Secrets to Successfully Camping With Dogs

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tips for camping with dogs
Photo credit: Kelly Beasley

Did you know the 2019 North American Camping Report found there are over 78 million U.S. households containing someone who camps? Plus, a 2019-2020 survey by The American Pet Products Association concluded that 63.4 million U.S. households own one or more dogs! You can’t ignore the popularity of camping and dogs.

We are a household that camps with our dog! And every time we do, we thoroughly prepare for a safe, fun and enjoyable outdoor adventure.

Is Your Dog Ready To Go Camping?

Upon dreaming of your favorite camping destination, ask yourself if your dog is ready to join you. An untrained, constantly barking, anxious or aggressive dog is not ready.

Cricket, our dog, needed a little work. Although she wasn’t a barker, she didn’t know any basic obedience when we adopted her. We had some work to do and training the basics like “sit” and “stay” wasn’t enough.

Our training protocol consisted of teaching Cricket to walk nicely on a leash, to be quiet when asked, and to come to us when called. She is not great at coming to us yet, so for her safety we keep her on a leash at all times. Besides, many places we stay require dogs to be on a leash anyway.

Not every person loves camping and the same goes for dogs. If your dog is anxious or aggressive, neither you nor your dog will have any fun.

Cricket loves every person and every dog, so this has not been a problem for us. But if it is for you, leave your dog with his favorite dog-sitter. It will be what’s best for everyone.

follow leash laws when camping
Photo Credit: Erick Young

Are All Camping Destinations Dog Friendly?

Not all places we want to camp are dog friendly. We have to find out what the rules are for any RV park or campground before we arrive. Because we also like to boondock, this includes reading dog-specific regulations for any dispersed camping areas on public lands.

Campgrounds and RV parks require dogs to be on a leash at all times and never left unattended at your campsite. In many National Parks, dogs are only allowed in parking lots, some campgrounds, or on paved hiking trails so they don’t disturb the wildlife.

We use Campendium’s advanced filtering features to find places our dog can go. Simply start with a text search, click on More Filters, and scroll down to Policy. Under Policy select the box next to Pets Ok. After that, select your location and always call ahead to confirm that your dog can join you.

Finding out the regulations once you arrive could lead to a big disappointment and some last-minute scrambling to find a new place to stay. That’s a stressful way to start a camping trip.

camping gear for dogs
Photo credit: Jeannie Dees

What Gear Do I Bring For My Dog?

Over the years, I’ve learned that dog-specific camping gear is similar whether you’re camping in a tent or an RV. A few minor adjustments to your regular camping checklist and you can be ready to spend time with your dog in the great outdoors.

Here’s the gear we take when we bring our dog.

  • Pet first aid kit that includes antiseptic, vet wrap, tweezers, a tick removal tool, and popsicle sticks that can be used as a splint
  • Cricket’s vaccine records
  • A current photo of Cricket with a list of emergency contacts
  • Collar or harness; we include both
  • Identification tags with a current phone number and/or emergency contact number attached to the collar or harness
  • Sleeping pad or bed
  • Food and water bowls; lightweight, collapsible bowls are great for tent camping and hiking
  • Enough food and water for the duration of our trip, plus a little extra
  • Cricket’s favorite treats
  • A 4 ft. to 6 ft. leash; many campgrounds do not allow dogs to be walked on leashes longer than that
  • Long line or portable pen; keeps Cricket from wandering away from camp
  • LED collar or tag for night time potty breaks
  • Poop bags used to clean up after Cricket
  • Dog booties or paw wax to protect our dog’s paws from rough terrain
  • A brush to remove unwanted debris from Cricket’s coat
  • A jacket for cool nights and/or cooling pad for hot days
  • Cricket’s favorite toy

More Questions About Camping With Dogs

Camping with dogs is like second nature to me. As an adult, I decided how I wanted to camp with them. Here are the questions I had and the tips that worked for me. Although your answers may vary from mine, it’s a good idea to ask the questions so you can customize your camping trip around your and your dog’s needs.

Where should my dog sleep?

We bring a dog bed that Cricket sleeps on during the day and on warm nights. On nights that are cold, we allow her to sleep with us since she only has a one-layer coat and can’t keep warm enough without our help. Others bring a cozy, dog-sized sleeping bag for their camping dog.

Photo credit: 188sqft

What do you do to entertain your dog while camping?

According to The Wilderness Society, hiking is one of the top five most popular outdoor activities. Why not take your dog with you?

Be sure to bring some food, a water bottle and a lightweight, collapsible bowl specifically for your dog. If the hike is in colder weather, bring a jacket for your dog. In warmer weather, bring a cooling vest or collar since overheating can be very dangerous for his health.

Unless off-leash use is clearly stated, keep your dog leashed. Be aware that many states and counties enforce leash laws. Plus it’s good trail etiquette along with picking up your dog’s waste.

I want to take a day trip. Can I leave my dog alone at camp?

Most RV parks and campgrounds allow dogs to be left inside of an RV but not in a tent. A tent is simply not secure enough and dogs can get loose, lost or hurt by wildlife.

If you leave your RV without your dog, keep him safe from extreme temperatures by using a temperature monitoring system. These alert you if temperatures get dangerously hot or cold inside of your RV while you’re away.

Even with a temperature monitoring system, you can’t venture far. If you think you can’t get back in time to rescue your dog, either do not leave without him or take him to a dog daycare facility instead.

dog in front of airstream
Photo credit: Aluminarium

Have Fun

You’ve packed all the essentials, picked the perfect camping spot, and planned your dog’s adventures.

It’s time to get out there and enjoy the great outdoors with your best friend.