Camping With Your Canine: Essential Tips and Tricks for Ruffin' It

Planning on sharing a pup tent with your pup this summer? Here’s what you need to know.

By | Posted: August 4, 2014, 12 p.m. PST

So you want to try "ruffing” it with your dog this summer, huh? Good for you! Camping with your dog is a terrific way to get out into the great outdoors and appreciate nature with your best furry friend. Camping takes some planning, though, and this is especially true if you’re including your dog in the fun. Here are a few tips to consider before you pack up the car, truck or RV, and head out of town.


Camping Dogs



Will My Dog Have a Good Time?

Some dog breeds are practically born to camp, hike and explore the outdoors (think Labrador Retrievers). Some dogs prefer to kick back in a nice, air-conditioned house. You know your dog’s temperament and physical abilities best, so before you become gung-ho on including your dog on your camping trip no matter what, stop and think about whether camping would be a good experience for him.

Take this short quiz to help you out. Answer "yes” or "no” to the following:

      1. My dog loves new sights, smells, sounds and experiences, and loves to be outdoors.
      2. My dog is relatively quiet and not "barky,” or can be quieted easily.
      3. My dog obeys when instructed to sit, stay and lie down.
      4. My dog is not aggressive with people or animals.
      5. My dog is in good health.

If you answered "yes” to all five of the questions, you’re likely good to go! If you answered "no" to any of these questions, consider whether or not you and your dog might be happier on a different type of vacation, or even a "staycation."

Know Before You Go

Whether you’re pitching your tent at a state, national or private park, or pulling your RV into a KOA, each campground and park has its own policy on bringing pets. Contact the campground or park by phone or email, or visit their website for more details. Many places have strict rules regarding where a pet can camp out -- for instance, some don’t allow dogs in cabins, or will require that your dog be inside a tent or car during the night. Some parks will specifically say where pets can and cannot roam, including beaches, playgrounds, bathing areas or concession stands. Each location also has its own rules for doggie conduct, so be sure to check those out, too.

Planning and Packing

Once you’ve found a great dog-friendly place to camp, now it’s time to start getting ready for your trip! Keep these things in mind:

  • Check vaccines and tags. Are your dog’s vaccinations up to date? What about his ID tags? Most campgrounds and parks require that dogs must be current on their rabies vaccinations, and that they’re fitted with up-to-date tags.
  • Test out the tent. If you’re planning on sleeping in a tent and this is your dog’s first camping trip, it would be wise to get him used to the tent before you leave for vacation. You don’t want to find out that your dog freaks out at the idea of spending the night in an enclosed space once you’re already at the campsite with no other sleeping arrangements! Set up the tent in the back yard or living room, get inside it (and bring a tasty treat), and call your dog to join you. Make the tent a fun, relaxing place for him to be.
  • Take the lead. Many campgrounds and parks will require that your dog to be on a leash at all times. Bring a short, sturdy leash that’s no longer than 6 feet.
  • Take the other stuff, too. Your dog probably won’t need as much stuff as you while on vacation, but he’ll still appreciate a few comforts from home. Don’t forget to bring:
    • Plenty of food and water, as well as food and water bowls
    • A doggie bed or crate
    • Toys and treats
    • Any medication your dog requires
    • A dog first-aid kit. This can include hydrogen peroxide, tweezers, a bandanna, a pet first-aid book, and the phone number and directions to a local, emergency veterinary clinic.

Safety Considerations

It’s wise to prepare for the unknown when camping. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Prepare for the weather. Camping during the summer means preventing heat exhaustion (heatstroke) in your pet. Signs of heat exhaustion can include lethargy, heavy panting, glazed eyes, lack of coordination and excessive thirst. Make sure your dog has ready access to cool water and a shady place to relax when he wants to get away from the sun.

Heatstroke in Dogs, What You Need to Know>>>

  • Watch for wildlife. Encountering snakes, bears, mountain lions, coyotes and the like are a possibility when you camp. Some of these wild animals might look upon your pet as prey. Your dog should be leashed while outdoors to keep him close to you and out of trouble.
  • Watch for ticks. Depending on where you camp, ticks can be a serious concern. Ticks live in tall brush or grass, and can attach themselves to dogs easily, usually near the head, neck, feet and ears. Check your dog thoroughly for these little buggers, especially after he’s been playing in areas ticks are known to live. If you spot one, remove it immediately with tweezers and consult your veterinarian when you can.

Get Tips on Ticks>>

  • Tread carefully. Hiking is a fun activity to do while camping, and most dogs love the opportunity to sniff every plant and investigate every hole they see along the way. For safety’s sake, though, keep him on a short leash to prevent him from nosing or eating something he shouldn’t. Also, be very cautious in areas with cliffs, as most dogs can’t judge heights and might slip and take a tumble.

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