After picking up my dog my life changed in more ways than I can count. Most of those changes were great, but traveling with a dog is never fun. Your choices are limited, there’s typically a fee and it’s rough on the dog.
Dogs have always been an important part of my family. As a child, my parents would always bring our dog on family vacations. We would stay at dog-friendly hotels and tailor the trip around the dog.
My parents never had a lot of money, but they made it a point to go on multiple family vacations each year. While we might not have been able to bring our dogs on every vacation, they could always come on our camping trips!
Why Should I Bring Dogs Camping?
It’s hard to count all the reasons why you should bring your dog camping. Although they can be somewhat of a pain in the planning stage the benefits far outweigh the costs.
Taking your dog’s camping is a great way to spend quality time together. I’ve never seen a dog that didn’t love spending time outside. There’s just something about exploring new terrain that dogs love. It’s so hard to describe the constant entertainment of adventuring together.
Watching him take a controlled romp through the woods is as much fun for him as me. You can guarantee he’ll love exploring and spending quality time with their master. Jogging through the woods beats a run through the city any day.
Some Parks Don’t Allow Dogs
Make sure you call bringing your dog. Not every park/campground is going to welcome dogs. Parks that do allow dogs tend to have restrictive leash laws that are seriously enforced(this is actually a good thing).
We can’t just let our dogs wander free and cause chaos everywhere they go. In a perfect world dog owners would socialize and train their dogs, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Dogs are going to run around exploring, chasing animals and barking at everything.
You also have to worry about dogs transmitting and picking up diseases. Not every owner keeps their dog up to date on shots.
Is Your Dog Camp Worthy?
Not every dog has the character and obedience level to go camping. Size and breed doesn’t matter, if you’re dogs aren’t well behaved they have no business camping. You need to take a long hard look before deciding that your dog is ready to go camping.
Does your dog show aggression towards strangers and other dogs? One growl can turn into a dangerous fight. Personally, I would never bring an aggressive dog camping. They will have to be on a leash at all times and you never know when another dog will stop to say hi. If this is a problem you can either go backpacking away from everybody or bring along a muzzle.
Never bring a dog camping that doesn’t come when you call. Although you can keep him on a leash you’ll never catch him if he takes off. You never know when he’ll take off after a rabbit, deer, etc.
We’ve all had to deal with a yappy dog that just won’t shut up. Nobody wants to deal with a dog that’s barking all day. If your dog barks just to hear his own voice leave him at home.
You can’t control the weather or drunk idiots that want to light off fireworks. There’s no way to know how a dog will respond to loud noises in a tent.
Almost every pet-friendly campground will require dogs to be leashed at all times.
Can You Bring a Dog?
Most parks are governed by the following federal and state agencies. They all follow the same basic guidelines with slight variations from one region to the next. These rules don’t apply to service dogs and working animals.
- National Parks: No dogs are allowed outside of the campgrounds. They need to stay on leash at all times even in your camp site.
- National Forest: Dogs are allowed on the trail, but usually need to stay on leash. Consult the local ranger station for more information.
- Bureau of Land Management: Dogs are alowed, but each district has different rules.
- State Parks: Dogs are only allowed within campgrounds and must be kept on leash.
Every public campground has its own set of rules regarding dogs. Campgrounds that allow dogs typically have a set of rules to keep the place running smoothly. Most of the time the rules are simple and easy to follow.
- Keep your dog leashed at all times
- Clean up after your dog
- Never leave your dog unattended
- Keep your dogs quite and on your site
- Limit the number of dogs and keep your dogs out of common areas(playgrounds, picnic areas, pools)
Rules For Camping With Dogs
There are parks that allow dogs to run and play off-leash, but that’s only in certain areas. Most parks require dogs to be leashed in common areas, parking lots, picnic areas and campsites.
However, once you get away from everybody and get on the trail you can go off-leash. Here are a few rules I wish everybody followed when hiking and camping with their dogs.
Don’t Expect Your Dog to Be a Good Hiker
You can’t expect a puppy to come out of its mothers womb and know how to hike. Just like humans, you need to train a dog to hike. They need to be conditioned both physically and mentally for the trail.
If the extent of your dog’s training is running around the backyard off-leash you can’t expect him to handle difficult hikes. Just remember that even if your dog is overheating or in pain he will always try to keep up with you.
He also needs to be trained and respectful to other hikers. If you call he needs to come without reservation. No chasing animals, jumping up at people or getting too far away. You can’t expect a dog to behave without proper training.
Introduce Him To The Area
Dogs that have been cooped up in a crate for hours tend to be rambunctious. Before setting up camp walk him around for a while so he can pee/poop and stretch out his legs.
A quick stroll around your campsite will give him a chance to acclimatize to new smells and sounds.
Set up a Safe Area in Camp
Dogs should never be left unattended in unfamiliar areas. Unless you want to hold onto your dog all day you need to set up a tie-out cable. Buy a heavy duty 20ft cable and a durable tie-out stake.
Cheap stakes will just bend and snap(this is what you want). Just remember that you can’t use a stake in sandy/loose soil. Set the stake up in the center of your campsite away from the tent, firepit and cooking areas.
Keep Vaccinations Up to Date
I wish every dog owner kept vaccinations up to date, but that’s never going to happen. It’s hard to list all the reasons why owners choose not to get their dogs vaccinated.
Some people are ignorant, lazy, or forgetful and others are just too poor to get their dogs vaccinated. Regardless of the reason you can’t trust other people to do the right thing, you need to make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
You have to worry about rabies, parvo, heartworm, fleas and more. These vaccines really don’t cost all that much so leaving your dog unprotected is absolutely crazy.
