Camping with Dogs: The Ultimate Guide
We love our pets, so it’s only natural that we want them to join us in as many of our favorite activities as possible. For many people, this includes hiking and camping with dogs. What dog doesn’t love the great outdoors, right?
Your canine companion will probably enjoy a fun outdoor adventure, but it’s important to keep a few things in mind when hiking with dogs or staying overnight in the wilderness. To ensure everyone has a great time (Fido included!), you need to be sure your pet is prepared for a camping trip, you know the safety risks, and pack appropriately.
Is Your Dog Ready for a Camping Trip?
Not all dogs are going to be interested in camping and hiking. While many canine companions love to be out in the wild and join in on your fun, there are some types of dogs that just won’t enjoy a camping trip – or worse, won’t be safe while camping and hiking. You might want to reconsider your outdoor adventure with your dog if:
- Your dog is sensitive to extreme temperatures
- Your dog is very old, very young, or out of shape
- Your dog has demonstrated aggression to other dogs or people
The Climate Will Make Camping Hard for Some Dogs
When you go camping or hiking, you’re going to be spending an extended period outside. Unless you have a climate-controlled RV or camper, your dog is going to be in a broader range of temperatures than they are accustomed to at home. This might mean super cold nights in the shoulder seasons of fall and spring, or hot days in the middle of summer. It’s important you consider your pet’s ability to regulate their temperature before going camping with dogs.
Some dogs with short muzzles, known as brachycephalic breeds, tend to struggle with breathing in hot weather and heat exhaustion is a real concern. Other dogs, like hairless breeds, sometimes struggle to stay warm and tend to shiver in the cold.
If your pet doesn’t have great temperature endurance, that doesn’t mean that camping and hiking with dogs will never be an option! If you have an air-conditioned camper where your pet can hang out in the hottest parts of the day, you’re ready for adventure. You can also stick to easy or moderate treks in the morning or late evening when hiking with dogs that struggle in the heat. For dogs that get cold, buy them a super warm dog jacket, and be sure to let them cuddle up in the tent at night!
Consider Your Dog’s Physical Fitness Before a Camping Trip
Your dog needs to be in good shape to handle the outdoors. This means that our very senior pooches, little bitty puppies, and dogs with sub-par health might not be happy (or safe!) on a camping trip. A dog experiencing health issues or old age might find camping and hiking difficult, and a puppy might not be safe in the wild because it is small and defenseless, and it might not have all of its shots yet.
You also want to build up your dog’s fitness level before jumping on a super hard hiking trail. Hiking with dogs requires good training. Think about the terrain and climate before you take your dog camping or hiking, and be sure the adventure you have planned is something they can not only handle but also enjoy!
Aggressive Dogs Might Struggle at a Campground or on a Crowded Trail
Many of us like to go camping with dogs to get away from it all, but that can be very hard to do. Encounters with other people and dogs are inevitable during a camping or hiking trip, so if your pet feels stressed by these encounters, it can make camping with dogs a bad idea.
If your dog demonstrates stress signals around other dogs or people, there are ways to manage it. With a little time, training, and a consistent calming CBD wellness routine, you might be able to help your stressed-out pooch stay chill in outdoor environments like busy campgrounds. But don’t push your pet to do something they aren’t comfortable doing. Camping with dogs should be relaxed and enjoyable!
Safety While Camping with Dogs
The “safety first” motto is even more important when you’re bringing your best friend on your camping trip. There are additional risks when bringing your pet along, so it’s important to remember these safety tips for hiking with dogs:
- Choose the right camping and hiking spot for you and your dog
- Maintain control of your pet at all times
- Watch your dog closely around the campfire
- Be aware of wildlife
- Protect your pet’s paws
Choose a Dog-Friendly Outdoor Destination
One of the easiest ways to stay safe when camping with dogs is choosing the right destination for you and your furry family. If you plan to stay at a campground, it’s very important to check their policies about pets. Some campgrounds are very dog-friendly, while others don’t allow pets at all. Most campgrounds require pets to be on a leash.
If you choose to go off the beaten path and camp remotely – which can be a great choice for stressed dogs – watch the weather closely and do plenty of research about the climate and conditions of the area. When camping and hiking with dogs, the same golden rule applies: Be prepared!
Controlling Your Pet While Hiking and Camping
A leash is the easiest and most foolproof way to control your animal and stay safe when camping with dogs. The outdoors is far more unpredictable than your backyard or living room. From wildlife to other campers, hikers, and environmental risks, there are many opportunities for your pet to be put in danger or get injured. Most of these risks can be avoided by keeping your pet on a leash at all times.
