How To Guide: Camping With a Dog
Spring is here and summer is approaching, it’s prime time for camping (although every season is camping season). We’ve camped in the mountains, by the river, at an apple orchard, and anywhere we’re able to secure a dog-friendly campsite. Cooper’s first outdoor experience was camping at Big Sur when he was just 4-5 months old. He absolutely loves being in the outdoors and I try to make sure we get out as often as we can in every season. If you have yet to experience camping with your pup, I highly recommend giving it a try. It’s a great way to bond with your pup while enjoying the great outdoors. There are so many good smells and sights to experience when camping that your pup will sure to love!
To get started, here is a guide on how to prepare for your first camping trip with your dog (or hiking or roadtrip or glamping)!
Finding a Dog-Friendly Campground
A simple Google search will get you the answer you desire when it comes to finding dog-friendly places. I usually have the keywords “dog-friendly campground” at the beginning and depending on where I want to go, I would then put the name of the National Park or State Park at the end. A lot of National Parks and State Parks have a strict dog policy where they are not permitted on trails but a lot of them do allow dogs on campgrounds, fire roads, sidewalks, or bike paths. Aside from National/State Parks, check with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as well for available dog campsites. Depending where you are, check the official National Park/State Park/BLM website for detailed information about campground availability, seasonality, updates for closure, and if dogs are permitted at camp.
Finding Dog-Friendly Trails:
Tip: A lot of the campsite filled up quick so it’s best to start looking at 3-4 months out in advanced and set an alarm clock for when specific campsite is open for the season.
Before you set out and camp with your dog(s), please make sure that they are up-to-date with all their vaccinations and medications. If they are overdue for an annual vet checkup, get this done prior to your camping trip to ensure that your dog is healthy. A good reason for this is that it will help rule out potential risks or problems that may occur during or after camping. Lastly, your dog will be exposed to a number of insects when you’re camping and this goes for fleas, ticks and mosquitos, make sure that your dog is up-to-date with their flea/tick medication (Lyme disease is no joke). Lastly, be sure they are also up-to-date with their microchip (a vet can check).
Tip: Research the closest vet clinics based on where you are camping and keep a note of the address in case of dire emergency that would require taking your dog to the vet. Even better if you are able to find a 24/7 clinic. Also keep medical records saved on your phone or have physical copies in your car’s glove compartment for emergencies.
Mini Emergency Kit
Having a well-provisioned emergency kit will enable you as a dog owner to act immediately to medical emergency and you’ll be better prepare if a problem were to occur. Curate your own kit based on your dog’s needs and what you know works best.
First Aid Kit - Always good to have in order to immediately treat wounds and cuts. Bring refills with you as well so that you have all the items available. Not shown in photo: Tick Removal Tool, Hydrogen Peroxide
Hotspot spray - This can help provide immediate relief for itchy, dry, and irritated skin. It can also help to soothe and heal your dog’s skin if they’re biting or scratching at a certain spot on their body.
Ear Solution - Anything can happen while camping, getting a vet-approved ear solution can help treat acute and chronic otitis from bacterial, fungal and yeast infections. Keep those dog ears clean and healthy!
Eyedrops for Dogs - Useful to have for when your dog gets an eye infection or their eyes become red due to allergies, having eyedrops on hand can help to relieve the symptoms. Check with your Vet about what type of eyedrops to use.
Paw Cream/Shield - A good item if your dog’s paws tend to become dry and crackly (especially nice to have for when you’re camping somewhere dry and hot like the desert). For your dog’s tired paws, find paw creams that have shea butter and essential oils in them to help soothe them.
Natural Flea/Tick Spray - On top of flea/tick medication, organic and natural flea/tick spray can help repel any unwanted pests that would likely latch onto your dog while you’re at a campground. A simple spritz on their underbelly, armpits, and neck should do the trick; I also advise spraying the perimeter of your tent as well to keep bugs out of your sleeping area (definitely don’t want them getting into your stuff). I use the Cedarcide Tickshield Spray.
Waterless Shampoo - In case your dog gets into anything gross or become stinky and dirty, waterless shampoo is great to have on hand to quickly clean them up without needing water.
Tip: Keep this animal poison control number with you, (888) 426-4435, for when you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance
Depending on what activities you will be doing aside from chilling and relaxing around the campground, it’s practical and efficient to bring items that you can also use in multiple ways for when you venture out (ex. a harness for both hiking and camping usage). Here are some things I typically bring on a camping trip:
Hitching/Tether System - Dogs must be on leash at all-time when they’re at the campground, this rule applies to all campgrounds. Bring a tether system where your dog can’t wander off or chase wildlife but still have the accessibility of walking around the campground
Ruffwear Knot-a-Hitch - A good tethering system I believe is a dog version of a zip-line.
