Camping With Dogs: Essential Tips for a Stress-Free Trip

Camping With Dogs: Essential Tips for a Stress-Free Trip

There are few better ways to relax, unwind, and reconnect with nature than camping, especially camping with dogs. If you’ve ever experienced the joy of going camping with a dog, you’ll have seen first-hand the exuberance and energy with which they approach the chance to run free and explore the wilderness. The challenge, for us humans, is keeping up!

If you’re trying to plan a dog-friendly camping trip, read on for some tips about choosing the right camp sites and camp gear for dogs, keeping your canine friend safe and happy around other campers, and packing for the trip. Before you go camping with a dog, think carefully about whether it’s ready for a trip. You wouldn’t take a baby to a camp site, and it’s not a good idea to take a young puppy to one either. Nor are camping trips suited to older dogs who aren’t so energetic.

If you don’t camp often, it’s easy to forget how cold it can get at night, even during the summer. Puppies aren’t well-equipped to handle the variations of temperature you might encounter on a camping trip. Even slightly older dogs that aren’t fully trained yet might feel over-stimulated if your planned destination is a busy campsite with rambunctious children playing ball games near your tent.

If you’re not sure if your four-legged friend is ready for a proper camping trip yet, consider starting small with camping out in the backyard, going to a caravan site, or taking a day trip to a National Park or heritage site near your home. If they handle those things, gradually start going further afield, or introducing new experiences to see how they handle it.

Choosing a Dog-Friendly Campsite

The next thing to do is look for a dog-friendly campsite. Most National Parks in the United States are wholly or at least partly dog-friendly. Many parks, including Acadia National Park in Maine, Biscayne National Park in Florida and Redwood National Park in California are part of what’s known as the BARK Ranger program, which invites people visiting with a dog to sign a pledge promising to uphold a standard of behavior while on the site.

Smaller state and local parks are good options for people camping with dogs for the first time, as they’re smaller, easier to get to, and less of a commitment if your pet finds themselves missing home. It’s a good idea to check the amenities of each site before you visit. Most sites will at least have bins for poop collection, and water stations at communal points so pets can get a drink. However, beyond that, amenities can vary. Many campsites also require pets to be up-to-date on their vaccinations.

You don’t have to limit yourself to such sites, though. It’s even possible to explore the magic of Disney with a dog. Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground in Bay Lake, Florida is dog-friendly if you have an RV, and has designated pet loops for walkers. However, dogs aren’t permitted at the location’s pop-up campsites.

Campsite Etiquette

Campsites are shared spaces, so everyone must adhere to some shared etiquette rules while camping, including:

  • Checking each site’s specific rules and regulations, as they can vary. For example, some sites require dogs to be kept on a leash with a maximum length of six feet, and some have designated pet-friendly areas.
  • Cleaning up after your dog and disposing of their waste properly.
  • Keeping your dog under control and not allowing them to disturb other campers.

Packing for a Dog-Friendly Camping Trip

Before your trip, make sure you’re well prepared with this essential camping dog equipment:

  • Collapsible food and water bowls
  • Camping bed or mattress for your dog
  • Leash, collar, and ID tags
  • Poop bags and a small trowel for burying waste
  • First-aid kit for minor injuries or issues
  • Calming treats or chews like Kradle’s All Day Calming Bone

To save space, try to look for folding or collapsible versions of items where possible. Pack lesser-used items in the nooks and crannies of your backpack, taking advantage of how they fold or roll to save space. Keep the first-aid kit near the top of your pack, and put smaller items like poop bags in side pockets where they’re readily accessible.

The best tents for camping with dogs will be spacious enough that you can bring the dog inside with you, and zip the outer door to prevent wildlife from disturbing them. Even so, an elevated bed, and some bedding, is handy for added comfort.

Potential Hazards and Safety Considerations

Camping with dogs brings with it several potential hazards, from wildlife to changeable weather, and poisonous plants. Keeping your pet on a leash can help reduce the risk of wildlife encounters, and knowing the signs of toxin ingestion is a must. If you think your pet has consumed something dangerous, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for advice.

Heatstroke is something dog owners should be aware of during the summer. If it’s getting hot, take your dog into the shade so it can cool off. Make sure your dog stays hydrated throughout the day, and never leave them alone in a vehicle. Carry a first-aid kit to handle minor issues, and if you encounter something you can’t treat, call a vet immediately.

Camping with dogs can be fun for the whole family, if you plan properly. Before you head off on a road trip with your dog, be sure to pack carefully, planning for your dog’s needs as well as your own. Consider taking along a few calming dog treats to help your pet feel relaxed and ensure an enjoyable trip for all.

Whether you’re hooked up at a campground or boondocking in a National Forest, prioritizing your dog’s safety and wellbeing is essential for a stress-free camping adventure. With a little preparation and the right gear, you and your canine companion can make memories that will last a lifetime on the Loch Ness Shores campsite.

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