Some people also choose to bring a baby gate or portable fence with them, so your dog can hang out without being tied up. It’s very important to ensure your pet is secure before walking away or getting distracted by something at camp. Wandering wildlife can tempt your pet to escape their enclosure and give chase. Letting your dog off-leash or roam freely puts them at risk when you’re in a wild environment. Even if your pet listens to your commands with perfection at the dog park, they might be too excited to obey in a wild environment when they catch a scent in the woods. It’s not recommended to rely on verbal commands when hiking and camping with dogs.
Keep a Close Eye Around the Campfire
Many dogs are afraid of fire, but some might express curiosity about it. Make sure to watch dogs carefully or keep them leashed or enclosed at a safe distance when it’s s’mores o’clock. If your dog seems fearful of the campfire, offer them a comfortable and safe place to lie down far enough away they feel safe.
Safety Risks of Wildlife While Camping with Dogs
Your dog will be excited to explore and commune with nature when you go on an outdoor adventure. This can be cute with butterflies and even the occasional squirrel chase, but it can be dangerous in other contexts.
Both animals and plants can present a risk when camping and hiking with dogs. Large predators like bears and mountain lions can present an obvious threat to your pet’s welfare, but smaller creatures like snakes, ticks, and scorpions can also be dangerous. And it’s not just the fauna – the flora can present a threat to your pet, too! Thorny plants like cactuses can hurt your dog, and irritants like poison ivy can make them sick or itchy. There are other plants like hemlock that can be highly toxic to your pet. Keep your dog from eating any greenery you don’t recognize, and familiarize yourself with plants in the area where you’re camping and hiking.
Paw Health in the Outdoors
Your pet’s paws are not invincible. In fact, these tender pads of skin on your dog’s feet can be very sensitive to sharp rocks, hot pavement, and other risks presented by an outdoor adventure. Watch the surfaces where you are hiking or camping with dogs, and consider buying some dog booties if you’re going to be somewhere especially hot or rocky.
What to Pack When Camping and Hiking with Dogs
Packing can be a hassle, but it doesn’t have to be! With a good plan and a solid list, your packing experience can be seamless and easy when camping with dogs. For a successful trip, don’t forget to pack:
- Clean water and dog food
- Waste disposal bags
- Accessories: a jacket, booties, bear bell, and leash
- A dog bed, sleeping pad, or blanket
Clean Water and Food
The most important thing to bring when camping with dogs is plenty of clean water for your pet. While dogs will happily drink out of streams or natural bodies of water, these present the risk of parasites like E. coli. Dogs are more resistant to these parasites than people but can still get sick. If you bring plenty of water for your pet, they won’t be as likely to seek hydration from these natural sources. Plus, if it’s hot, you don’t want your pet to risk heat exhaustion by searching for water.
Of course, you also need to bring along your pet’s typical meals to keep them fed and energized. It’s always recommended to bring a little extra food and their favorite treats just in case your camping trip is extended – intentionally or accidentally!
Because it’s nature, it might be tempting just to let your dog do its business in the woods and not worry about cleaning it up. This is bad etiquette for a number of reasons. First, it leaves an unpleasant surprise for someone else who might be hiking in that area after you. Second, your pet’s poop can attract unwanted wildlife attention like bears and raccoons and bring these animals into the campsite. The scent of your dog’s waste can also interrupt the local wildlife’s natural territorial instincts, which is not healthy for those animals.
Warmth and Protection Accessories
As we mentioned previously, you should be prepared for temperature extremes when hiking and camping with dogs. This means bringing along a warm dog jacket for the cold and booties for your pet’s paws. Another protection accessory is a bear bell to attach to your dog’s collar. Bears will often run away from unfamiliar sounds, so if they can hear your pet coming, the chances of an encounter are reduced.
You’ll also want a reliable leash, or even two – you might want to bring a very long lead for tying your dog up at camp and a shorter lead for hikes.
A Comfortable Sleeping Spot
Sleeping areas are usually a little more limited during a camping trip. People often sleep on narrow pads or air mattresses that might not be safe from our pets’ claws. If your dog usually sleeps with you, they might be happy to burrow down in your sleeping bag, but it’s good to offer them another spot if they’d like it. Your dog should have a comfortable place to lie down and get some good rest before their busy day of outdoor exploration!
Camping with Dogs Can Be Fun and Safe
As with any outdoor activity, camping with dogs is about being prepared. If you prepare your dog well, take proper safety precautions, pack everything you need, and choose an appropriate place to go hiking with dogs, you are sure to have a great time. Sparky will, too!