How to Prepare for Camping With Dogs
Camping with a dog creates a fur-ever bond with your best friend. It’s a whole lot of fun, but it can also be challenging if you aren’t prepared. With a bit of knowledge and planning, you can make sure that you and your dog have the best adventure ever.
Find Campgrounds That Allow Dogs
Dog-friendly campsites are available in many locations, but you do need to know if the campsite you plan to stay at allows pets and take note of pet policies before bringing them there.
National parks – The U.S. national parks welcome dogs at some campgrounds and certain trails, provided they are leashed. Each national park has its own rules for dogs, so be sure to visit the park’s website before you go. View which national parks allow pets.
State and local parks – Much like the national parks, each state and local park has its own set of rules for dogs, and it’s likely that dogs must always be leashed. Many of them have campgrounds that allow dogs, so call the park or visit their website before you go.
Privately owned campgrounds – Many RV parks and other privately owned public campgrounds are dog-friendly, but you should call ahead and check with the campground about its pet policies. Some may not allow pets in cabins or may have limited pet units.
Dispersed campsites – Most of these are dog-friendly campsites and will provide more privacy and solitude than an organized campground would. Be sure to check the regulations for the area where you plan to stay just to be safe!
National forests – Dogs are welcome on most trails and campgrounds in national forests , however there are areas where your dog may not be allowed or is required to be leashed. Check a national forest’s website to view their pet policy and restrictions.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land – BLM-managed lands have both developed and dispersed campgrounds. If you plan to hike with you dog on a BLM-managed trail, check the trail’s website or call the local BLM office for leash policies.
View these tips for hiking with your dog so you and your dog can get the most out of the great outdoors.
Check Dog Tags and Take a Picture of Your Dog
Make sure your dog’s tags have your current address and phone number in case your dog gets loose and you need help finding them. Keeping an updated photo of your dog on you is important, too. Microchipping them is also recommended.
Schedule a Vet Appointment
Schedule a check-up to make sure your dog doing OK physically. You don’t need to take your dog to the vet before every camping trip, but they should be healthy. If they’re not feeling well, it’s not the best idea to bring your dog camping.
Your dog’s vaccines should be up to date. Viruses such as rabies and Lyme disease are often spread through feces and in urine, which dogs can pick up while walking on a trail or drinking from and swimming in open water. Don’t forget to protect them against fleas and ticks, too! (Source: Preston Buff, in-house Board-Certified Animal Nutritionist)
Other vaccines to consider:
Rattlesnake vaccine – If you are camping in an area with rattlesnakes, consider getting this vaccine in the event your dog gets bit. Venomous snake bites can kill dogs and are known to cause serious muscle, liver and neurological damage. The rattlesnake vaccine helps lessen the reaction your dog may have to a snake bite and will buy you the time needed to get to a veterinary hospital.
Dewormer – Heartworm is spread through mosquito bites, so if you are camping in an area with mosquitoes, it’s important to make sure your dog receives a monthly dewormer.
Pack Dog Camping Essentials
Keep a checklist handy when packing camping gear for your dog . Forgetting one item could impact the trip. Essential items for camping with dogs include:
• Food and a bowl
• Water (if not accessible at or near the campsite) and a bowl
• Leash and harness
• Waste bags
• First aid kit
Other items that aren’t essential, but recommended:
• Your dog’s bed (it’ll help them feel more at home)
• Booties or paw protectant
• A doggy daypack for their food and other belongings
Pack Enough Food
No matter the adventure, your dog needs quality energy that comes from quality meals. Nature’s Recipe® dog food is nutrient-dense and natural, with added vitamins, minerals and nutrients. But which recipes are best for camping? We checked with our in-house Board-Certified Animal Nutritionist, Preston Buff, and this was his advice.
If your dog already has a favorite Nature’s Recipe® dry dog food, pack that for your camping trip because it’s lighter than wet food and produces less waste. However, if your dog is on a wet food diet, Preston says there’s no need to change their diet for the camping trip, as this could lead to GI upset. Just make sure you’re able to properly dispose of the cans.
