Going camping and experiencing the great outdoors is one of my favorite activities. Camping with my dog elevates the enjoyment of the experience significantly. It’s like taking your dog to the biggest dog park they’ve ever been to!
To make the experience as enjoyable as possible, I think it is best to be prepared for both you and your dog. Below I will go over some tips for making the most out of your camping experience with your dog.
Preparing for your trip
First and foremost, you want to ensure that the campground and any hiking trails you want to take allow dogs. Most locations require you to keep your dog on a leash at all times.
Along with checking that dogs are allowed, you’ll want to check on what type of wildlife is active in the area. This changes by season so make sure you have current information. Certain areas may not be safe for your dog depending on what wildlife is active and the breed/size of your dog.
Packing all the necessary supplies to survive and enjoy yourself is vital to having a great camping experience with your four-legged friend. Items you should pack for your dog include: food, water, bowls for food and water, leash, treats, medicine or pills (if your dog is taking any), towels for your dog/car seat coverings, crate (if your dog is crate trained), dog clothes or rain gear (depending on what the weather will be like where you’re camping), outdoor toys and an exercise pen or dog tent.
Be sure that you are prepared for any situation that might come up while camping such as minor scratches, cuts or injuries. Remember to pack your first aid kit to be prepared for any emergencies out there.
What to do when you arrive at the campground
The first thing you should do is let your dog get acclimated to the new environment. Most dogs get very excited when they arrive at a new location with a ton of new smells, so it’s best to get some of that energy out by walking them.
Take them on a walk around the area you are camping in before setting up camp. You want to show them that this is their new temporary home and it will help them from being enticed to explore on their own.
Depending on the breed and size of dog, you may need to either be holding their leash or tether your dog to a tree or ground stake. If your dog is small and calm enough, you could keep them in an exercise pen or a dog tent.
Whenever you are doing something that requires two hands, make sure your dog is tied off to something. Even if you trust your dog not to run off, it’s best to play it safe until you’re positive your dog will remain near you. You don’t want them to take off after an animal when you’re not looking. This is especially tempting for your dog when you first arrive. You can give them their favorite toy or a bone to chew on when you want them to stay in one place.
Taking care of your dog while camping
Most dogs will be far more interested in what you’re eating than their regular food you brought. Depending on the breed, some dogs will be just fine eating their regular food while camping (most labradors will eat ANY food).
If your dog is a picky eater, they might refuse to eat their regular food and insist on getting a bite of whatever you decide to eat. If they are persistent in not eating their own food, try giving them a small bit of your food at the bottom of their food dish with their food on top.
To keep things easy, leave out a bowl of water at all times so your dog can drink when they want. You don’t want to leave dog food out as it will attract wildlife, so make sure you put dog food away after meals. You should be putting all food away anyway while camping.
Whenever you are playing with your dog, make sure you’re aware of your surroundings. If you’re playing fetch, make sure the areas your dog is running around are safe. You don’t want your dog chasing something down a steep hill or off a cliff.
Once it’s time to go to sleep you can either have your dog stay in your tent with you or if you’re camping near your car you could have them sleep in there. This is when you’ll be glad you brought some towels since some dogs can get very dirty while outside.
Making sure you are prepared is a key component to have a fun adventure camping with your dog. If you enjoy other outdoor activities such as hiking, camping can be a good start to getting your dog used to the outdoors.
As you become more confident in your dog camping with you, you can explore further and further out (within the limits of your dog, of course). Be cautious and you and your dog are guaranteed to have a great time!
Kevin O’Donnell is a dog enthusiast and dog rescue volunteer. As the webmaster at TheBarkBuzz.com he helps spread valuable information and advice about dog training, nutrition and health. He loves playing with his best friend, Buddy (a Japanese Chin/Papillon mix).