Camping with dogs can be one of the most rewarding experiences you have as a pet owner. There are no distractions, just you and your dog enjoying nature.
It’s hard to find a better camping companion: your dog is happy to do whatever you want, all they need to be happy is to be doing it with you!
Successful camping with dogs involves good planning and a detailed list. Read on to learn how to plan and pack for a successful camping trip with your dog!
Will my Dog be a Good Camper?
The first thing you have to do before bringing dogs camping is to think about your dog’s personality – and if it’s a good fit for camping.
Many dogs will fit right in on your camping adventure, but there are certain traits which may signal that camping is not a good match for your pooch.
Whether you are camping in a tent or RV camping with dogs, you need to think about these questions.
Is your dog a barker?
If your dog barks when they see other dogs or people, or just “because,” they may not be a good match for camping. You won’t have any fun trying to keep them quiet 24/7, and your neighbors won’t have any fun listening to constant barking.
If you still want to make it work, find a campground with more isolated campsites. Many state parks have “cart-in” or “walk-in” sites that are secluded and far away from your camping “neighbors.”
Is your dog aggressive to other dogs or people?
Camping will be stressful if that is the case. If other people will be walking by your campsite, or the dog from the neighboring campsite wanders over, you face constant management keeping them away from your dog and keeping your dog quiet while you try and handle the situation.
Secluded campsites can help, as well as backpacking trips out in the wilderness where you are less likely to run into other people and dogs.
Are the Activities You Like to do While Camping Dog-Friendly?
Think about what you plan to do on this camping trip, and if having a dog with you will be a problem.
If you enjoy spending the day walking in and out of shops, going on sightseeing tours, or visiting tourist attractions, it’s best to leave your dog at home.
Leaving a dog in a tent or a car can be a fatal mistake if it’s hot. It may seem nice outside, but cars and tents heat up quickly.
You should only bring your dog camping if the activities you want to do are dog-friendly. Hiking, canoeing and kayaking, and relaxing with a book in your campsite are all activities your dog will love to do with you.
Finding Dog Friendly Campgrounds
Don’t forget to make sure the campground you want to stay at allows pets! You will also want to check if there is a charge per pet so you aren’t surprised.
The best place I found for doing a search for campgrounds that allow dogs is GoodSam.com (formerly Woodalls). Another possibility is BringFido.com, but I found that GoodSam listed more campgrounds, including county campgrounds and state parks.
Both of these websites let you filter results to show only campgrounds that allow pets.
Another trick I use is to go to Google Maps and type “campgrounds near xxxxx” (xxxx = city name). Sometimes I will find a few more this way that the above search engines don’t list. Just be sure to check any campground that comes up and make sure it allows dogs.
Finally, you can just go to Google and type “camping with dogs near me.” Google will serve up a list of options for you to explore.
Campgrounds with Dog Activity Areas – a Social Dog’s Dream Vacation
One new (and very cool!) trend that I stumbled upon while writing this article is campgrounds with dog-friendly perks such as agility courses, fenced in ponds, dog parks, and more.
For example, take a look at Four Paws Kingdom Campground and Pet Retreat in North Carolina. It has multiple fenced in dog parks, a fenced in pond, cleaning and grooming stations, an agility course… WOW!
I had no idea this kind of place was out there. If you have a dog that does well with other dogs this may be something you want to check out!
As always, before entering a fenced in dog area, watch the behavior of the dogs in the area. If any of them seem obnoxious or too amped-up wait and go at another time.
This article on BringFido.com lists 10 campgrounds with pet activity areas, each designed to create an incredible vacation experience for campers and their dogs.
Preparing for Your Camping Trip
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It’s important to prepare when you are camping with dogs. Granted, I’m a type-A list maker so of course it’s all about preparation! But, seriously, doing the following prep work will make your trip much more enjoyable and problem-free.
Order an ID tag for Your Dog
First, make sure your dog’s ID tag has current cell phone numbers on it. You want to be sure you can be reached if someone finds your dog.
Inexpensive but Fun ID Tag with Cool Designs to Choose From:
These tags have a variety of fun designs to choose from and look nicer than the run of the mill metal tag.k
If you want to spend a little more for a unique, one-of-a-kind tag, check out the dog ID tags on Etsy.com, you will be supporting a small business and your dog will have a unique tag that matches their personality!