For long days on the trail, Preston recommends that your dog eats a food containing higher calories and fat for sustained energy. Our Grain Free recipes are great options because they are made with real meat, fish or poultry as the #1 ingredient. If your dog needs digestion support, our Easy to Digest formulas provide high-quality protein that’s gentle on your dog's stomach.
Pro tip: If you’re camping in the backcountry, follow local bear safety guidance on storing pet food (and your food!)
Pack Clean Water
Making sure your dog has clean water is just as important as making sure they have enough food. Preston recommends that you give your dog water that you would drink yourself. So, fill up some reusable water bottles at home, or bring a water filter if you plan on getting water from a nearby lake or stream.
Bring a Dog First Aid Kit
When camping with a dog, you should always keep a first aid kit handy in case of an injury. A great doggie first aid kit includes:
• Gauze for wrapping wounds
• Non-stick bandages
• Adhesive tape
• Cotton balls
• Antibiotic spray or ointment to treat wounds
• Tweezers for removing splinters from your dog’s paw or ticks from their fur
• Eye wash if your dog gets dirt or a bug in their eye while exploring
• Allergy medication for insect stings
Know Campsite Etiquette
Once you’re settled in at your campsite, it’s important to be courteous of other campers. These five guidelines will apply to most dog-friendly campsites:
• Never leave your dog unsupervised, no matter how well-trained he or she may be.
• Pick up and properly dispose of their waste.
• If your dog has aggressive tendencies or doesn’t get along with other dogs, it’s best to leave them at home.
• Keep your dog on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
• If your dog barks into the night, you may be asked to find other accommodations.
Bring the Right Tent
As easy as it may seem to let your dog sleep in the car or a crate, they will probably be most comfortable sleeping in a tent with you. (And with their favorite toy!) Make sure your tent is large enough for you, your dog and anyone else on the trip to sleep comfortably. Some tents even have dog vestibules! If you have room in your tent, bring your dog’s bed or crate to help them feel more at home. If not, invest in a comfortable sleeping mat.
Pro tip: If your dog is new to camping, pitch the tent in your home or backyard before the trip and let your dog sniff and explore it.
Check the Weather
Check the weather for the area you’ll be visiting. Doing so can help with packing. It is always a good idea to pack for all types of weather such as bringing rain gear, warm clothes, and sunscreen.
Winter camping – Unless you have a dog that’s bred to live in cold temperatures, you will need to keep them warm, so pack extra layers. A dog jacket, a sleeping bag, blankets and dog snow booties are essential items for winter camping with dogs. Don’t forget extra towels, as your dog is likely to get wet while winter camping. A four-season tent designed for cold temperatures will also help keep you and your pet extra warm. Learn more winter safety tips for dogs.
Summer camping – Before bringing your furry friend on a summer camping trip, you need to know how to keep them cool. Packing an extra sunshade will help them stay comfortable while relaxing at camp. A body of water is a great place for your dog to cool off, and if there’s one nearby, pack a life jacket. Finally, bring plenty of water or a water filter. Remember, dogs can’t sweat. They pant and then drink to cool off. Learn more summer safety tips for dogs.
Be aware of risks - Any dog can suffer from a heat stroke, so you’ll want to be aware of these heat exhaustion symptoms: panting, drooling, weakness and collapsing. Your dog’s body temperature should normally be between 100- and 102.5-degrees Fahrenheit, and an ear or rectal thermometer can help you tell if your dog’s temperature is too high. (Source: Preston Buff, in-house Board-Certified Animal Nutritionist)
Practice Camping With Your Dog
Before camping with pets, you should make sure they’re acclimated to the environment, because camping isn’t every doggo’s cup of tea.
Set up a campsite at home. Start by introducing your dog to sleeping in a tent, sounds and smells of camping, and camping gear. This can help them feel more comfortable when you’re actually camping.
Take your dog on short hikes. Short hikes can help your doing get used to being outdoors and around animals. If you plan on doing long hikes on your camping trip, make sure your dog can go the distance. Check out dog parks near you.
Go on a short camping trip. Try taking your dog to a nearby dog-friendly campsite so your dog can get used to being around people and getting more comfortable with camping.
Now that you know how to prepare for camping with your dog, enjoy every second spent together in the great outdoors. And don′t forget to pack your favorite Nature’s Recipe® dog food to fuel your adventure!
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