Camping with a dog is fun and they provide good company in the sometimes lonely outdoors. But you need plenty of time to prepare your dog for the trip.
Here’s a guide on how to take your dog camping for the first time with tips on how to prepare her and what to pack.
What You'll Learn Today
How To Prepare Your Dog For Camping?
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to camping with your dog is not preparing him or her for the trip.
It may seem like a nothingburger to you, but for a dog, something as simple as sleeping in a tent for the first time can cause anxiety.
That’s not to mention all the other unfamiliar sights and sounds of the outdoors. This can be an especially big issue for a dog used to an urban or suburban environment.
Even if your dog doesn’t get anxious in the new environment, they might get too excited, and that can also be bad.
Dogs with a high prey drive and those that are reactive can be difficult to manage outdoors. He might go off running after a wild animal, putting himself and you in danger.
To avoid problems when you are camping, here are tips on how to prepare your dog for a camping experience.
- If, like most people, you are planning to camp in a tent, get your dog used to sleeping in a tent. Don’t wait until you are already at the campsite to introduce this new strange house to your dog. Set up a tent in your backyard or even in the house and do some practice runs.
- If your dog is not used to the outdoors, introduce him before you go camping. This will ensure he doesn’t get spooked or over-excited by the new sights and sounds. Walks in the park or a short trail hike are some of the ways you can get your dog used to being in nature.
- Practice your dog’s recall. You’ll need it when you are out camping and need to stop your dog from doing something dangerous like going after a porcupine. Reliable recall is especially important if you are going to a campsite that allows off-leash dogs.
- Make sure your dog is well trained on various commands like come, sit, lay, leave it and so on. These commands will be crucial in managing your dog when camping.
- Make sure your dog is fit and healthy enough to go camping. Even if you won’t be doing any strenuous activities like hiking, the heat or cold can seriously affect an already ill dog. If you plan to do some hiking or have to walk to the campsite, definitely make sure your dog can handle it.
- Check in with your vet a couple weeks before you go camping. They’ll tell you whether your dog is in proper health for the trip and recommend any vaccinations and medications they might require.
- If you plan to put on any piece of clothing on your dog such as a cooling jacket, a warm dog coat or booties, get your dog used to it before you leave. That way, you won’t have trouble getting them to put it on when camping.
Most importantly, don’t forget to check whether the campsite you are going to allows pets. Also check their rules regarding pets. Most places require pets to stay leashed all the time.
It’s not enough that a campsite allows pets; it’s also important that it is pet-friendly. For instance, some campsites are so restrictive when it comes to pets that you might as well not go.
Dog friendly campsites will have features like dog trails (leashed or off-leash), large play areas for pets, and fenced in areas to keep your dog safe
What To Bring For Dog Camping?
When packing for dog camping, we recommend packing your dog’s stuff separately.
This makes it easier to keep track of what you are packing and it’s also easier to access things like dog food, bedding and toys when you are out camping.
To make sure you don’t forget anything, create a checklist. Organize it by categories like food and water, health and safety, bedding, fun and so on.
It’s also important to do research on where you are going so that you know what to pack. For instance, if it’s a cold place, consider carrying an extra pad for your dog bed or a dog jacket.
Here are the essentials that you need to bring for dog camping.
Food, Water & Utensils
Pack the usual dog food that she eats at home. Going camping shouldn’t change any aspect of your dog’s routine, including what she eats.
If you are planning an active camping trip, your dog will need more calories than usual. Pack enough food to cater for the extra portions.
Don’t forget to pack treats as well.
As for water, some campsites have clean drinking water. Call ahead to confirm. In many places however, you’ll need to go with your own drinking water.
Don’t let your dog drink from streams and rivers as the water could make her sick.
Tip: Carry food and water for two extra days, just in case of an emergency that leaves you stranded outdoors. To be extra-prepared, also pack a water filter in case you run out of drinking water and have to get water from a stream or river.
If you are camping in bear country or any place with wild animals, pack the food in a bear canister to keep out wild animals and bugs.
Along with adequate food and water, pack your dog’s eating and drinking utensils. You can pack the bowls she eats from at home or buy space-saving camping bowls.
Next, figure out your dog’s sleeping situation.
The best place for your dog to sleep when camping is in the tent with you. He can sleep on a dog bed, a dog crate, or a dog sleeping bag.
You can also make your own DIY dog bed using an old sleeping pad with a rug or towel on top.
If it’ll be cold, carry an extra rug or pad and place it under the dog bed for added insulation. Also pack a blanket to cover the dog.
If your dog will not be sleeping in the tent with you, the other ideal option is outside in his own doggy tent. Set up his dog bed inside the tent.
Depending on the weather forecast, you may not need any clothing at all for your dog.
But if it’ll be hot (above 85 degrees), you may need a cooling jacket for your dog. This is especially important for puppies, old dogs, and dogs that overheat easily such as those with a short face or a double coat.
If it’ll be cold (below 40 degrees), pack a dog sweater or coat.
You may also need to pack booties if it’ll be very hot and the terrain is rocky or sandy. Booties are also important for snowy conditions.
Remember to get your dog used to any piece of clothing you intend to put on him when camping.
Health & Safety
Here is a list of the most important health and safety gear for your dog.
- A first aid kit with current medications for your dog and any he might need.
- Bug repellent for dogs to keep away ticks and other potentially disease-causing bugs.
- An ID tag that stays on the collar all the time. Add a temporary tag with the name of the campground, the campsite number (if there’s one), your phone number and the number of the nearest ranger office. This will be useful if the dog gets away from you when camping.
- A light-up collar or collar attachment. It makes it easier to keep track of the dog at night.
- Life jacket if you plan to go for a swim and your dog is not a good swimmer.
- Leash to keep your dog restrained when outdoors. In addition to the usual leash, get an extra-long one and tie it to a dog stake to give your dog a large area to explore safely. Alternatively, set up a dog run using a paracord or clothesline like in the video below.
Here are a few more things to bring with you when camping with a dog.
- A yoga mat or foam tile to lay on the area where your dog will be walking on in the tent. A dog’s paws can easily tear your tent floor.
- A dog backpack. If your dog is fit and healthy, they can carry some of the stuff like treats and water. Just be careful not to overload it.
- Your dog’s favorite toys. They’ll give him something to do and can help reduce anxiety.
- A poop bag to clean up after the dog.
- Lots of towels. Your dog will get wet and dirty a lot.
Add whatever else you think you might need.
Keep in mind that, no matter how much you prepare, the first time camping with your dog may not go according to plan. It’s hard to predict how the dog will react and what you’ll have to deal with outdoors.
If something goes wrong, don’t let it stop you from planning more trips. It’ll get easier and more fun for both you and your dog. And if you’re wondering which breeds are suitable for camping and hiking, here is our guide on that.