Camping with a dog is fun, but it can also get dangerous for the dog. If you’d like to go camping with your dog, here’s a guide on how to keep your dog safe while camping with tips on how to protect them from extreme weather, wild animals, and other hazards.
Is It Okay To Take My Dog Camping?
Pet parents can be understandably nervous about taking their dog camping for the first time. You can’t be sure how your dog will react to an unfamiliar environment.
Things like weather, rough terrain and wild animals are also major concerns.
Generally, dogs are okay camping. The same way that camping is generally safe for humans, it’s also mostly safe for dogs.
The same precautions you take to keep yourself safe are mostly the same ones you take to camp safely with your dog – beware the weather, watch out for wild animals, avoid getting sick or injured and so on.
That said, whether it’s okay to take a dog camping depends on your individual dog. Depending on their braid, traits or personality, they might not be the best dog to go with outdoors.
For instance, some dogs simply hate exercise and won’t like it at all when you go hiking with them.
Others are easily overstimulated when outdoors, while some have a high prey drive that can be a danger around wild animals.
Your dog may also not be in a condition to go camping. For instance, they may be too old, have bad hips or are highly vulnerable to overheating.
So consider your specific dog when deciding if you’ll take them camping. Feel free to get your vet’s opinion. Your vet may recommend certain vaccinations depending on your destination.
If you determine your dog won’t mind a day or two in the great outdoors, the next step is planning how to keep them safe.
One other thing – check to make sure pets are allowed where you plan to camp. If they are, check the pet rules. Most campsites require that dogs stay leashed all the time.
How To Train Your Dog For Camping?
One of the most important things you can do to keep your dog safe when outdoors is to make sure they are well trained.
And the most important aspect to train them on is recall.
You want your dog to have reliable recall, meaning they always respond to your call. This can be a lifesaver when you are outdoors and need to keep them away from hazards.
If your dog doesn’t have reliable recall, your only option is keeping them on leash all the time.
If your dog doesn’t yet have good recall, here’s a video training guide.
In addition to recall, your dog also needs to be trained on other commands like sit, drop it, and lay.
Finally, as part of training them to go camping, it’s a good idea to slowly familiarize them with the outdoors.
If you have a yard, try some backyard camping to get the dog used to the idea of sleeping in a tent. Also go on short hikes so that they are used to being in the wild and will not be scared or over-stimulated when you go camping.
How To Keep Your Dog Safe From Wild Animals When Camping?
One of the biggest safety hazards for dogs when camping is encounters with wild animals.
For humans, encounters with wild animals usually end well. Animals are naturally afraid of humans and most campers know to keep their distance.
Dogs are, well, dogs.
Most dogs will instinctively chase after wild animals, even those that are hazardous to them. We’ve come across numerous stories from dog owners about their dogs chasing a porcupine and ending up with a face full of painful quills.
You need to be especially careful if your dog has a high prey drive. Your dog might also be reactive, and is likely to overreact even to something small like a rabbit by running away.
Here are tips to keep your dog safe from wild animals when camping.
- If you are in an area where you are likely to encounter wild animals, keep your dog on leash all the time. You can use a long leash that gives them plenty of freedom to roam without going too far.
- Train your dog to have reliable recall. This will be handy if they get too excited and want to run after a deer or bear.
- If you encounter a dangerous wild animal like a bear, pick your dog up immediately to keep them from running off or aggravating the animal. Alternatively, hold the leash close to the collar to keep the dog contained.
- Keep an eye on your dog, especially if you leave them leashed as that’s when they are an easy target for a predator.
How To Keep A Dog Cool When Camping?
The other major hazard is extreme heat.
Dogs don’t sweat, and rely on panting to keep themselves cool. If it’s too hot or they don’t get enough water to drink, they can overheat, a potentially fatal condition.
Brachycephalic dogs (those with a shorter face and nose) are even more vulnerable because their cooling mechanism is less efficient.
The first step in keeping your dog safe from the heat is checking the weather forecast. How hot will it be where you are going camping?
Can your dog tolerate the forecasted temperatures? If you are concerned it will be too hot for him, cancel the trip or keep him home.
If you decide to go camping with your dog when it’s hot, here’s how to keep them cool.
- Carry plenty of drinking water and offer it to your dog regularly.
- Camp in a location with a shady spot where your dog can rest from the heat. If there’s no trees to provide shade, consider setting up a place to rest under the tent awning or in the vestibule.
- If you are hiking on a hot day, take it easy and include plenty of rest breaks.
- If you are close to the beach, a lake or stream, take the dog for a swim if it gets hot. You can also wrap them in a damp towel or pack a cooling jacket.
How To Keep Your Dog Warm When Winter Camping?
A dog’s coat helps keep it warm when it’s cold. But there are limits on what temperature they can tolerate on their own.
Some dog breeds like huskies and malamutes can withstand very cold weather and are perfect for winter camping. But most breeds need some help staying warm when temperatures go below 40.
Here are a few ways to keep your dog warm when winter camping.
- Pack a dog coat. For nighttime and when your dog is resting, carry a dog blanket in addition to the dog bed.
- Instead of the usual dog bed, consider getting a dog sleeping bag. It’ll conserve warmth more effectively.
- If it’s possible, build a campfire to keep yourself and the dog warm.
- Use booties to protect their paws when walking on the frozen ground.
- To prevent hypothermia, keep your dog from playing in water and dry them with a towel if they get wet.
We highly recommend sleeping with your dog inside the tent. It’s warmer there and they are safer with you inside the tent.
Keep a towel by the door and wipe them down, including their dirty paws, before they get into the tent for the night.
Additional Safety Tips
- One of the best ways to leash your dog is to string a cable or clothesline between two trees. Then attach a long leash to this line. This gives your dog a large area to roam and explore without going too far.
- Overly active dogs can hurt their paws and hips if they don’t get enough rest. Get them to take lots of breaks to avoid injuries, This is where training your dog to respond to the lay command is useful.
- Don’t forget to pack your dog’s first aid kit so that you are ready to deal with any injuries, pain or ailments that occur during the trip.
- Put ID tags on the collar at all times, just in case the dog gets lost. When going camping, pick up new tags with the name of the camping site, your contact number, and the number of the nearest ranger office.
- Pack a light up collar and put it on the dog at night. This will make it easy to keep track of the dog’s location in the dark.
- If your dog is not a good swimmer and you plan to get into the water, pack a life jacket.
- Carry more food for your pet than you think you’ll need, just in case you get stranded, lost or some other emergency. The same goes with water.
- Keep your dog from drinking standing water or water from the stream or lake. It may contain parasites like giardia that can make the dog sick. Consider carrying a portable water filter in case you run out of drinking water. You can purify stream or river water for you and the dog.
Just as important is to keep yourself safe. Anything that happens to you affects the dog as well.
Follow the usual precautions and make sure you always have a way to communicate with family and emergency services.