Camping with Your Dog

Camping with dogs can be an exciting and memorable time for you both. For the dog’s safety, it is important to be familiar with the unique rules and situations you may encounter while outdoors.

This guide will cover rules and what to expect, camping gear and safety, activities to do with your dog when camping, training your dog for camping, as well as weather hazards to be prepared for.

Camping with a puppy? Here is the puppy specific camping guide.

Rules for Camping with Dogs

Nearly every campground, park, and outdoor area will have rule about dogs. From county parks to National Parks, the popularity for bringing dogs camping is growing and rules do apply.

Failure to comply with the rules could result in a fine, or removal from the park or campground.

Rules can be found on the park or campground website and often include any additional requirements and limitations. Do not assume dogs are permitted at the campground, park, or trail.

Some parks allow dogs in the campgrounds, but not on trails or beaches. Other parks may be 100% dog-friendly or have designated dog-friendly areas. Dogs are not permitted on beaches unless the beach is designated as dog-friendly.

Learn more about dog camping and park rules.

Leash & Tie Line for Dogs

If dogs are permitted where you are camping, a maximum leash and tie line length may be listed in the rules. When camping with dogs, be sure the dogs are under control and on a leash at all times.

Having a dog off leash not only violates the rules, is also increases the chances of your dog wandering off or encountering wildlife.

Tie lines are also know as dog anchors, dog hitch, or dog tie out. They all refer to a way to tether your dog on a line and attach the line to a stake or heavy item like your picnic table.

Poop Bags!

Camping with dogs does not mean unlimited poops. Dog waste can carry diseases harmful to the local area and wildlife, and may attract rats. Have dog poop bags on hand when camping.

Campgrounds and parks often have rules requiring owners bag and remove their dog’s poo, too. Pack extra poop bags to ensure you stay compliant.

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How Often Does the Dog Bark?

Dogs bark at things that scare them and excite them. Camping with a dog can be full of exciting and scary things and it is important to know whether your pup is likely to bark.

Having an anxious dog constantly barking during a camping trip may cause complaints and fines, and will decrease the enjoyment of the outdoors. It will also mean a stressful camping trip for both you and the dog.

Notice if your dog barks at common wildlife around your home like squirrels, bunnies, or birds. If the dog is anxious at home, begin training to familiarize them and calm them around common outdoor creatures before taking them camping.

Dog Training for Camping

It is important your pup be familiar with basic commands before you go camping with a dog. Campgrounds are full of sounds, smells, and sights that will distract dogs and may lead them to danger.

The three most important training lessons to be familiar with before going camping with dogs are recall, leave it, and leash training. Familiarity with each of these commands can impact how safe and comfortable you will be camping with dogs.

Recall Command

Should a dog get loose it is important to be able to retrieve them quickly. No one wants a lost dog.

The recall command may be important when a dog is on leash or tie line too. Should wildlife, like a skunk or raccoon, enter a campground, you will want to quickly call the dog away from the animal and know they will respond accordingly.

Leave It Command

Dog may encounter things you do not want them smelling or licking when camping together, such as wildlife, muddy or dangerous ground, or food and trash from previous campers. A dog constantly stopping to smell things on a hike will also become annoying and ruin the walk.

Being familiar with the leave it command before going camping together can ensure the dog stays away from danger and doesn’t disrupt the enjoyment of the outdoors.

If wildlife or something dangerous is in the campground or crosses your path, you may not be close enough to the dog to pull them back safely. Suddenly pulling on a dog’s leash or collar can be scary and dangerous for the dog.

The best way to ensure a dog will leave something dangerous alone is for them to be familiar with the leave it command.

Leash Training

Dogs must always be on leash when camping. If a dog constantly pulls on the tie line or leash during a camping trip, they could cause themselves injury or pull themselves loose.

Should something exiting cross your path, you do not want the dog to unexpectedly pull the leash from your hand or pull the tie line from the ground. Dogs may get lost or run into danger if they pull themselves loose.

Pulling on a leash or tie line also puts pressure on a dog’s neck or chest. Regular pulling could cause injury to the dog’s trachea.

Practice leash training at home before going camping to know how your dog behaves when tempted by distractions and how they react when frightened.  

Dog Camping Gear Essentials

Gear essentials for taking a dog camping are similar to the essentials needed at home. Dogs require food, water, and shelter when camping.

Having two outdoor friendly bowls, one for food and one for water, and providing the dog shelter with a dog bed are the priorities when camping with dogs.

Where does your dog sleep? It is dangerous for a dog to sleep outside when camping. The elements of rain and temperature may harm the dog, and wildlife often hunts at night.

Because the dog will be tied down on a leash or tie line, they cannot escape danger that may come in the overnight hours.

Whenever possible, dogs should sleep in the same tent or shelter as the humans. If this is not possible, provide the dog with its own shelter.

Don’t forget a tether and stake (also known as a tie line, tie out, or dog anchor) for your dog as well as extra poop bags, to stay in compliance with rules and laws.

Here’s a full list of dog camping gear.

Camping Activities with Dogs

There are many adventures dogs can have camping. Form hiking and biking, or lounging and swimming there are plenty of fun memories to make together. Knowing what you want to do or try can help you prepare and have the right gear for the activity.

All Activities

No matter which outdoor activities you and your furry friend plan on undertaking together, it is important to pack essential dog gear and protect a dog’s paws.

Dog paws are bare feet. While dog paws handle the outdoors better than bare human feet, paws can get injured and sore on long hikes or rough terrain.

The shape, size and claws of a dog will vary based on its breed.

Extreme temps of hot or cold can cause long term damage to a dog’s paws, especially on asphalt, rocks, or concrete. Mud and burrs may cause general discomfort for you both.

