Camping is one of our family’s absolute favorite activities. In the summer we go at least once a month if not every other week. And where our family goes, our dog goes. We’ve been taking our dog Whiskey camping with us since he was a puppy. So we’ve learned quite a bit about how to safely go camping with your dog over the past 5 years.
Check your campgrounds policy on dogs
The majority of private campgrounds are dog friendly. But it’s still a good idea to call ahead and ask about any extra fees, special policies, regulations, or breed restrictions. Unfortunately, the majority of National Parks and many state parks do not allow dogs at their campground. And if they do, there’s often a lot of regulations about where they’re allowed.
Campground websites might not always be up to date so calling the campground ahead of time and talking with them about their dog policy is one of the easiest ways to avoid unnecessary headaches at check-in.
Know what wild animals are around
I grew up camping in New England where the only thing we really ever had to worry about was a wayward moose. Now living in Colorado we have bears, mountain lions, coyotes, rattlesnakes, and probably a few other critters I’m not thinking of. Know what wild animals are living in the area’s you’re camping at and make sure that you’re keeping your dog properly protected.
Make sure EVERYThing is up to date
Before your dog is ready for camping there’s a few things that you need to take care of beforehand. So what do they need before you should take them camping? On the medical side you’ll need to make sure that they are current on;
- Shots – to include Leptospirosis if you are going to be in an area with a lot of wildlife or around lakes
- Flea & tick treatment
- Heartworm treatment
Make sure that you have a copy of all their updated shots that you keep with you while camping incase the campsite asks to see it.
You’ll also need to make sure that the information is current on their dog tag and microchip. If your dog doesn’t have a microchip I HIGHLY recommend that they get one. Almost every vet and shelter across the shelter checks lost dogs for microchips. So if you find yourself in the worst-case scenario and your dog gets lost while camping, having a microchip gives you the best chance of being reunited once they’re found.
Check if the trails you plan on hiking are dog friendly
It seems almost counter-intuitive that dogs wouldn’t be allowed on hiking trails, but a surprising number are off-limits to them. Just like with your campground, it’s good to research any trials you plan on hiking to make sure they’re dog friendly. Nothing can ruin a morning hike quicker than seeing a big no dog sign at the trailhead.
And PLEASE do not disregard those signs and take your dog on the trail anyway. Those signs are up to protect your dog as well as the local wildlife
Don’t leave dog food out and unattended
At home, you might leave your dog’s food bowl out all the time for them to eat whenever they feel like it. But when you’re camping it a bad idea for a number of reasons. During the day there’s a good chance that dog food is going to attract bugs. Once while camping in Georgia we left out dog’s food for a few hours in the afternoon while we took the kids to the playground. Only to come back and discover that it was COVERED in ants. And once those ants pegged our campsite as a food source we could not get rid of them.
At night leaving dog food out can attract wild animals. Which can become a serious safety issue for you and everyone else at the campground. Especially if you’re camping out west where you have bears, coyotes, and mountain lions. None of which you want roaming around your campsite because they smell your dog’s food.
When your dog is not eating keep their food in an airtight dog food storage container and put it in your car, inside your camper, or in an approved bear-proof container.
Check your dogs paws regularly
Gravel, rocks, and other small objects can get stuck in between the pads and cause irritation or infection. Check their paws regularly and make sure to clean out any debris that gets stuck in there.
If you’re finding that this is an issue you can pick up a pair of Dog Boots to help protect their feet. Most dogs have a hard time with the at first but quickly get used to them.
Always carry poop bags
Just like at home, you need to make sure that you’re cleaning up after your dog at the campground and while hiking. Carry a small case of poop bags on your dog’s leash or in your backpack while walking around the campground or out on the trails. These AmazonBasicsDog Poop Bags are the ones that we use, and they even come with a little bag holder that clips onto your dog’s leash.
Although it might be tempting to not pick up after your dog while hiking please do. You dog’s droppings can contain pathogens and bacteria that could be harmful to local wildlife. The scent of their dropping can also cause the local wildlife to avoid that area and disturb that ecosystem.
Know where your dog is going to sleep
Before you go camping give some thought as to where your dog will be sleeping at night. Are they going to sleep in your car, your tent, or your camper? Does your tent have enough room for them, or is there a space in your camper they’ll feel comfortable in?
When it comes to sleeping arrangements consider what works best for you and your pets. And whatever you do, do not leave them either leashed up or in a crate outside your tent/camper overnight. It’s just not safe. There’s a chance they can get off their leash and get lost running after an animal. Or they could have a confrontation with a wild animal and end up severely injured.
make sure to have an extra dog lead
Although some dog leads look that they’re indestructible that’s not always the case. Always keep an extra lead with you in case the one your using breaks. This way you’re not scrambling trying to find a way to keep your dog safely leashed at your campsite.
There’s nothing greater than being able to get away and spend some time in nature with your family and your dog. With a little preparation you can make sure that they stay safe and healthy with at the campsite.
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