If you’re a proud pet parent and an outdoor enthusiast, you know the joy of combining these two passions. Every adventure is a little sweeter when you share it with your pup. Their excitement is contagious and brings you a new level of appreciation for the natural world.
Even so, you may feel wary of camping with your pup. Preparing for a camping trip — dog or no dog — is a lot of work. Adding a pet to the mix may feel, understandably, overwhelming. But if you’re willing to put in some extra effort, camping with your pet can be a fun, low-stress, and memorable experience for you both.
Chances are, bringing your pet camping will be a blast. And it won’t be as difficult as you imagine. If you’re wondering how you can make your dog's first camping trip a success, you’re in the right place.
Choose the Right Campsite
If you’re an avid camper, you understand the importance of choosing the right campsite. Whether you want a view, easy access to the bathroom, or complete privacy and solitude, you have to do some digging to find what you want.
Choosing a site matters even more when camping with your dog. First, and most importantly, not all campgrounds allow dogs. And those that do have specific rules and regulations you’ll need to be aware of. When choosing a place to camp, do your research to confirm your dog is welcome. Do this before booking a site to avoid any last-minute scrambling.
In addition to the campground’s pet policies, consider the weather, setting, and nearby activities.
- If you’re camping somewhere hot, make sure your site provides some shade.
- If crowds make your dog anxious, choose a private campsite or a smaller campground.
- If your dog loves to swim, camp near a lake or river for a fun daytime activity.
Finally, keep in mind that while certain campgrounds may be dog-friendly, nearby trails may not be. If you plan to hike with your pup, research dog-friendly trails before your trip.
Pack for Your Pup
Depending on your camping style, your packing list can get pretty long. But don’t let your dog’s supplies get lost in the shuffle — bringing the right things can go a long way in helping her have a comfortable, enjoyable, and safe camping trip.
Don’t leave home without the following:
- Food and water bowls
- Dog bed or blanket
- Dog toys
- Dog food
- Dog treats
- An edible chew toy or special treat to keep your dog occupied
- Dog poop bags
- Copies (or photos) of vaccination and medical records
- ID tags
- Photo of your dog
- Dog first aid kit
Before you pack, think through your sleeping arrangements. If your dog typically sleeps in a crate, you may want to bring it and stick it inside your tent at night. Other dogs might be more comfortable sleeping next to you. Whatever you decide, make sure you bring the right gear to keep you both comfortable. (If you’re not sure how your dog will do sleeping in the tent, take a trial run in the backyard — more on this below).
Get Your Dog Camp-Ready
Some dogs are great at going with the flow, but new situations can still trigger anxiety. So it’s important to spend a little time getting your dog ready—both physically and mentally—for his outdoor adventure.
The following can help:
- Brush up on training: Basic commands like “sit,” “come,” and “leave it” are valuable for your dog to know, especially when he’s in a new situation. Camping can expose your pup to lots of unfamiliar sights and sounds — like other dogs, campfires, and wildlife. If it’s been a while since your dog aced obedience school, dedicate some time to training before you head out on your trip.
- Make sure your pet is healthy: For your dog’s safety and the safety of other campers, make sure your dog is up to date on all his vaccinations and preventative medications. If you have any health concerns regarding your pup, check in with your vet before packing up and heading out.
- Take a trial run before leaving home: If sleeping in a tent is new to your dog, it’s best to make that introduction before leaving home. Set up your tent in the backyard or living room, and let her sniff around and explore. You may even decide to sleep in the tent with your pup at home so you both know what to expect when you’re camping.
Camp With Confidence
When it comes to camping, packing and preparing is half the battle. But the following tips can ensure your trip goes smoothly.
Do these as soon as you pull up to the campground:
- Put your campsite number on your dog’s tag: When camping, your dog should always be at your side. But if he somehow escapes and wanders away, it should be easy for other campers to get him back to you. Adding your site number to a tag on your dog’s collar is an easy way to help your pup find his way to your campsite.
- Make sure your dog is comfortable: Being outside all day may be new to your dog, so it’s important to make sure she’s comfortable. This could include keeping her cool with shade and cold water or giving her a blanket to sleep under on a cold night.
- Take a cat (or dog) nap: Many dogs spend a good portion of their day napping. If that’s the norm for your dog, a camping trip may wear him out fast. Plan for some downtime at your campsite during the day, and read, relax, or nap alongside your pup.
- Be aware of wildlife: Camping is a sure way to expose your dog to new experiences — and wildlife interactions could be part of that. Keep your dog safe by leashing her at all times, having her sleep inside your tent, and staying alert and aware of any wildlife that may approach.
- Sleep with white noise: The whistle of the wind, the sound of crickets, and the dropping of a branch are loud when you’re sleeping outside. If he’s not used to it, all that noise can keep your dog up at night and make him a little anxious, too. Make sure you both sleep soundly by creating white noise with a battery-powered sound machine, your phone, or a fan.
With a little preparation for both you and your dog, camping together can be a blast — and a breeze. Not only will you walk away with lasting memories, but you’ll strengthen your bond and share a new favorite activity.