Tips for Camping with Dogs

Dec 04 , 2019

Tips for Camping with Dogs

It's camping season! Are you new at camping with dogs, or are you an old pro? We hope this article will help you either way!

Don't feel like reading? Watch our YouTube video below and visit our YouTube channel for more where that came from!

Pet Friendly
Be sure to check with the campground ahead of time to see if they allow dogs. Pet policies can range from very strict to none at all. Be sure you call in advance, so you don't get stranded with nowhere to go.

First things first: your pup should be up to date on vaccinations and flea and tick prevention. Keep copies of vet records with you, particularly proof of rabies vaccination.
Make sure your pup always wears a collar with ID tags and be sure to keep him or her leashed. A microchip is another smart safety measure we recommend. Pick up some cheap keychain labels from the dollar store and write your campsite number on it. Sometimes campgrounds can be in areas without cell service, and a tag with your home address won't help if you're traveling.

Campgrounds can get dark at night, so consider putting a small light on your dog's collar. A reflective collar and leash is always beneficial!

Do your research ahead of time regarding locations of veterinarians and particularly emergency clinics. Jot this info down and keep it with you just in case.

Sleeping Quarters
Where will you sleep? Will you be tent camping or RVing? Will your pup be sleeping with you? Make sure there's enough room in the sleeping area for your pup to join you. Some campers crate their dogs outside of the tent or RV, but we don't recommend this because it leaves them vulnerable to wildlife. And separating them from their humans increases their anxiety. Do the right thing and give them a place to feel safe.
Containment System
You'll need to have a way to make sure your dog stays on your campsite and doesn't wander around disturbing your neighbors, chasing wildlife, or getting lost. Luckily, there are a lot of people who camp with their pets and there are many options to pick from!
Portable Fence
This is a popular option among RVers with larger rigs. There are many different types of temporary fencing options from which to choose. What works best for you will depend on how many dogs you have, how big or small they are, and the ground conditions at your campsite.
Ex Pen (wire or soft sided)
Exercise pens, though somewhat poorly named, are a great option for containing dogs at camp. They are small, multi-panel enclosures traditionally made of wire. Soft-sided playpens accomplish the same purpose. Though a bit smaller, they are much lighter and easier to carry.
Tie-Out (stake or runner)
Perhaps the most common form of containing dogs, tie outs are definitely the cheapest. These can be a great option for one dog but can get complicated with multiple dogs due to tangling. Tie outs are most commonly used as one cable staked to the ground, but they can also be hooked to a runner between two trees. Consider using a good quality harness to hook your dog to the tie out, rather than a collar, to avoid potential damage to the neck.
Picket Line
This is arguably the best way to keep multiple dogs in one spot without tangling. Picket lines are a favorite among dog sledding enthusiasts because they are lightweight, portable, relatively inexpensive, and highly effective. A picket line consists of a long cable staked to the ground on either side, and drop lines attached to the cable. Consider using a good quality harness to hook your dog to the drop, rather than directly to the collar, to avoid potential damage to the neck.
Screen Tent
At around $40 for a 10x10, a screen tent might be an affordable option for keeping your pup at camp, though not necessarily a durable one. There is usually no floor, so craftier dogs may figure out how to sneak out. Some folks set up a second tent for their pups, but some campgrounds will charge more for additional tents or not allow it at all. If you do decide on this option, make sure your dog can see out. Dogs that feel confined are apt to find a way out and destroy the tent in the process.

All of these options should be used with supervision! Always make sure your pup gets enough exercise and isn't kept in these enclosures during your entire camping trip. Be very aware of the weather and make sure your pup is protected.


What types of activities are you interested in while you are camping with your pup? Other than hanging out relaxing around a campfire, the most popular activity is getting out and walking. Whether that means an easy nature walk or a rigorous uphill hike, check to see what's available in the area you're heading to, and make sure you are aware of any restrictions or regulations regarding pets. Assume that most of them will require a 6ft leash!

Some campgrounds are close enough to water that swimming will be an option for your pup! First, make sure your dog can indeed swim. Most dogs can, but some breeds struggle more than others. Next, think about how you'll handle a soaking wet dog at camp! It will vary quite a bit depending on your setup.

You may be considering taking part in some non-dog activities during your time camping. What will you do with your dog? Leaving them alone is not advisable. If you do, make sure they can't escape whatever enclosure you leave them in, and be extremely mindful of the weather and temperature.

Before you embark on your first camping trip, take some time to teach your dog a few simple commands. The most helpful of all is recall: coming when called. A good foundation of recall training can literally save your dog's life! Some other commands your dog should know are Sit, Wait, Inside, and Outside.

Food can be a big deal or a non-issue depending on what your dog usually eats. If you're feeding a large dog a raw diet, you may have some trouble with the logistics. If your dog just eats dry kibble, it's a little easier to manage. Make sure you bring what they are already used to in order to avoid upset tummies. GI trouble at camp is no fun! If your dog's current food is too much trouble to fool with and you'd like to switch, start adjusting them to a new routine a couple weeks before your trip to avoid a shock to his system. Consider using dehydrated food on your camping trips if weight is an issue. Similarly, collapsible bowls are also great if you're short on space. Separate and pack individually the meals out ahead of time for easy prep at the campground. When you feed your dog at camp, be sure not to leave it out unattended! This is a welcome invitation to the campground-savvy critters who already know they can score some goodies.

If it's going to be hot at all, your pup will need some shade! Make this a priority. Find some natural shade, use a shelter, or both. 10x10 canopies are popular with campers, as are all kinds of versions of screen tents.

First Aid

We highly recommend bringing a first aid kit along with you. Here are some items that frequently come in handy:


Triple Antibiotic Ointment
Non-Stick Gauze Pads
Self-Adhesive Wrap
Disposable Gloves
Small Multitool
Soft Muzzle
Extra Treats
Nylon Slip Lead (like you'll find in vet's office)
Extra Meds (if your dog regularly takes daily meds)
Benadryl (for bug bites and allergies)
Anti-Anxiety Meds (if your dog can get nervous)

Be sure to check with your vet for any other suggestions!

Other Things To Bring

In addition to your normal camping gear and a good first aid kit, here are a few more items to bring:

Brush (if you have a long-haired dog)

Toys (one that squeaks to use for an emergency recall)
Baby wipes
Small tarp
Dog bed
Vaccination information
Bug prevention
Extra leash
Extra towels
Extra water (if it won't be readily available)

Weather Dependent:
In hot weather, less is more. You can use a soaker coat in dry climates and if there's enough water available to keep it wet. In cold weather, make sure you bring extra blankets and a heavy coat for your dog if he has a short hair coat. In wet weather, bring extra towels for drying off!

When you arrive at camp, the first order of business should be to take your pup on a walk. This helps relieve some pent-up energy from the drive there. It also gets him acclimated to the new surroundings. Once you've taken a sufficient stroll, set up your dog's area. Once he's contained, you'll have free hands to set up the rest of camp. The more you camp with your pup, the more he'll get used to it and learn that camping is super fun.

Make sure you don't make some of these common camping mistakes! Consider your neighbors and be courteous.

DON'T leave your dog alone.

DON'T let your dog bark incessantly.

DON'T leave poo for others to step in. Pick it up!

DON'T let your dog wander.

DON'T let your dog chase wildlife.

Are you taking your dog camping this season? Do you have any tips to add? Share in the comments! And let's see your pictures! Tag us @CritterBoutique on Facebook and Instagram.




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