Dog Camping Rules & Laws

The growing popularity of dogs is leading more places to open access to allow dogs. It is important to be respectful of others’ safety and consideration when bringing your dog camping.

Failure to follow rules and laws about dogs may results in fines or even removal from the grounds.

However, there are times and places where it may be dangerous or inconvenient to allow dogs and not all people are dog lovers. Unfortunately, not all dog owners are responsible owners who properly train or vaccinate their dogs either. This leads to a bad rap for responsible owners.

We will break down each of these rules, what to look for, and how to ensure you and your dog are compliant.

For a complete guide to camping with your dog, click here.

Common rules to look for:

  • Are dogs permitted or limited to certain areas
  • Maximum leash or line length
  • Picking up after your dog
  • Quiet Hours
  • Building Access
  • Trail Access
  • Beach Access
Image by Ivan Ilijas

Are Dogs Permitted?

Dogs are permitted in many public park campgrounds such as those at national and state parks. This is not a bright lined rule and there are exceptions. Approximately 14 National Parks do not permit dogs for camping or day use.  

Rules are subject to change as more dog users bring dogs camping with them. For example, dogs used to be permitted on Isle Royale but were a safety risk to island wildlife. Dogs are no longer permitted in Isle Royale National Park.

Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine Forest Southern Unit has five campgrounds which all permit dogs. However, one of those campgrounds, Pinewoods, has a designated loop of approximate 20 campsites where dogs are not allowed.

Look for posted rules or laws about bringing your dog camping with you on the campground, DNR’s, or park’s website. Additional guidelines may be posted on a trail or park basis.

Action Steps:

  1. Confirm whether dogs are permitted in the park or area you plan on visiting
  2. Confirm whether are permitted in your campsite, not just the campground

Here are the links to common camping and parks’ Dog Policies and Rules:

National Parks Dog Rules

Michigan State Park Laws

Wisconsin State Park laws

KOA Dog Rules

Keep Your Dog Under Your Control

The primary rule of bringing your dog camping with you is that your dog be under your control at all times. Ensuring your dog stays under your control is for both your safety, and other’s enjoyment of the park.

Having your dog under your control means your dog is unable to approach others, wander from your campsite or general area, bother wildlife, or be in a scenario where the dog may cause harm to property, people, or animals. 

Many parks and campgrounds ensure your dog remains under your control by listing a maximum leash or tie line length.  

Leash and Tie Line

Leash and tie line requirements apply to all your uses within the park, including trails and campgrounds.

  • National Parks maximum leash length:  6’ (2M)
  • Wisconsin State Parks maximum leash length: 8’
  • Michigan State Parks maximum leash length: 6’
  • KOA (Kampgrounds of America) maximum leash length: 6’

Action Steps:

  1. Know your park or campground’s maximum leash length (check out some tie line camping hacks from experts)
  2. Bring and use a compliant tie line, anchor, and leash for your dog
Image by Lance Grandahl

Pick up After Your Dog

Picking up after your dog has two meanings when camping with your dog. It means the traditional picking up after your dog’s bathroom breaks, and to keep your dog’s food and bowls away from wildlife.

Camping and hiking with your dog does not mean owners get a day off from pick up their dog’s poop. For the enjoyment of parks, clean campgrounds, and the safety of wildlife it is important to clean up after your dog when camping.

Dog food, kibble and canned food alike, attracts wildlife. Putting your dog’s food in a bear safe container and cleaning the dog’s food bowl after each use helps keep dangerous and unwanted wildlife from campgrounds.

Action Steps:

  1. Pack extra poop bags with you when you go camping
  2. Pick up after your dog’s potty breaks
  3. Store your dog’s food in a wildlife proof container when camping
  4. Clean up your dog’s food bowl after each use and store it in a wildlife proof location
Image by Yuki Dog

Dogs & Quiet Hours

Quiet hours ensure campers can have quiet enjoyment of a campground in the overnight hours. A barking dog during quiet hours may lead to a fine for the owner, or possible removal from the campground.

If your dog is a barker, or easily excited or scared, your dog may not be an ideal camping companion. Uncontrollable barking may be a sign of fear or discomfort for your dog and a barking dog is unpleasant for everyone, owners and other campers alike.

if you have an anxious dog, they may not be ideal for camping. If you are camping with a puppy who is not trained yet, check out the guide to camping with your puppy.

Where does your dog sleep? Your dog should sleep wherever you do, likely in a tent, vehicle or RV. For a complete guide to camping with dogs, go here.

Action Steps:

  1. Be familiar with what causes your dog to bark
  2. Know how to prevent and reduce your dog’s barking during quiet hours
Image by Daniel Nettesheim

Dogs in Buildings, Picnic Areas, and Playgrounds

Generally, dogs are not permitted in public buildings unless specifically stated otherwise. Common public buildings dogs are not permitted include the park’s ranger station, your campground’s restroom building, or even a day use picnic area.

Dogs may not be left alone at most parks and campgrounds. This is for your dog’s safety and wellbeing. If your camping plans include going somewhere your dog cannot go with you, make plans for someone to stay with your dog or take your dog to a dog daycare or pet lodge.

  • Wisconsin DNR- Dogs are not allowed in any public buildings except designated pet friendly picnic areas.
  • Michigan DNR- Dogs are not allowed in public buildings except designated pet friendly lodging. Posted rules do not note if dogs are permitted in picnic areas and playgrounds. Confirm with your park’s DNR.
  • National Parks- Dogs are not allowed in any public buildings; there may be park by park exceptions.
  • KOA- Dogs are not permitted in buildings or shared areas like playgrounds.

Action Steps:

  1. Review how pet friendly your planned activities are
  2. Confirm your dog is able to stay with you and if not, make accommodations
Image by Stephen Goldberg

Dogs on Hiking Trails

At most state parks, like those in Wisconsin and Michigan, all hiking trails are presumed dog-friendly unless otherwise stated. The few exceptions are designated Nature Trails and ski trails. Dogs are not permitted on Nature Trails at any time and most ski trails during skiing season.

National Parks vary in their rules for dogs on hiking trails and certain areas. Check your

While many hiking trails across the nation are dog-friendly, dog-friendly does not mean the route is free from ticks or harmful wildlife. Ensure your dog is under your control at all times and take steps to prevent ticks and fleas from coming home with you.

Action Steps:

  1. Confirm hiking trails are dog friendly before walking
  2. Keep your dog’s flea and tick medication up to date
  3. Learn how to do a tick check and remove ticks from your dog if necessary
Image by Andrew Pons

Dogs on Beaches

Unlike hiking trails, beaches are presumed not to be dog-friendly unless stated otherwise. Having dogs on swimming beaches is health code violation and an easy way got owners to get ticketed.

Your dog must remain under your control on the permitted leash length when on a dog-friendly beach. Your dog is not able to run or swim freely off leash.

Michigan State Parks offer many designated dog-friendly beaches. You can find the list here

Wisconsin State Parks have designated dog-friendly beaches. You can find the list here.

National Park Shorelines vary in having dog-friendly beaches.

Action Steps:

  1. Confirm if the park you will be at has a dog-friendly beach and stay in the designated areas
  2. Keep your dog on the designed leash length while at dog-friendly beaches