Pets and vacations don’t always go hand in hand. Leaving your precious bundle of hairiness with a pet sitter or in kennels for a week is one thing, but for extended trips or multiple times a year, it’s just not fair (for both you and your dog!). One of the reasons you got a dog in the first place was so you could have adventures together, so that’s why camping with dogs is the perfect solution.
To make sure you and your pup are as prepared as possible for an awesome time camping together, you’ll need some camping dog supplies and gear to add to your own camping checklist. And you’ll need to ask yourself a few truths about your puppy pal to make sure camping with dogs is for you.
In this ultimate guide to camping with dogs, you’ll find everything you need to know to ensure you get a great vacation with your dog that you’ll both love and remember forever.
Why camping with dogs is so much fun
The reasons to take your dog camping by far outweigh leaving them behind. Yes, they can restrict your plans somewhat, and you can’t ever leave your dinner plate unattended without it’s contents disappearing before you’ve even turned your back. But the enjoyment and constant entertainment that we humans get from our canine companions is only multiplied when we’re out adventuring together. You can guarantee that they will be loving every minute of the extra time they get to spend with their master, and for us there are loads of reasons why we choose camping with dogs every time:
- They are a great source of distraction from letting your mind drift back to ‘at home’ worries.
- They will keep your camping kids entertained so you can snatch an hour of precious quiet time here and there.
- So long as they’ve had their exercise, they’re always good for afternoon nap time with you.
- They provide protection for you and your family when – especially if you are camping in more wild locations.
- They draw you to other dog owners, making it easy to meet new people.
- They’re always keen to help collect wood for the fire.
- They are better than any hot water bottle, keeping you cosy and warm at night.
- You’re guaranteed to get morning kisses – whether you like it or not!
- You’ll laugh more when your dog is around.
- You’ll never miss a sunrise – being woken up by pawing at the tent zipper does have its benefits (honestly!).
- They’ll create moments to remember forever.
What sort of dog do you have?
I’m not talking breed or size here, I’m talking character and obedience. If you’ve never taken your furry friend camping before, then before we go any further, it’s worth considering whether your dog is a ‘camping dog’ or not. Be honest about this, as it will make or break your trip (and potentially other people’s), so before you go searching for pet friendly campsites, consider the following:
Is your dog a yapper?
No-one wants to be woken up by someone else’s dog barking at nothing, so if your hound has a tendency to vocalise their woes then choose a campsite that has lots of space, and set up camp away from other people.
Can your dog be aggressive around other dogs?
This can have a huge bearing on where to camp with your dog. So if it likes a bit of a scrap, then it will need to be on a leash AT ALL TIMES. However, that doesn’t stop other dogs approaching your dog for a friendly sniff, so consider a muzzle too. If you envisage this being a problem then backpacking out in the wilderness might be a better option for you and your dog.
Will your dog come back when you call him?
If not, then again, you will need to keep your dog on a leash, both at camp and out and about.
Is your dog constantly tempted by the delicious smells of human food?
What dog isn’t? So be careful with where you leave your own food, and keep a close eye on where your little cutie-pie is slinking off to each time he thinks he has lost your attention. Your neighbours won’t take kindly to having their dinners demolished by disobedient doggies. Once again, get them on a leash.
Does your dog hate being on a leash?
If this is the case, then wilderness camping is the way forward. Pet friendly camping grounds need to have their rules and there will be strict regulations on free-roaming dogs.
What will you be doing on your trip?
Next up, you need to think about what you want to get out of your trip, and whether you are a suitable camping compadre to your faithful follower. If you plan on spending your days sightseeing in towns or visiting tourist attractions, then bringing your dog along probably won’t work. Leaving unattended dogs at campgrounds is as bad an idea as leaving them in the car for hours.
I can’t emphasise this enough.
If this is your plan, then don’t bring your dog camping.
However, there are loads of fun activities your puppy pal can join in on.
Top tips to make camping with your dog the best holiday EVER!
So now that you’ve decided that you and your deputy dawg will make the perfect dream team of the camping world, you’ll need to get organised to make it happen. A little like taking kids out adventuring, camping with dogs needs some preparation and planning. But with the right gear and knowledge, you’ll soon be using Fido as your excuse to get out camping as much as possible. Take a read of these useful pointers to make sure you’ve got everything covered:
1) Get prepared before you go
Choose a campsite that allows dogs
Not all campsites welcome dogs in the same way that we dog owners do, so make sure you choose one where camping with dogs is just fine. There might be extra costs and certain restrictions that apply, so do your research before you get there to know exactly what to expect.
