your pup can be found if he gets lost.
“Make sure your pet’s microchip details are up to date,” Dr. Wigfall said. “If they get lost, it will be much easier to reunite you with your dog.”
Bring a picture
Bring a recent picture of your dog with you camping in case he gets lost. You can show the photo to other campers nearby so they’ll be able to help look for him.
Keep your dog hydrated
Dogs will try to drink water from almost anywhere, but water out in nature often has bacteria, such as cyanobacteria, that can make your pup sick. So try to prevent him from lapping up water from a lake, and give him fresh water on your hikes instead.
“Bring fresh water for your pup to drink, and do not allow him to drink from natural water sources, such as puddles, ponds, streams and lakes,” Dr. Coppola said.
RV camping with dogs
RV camping can be extra fun because you have a ton of space (or more space than you have in a tent, at least) for your pup. But just like with regular camping, you’ll have to plan ahead so everything will go smoothly. Here are some tips:
- Get your dog used to the RV before you start taking him on trips, especially if he’s not fond of car rides.
- You should dog-proof your RV. That means removing anything that could be harmful to your dog, like exposed wires, or covering sharp edges.
- Keep your dog in a crate or a dog seat belt while driving to prevent injuries to him and you. You can get Kurgo’s crash-tested harness from Amazon for $37.98.
- Take breaks to let your pup out to stretch and use the bathroom.
- Make sure your RV has air conditioning so your dog doesn’t get overheated. You may even want to invest in a pet temperature monitor like this one from Amazon for $199.
- If you have to leave your dog alone in the RV for any period of time, you might want to consider getting a dog camera to check on him. This Furbo dog camera lets you watch your pup from your phone, and you can even toss him treats from the device. Try it from Amazon for $169.
Winter camping with dogs
Camping during the winter brings a whole different set of challenges, so here’s what you need to know if you’re camping with your pup during the colder months:
- Some dogs, like dachshunds, don’t do well in cold weather because of their short fur or small body size, so only bring your pup camping in the winter if he’ll be able to handle the low temperatures.
- Bundle your dog up in a jacket and hiking booties.
- Get a warm camping bed for your dog, like this one from Amazon for $36.90.
- Make sure you know the signs of hypothermia in dogs.
- If your dog gets wet, be sure to completely dry him off, since wet fur can make him even colder.
Beach camping with dogs
Follow these safety tips to have an amazing overnight beach trip with your dog:
- Make sure your pup’s comfortable around water, and teach him how to swim if he doesn’t know how. A life vest, like this Outward Hound one from Amazon for $27.99, is also handy to keep your dog afloat.
- Don’t let your dog drink ocean water or eat seaweed, shells, trash or any other debris on the beach.
- Supervise your pup any time he’s around the water.
- Limit your dog’s time in the sun so he doesn’t get overheated.
- Give your pup plenty of water so he stays hydrated.
Dog camping gear
- Travel food and water bowls
- LED collar and leash
- Leash tether
Tips for hiking with dogs
Hiking with your dog can be a super fun activity and a great way to get some exercise. A lot of the same camping tips apply for hiking, such as keeping your pup on a leash and giving him lots of water.
Here are some other things to keep in mind when you hike with your dog.
Check the trail regulations
Make sure dogs are allowed on the trail that you’re planning to hike. “Your local governing authority should have this information available online or with a quick phone call to clarify,” Dr. Wigfall said. “Remember, just because you saw a dog on the trail once doesn’t mean they were legally allowed to be there! Do your due diligence and check first.”
Improve your dog’s fitness
Help your dog get in shape by gradually increasing the length of your walks so he’ll be ready for your hike.
“Daily walks increase endurance ability,” Dr. Wigfall said. “Start small — half an hour each day — and then build up by 5–10 minutes each day.”
Beware of wild animals
You might run into wild animals who could hurt you or your pup on your hike, so it’s important to keep your dog away from them and to know what to do if your dog gets hurt. A dog first aid kit will be super helpful in those situations (but hopefully you won’t end up having to use it).
“Depending on the country you live in, beware dangerous animals, such as snakes and bears,” Dr. Wigfall said. “Research what to do in these situations and avoid them if possible.”
Your dog could also get spooked and try to run away or chase after animals, like squirrels, you meet on your hike, which is why you should keep him on a leash at all times.
Avoid risky terrain
Most importantly, find a trail that’s safe for both you and your dog.
“Avoid hikes that go near exposed cliff edges, walks that need you to wade through deep rivers or are dependent on the tide for safe passage,” Dr. Wigfall said. “Do not attempt walks that are outside of your confidence level. You don’t want to wander off the path and be struggling to find your way back whilst also keeping hold of your dog.”
Your dog can be the best camping buddy. Just follow these tips, and be sure to pack everything you need to keep your pup safe and comfy, and you and your dog will have the most exciting adventure together.
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