Consider whether the planned activities require protecting the dog’s paws and get them the dog booties for the activity and terrain. Allow the dog to become familiar with the shoes and protectors while at home. Not all dogs are comfortable having their paws touched or walking in shoes.

All dog owners should pack extra water, a water bowl, and snacks for their dog for all activities. 

If your activity requires a lot of gear, a dog pack may be helpful. Get a pack that is designed to fit your dog and know how much weight is safe and comfortable for them to handle.

Hiking While Camping with Dogs

Hikes vary in length and terrain. How long are your dog walks at home and how does that compare to the hike you are planning?

Knowing how long your hike will be and how well a dog handles long walks will help you prepare.

If your hike will have elevation changes, steps, or rocks, a hands free dog leash will help you keep your balance and hands free. Your dog’s size and leg height may impact their ability to climb rocks and steps.

Shorter and smaller dogs exert more energy to keep up with humans because of their shorter legs. If you have a smaller dog, or dog not familiar with long walks, you may want a dog carrying backpack for the portion of the trail they cannot complete themselves.

Biking and Trail Riding with a Dog

Love riding your bike outdoors? Does your pup know how to keep up with you?  

Smaller dogs and dogs with shorter legs, may not be able to keep up with the speed of a bike. Consider installing a dog basket on your bike and placing the dog inside.  

How comfortable is your dog in a bike basket? A dog trying to jump out mid ride where may result in injury. Familiarizing dogs with bike riding, speed, and the basket while at home may reduce the unexpected when camping.

If the dog is larger and able to keep up with your bike, a hands free bike leash will keep the dog at a safe distance from your wheels and gears.

Canoeing and Boating with a Dog

If you plan on taking a dog near water, it is imperative to know if the dog can swim before taking off.

While many dogs can instinctively swim, not all dogs can swim. Don’t assume your dog knows how to swim and familiarize them with water ahead of time. Dogs unfamiliar with water and swimming may panic when put in water and not all dog’s body shapes allow them to be swimmers.

Dog Lifejacket

If a dog does not know how to swim, do not take them near large bodies of water or get them a lifejacket. Select a lifejacket meant for the dog’s weight and size.

If you get a dog lifejacket, familiarize the dog with the jacket ahead of time so they feel safe and comfortable when wearing it. If the dog panics while in a life jacket, they may not be the best companion for water activities.

Dogs that can swim should also wear life jackets when on boats. Currents, waves, and the distance from shore may impact how well a dog fares in the water. Just like with humans, swimming can be exhausting and a lifejacket may save the dog’s life.

Learn about dog safety when doing activities

Towel

Dogs can get cold, dirty, and smelly when they are wet. If you plan on doing water activities, bring a towel designated for the dog.

Common Wildlife

There is common wildlife everywhere that while smaller than your dog, may act defensibly in a way that can harm your dog. Snakes may bite, skunks may spray, porcupines may strike.

These types of encounters may ruin your camping trip and lead to unwanted vet visits.

Before you go camping with your dog, be familiar with how your dog may react if faced with the common wildlife in your area. Will your dog chase it, or generally leave it alone? How well would your dog’s recall command work in a similar scenario?

Wildlife Predators and Dogs

Some wildlife may be dangerous to dogs and dog owners should be aware of which predators they may face when camping with dogs.

Predators may come from the sky as well as land. Large birds may carry smaller and younger dogs off thinking they are a tasty meal. Coyotes and bears are not afraid of leashed dogs no matter how loud your dog barks.

Research the wildlife that calls your campground home and have a game plan should the dog encounter any. Most wildlife is afraid of humans, but not all. If the dog’s safety is at risk, put them inside your tent or vehicle until the danger passes.

More dog safety tips

Bugs That Love Dogs

The number one outdoor nuisance to humans is bugs. While bugs are generally a bother for humans, they may be harmful or even fatal to dogs.

If a dog is bit by a mosquito carrying the Dirofilaria immitis parasite, it may lead to heartworms which could be fatal, according to the American Heartworm Society.

Fleas and ticks are common in the outdoors and can latch onto dogs from other animals, or low-lying brush and grasses.

Heartworms, fleas, and ticks can also spread to humans causing discomfort and illnesses like Lyme disease. 

Thankfully, all these pests and diseases are preventative. It is important for both the dog’s and your safety that the pup receive monthly flea and tick medication, as well as heartworm preventative, before camping with dogs.

The Weather

A dogs’ ability to feel comfortable in various temperatures will vary based on their breed history and fur type. Shorter hair and wired hair dogs may fair better in warmer climates, but get cold in temps as high as 60 degrees. Long haired dogs may overheat in 80+ degree weather, but feel comfortable in winter camping.

To prevent overheating, consider bringing a cooling buff for the dog, or decreasing activity in hotter temperatures.

If a dog is sensitive to cool temps, bring them a water resistant jacket and paw protectors to help them retain their body heat and keep off cold surfaces.

In all cases, have a place for the dog to rest that is waterproof on the bottom and has the appropriate air circulation and cushion to either cool or warm up the dog based on their individual needs.

Check out great weather gear for your dog.

Emergency Protocol for Dogs

From a hurt paw, to a battle with wildlife, the outdoors can bring the unknown. Emergencies may happen when camping with a dog. It is best to be prepared with proper information and first aid.

Research the closest vet office and the closest 24-hour animal hospital to the campsite and save the information in your mobile device. Cell phone and Wi-Fi signal can be minimal near campgrounds and in remote locations, so make sure the information is accessible offline.

Have the dog’s medical records and vaccinations saved to a mobile device too in case the local vet needs to review them. 

Have a dog first aid kit with you for minor wound dressing and bug removal. Be prepared to carry your dog to safety if they are injured away from the campground, like on a hiking trail.

Learn more about dog safety when camping.