ID for your dog
It’s even more important for your dog to be easily identified in new places. Ensure that he has an up to date tag on his collar and it’s a good idea to add the details of the campground and your mobile number to a temporary tag .
Locate a vet near to the campsite
The odds are that you won’t need to use it, but it’s good to know it’s there – just in case.
Apply a flea and tick preventative to your dog
The forests and woods are prime locations to pick up unwanted parasites that can be passed on to humans and are unpleasant for your dog.
2) Follow the rules
Campsite rules when camping with dogs
Put a load of dogs in a field with families, tents, food, smells, fresh air and no rules, and all havoc would break loose. Campsites that allow dogs need to have some rules in place to function in a civilised manner, so it’s essential that you stick to them. Some rules to expect at pet friendly camping grounds:
- keep your dog on a leash at all times
- limit the number of dogs per pitch
- clean up after your dog
- don’t leave your dog unattended
- don’t let your dog bark uncontrollably
- keep your dog out of children’s areas
As dog owners, there are many unwritten rules that generally we all stick to – often without knowing it. But just to make sure we’re all on the same page, here are some good guidelines that apply to camping with a dog:
- Bag the poop and take it with you.
- Don’t let your dog adopt another family. They may look like they want him around, but he’ll think it’s OK to visit the whole campsite and not everyone will be as welcoming.
- Don’t shout at your dog constantly – if he’s a disobedient dog then the campsite may not be the best place for him.
- Don’t ignore your dog if he won’t stop barking. It might be that you need to take him for a walk off site to quiet him down.
- Just because you know your dog is friendly, doesn’t mean other people will assume the same. So keep him on a leash when around other people or other dogs, or clearly communicate to them that he’s no trouble.
3) Take some time on arrival to acclimatise your dog to their new surroundings
Having been cooped up in the car for hours, he’ll be dying for a pee and ready to stretch his legs. So before you set up camp, give him a treat and take him for a walk around the site to get him used to all the exciting new smells and sounds. For campsite exploration you will need a few bits of basic dog camping gear:
It’s essential that your dog has a good collaron at all times – not only does it enable you to keep Scrappy-Doo under control, but it will also have important details on the tag.
Extendable leash for dog camping
These really come into their own at camp. Get a really long leashfor dog camping for extra versatility, but be sure to choose one that’s suited to the weight of your hound.
The coat pockets of all dog owners should have poop bags pouring out of them. Wherever the dog goes, the poop bags go too! Then if the dog really goes, you’re ready for the clean up. Do the planet a favour whilst your at it and try these biodegradable bags.
Poop disposal can be an issue when you’re out and about, and no-one wants to have to carry it round all day, so grab yourself a Dicky Bag that attaches to your belt and has odour prevention devices within it.
4) Set up a secure area for your dog to roam
A long leash for dog camping is a must to add to your dog camping checklist. It’s important that you have an area to leave your dog during meal times or down time, where he will be secure and happy. A line set up between two trees with the leash hooked onto it works well. He will be able to wander around a bit more, or settle in the shade of the trees on his bed if he prefers. For your rogue to roam, you will need:
A tie out cable
It can be secured between two trees or secure stakes and this one is reflective to help prevent unwanted injuries at night!
A tie out cable leash
The strong hooks at both ends of this leash, clip to your dog and the tie out cable, and the heavy duty springs allow for a little extra give when Fido gets a little feisty.
Alternatively, attach the tie out cable leash to a stake in the ground, or use a combination of both for the best tie out for camping with dogs.
5) Bring a dog specific first aid kit
Your excitable hound will be in his element exploring his new surroundings. Distracted by the smells and sounds of his new adventure, makes for prime conditions for mishaps to happen. And just as you would for your human family, make sure you pack the necessary medical supplies for your animal family too.
First aid kit
Add any specific pet medication that you might need to the kit and pop it in your pack if you’re heading out adventuring.
Make sure it contains a means to remove those pesky ticks before they bury too deep into the skin.
This is a self adherent bandage that doesn’t stick to fur or hair and will save you both from a great deal of heartache if it’s use is needed.
6) Overpack dog food
We’re not the only ones who need more food out at camp. All that fresh air and yomping around burns many more calories than everyday life, and doggies are no different. Pack plenty of food to fuel their fun and always have water on hand for them to guzzle on the go. These items will make dinner time a doddle when camping with dogs:
Dog food storage
The ultimate doggie bag for dog food to go. This set, complete with water bowl and food bowl, is made of durable fabric that is foldable and fully waterproof.
