11 Helpful Tips for Camping With Dogs
Follow these tips and tricks and your pup is guaranteed to be a happy camper.
A night spent in nature offers a return to the simpler things: starry skies unhindered by light pollution, early morning coffee enjoyed by a crackling campfire, and reconnecting with the Earth. Camping in the US provides a respite from the daily grind and a welcome reset.
But why should you have all the fun? No matter how much you enjoy camping, we’re willing to bet your fur baby loves it equally or more. And if you’re going to bring them along — and really, is that even a question? — you’ll need to do more than pack some food and load them in the car. Just like you, your pooch needs different gear for spending time out in the great outdoors. Here’s everything to pack and prepare when planning a camping trip with your pup.
1. Leave those ceramic dog bowls at home, and opt for something more lightweight.
There’s no need to risk destroying your pup’s regular dog bowl for a couple of nights under the stars. Plus, if you decide to do even a short hike, lugging around a heavy bowl can be cumbersome. Ruffwear makes this waterproof and collapsible bowl that you can throw in your backpack — and it weighs less than three ounces.
2. Have a plan for keeping your dog leashed, and make sure they’re wearing an ID tag.
Chances are, you’ll need to keep your pup leashed at all times, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to explore the campsite. A long leash like this 36-foot tether will allow you to pitch your tent or hang with friends while your dog gets acquainted with the grounds.
And if your pup follows a scent or strays from camp while unleashed, make it easy for your fellow campers to get your pooch home by making sure they have their collar (with an ID tag) on at all times, and that they’re microchipped.
3. Check if the campsite allows pets.
If you’re heading to a campground, make a quick call or do a Google search to confirm that pets are allowed. Some parks and campgrounds have pet restrictions due to migrating wildlife, or will list areas where your dog is not welcome (like protected wetlands).
4. Be real about your pet’s personality and habits, and be considerate of your fellow campers.
Not every pup is a camper — your dog may hate the dirt, smells, and sounds inherent to camping. Or, perhaps they’re not great around unfamiliar people and dogs. If they have a tendency to be aggressive, leave them at home or come up with a plan to keep them in your control at all times. And if they’re a barker, pack along a bark collar.
5. Make sure your furry friend is up-to-date on their vaccinations.
At home, you and your pup likely stick to a familiar routine, with not a lot of new or unknown factors, but when you’re in the great outdoors, there are new animals and pests you’ll need to be wary of. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on their vaccinations, so you don’t have to worry about fleas, ticks, or diseases transmitted by wild animals.
If you want to play it safe, talk to your vet about the area you’ll be visiting and bring a copy of your pet’s vaccine history. It’s not common, but you may be asked for proof of a rabies vaccination.
6. Pack along a first-aid kit.
The woods are full of cacti, hidden barbed wire, and porcupines ready to give your pup a painful hello. Bring along some basic first-aid supplies (tweezers, bandages) or buy a dog-specific first-aid kit with all the fixings.
If you’re headed into the remote wilderness or plan to do a long hike, consider investing in a dog-carrying harness to help you get out of the woods if your pooch becomes injured or sick.
7. Don’t forget to bring enough poop bags.
Just because you’re out in the wilderness doesn’t mean your dog can poop where they want. Pack along a roll of poop bags as well as an extra bag or container to place them in during the camping trip.
8. Plan how your dog will sleep — and pack an extra blanket.
How does your dog sleep at home? In your bed? Outside? On the kitchen floor? Sleeping in a tent in a new place is going to feel different enough, so do what you can to make your pup feel safe and comfortable. If they’ll be sleeping with you in the tent, carve out a space for them.
And no matter where they end up sleeping, keep in mind that the weather may be cooler at high elevations or in the desert. Bring along an extra blanket for when the temperatures drop. If you’re trying to pack light, a towel does double duty: It keeps your dog clean and dry, as well as warm at night.
9. Bring along a couple of comfort items.
Dogs love routine, so taking them to a new place with different smells and sounds and then expecting them to feel comfortable can be a big ask. Ease a bit of their anxiety by bringing along a favorite toy (that can get dirty), their dog bed, or their favorite treats. This will go a long way in helping your dog feel safe and happy.
10. Research local wildlife, bugs, and the landscape.
Knowing what wildlife you can expect — poisonous snakes, moose, bears — will help you make decisions that are smart for your pup. The same goes for smaller creatures. You may want to pretreat your pup for ticks or pick up some doggie bug spray to keep mosquitos at bay.
Similarly, keep the landscape of your destination in mind. If you’re heading to the desert, bring extra water and a sun shade. And if your camp spot is near protected lands, you’ll want to keep your dog leashed, so they don’t trample through delicate wetlands or disturb nesting birds.
11. Bring extra food and water.
Just like you, your pup needs a little something extra after a long day on the trails. If you have some activities planned during your camping trip, bring along more than enough water (especially if there’s no water source where you’re going) and extra food. Some recommend bringing about 25 percent more calories to keep your dog energized during a long day.