If your dog is crate trained then you can bring their crate so that they can feel secured and safe.
If you have a younger pup who doesn’t like to be tied up to a leash yet, bring a collapsible playpen for them so that they can be contained and monitored. Never leave your dog completely alone!
Beddings (Blanket/Bed Mat) - Make sure to bring your dog a bed or a blanket (there are dog sleeping bags out there) for them to comfortably sleep on at night.
Collars - Bring two collars with up-to-date identification, keep a collar on them at all time with a dog tag. For when it gets dark at night, I put on a light up collar for night visibility.
Light Up Collar from Nite Ize
Harness - Collars aren’t always reliable when being leashed up and if your dog is an escape artist, like slipping out of their collar to run off, a harness built for the outdoors will keep them better secured.
Leash - Always have an extra leash on hand. I preferred climbing rope leash for durability and biothane leash for their water-proof capability.
Outerwear/Shoes - Take note of the weather where you’re camping, as well as your dog’s coat type. Ex. A double-coated dog won’t need a sweater in the snow. You know your dog best so dress them accordingly. Majority of the time, Cooper remains “naked”. In addition, I like to bring along dog shoes as well for when I know our hiking terrain will require it.
Comb/Brush - Bring along a comb or a brush, useful to have for when you are inspecting your dog’s body and preventing their fur from getting matted.
Poop Bags - It’s very important to pick up after your dog to encourage campgrounds to remain dog-friendly. Carry multiple rolls of poop bags with you and appropriately dispose of it.
Dog Water Bowl - Have a dog water bowl full of water at all time so that your dog has access to fresh water.
Collapsible Food Bowl - This is handy to have for hiking (to give when your dog needs water) and for feeding your dog at the campground.
Supplements - Bring along any supplements your dog typically have on a daily basis.
Freeze Dried Food and Treats - I prefer freeze-dried treats and food when it comes to camping as it’s easy and convenient to feed without the mess.
Tip: When it comes to dog food, keep all dog food and treats in an air-sealed container (ex. bear canister) to prevent wildlife from rummaging and ransacking the campground for scraps.
Camping Etiquette and Manners
Sometimes it really takes one bad apple to ruin it for everyone so it is crucial that when you’re camping, please be mindful and considerate of others. Any potential irresponsible behavior by a dog owner and their dog can cause campgrounds to completely prohibit dogs. Here are some tips and suggestions to help you:
Keep Noise Level Down - There are a couple of campgrounds that have a noise curfew so it’s good to be respectful to that rule and keep quiet when the curfew is in effect.
If your dog tends to bark a lot, keep them occupied with either a chew, puzzle toy, or engage with them with some basic training. Or better yet, try to tired them out during the day with a dog-friendly trail hike. A tired dog is a good dog. Again, you know your dog best so if you noticed that they’re increasingly getting anxious or rowdy, train them and work with them to remain calm and reward them when they are. Keep up with the training since practice makes perfect!
Training Never Ends - The best thing about camping with your dog is the endless opportunity to train and bond with them. Continuing to teach them commands like down, stay, sit, leave it, wait, come, and quiet will strengthen their bond with you and help to build up their confidence while camping. The more you do it, the better you’ll get the hang of it and that goes the same for your dog. Approach every opportunity as a training lesson.
Follow the Rules - Hopefully this isn’t a broken record at this point but it’s so important to follow the rules when you’re within the campground. As long as you follow the campground’s policy surrounding dogs, everything will be fine.
Don’t go where dogs aren’t permitted and keep within the limit that’s allowed.
Don’t leave your dog unattended under any circumstances without supervision.
Keep your dog on leash at all time and don’t let them run off leash onto another person’s campground where there may be another dog. Just don’t let them off leash at all.
Pick up the poop. Like always. Even if you come across someone else’s dog poop, pick it up as well. It helps to preserve the place you’re at and will continue to help keep the campground clean. A lot of the time, dog waste is a major consideration when a place decide if it should be dog-friendly or not. Let’s keep it clean for mother nature.
At the end of the day, camping is supposed to be fun for both you and the pup. Remember to take it easy and slow at first if it’s your dog’s first time camping. Don’t worry too much if everything doesn’t go according to plan. Dogs can have bad days too but don’t let that dampen the overall camping experience, worst case scenario would be leaving and trying again the next time. I hope this guide helps you during your planning. The more you camp with your dog, the more experience you’ll become and eventually you’ll have things that you know you need and things that you know you don’t need. Hopefully this is a good starting point!
As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.