Collapsible dog bowls
These colourful bowls are great for clipping to your belt or backpack if you’re out and about.
7) Secure your dog at night
When camping with a dog, where does he sleep? Well everyone is different and if you and your dog have never spent a night under canvas together, then it’s best to minimise the risk of midnight wanderings. You have a couple of options for bedtime:
Sleep in your tent
If he’ll be snuggling up next to you for warmth, then use a carabiner to keep the tent zipper ‘locked’. You’ll be surprised how dextrous the nose and paws of a dog can be when they want out! These clip-on LED lights do the trick well and can also be used on your dog’s collar to keep tabs on him before lights out.
If your hound is used to being in a kennel then he’ll be happy hanging out in the porch of your tent on a secure leash or in his own separate dog camping tent.
Dog camping bed
Make sure his dog camping bed is well insulated, with a waterproof bottom to protect him from the cold of the ground – whatever the weather.
Dog sleeping bag
If the conditions are cold then consider making his dog camping bed as cosy as possible with a dog sleeping bag too.
Dog sleeping bag attachment
And if it’s really cold, then a camp bed for dogs doesn’t get much better than having proper cosy cuddles by attaching his doggie sized sleeping bag to yours.
Activities to do when camping with dogs
Of course many dogs will be happy for hours just having a ball or toy thrown for them. Add in some treats and it really will be the best day they’ve ever had. But for us humans, ball throwing has its shelf life and when boredom (or RSI) sets in, you need to have some other dog friendly activities up your sleeves when camping with dogs. No problem – taking dogs adventuring with you only adds to the fun and your faithful pet will have yet another ‘best day ever’!
Hiking with dogs
Check that there aren’t any restrictions for dogs on the trail before you head out, and make sure you set your distance according to what the legs and lungs of your pup are used to. Read out backpacking with dogs article for a load more information on safely enjoying the trail with your dog.
If you want to go further and your dog is only a tiddler who won’t want to miss out, then consider getting him in a backpack.
Water bottle and bowl
This two in one bottle and bowl enables you to take plenty of water to keep him going. Take extra water if the conditions are hot.
Canoeing with dogs
For dogs that find any excuse to submerge themselves in water, getting out canoeing will go down like a fresh meaty bone.
Ruffwear buoyancy aid
You can even get them kitted up with their very own Ruffwear flotation device if the currents are strong.
When they’re not trying to imitate the grace of a dolphin, they’ll be sitting still in the canoe, so make sure you pack a towel so you can dry them off to prevent a chill.
Trail running with dogs
The beauty of running the trail, instead of walking it, is the ability to cover much more ground in the same amount of time. So if you’ve got a high-energy dog, trail running is guaranteed to wipe them out for the rest of the day. It’s also great to have a companion when you’re alone and a long way from civilisation.
Hands free dog running kit
Put your dog in a harnesswith a shock absorbing leash attached to a belt around your waist. It will prevent him from stopping to sniff every two minutes and if he sets the pace then you might be on for your best time yet!
Be aware that no matter your pace or direction, some smells will be far too tempting to resist and a sudden stop can be painful for both of you. So just keep alert on the fast downhills and be ready for an unexpected and sudden change of direction!
Cycling with dogs
If you can trust that your dog won’t be diverted by a crossing kitty or a bouncing bunny rabbit, then have a go at cycling with your four-legged friend trotting alongside you as you cycle.
Hands free bicycle leash
An adjustable leash that attaches near the back wheel of your bike works well. The set up puts a good distance between your dog and your bike and the built in shock absorption allows for unscheduled stops.
Alternatively, pop your pocket-sized pup in a basket on the front of your bike. They’ll love whizzing along, tongue out and ears flapping.
Dog camping gear for cold conditions
If you plan on taking your dog camping in the cool of fall or even the frost of winter, then you’ll need to make a couple of additions to your dog camping gear. Some warm doggie clothing will make for a happy hound and cheery companion for your cool adventure.
If you’re planning some trekking in the snow or rough terrain then these cute little booties will help those puppy paws go the extra distance. They’re also good for putting over the top of minor cuts or grazes to stop dirt getting into them.
Another good addition to the god camping gear packing list. Great to pop on after a bracing swim or for some extra protection against the wind and rain.