Is It OK to Go Camping With Dogs?

Dog camping can be an exceptional experience for your entire family, including the furry members of it. If you’re planning to do any camping with dogs, you have to plan for the experience, keeping in mind the needs of your pet. To help you, consider these tips.

How to Prepare for Camping with Dogs

It's exciting to think that you can get away with your pet this weekend or even spend a longer trip trekking through the mountains. However, before you do that, you need to be sure your pet's ready for camping. Doing this helps ensure your pet isn’t put in a situation that’s overwhelming for them or stresses them so much it creates a health risk.

Consider Your Dog’s Health

The first step is to ensure your pet’s healthy and ready for any type of excursion. The best resource for this is your vet. In the week leading up to your camping trip, schedule an appointment with the vet for a checkup. Just like you need to be healthy for such trips, you want to be sure your pets are ready, too.

  • Vaccination Status: Be sure your pet is up to date on all vaccinations. If you plan to stay at a campground, they may require proof of pet vaccinations. Try to schedule them a few weeks before your trip. That way, if your pet has an adverse reaction to the vaccinations, there’s support available.
  • Flea and Tick Prevention: Heading out into the woods or even just unfamiliar territory will have your pet on a path of exploration. You just don’t want them to bring home any unwanted guests while they’re out there. Flea and tick prevention is critical to your dog’s health. Work with your vet to choose the right type for your dog.
  • Is Your Dog Microchipped? Microchipping is a very simple process that provides incredible protection for your dog. A small microchip is placed under the dog's skin. It's not painful, but it does help ensure it's easy to find your pet should they get away from you and turn up a few campsites over.

Follow any additional needs your vet recommends. Be sure your pet is healthy for this type of outdoor exploration. Camping with dogs can be a lot more enjoyable then.

Check with the Campground

Many campgrounds have requirements for those bringing pets into them. You may be able to find this information on their website or contact the location directly. Don’t assume you can bring pets. Even if they say they are pet-friendly, that doesn't mean there are no rules. Some of the most common include these:

  • Check Leash Requirements: Many times, dogs will need to be on a leash at all times. Other locations may require leashes while the dog is outside of your campsite. Some also have rules about the length of the leash, for example, not being longer than six feet, or they may not allow a retractable leash.
  • Check for Barking Ordinances: Dogs bark, especially in a new area. While barking is expected, there could be some rules about it, such as situations where the dog is barking late into the night or barks uncontrollably. If the dog's barking is constant and an annoyance to other campers, the campground may ask you to leave.
  • Is Your Dog Aggressive? Aggressive dog behavior isn’t acceptable on any campground because of the risk it poses to other people and pets. If your pet is aggressive, it may not be a good idea to bring them with you, especially if your dog may be protective or scared in unfamiliar areas.

Remember to verify the campground is accepting of dogs. Read the rules before you arrive and are not allowed to stay.

Child and Dog in TentChild and Dog in Tent

Where Do Dogs Sleep When Camping?

You're ready to go camping, but you haven't thought of where your dog will sleep. Often, it is a personal decision about whether or not your dog sleeps with you. Here are some key recommendations on where dogs sleep while camping to keep in mind.

They can sleep in a tent.

For those who already sleep with their dog in their bed, making the move to a tent isn’t that big of a stretch. Dogs can certainly sleep in a tent, depending on how well they adapt to the new area and what their overall habits are. Be sure to purchase a tent that’s big enough for everyone to get a good night’s sleep.

The dog can have its own tent.

You can also provide your dog with its own tent. If they are used to having their own, separate space from yours, this is a good idea. You'll want to be sure your pet feels safe and protected, so choose a tent that's most like the area they sleep in when home with you.

Let them sleep in your car or RV.

Another safe choice for your pet is in the car or the RV. You can place their dog crate in the RV if they are used to sleeping in it. That’s an easy transition for many dogs. They may also do well in a car overnight as long as it is cool enough and there’s ample room. However, if they are alone in the car, they may become hypervigilant at all of the different sounds. That could lead to excessive barking.

Outside isn’t advisable.

It’s not a good idea to leave your pet outside. Though this may seem like an option, there's no way to keep an eye on them and know they'll be safe throughout the night. Heat and cold also make it a concern. When your dog is in the same space as you or in an area that's temperature controlled, they are better off. Even in a car, you need to be sure there’s proper temperature control.

Bring a Zip Line

Is your dog the type that hates a leash? They pull and need to just break free. One of the options available to you is a zip line. These lines can provide enough room for the dog to roam within a certain distance from you, giving them a bit of freedom. Yet, they cannot get outside of the campsite.

Keep Dog Food Contained

Any type of exposed food (pet or human) can attract bears and other creatures at night. That’s why you need to keep dog food contained when camping. When feeding your dog, do so indoors when possible, such as when staying in a cabin. In addition to this, only give the dog as much as it will eat in a single serving. You don’t want to have food sitting out. Then, bring in the empty bowls, too. Be sure to store food in a secured location, like an airtight container, with the rest of your food.

Discard Dog Poop ASAP

Dogs have to poop while camping. Yes, it's not a topic anyone wants to talk about until there's a pile of it too close to the campsite. The key is to clean it up. Treat it as you would any other waste, either discarding it as directed by the campsite or burying it at least six inches deep and at least 200 feet from any water source. If you’re hiking, be sure to bring dog poop bags with you. There are biodegradable options on the market.

5 Activities to Do with Your Dog

Now, what should you do with your pet? Camping with dogs is fun if you plan for it. Here are some ideas.

#1: Take to the Trails

Dog camping wouldn’t be complete without a few hours spent on some fun trails, nose to the ground smelling the environment. For a high-energy dog, this is a must because it helps them to burn off that extra energy, so they're not too wound up at night. For a dog that's too small to hike, consider a dog carrier backpack. It's a great workout for you, and your dog will love it.

#2: Canoeing

With the proper gear, you can take your dog with you on a canoe. Just be sure your dog isn't the type that hates water (or that cannot sit still, causing you to topple over!) It will take some time for the dog to get used to the canoe. Be sure there's a comfortable space for them to lay down, too.

#3: Geocaching

For those that love geocaching, your dog could be an excellent companion with you. You’ll need an app for it (they are free to use) and then will need to zero in on your target area.

#4: Get on a Bike

Cycling with your dog is a fantastic way to spend some time together. If it’s a slow trail and your pet has a lot of energy, let them run next to you or, for smaller dogs, consider a dog basket.

#5: Hunting

Dog camping and hunting is the right step for many pets. If your dog is trained (or you can work on that training), they will enjoy the hunt. Be sure to fit them with the proper hunting vest and be careful about the training aspect.

Most often, your dog will want to do what you're doing. Find a way to include them in various activities, and you'll find the entire experience enjoyable.