In addition to the permanent ID tag that has your cell #’s and home address, consider making a temporary tag with the campground name and site # on it. Many times we don’t have good cell phone signals when camping, and having your campsite location is another layer of security for your dog if it gets lost.
Temporary ID tag:
These plastic key tags are inexpensive and you can write directly on them with a Sharpie (don’t use the paper stickers, they won’t hold up if they get wet). Put a new one on at each campground with current information.
Get a Collar and Light to Make Your Dog More Visible at Night
When you are on a walk at night, or if your dog were to get lost, a reflective collar, leash, and beacon will make the dog easier to spot.
Consider a Harness for Walks and Hikes
Harnesses reduce strain and injury to your dog’s neck. These two Ruffwear harnesses are comfortable and extremely durable:
The Ruffwear Front Range Harness is comfortable for everyday use, trail runs, and hiking.
The Ruffwear Webmaster Harness is perfect for hiking and dogs that might need a boost here and there. Its handle is great for helping dogs up and over rocks and trees, or helping stiff dogs into cars. If your dog is reactive the handle gives you extra control to lift and move the dog if they are barking or over threshold.
Research Vet Offices Near Your Campgrounds
Don’t wait until you have an emergency to figure out where nearby vets are located – you can’t always count on having cell service. Better to look up vet offices near your campground(s) before you go and store the address and phone number in your cell phone.
Take a Photo of Your Dog
If something happens and you become separated from your dog, having a current photo on your cell phone to show people will be a huge help.
Cut Dog Nails to Prevent Injuries & Protect the Tent and Sleeping Mats
Long nails can catch on uneven terrain and tear or crack the nail. Broken nails are extremely painful for your dog and many times require a visit to the vet, so best to avoid it if at all possible.
Long nails can also rip the tent floor and tear your sleeping mat, so cut your dog’s nails and file smooth before your trip.
Make a Flea & Tick Preventative Plan
Depending on what part of the country you are in, fleas or ticks hitch a ride on your dog when it’s outside. If you use a flea and tick preventative medicine, make sure to apply or administer it before your trip.
There are several Natural Flea and Tick Protection products. If you’re like me and prefer natural methods, bring your spray, food additives, or other supplies with you to make sure your dog is protected against fleas and ticks.
Read Through the Campground Rules
I’m the first to admit that I’m a rule-skipper. It’s not that I don’t care, I just am not a detail person. Ask my husband – he is the one who has to re-assemble things when I try to assemble them without reading the directions first.
When you are camping with dogs, it really does pay off to read the campground rules so you don’t unintentionally get into trouble. They will give you important information like:
- How many dogs are allowed per campsite
- Areas the dogs are not allowed within the campground (playgrounds, etc)
- Leashing rules
- Barking expectations
- Poop cleanup expectations
- Supervision expectations (dog not to be left alone in campsite, etc)
Practice at Home
Set up the tent and hang out inside with your dog. Do a practice sleepout to find out if your dog barks or growls at every sound. If it does, consider getting a white noise app for your phone to play at night (bring a battery pack for your phone).
Arriving at the Campsite: First Things First
When you arrive at the new campsite, take some time to acclimate your dog before setting up camp.
Take them on a walk so they can stretch their legs and sniff all the new smells of the campground. This introduces them to their surroundings and helps acclimate them to the sounds and sights.
Unwritten Rules of Camping with Dogs
In addition to the written campground rules, it’s important to follow these basic, common-sense guidelines to make the trip enjoyable for you, your pooch, and your neighbors.
- Have your dog sleep in the tent with you.
- Keep your dog on a leash.
- Don’t assume other dogs want to meet your dogs.
- Don’t leave your dog alone in the campsite, tent, or car. Ever. Tents and cars heat up quickly and can be fatal for dogs left inside.
- Never let your dog chase wildlife.
- Don’t yell at your dog (the only thing more annoying than a barking dog is a barking dog and a yelling person).
- Don’t ignore your dog’s barking.
