10 Things to Know When 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.
1. Test the Waters
Before camping with pets, you should make sure they’re acclimated to the environment, because camping isn’t every doggo’s cup of tea. If you plan on doing long hikes on your camping trip, make sure your dog can go the distance.
Remember that each dog has a unique personality, which can help determine the camping activities you plan to do. If your dog is shy and timid, they may not adapt to camp as easily. If they’re athletic and energetic, then they’re more likely to take on a backcountry camping trip.
2. Find Pet-Friendly Campgrounds
Dog-friendly camping is available in many locations, but you do need to know if the campsite you plan to stay at allows pets and take note of any restrictions 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.
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 – If you’re camping with your dog in a national forest, there are many areas where your dog does not need to be leashed, however most hiking trails require that your dog is leashed. Check with your local national forest office to see which areas have pet 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.
3. Prepare Your Dog Accordingly
First, 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.
Next, make sure they′re 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.
Lastly, make sure their vaccines are up to date. Viruses such as rabies and lyme disease are often spread in 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: Dr. Leslie)
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.
4. Pack All the Essentials
Keep a checklist handy when packing for a camping trip with 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
A tether and stake
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
5. 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 veterinarian, Dr. Leslie Hancock-Monroe, and this was her 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, Dr. Leslie 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, Dr. Leslie recommends that your dog eats a food containing higher calories and fat for sustained energy. Our Grain Free and Prime Blends® formulas are great options because they contain more fat and higher calories. 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, double bag the dog food so that its scent doesn’t attract bears.
6. Pack Clean Water
Making sure your dog has clean water is just as important as making sure they have enough food. Dr. Leslie 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.
7. Make a Doggie 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
Hydrogen peroxide to prevent infections
Anibiotic 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
8. 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.
9. Know How to Sleep with Your Dog
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 to help them feel more at home. If not, invest in a comfortable sleeping mat.
Finally, a full day of exercise and adventuring will potentially help your dog sleep better and make them less restless at night.
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.
10. Consider the Season
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.
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.
Finally, 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: Dr. Leslie)
You’re Ready for Camp!
Now that you know how to camp with a 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!