Buy ID Tags and Microchips
A good ID tag hanging from your dogs collar is an absolute must. So many dogs have been returned to their owners because of their ID tags. I’ve found dogs miles away from civilization with owners nowhere in sight. Had I not seen the collar and tags I probably wouldn’t have approached.
You should also go in and get your dog microchipped just in case he ends up at a shelter. Nowadays microchips cost like 20 bucks so there’s no excuse not to buy one. If the dog ends up at a shelter they’ll be returned to you.
Consider Buying a GPS Collar
Every year GPS dog collars get cheaper. The price of those trackers varies wildly from 20 bucks all the way to $1000(Check Out These GPS Collars). Modern GPS collars work just like fitness trackers designed for humans.
The GPS Collar that I use connects to AT&Ts 3G network and transmits data from almost anywhere in the United States. I charge it up the day I leave, the battery lasts for 7 days and it’s waterproof and extremely durable.
Clean Up After Your Dog
Obviously, nobody likes to step in dog poop. If people start complaining about dog poop park administrators will start to crackdown. First they’ll take away off-leash privileges and then get banned altogether.
Dog poop drives off wild animals and creates a negative experience for everybody around you. If your dog poops in the woods, you carry it out! You might want to buy one of those dog poop tubes so you aren’t carrying around loose bags.
Dog’s Have to Yield to Everybody Else
We all love our dogs, but you can’t expect everybody else to share your feelings. Always leash up your dog when encountering other people on the trail. Step aside and bring them in tight to yield to other hikers, horses, bicyclists, etc.
Some people are afraid of dogs and they have just as much right to enjoy their hike. I’ve never had a citation for disobeying leash laws, but I’ve heard they’re pricey.
Don’t Let Dogs Chase Wildlife
Dogs chasing around other dogs, squirrels, deer, etc quickly gets on everybodies nerves. All that barking and running will drive you crazy. Park officials will start getting complaints and everybody suffers.
You also have to worry about your dog getting away from you. Lose a dog in the woods and there’s no chasing after him. There’s no getting through thick bushes and brush.
Carry Extra Water and Dog Food
Dogs can’t tolerate heat the same way we do! They can’t sweat(they breathe heavy and pant) so they don’t have an efficient way to cool down in the heat. You have to carry extra water for both yourself and the dog.
Bring way more water than you think you’ll need and one of those collapsible dog bowls. I’m always convinced I didn’t bring enough water for both of us. I end up giving up all my personal water to the dog and end up cramping up by the end of the hike.
All that running around on the trail and fresh air burns loads of calories. On active days, feed your dog a double helping of food to keep him going. Just make sure you keep his food in sealable plastic containers so rodents don’t get into it.
Bring A First Aid Kit
You should supplement your first-aid kit to suit your dog’s needs. This is the first-aid kit that I use on backpacking trips. It was reasonably priced and includes everything that I need for both me and my dog. You might want to consider adding additional gauze and tape.
Some people recommend buying dog specific first-aid kits(like this one), but that’s not really necessary. Your better off buying a couple rolls of self-adhering bandages designed to work on fur and a Tick Key to easily remove ticks.
Check Your Dog For Ticks
Throughout the day check both you and your dogs for ticks. Give him a nice rub down making sure you check all the warm crevices. If you find a tick take out your first aid kit and grab it close to the ticks head and pull out firmly.
Most dogs don’t like tweezers! You might need a second set of hands to help get it out. Check to make sure the head hasn’t broke off and apply antibiotic ointment. Watch the area to make sure it doesn’t get infected and call a vet if you notice anything unusual.
Dogs Pass Poison Ivy
Dogs can’t get poison ivy/oak, but they quickly spread it. If you take your dog on a hike and I guarantee he rubs his body on poison ivy. Try to resist cuddling/petting your pet until he gets a thorough washdown.
Keep Your Dog Under Control
As a dog owner, you have a duty to keep your dog under control. Training your dog to respect boundaries is just good canine ownership.
- Don’t let your dog invade other campers personal space. Nobody wants to deal with your dog rummaging through their tent and begging for food. Even people that love dogs get annoyed by overly enthusiastic dogs.
- Avoid constantly screaming at your dog. If your dog needs to be yelled at every 5 minutes he has no business camping.
- Try to control your dogs barking. You might have learned how to ignore constant yapping, but it drives everybody else crazy. Find a way to shut him up.
- Keep your dog on a leash and away from other people. If somebody approaches let them know if he’s fine with other people/dogs.
Secure Your Dog at Night(In or Outside Tent)
Where does your dog sleep at night? Some people sleep with their dogs in their tent, and others chain them up outside. Everybody is different, but if you’ve never taken your dog camping you need to find a way to secure him. If he’s staying in your tent a carabiner on the zipper is a great start.
Other Activities For Dogs
If you have a ball or toy to throw and a couple treats most dogs will be happy. But you can only throw a ball for so long before getting bored. Luckily there’s lots to do on a camping trip.
- Hiking With Dogs: Before heading out to the trail check to make sure there aren’t any restrictions(dogs might not be allowed on the trail). Just make sure your dog is physically able to handle a long hike. You might need a puppy carrier with small dogs.
- Canoeing: Dogs seem to either love or hate canoeing. Just make sure you get a life jacket for your dog.
- Fishing: If your dog loves to swim you probably won’t catch all that many fish, but it’s so worth it. Watching your dogs face the minute you pull out a fish is well worth the time spent. That fish flopping around will make him go crazy.
- Trail Running: Every morning my dog and I go for a short run. I hate running, but my dog loves it, so I drag myself to the park every morning. We strap a hands free running leash to my waist and we’re good to go.
- Cycling: If you really want to get your dog exercise bring along a bike(and a hands free bike leash). Just try not to let him pull you over.