- Store your dog’s food properly – in your car or in a bear canister. The last thing you need is an unwanted visitor at your campsite during the night (raccoons, skunks, and bears to name a few!).
Walks Get the Wiggles Out
In addition to hiking activities, take your dog for a walk first thing in the morning and later in the day.
In the morning it helps them stretch out from sleeping in the tent and gets their elimination system moving. A walk after dinner is a routine the dog will come to know as the signal that it’s time to settle down and relax.
Before bed, do a tick check on your dog. Whether your dog is using a flea/tick preventative or you spray them with your flea and tick natural products each day, it’s best to check and make sure no ticks have latched on so you get them removed right away.
Right before you head to the tent, take your dog on a short walk for one last potty break so they make it through the night.
Essential Gear for Camping with Dogs
In addition to the reflective leash, collar, and ID tags discussed above, you will want to get appropriate gear to make the trip a success. These products make sure your dog is safe and comfortable: if your dog is happy and content, you will have a much more enjoyable trip!
Having a nice dog bed serves multiple purposes. If nights will be cold, it will help keep your dog warm. In addition, a bed keeps your dog comfortable after a long hike, and cleaner because they aren’t lying in the dirt. Here are some great options:
I have this dog camping bed and it is awesome for camping. It folds up like a soccer chair so is easy to fit in the car, and the material is tough and easy to brush off if your dog gets dirt or mud on it. It also keeps your dog off wet or cold ground so they stay warm and dry. Your dog will have his own “dog camping chair” up off the ground!
We have used ours for 10 years and it’s still going strong.
This blanket packs up nice and small. You can either lie it on the ground or put it on the elevated bed to make it cozy and warm.
If you are camping in the mountains or in cold temperatures, this sleeping bag is a great multi-purpose item to have. Put it on the elevated bed to create a warm, cozy spot for your dog to take a nap, and bring it in the tent at night to keep your dog warm.
A long line is great for hikes if your dog tends to wander too much, or if the trail is too trafficked to let your dog walk off leash.
Zip Line for Campsite
This zip line system lets your dog move around the campsite so you aren’t constantly having to move their tether to wherever you are working.
Whether you are on a hike or at the campsite, pick up your dog’s poop. Read my article about environmentally friendly dog poop disposal to learn why this is important for the environment.
These smell-free carriers work to store poop bags until you find a garbage can after your hike:
This hard-sided container has a belt clip or carabiner for attaching it to your pack, leash, or belt. Designers say it holds 2 poops from their 70 lb. Labrador, size is 5″ x 4″ x 3.5”
This odor-resistant bag can be attached to a belt, pack, or leash. It comes in two sizes, depending on how long you will be on the trail. The waterproof lining and zipper keep the smell in.
Read more about eco friendly dog poop bags that keep plastic (and poop!) out of landfills.
If the hiking trail you will be on has composting toilets, these bags are certified compostable:
Training your dog to come to you when they hear this whistle can prevent emergencies and lost dogs.
Dog Life Jacket
If you enjoy boating, kayaking, or other water sports, keep a life jacket on your dog for safety.
If your dog is under 12 months (growth plates still growing), senior, or recovering from an injury, bring along a dog camping backpack for them to ride in while you hike!
Kurgo Dog Carrier Backpack is known for its durability, storage, and weight distribution.
K9 Sport Sack Air2 is well ventilated and has a flap to prevent your dog’s hair from getting caught in the zipper. I like the K9 feature allowing the dog’s paws out of the pack to rest on your shoulders.
K9 Sport Sack Rover is a newly released backpack made for dogs 30-80lb. Just be sure you are up to carrying the extra weight!
If you are camping in cold temps or rainy weather, you will want a jacket to keep your dog warm & dry.
Durable and Light up Toys
Bring along toys that won’t get filthy or wet when you use them outside. Lighted ones are a bonus for playing at night.
Gnawsome LED Squeek and Light Ball is made from food-grade rubber by a company that gives thousands of products to local dog rescues annually.
Ruffwear Hydro Plane Floating Disc is a great water toy, it floats for easy retrieval.
