Camping With Dogs

Camping is a great way to take a break from work and busy schedules while having a chance to swim, hike, and hang out in the woods; for many dogs, this sounds like an ideal outing! Some of our dogs would like nothing better than to run around in the brush, finding interesting things to sniff and roll in. In the warm season, camping is an excellent bonding activity, and a lot of fun! Not all dogs would be thrilled to be in the woods though: Reef, our Pit Bull, was slightly horrified when we took her to Vermont last summer. She tried to sit on the picnic table instead of the ground the entire time, and missed sleeping on the pillows of our bed during the day. So know your dog; if you have the kind of dog who will enjoy the outdoors, it’s sure to be a blast for both of you!

Dog-friendly campgrounds almost universally require that your dog be kept leash (max. length ranges from 6-10 feet) at all times; that you pick up after your dog; that your dog stay quiet and non-aggressive. Most prohibit pets from being in certain communal and day-use areas. All will require proof of current rabies vaccination. All pretty basic guidelines, right? Some additional tips, gleaned from our experiences, to make your trip run smoothly:

  • Bring leashes of different lengths- you’ll want your usual walking leash, but also something longer for tying your pup to something at the campsite. And yes, it is important to keep your dog attached in some way at your campsite, for his safety and comfort as much as anyone else’s (never leave your dog tethered without supervision). If you plan on being in the water at all, bring a longer cotton or nylon lead for that purpose.

  • Remember a dog towel or two. Even if there’s no swimming activity, he’s sure to get dirty sooner or later and you’ll probably want to rinse him off at some point.

  • Cleaning up after your dog is important, even in the woods. Imagine this: you’re in the middle of a peaceful nature walk, and your pooch finds something delightful (to her) on the ground to roll in. Before you can stop her, she’s covered in dung that might have been left behind by someone else’s dog. Having to wash a dog off after they’ve discovered another animal’s waste is not pleasant. Additionally, dog waste is not natural to the environment, since they are domesticated animals, and will have harmful effects.

  • On that note, consider keeping your dog on lead even while hiking in an isolated area. There’s always a chance of encountering other people dogs; also, there are poison ivy, toxic mushrooms, stinging insects, etc. to consider. If you have a thoroughly trained dog that will stay close to you and come immediately, you can probably get away with letting him run free. Otherwise, be sensible and keep him leashed.

  • Keep your dog’s feeding schedule as close to normal as possible, and bring her usual food. Interruptions in diet will give her an upset stomach. Resist giving her human-food treats, and make sure your scraps are not left out for her to find on her own. Keep her food in an air-tight container and don’t leave any of her leftovers out either.

  • Bring a first-aid kit, and know how to use the items in it. Also, find out where the closest emergency vet is, in case you need to make a trip there.

  • Be prepared for the exposure to fleas, ticks, mosquitoes (which carry Lyme disease in some parts of the country), etc. There are a number of different preventive methods- we use Frontline and Sentinel seasonally. Talk to your vet beforehand about the specific region you’ll be camping in, to make sure your pet is protected against all pertinent insects/worms.

  • Bring some toys, chews, etc. You might want to leave the favorite stuffie at home, if your dog has one. Stuffed toys hold odor and are harder to clean. While you may spend most of your time being active, remember that what level of physical activity your dog is used to and give him time to rest too.

  • Bring enough drinking water for your dog too. Don’t give her any water you wouldn’t drink yourself.

Please be realistic with yourself about your dog’s behaviors. If he is a barker, consider how disruptive that will be (and that noise disruption may result in a campground asking you to leave). If he is ever human- or dog- aggressive, be prepared to handle potential encounters and effectively control him. If you aren’t 100% capable of keeping her in check, think about other activities you can do together that will not put a strain on you and your dog.

Now that you’re prepared for a camping adventure, you may wonder where to go. Some state parks allow dogs; Vermont and Virginia state parks, among others, are mostly pet-friendly. For private campgrounds, check out this site- you can search for pet-friendly campgrounds across the country.

Happy trails!



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