While doing research for this article, someone had a fairly upsetting memory about camping with their family and pet dog. A baited fishing line had been left on the ground and the dog ate the bait, hook and all. In the ensuing chaos, the necessity of making sure the pets you take on a camping trip are just as safe as you are was imprinted on that person’s mind forever.

It’s easy to forget and neglect the finer details when planning to go camping, from trying to find the best tents on the market to suit your needs down to essential items like food for yourself,  food for dogs, and sleeping bags. This article is here to make sure that you enjoy camping with your family and pets.

If you want to enjoy camping with dogs, follow some of the ground rules and essential tips we have provided for you here. 

Why It’s a Good Idea to Take Your Pets Camping with You

With doggy hotels and housesitting fees rising every year, it makes sense to take your pet/s camping with you. They won’t pine for you at home or cost you money in kennel fees. Anyone who has had their pet come back from a dog hotel with kennel cough will know how much that costs in vet bills.

As much as you enjoy getting out into nature and wide, open spaces, you can be assured that your dog will find it ten times more satisfying! This is what makes camping with your pets such a good idea. It doesn’t take up much room to chuck a portion of your favorite food for dogs into your backpack, and allow your dog to jump up into its designated car space.

Just remember to secure the dog safely for the duration of the trip and take it for a pre-camping check up at the vet before you both hit the road. You don’t need to do much else prep, and of course, we’re assuming your pets are already on regular doses of anti-tick and flea chew pills. Here are some more helpful hints on how to enjoy camping with your pet. 

Check the Campsite is Pet-Friendly

Going on vacation with your dog is really catching on all over the world. Pet-friendly hotels, motels, and campsites are popping up everywhere in response to this increased demand. When you are busy checking that the campsite allows dogs to roam around off-leash, don’t forget to make sure the surrounding hiking trails also give consent for off-leash, accompanied dogs. If the grounds require dog permits or licenses before access is given, apply for these within the right time frame. 

Remember to Take a Long, Comfortable Leash With You

Getting and checking permission is an important thing to do before setting off. It won’t be much fun for you having to hike on rough trails with a dog leash in your hand, and it won’t be any fun for your dog to be on leash for 48-hours. The one place you won’t be allowed to take a dog is when you’re camping on a farmer’s field or property.

If the campsite and surrounding trails are definitely dog-friendly, it’s still a good idea to take the papers that verify your dog’s license and vaccination with you. 

A First Aid Kit for You and Your Pet

There are different kinds of first aid kits for camping. Backpack-friendly, compact kits that include first aid essentials are the most popular ones to buy. Before you include your dog on a camping trip, remember to pack a box with a few canine-centric meds and emergency basics.

Many of the items in a first aid kit can cross over and be multipurpose for both you and your pet. It should include:

  • Crepe and self-adhesive bandages
  • Open-weave bandages
  • Absorbent dressings
  • Surgical sticky-tape
  • Cotton wool
  • Gauze
  • Blunt-pointed scissors
  • Towel
  • Cone collar

The person whose dog ate the baited fish hook swears they now never leave home without a pair of medical grade tongs in their first aid kit as well.

Help! The Campsite I Want to Visit Doesn’t Allow Off-Leash Pets

Image used courtesy: Dog Scouts of America

If you don’t want to spend your camping trip following an over-excited dog around on its leash, there are a few things you can do to help matters. If the campsite requires all dogs to be leashed, you can pack a tether and stake in your luggage. 

Even if your dog is comfortable off-leash and good with other animals, it’s still a good idea to travel anywhere with a leash and tethering kit. Remember to equip your dog with the right tethering kit for its weight class, and don’t be mean when it comes to measuring out the tether. A nice, long tether is still in compliance with on-leash practices.

Pet Camping Essentials

Part of being prepared for a quick weekend departure for the campsite or hiking trails means having a ready-packed backpack in the hall closet. If your dog is the ideal companion for you in the wilds, it really makes sense to keep a mini-backpack for your pet as well.

Portable Dog Food and Water Bowls: Lightweight, collapsible pet bowls are a good investment if you plan on a lot of camping trips with your dog. If you a going to an area where water supplies might be scarce, keep in mind the need to transport enough water supplies for your dog as well. 

Never leave bowls of water or food out when your dog has finished with them. There are plenty of critters out there that would love to sample some kibbles.

Litter Bags: Every pet owner knows that feeling of having to turn around and pretend to look at the trees when they have forgotten to pack the doggy bags. Never try doing this at a campsite, even if there’s no one else there but you and your canine friend. Dog scat attracts potential curious and unwelcome animal visitors. 

Toys: If you make a point of throwing a frisbee or ball around for your dog when you’re at the beach, why should the campsite be any different? Keep it to daytime hours, and always check the surrounding bush if there’s a chance your dog might over-run into the dense foliage. Chasing a ball should never end in a porcupine encounter of the close kind for your dog.

Pet Etiquette When There Are Other Campers Around

Campsites are like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re gonna get. There are a mixed bag of people you encounter in the city, and the same thing goes for campsites. To help you navigate around the campsite neighbors from hell, and someone who is just a little scared of dogs, here are some basic campsite etiquette rules and guidelines.

The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service have reasonable guidelines based in common sense for people using their designated campsites and roads. If your pet is manageable off-leash and responds to voice commands without hesitation, by all means keep them off-leash at your base camp, and if your neighbors are comfortable with that. 

If you believe any other camper is making unreasonable requests to keep your dog away at a pet-friendly site, you should contact the site manager immediately or leave. It’s not worth antagonizing another camper when there might be firearms, tent poles, and alcohol involved. 

If you are in an area where sudden flooding, predators, or those reptiles that have rattles on the end of their tails are known to pass through, then it’s time to use a leash. Having a suspicion that the smell of meat sizzling in the next door tent site, ducks, and squirrels will be too tempting for your dog to resist means you’ll have to keep them leashed and tethered.

Sleeping Arrangements

There’s nothing like having your dog with you in your tent when it’s cold outside. To make it even more comfy make you get the best tent for camping with dogs. They are warmer than a sleeping bag and more comforting than a mug of hot cocoa. A dog is also a good way to waking up early without having to set an alarm clock. 

If your dog enjoys barking and sniffing at things when they wake up, make sure that they don’t do it in the vicinity of other campers’ tents. Not everyone wakes up to go hiking at the crack of dawn, especially if beers were drunk around the campfire the night before. 

Everywhere You Go, Your Dog Goes Too

This might seem like a no-brainer, but if you’ve gone through the trouble of traveling with your pet along for the ride, it means you have to keep them with at all times – even on a trip to the outhouse. It can be potentially disruptive and traumatic for other campers to listen to your dog’s howls of confusion if you lock them in your tent or car while you dash off to do something quickly. 

Pet Rules for State, National, and Local Parks

Rules can vary, but a good guideline is that your pet can go wherever cars are allowed. Check the area on your GPS or search engine before traveling with your dog. Most sites have clear pet-friendly icons displayed on their websites. 

Keep these camping tips in mind next time you venture outdoors with your dog in tow. It’s the best way to keep both your pet and other campers happy and healthy.