The Do’s and Don’ts of Taking Your Dog Camping

Couple Camping with Dog

Think­ing of bring­ing Fido along on your next camp­ing adven­ture? We asked three experts to share their Do’s and Don’ts to make the expe­ri­ence an amaz­ing one for both you and your fur­ry com­pan­ion.

Don’t Let Your Pup Go Crazy 

When it comes to camp­ing eti­quette, per­haps the most impor­tant thing to keep in mind is keep­ing things clean. “You have to be scrupu­lous with clean up and mak­ing sure your dog does not ‘lift a leg’ on anyone’s tents, fur­ni­ture, or cool­ers,” says Sal­ly Mor­gan, a holis­tic phys­i­cal ther­a­pist for pets and peo­ple, and author of ‘Dances of the Heart: Con­nect­ing with Ani­mals.”

At a min­i­mum, polite camp­ing gen­er­al­ly would mean keep­ing your dog on a leash, even though she is friend­ly and trust­wor­thy, Mor­gan adds. “No one appre­ci­ates a wan­der­ing dog steal­ing their toddler’s hot­dog after all,” says Mor­gan.

Bark­ing is anoth­er no-no and very dis­rup­tive to fel­low campers. “Even if you camp with an RV, three bark­ing chi­huahuas can still be loud enough to dis­turb neigh­bors when you go out,” says Mor­gan.

Do Check the Rules in Advance 

Be aware of the rulesNot all camp­grounds are dog-friend­ly and even those that are might have spe­cif­ic rules in place for canine vis­i­tors, so it pays to make a call or check their web­site. “Always let any camp­ground know ahead of time if you plan to bring a dog so that they can relay rules to you so there are no sur­pris­es when you arrive,” says Mor­gan. “Some camp­grounds have dog-friend­ly areas away from the gen­er­al camp­ing spaces, and some even have a fenced in dog play area; these camp­grounds may be more appeal­ing options for those trav­el­ing with dogs.”

In addi­tion, cer­ti­fied dog behav­ior con­sul­tant Kay­la Fratt points out that her biggest thing is always to check for rules about leash­es, waste, and behav­ior. “Even if your camp­ground allows off-leash dogs (gen­er­al­ly in back­coun­try areas in nation­al forests or BLM land), you’ll want to know your own dog and the area,” Fratt. “While I trust my dog off-leash in almost every sit­u­a­tion, I kept him very close while camp­ing in Mon­tana this week because he’s still no match for a bear!”

Don’t Let Your Dog Chase Wildlife

Don't Let them Chase WildlifeWhile most wildlife stays away from camp­grounds and noisy campers, there’s always the chance you might run into an ani­mal who won’t be too hap­py to see your dog. “The types of wildlife can vary by region and own­ers should be aware of this before trav­el­ing into the area, espe­cial­ly preda­tors like bears, moun­tain lions, and wolves but also ven­omous snakes and insects,” says Dr. Lucas White, DVM from Sun­set Vet­eri­nary Clin­ic.

Do Your Best to Be Pre­pared

When it comes to get­ting ready for a trip, Fratt points out that it’s the lit­tle things that make a huge dif­fer­ence. “I slept with my dog in the tent in our back­yard sev­er­al times before tak­ing him camp­ing; that way I knew he’d be qui­et and sleep well in the tent,” Fratt says. “It’s hard to do a train­ing ses­sion with your pup out in the wilder­ness, so be pre­pared ahead of time with train­ing, treats, and equip­ment.”

It also pays off to plan some spe­cial dog time when camp­ing, espe­cial­ly if you have a hyper dog or one who’s eas­i­ly spooked by nois­es or strangers. “Some longer hikes, swim­ming, or off-leash play with oth­er dogs can help tire her out so she will be hap­pi­er if left alone and sleep more sound­ly at night to min­i­mize bark­ing,” Mor­gan says. “And basic train­ing for good man­ners should not be neglect­ed before you take your dog camp­ing; your dog should have the basics such as sit, down, come, and stay at a min­i­mum.”

Don’t For­get to Bring a Com­fy Bed

Dog in Comfy Bed

Padded trav­el bed­ding is always a good thing, espe­cial­ly for old­er dogs, who might find the ground a lit­tle too hard for com­fort.If pos­si­ble, you can bring your dog’s reg­u­lar bed or a blan­ket to keep them com­fort­able while sleep­ing,” White adds. “This will also help insu­late them from the ground in regions that get cold­er at night.”

If you are going to be in an area with rough ter­rain that includes sharp rocks or thorns, hot sur­faces, or if your pet is not used to walking/hiking long dis­tances. White also rec­om­mends hav­ing some dog­gie booties to pre­vent foot/pad injuries. “Begin train­ing your pet sev­er­al weeks pri­or to your trip to get them accus­tomed to wear­ing them and to help build their endurance,” White adds.

Do Bring Your Own Food and Water

Bring food and water for your Dog

The last thing you want dur­ing a camp­ing trip is a pup with diges­tive trou­ble – and the best thing to pre­vent this is to make sure you bring both bot­tled water and your dog’s reg­u­lar food from home. “As with peo­ple, dogs can become infect­ed with gia­r­dia from lakes and rivers so bring­ing bot­tled water or a fil­ter is a good idea,” White says. “Also of con­cern is a bac­te­r­i­al infec­tion called lep­tospiro­sis that is spread by wild ani­mals in their urine and can con­t­a­m­i­nate out­door water sources.”

In the end, remem­ber: camp­ing with a canine com­pan­ion can be lots of fun if you’re pre­pared and ready for adven­ture.