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.