I’ve always said that I hope to come back in my next life as my dog. She has seen more of the country from the backseat of my RV than most grown men have seen in their life… and she never helps pay for gas. If I’m sitting by the campfire, my dog is at my feet taking in the smells of the campground. She pulls me up the mountain on treacherous hikes and will glance back at me with a look that says, “Seriously? Pick up the pace, dude”. My dog helps me feel safe when I’m camping in a new place and is the best roadside companion. Camping with your dog is a ton of fun for both you and your pup. I’ve highlighted a few crucial things to keep in mind before you decide to take your dog on an adventure.
Do a Test Run
If you’ve never taken your dog camping before, try sleeping with them in your RV before you are away from home to see how they behave. Some dogs may become anxious being in a new environment, so it’s good to know how they react while sleeping in an RV before you’re out in the woods with a dog that won’t calm down.
What campground will you be staying at? What kind of adventures will you be embarking on? Campgrounds have different rules about pets, and it’s important to make sure dogs are allowed in the campground where you’re staying or and the trails you plan on hiking. Check out our post, “Can I Bring My Dog?” to quickly find out the pet policy at every National Park.
Learn Basic First Aid
Knowing how to clean a wound and wrap a bandage on your dog is important. Even well-behaved dogs will go after hostile critters, get into hazardous plants and hurt themselves on rugged terrain. Most medications found in human first aid kits, like hydrogen peroxide, neosporin, gauze and benadryl, are safe to use on dogs in small doses. Ibuprofen, however, is toxic to dogs. Bring your dogs’ rabies immunization records with you on your camping trip, a campground host may ask to see them when you check-in.
Don’t Leave your Dog Unattended
Places like grocery stores, public restrooms, certain hiking trails and restaurants don’t allow dogs. Most campgrounds do not allow you to leave your dog at the campsite unattended. Make sure you have a safe plan for your dog if they aren’t by your side while you’re camping. The average in-car temperature is 43 degrees higher than the outdoor temperature and can increase significantly in just a few minutes. Leaving a dog in your car or RV unattended can be very dangerous. If you need a kennel, call the local vet near your campground and they can refer you to a place in town that can watch your pup for a day or a few hours.
Pack Extra Doggy Gear
There’s a ton of camping gear for dogs on the market. Is all of it necessary? Probably not. But there are a few key items that are worth buying before you take your dog on the road:
- Collapsible water bowls for hikes
- Doggy vests or extra blankets for cold weather
- Life jacket if you plan on taking your dog on the water
- Poop bag dispensers
- Dog seatbelts and dog backseat hammock covers for car travel
- Extra towels if your dog takes a swim
- Light up collars for finding your dog in the dark
- Doggy backpacks so they can carry their own gear and water on the trail
- Play pen to keep your dog contained outside while at your campsite
The Importance of Scooping the Poop
We all know that stepping in dog poop can put a huge damper on a fun day camping. But it’s not just the smell that’s dangerous, dog poop carries bacteria like E. Coli and salmonella which can spread disease through the soil and affect the water quality. Dog poop doesn’t break down like cow manure because most dogs aren’t on the plant-based diet that cows eat. It can take up to 12 months for dog poop to fully compose. Always carry poop bags. If you see another camper forget to pick up their dog’s poop, kindly and calmly remind them of the negative impacts dog waste can have on the environment. Some dog owners simply don’t know how much it affects the quality of the water and soil.
Leash your Dog
While at the campground or on a trail, it’s always a good idea to keep your dog on a leash. Even if your dog is well behaved, doesn’t run away or chase after squirrels – you don’t know how other dogs or wild animals will react around your dog. If another dog becomes aggressive, the safest way to break up a dog fight is by pulling backward on the leash. The leash keeps you safe from getting bitten while trying to separate the dogs. Even when you are on an isolated backcountry trail with no other campers or hikers around, your dog may see a mountain lion or bear for the first time and become aggressive or startled. Keep other dogs, wild animals and campers safe by always leashing your dog.
Dog food is especially fragrant to wild animals and campground critters. Be sure to store in an airtight container inside a bear box or hidden in your RV. You don’t want raccoons stealing your dog food and leaving nothing for your pup to eat. If your pet doesn’t finish the food you leave out for them, pack it away before it attracts any unwanted visitors. If your dog food does get stolen, most dogs can eat plain white rice or unseasoned boiled chicken for a day or two if you’re in a pinch.
The last unspoken rule of camping with dogs… take lots of adorable pictures. Some of the best instagram accounts that I follow are just pictures of dogs in nature. Your facebook friends don’t want to see your kids, they want to see your dogs. Trust me!
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