Kong Squeezz Stick Dog Toy is a great durable squeaky toy for fetch
Toys to Keep Your Dog Busy
Toys like this are helpful if you need to make dinner, read a book, or just plain want your dog to calm down.
This bell clips easily to your dog’s collar; the noise will keep your dog from surprising nearby wildlife. No camping trip needs an unplanned encounter with a skunk or porcupine!
Food & Water Storage
Dog kibble is greasy and smelly; this container is great for storing food, smell- and grease-free.
You will want a water container to transport water from the water spigot to your campsite. I highly recommended hard-sided; I used to have a collapsible soft plastic one and woke up one morning to find a raven had poked it full of holes in the early morning hours.
Collapsible food and water bowls take up less room for easy packing. This collapsible bowl is made from food-grade BPA-free silicone by a small locally owned company in the Pacific NW.
Water bottles with lids that function as a bowl for your dog are great to have on hikes:
If you worry about your dog getting away from you in a strange place, a GPS collar will give you peace of mind.
The Whistle Go Explore Location Tracker operates off of an AT&T cell signal.
The PetFon GPS Pet Tracker is a GPS-based system so is best if the place you’re camping has spotty cell coverage.
Dog First Aid Kit
This first aid kit is far and above better than the others I found. It has more than your standard gauze and alcohol wipes, it has antihistamine, a styptic pencil, eyewash, peroxide – all these things are missing from the basic kits that may be needed when camping with your dog in the outdoors.
Keep a red bandana for emergency use as a muzzle if you need to treat a dog in pain. Keep it tied around your dog’s neck to make them more visible as well!
Red Bandana for muzzle
Quick Dry Towel
I can’t begin to tell you how nice these are – use them to wipe your dog’s muddy feet or dry off your wet dog after swimming or rain. This towel gets them dry, then dries out quickly so it’s ready for re-use.
If you are camping out in the open where heat and lack of shade are an issue, these canopy tents give your dog a cool place to hang out and avoid overheating.
This Popup Shade Tent is a lighter weight tent just your dog’s size. The nice thing about popups is that you don’t have to put poles together, it just “pops” out and the tent is ready.
Mobihome Shade Tent gives you room to get out of the sun and relax with your dog!
Fun Activities to do When Camping with Dogs
One of the best things about camping with your dog is all the activities you get to do together. Your dog will be over the MOON to be able to go on adventures with you!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
This one is a no brainer – what dog doesn’t love a good walk? Especially in a new place with unlimited new smells, sounds, and sights?
If you enjoy longer hikes, read this article about Cool Hiking Gear For Dogs.
Even if you are taking a shorter hike, make sure you bring necessary items like a map of trails in the area and a water bottle for you and your dog.
Trust me on the map, I cannot tell you how many trails I have taken that look like they will be easy to find and stay on that turn out to be poorly marked with multiple forks. It helps to have a trail map with you so you don’t accidentally turn a 3 mile hike into a 7 mile one. (yes, I did that . . . )
Trail maps also will have a legend that tells you which trails allow dogs and which don’t.
Note: DO NOT take puppies or young dogs on long hikes!
While on a hike in Telluride, Colorado last week I was heartened to see a trailhead with a big sign warning people about the damage that hiking with a young dog (up to 8-12 months old depending on the dog) can do to their growth plates. If you want to take a hike with a dog this age, get one of the cool backpack carriers above – your dog will have just as much fun, and you can stop every so often and take them out for 5 minutes to get the wiggles out.
Canoeing and Kayaking with dogs
If you are a runner, bring your running shoes and take your dog with you on the trails! Put your dog’s harness on, convert your Ruffwear Reflective Leash into a hands-free around the waist leash, and you are all set to hit the trails!
If your dog is a high energy dog, trail running will burn off their energy and leave them tired and calm for the rest of the day.
Camping with Dogs Packing List
Now that you have learned how to go camping with dogs, download this interactive, printable dog camping list!
Using a dog camping gear list will ensure you have everything you need to enjoy your camping adventure.
Request your free packing list here!
Note: Firefox browser does not support interactive PDF files
Are you taking a different kind of vacation with your dog? Hotels, or perhaps a family visit?
Check out this article about how to travel with dogs to make sure your trip is smooth and successful!
Until next time-
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