I haven’t ever camped with a dog, but I know its super popular. What would be your tips for people camping with their pets for the first time?
First thing, please honor rules that require dogs be on leash, or dog restricted areas. There are both safety and environmental reasons areas may have these postings that have nothing to do with “safe” dogs.
E coli, parasites, bacteria are introduced into fragile ecosystems when dogs run free and defecate. Loose dogs chase wildlife, disrupt bird nesting areas, and often do it without the owners being aware. That being said, there are places that dogs can be off leash, but out of consideration for other campers, the campground may not be the place. Because your dog may be friendly doesn’t mean other dogs can handle them. Or people. Some of us have had horrible experiences and the fear is real.
Also, a free dog at night can end up meeting a skunk (believe me, the entire campground will hate you), or worse, a porcupine, feisty raccoon or coyote.
A dog that barks at every passing person, shadow or noise is wearing on the nerves.
So, now that I sound grumpy: I have a dog who is an excellent camper. She is quiet, enjoys exploring, but is a sight hound so letting her run freely is rare…always something to chase in the wild, including skunks and very angry campers.
Enjoy your dog, but PLEASE be considerate of both other people, dogs, and the environment.
We loved having our dogs along camping. In addition to the great info above I’ll add a piece of equipment we used.
A dog run. Super easy to make and allows freedom while still keeping control. A 3’ piece of rope with a spring clip on one one (to clip to the collar or harness) and a ring on the other (to slide along a length of rope). Thread this onto a long piece of rope that is staked down on both ends in your site (you can give them as much or as little room as is appropriate) and your dog has freedom but with limits.
Definitely a “shake down” night however you plan to camp; like set up a tent in the yard or somewhere close by to try one night and figure out what makes the dog at ease and comfortable. If backpacking, and the dog is capable, training them to wear their own backpack and carry their own food and treats is also nice.
Training them to not bark at other dogs and people is also really helpful, but that might take a while to counter condition that behavior. I highly recommend it for more than camping though, it certainly makes life with a dog more enjoyable!
I first started camping with my dog when she was a puppy, she absolutely loves it! Although she is sleeping bag stealer
Make sure you have a supply of poop pick up bags, a headlamp for nighttime trips out and do not leave your dog tied up when you are not on your on site.
Another thought to add, make sure your dog is ok with weather changes. We have gone from 104 to 38 in one day. Our boxer doesn’t regulate well so we keep extra coats on hand and watch her for overheating. Kudos on poop bags! Love the dog run set-up. Also, some quick stops aren’t dog friendly and if its hot… no leaving them in the car for a market dash or lunch. And, even though my Sofi is great camping, sometimes it’s really nice not having to deal with a dog. Def more freedom.
We camp and hike with a dachshund, so other than the already given advice, something that smells familiar to your dog (like bedding) and in the case of a dog small enough to fit on your lap, be prepared to share your chairs, or get them something to sit on.
Also, make sure you have plenty of food that they love!
Be patient and let your dog adjust to the idea. The first night we eve camped with ours, she kept us up nervously pacing back and forth across the tent because she heard the frogs in the lake then mysteriously started whining at what turned out to be a raccoon exploring our campsite.
Fast forward a few years, and she is super chill and excited to be a part of the crew.
It does take some more planning if you are in hot weather or visiting parks that don’t allow dogs on the trails. We will look for kennels in town if we really want to do hikes there, or else stick to State Parks and National Forests where she can hike with us.
We have taken our dogs with us camping for 40 years, first in a tent, then pop up and now a hybrid travel trailer. We have had up to 3 dogs with us at times.
Most of the basics are already covered here in other comments.
(Leash, clean up after them, control the barking, etc.)
I would add to be sure your dogs get plenty of exercise. They will sleep better - which is good for everyone.
Able, be careful when approaching other dogs camping. Some may not play well With others in new surroundings.
As a side note, the National Park Service recently started a Bark Ranger program for canine visitors.
It is not Yet at all of the NPS units.
This is great advice. We always have our on their leashes. Ours are old lady veteran campers so are mellow and well behaved.
All this advice is great. I would also add that stay super alert to fellow campers as many do not put their dogs on leashes and allow their pets to run up to your own. There are also places like some beaches and parks that do not allow animals at all. We travel full time with 3 dogs and a bunny and the number one worry is loose dogs because our old lady Hazel does not like other dogs at all. We boondock mostly and you’d be surprised how in the middle of nowhere a loose dog will come bounding into your campsite, usually met by the owner saying “its ok he’s friendly”…but one of mine is not. If you have a little dog which one of ours is a handy thing to get is a coyote vest. It looks ridiculous but give peace of mind. Coyotes will lure dogs away by playing and lead them to the pack. I guy we met had to run after his dog that was being lured away by a coyote that came right up behind his RV out of nowhere. And then there are chollas, ticks and all things poop that dogs love.
Late post, but we camp with 2 small dogs and have learned a few tricks.
They are super-used to the comforts of home; they mostly spend their days laying in the sun and on the couch.
Bringing a cheap moving blanket that can be thrown on the the ground in the community space has really eased their anxiety. For some reason, being able to lay on the cloth makes a difference than the dirt. Helps with keeping the tent, food bowls and water dish clean, too. It also makes a great clean, landing pad if you brought their beds from home.
Ditto on the dog run- just make sure to string it out of the general footpath. I like to tether ours somewhere high far out, but low near the opening of the tent so I can let them out easy for night time potty breaks (make sure you have a block spot so they can wander too far out in the night- a second loop and string for this specific task can do wonders. You can use carabiners and paracord to set this up easy. I use carabiners to clip to their harnesses. If you have multiple pets, a swivel system can work wonders to keep from dog-wander tangle.