The Wild Life: 9 Tips for Camping with Your Canine Companion

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What dog doesn’t like to camp? Fresh air! Squirrels! Long hikes! It’s a dog’s dream come true.

Or so I thought.

The first time we took our dog Mayzie camping, she was utterly and completely miserable. It rained. She was eaten up by biting gnats. She got stickers in her paws. With woe etched on her face, her eyes beseechingly asked, “What have I done to deserve this?”

So we bought her a travel trailer. (Okay, we didn’t buy it just for her. But she probably played a bigger role in it that we would like to admit.)

The good news is that you don’t have to buy your dogs a snazzy new travel trailer to make camping fun and safe for them. Here are a few basic tips for enjoying the great outdoors with your canine companions:

  1. Keep your daily routine as much as possible. Most dogs thrive on predictability, and a change in their routine can be stressful. So try to stick to their normal feeding and walking schedule as closely as you can. It will help them relax and enjoy themselves if they realize that the most important things in life haven’t changed.
  2. Bring water from home. Even if you typically fill up on water at your campsite, it’s a good idea to provide your dogs with the water they’re used to drinking. This helps avoid gastric upset and unpleasant trips outside in the middle of the night.
  3. Keep them contained in the campground. Most responsible dog owners don’t allow their pets to run up and down the street at home. Yet set them down in the middle of a bunch of trees and many lose all common sense. Keeping your dogs contained at your site — whether on a tie-down or in a crate or ex-pen — ensures their safety and allows other campers to enjoy their surroundings sans dog if they wish.
  4. If your dogs are barkers, don’t leave them alone in your camper. Nothing ruins the peace and quiet of a campground faster than the non-stop barking, whining and howling of dogs who’ve been left behind for hours while their owners go sightseeing. At the very least, leave your number with the camp host so they can call if the dogs are being disruptive or if there’s an emergency.
  5. Don’t let them harass wildlife. Allowing your dog to chase deer, elk or bears is not only dangerous for your dog and the animal it’s chasing — it ruins things for other dog owners. Most national parks and many state parks don’t allow dogs on the trails in order to protect the wildlife. Imagine how many more hiking opportunities would open up if dog owners were more responsible. Which leads me to my next point…
  6. Pick up after your dog.  Yes, bears and mountain lions poop in the woods but guess what? They live there. Your dog doesn’t. Pick it up and pack it out.
  7. Take copies of vet records. Should you have to visit an out-of-town vet, it will save time and frustration to have these handy. At the very least, make sure you have copies of recent vaccination records and the names of any medications your pets are currently taking.
  8. Make them comfortable. The whole point of camping is to spend time outdoors, but we also want to be comfortable. That’s why my hubby and I have nice, big camp chairs that we can sink into and relax while reading a book. That’s also why we have designated beds and blankets for the dogs to curl up on. Sure, sometimes they decide to stretch out in the grass or lie in the dirt but at least they have the choice.
  9. Buy them a snazzy new travel trailer. Again, not a necessity. But if you absolutely must have it, who am I to stop you?

Your turn. Do you have any additional tips or tricks for camping with your dogs?

Amber Carlton is a freelance blogger and business writer specializing in the pet industry. Owned by two dogs and two cats, she is affectionately (?) known as the crazy pet-lady amongst her friends and family. Connect with her at Comma Hound Copywriting, on Twitter or at Mayzie’s Dog Blog.

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