JAN 18 2022    
My Tips for Preparing Your First Camping Trip With Your Dog
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My Tips for Preparing Your First Camping Trip With Your Dog

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You love camping and you love your dog so of course, you want to take your furry friend along. Camping with your dog(s) is a fun adventure and helps make the camping experience complete with the whole family present. It also beats having to leave your dog with a friend or at a kennel while you’re gone. 

Bringing your dog along on a camping trip adds a brand new element of fun to your adventure but it can turn your trip into a terrible experience if not properly prepared. Taking my experience,  I’ve put together some tips to help you prepare. I’m still learning as well, so if you have tips you use, let me know. 

Before You Go on Your Camping Trip

Like with all camping trips, there is a lot of prep work and planning that’s involved before you head out. Camping with a dog is no different. In fact, there’s even more to do when camping with a dog for the first time.  

Prepare for pet first aid 

First aid is important on any outdoor adventure but especially with your dog. Even when we are careful, accidents can happen. The last thing you want is an injured pet with no way to care for them far away from a vet. 

The first item of preparation you’ll need is a pet first aid kit. These kits have special materials specifically designed for animals and are portable. You can visit your local pet store or find these kits online.

Additionally, you’ll want to have basic first aid knowledge. Many animal medical kits will include guide books or instructions but having practical knowledge will improve your ability to care for your dog. 

Hopefully, you will never have to use first aid, but it is better to be safe than sorry. 

Do a dry run to familiarize yours dogs with equipment and/or the area

The last thing you want is a stressed out pup or one that’s going crazy. Dogs who aren’t familiar with the camping experience can exhibit strange behavior making the trip miserable for you, them and everyone else around. How can they gain camping experience if it’s your first time camping with them? Easy. 

For starters, do a dry run. Take them on hikes and let them learn the rules of the camp ground / hiking experience. If they are puppies or not used to the outdoors, then train them not to chase after every squirrel and bird that shows up on their radar. 

Next, familiarize them with the experience and the camping equipment. Pitch the tent and camp in your backyard. Or load them up in the RV and have a staycation for a couple of days. If they will be using a new collar or body harness then take the time to ensure they’re comfortable with it before you take off. 

Anything you can do to help your dog familarize themselves with the experience is going to reduce help and help create a good first camping experience. 

Make sure your Vet checks are up to date

Before you head out anywhere it is of utmost importance that you ensure your dog is up to date with their vaccines and medications. 

As you camp, bugs, critters, bad water and other things your dog can get into, can expose them to various diseases. Vaccinations are going to help protect your dog from many of the risks associated with traveling out in the wild. 

Your vet may also recommend getting tick and flea treatments before heading out to camp. It’s very common for a dog to pick up ticks or fleas while out in the wilderness but treatments are safe and can help reduce the risks.

You will also want to make sure you also have all your pets medications if they have any. 

Finally, you may want to consider microchipping your dogs if you have not already done so and bringing a pet health ID card if you have one. These will help reunite you with your dog if they are lost and found by a vet but can also help to ensure they get optimal care if they are injured and you need to take them to a vet.

Check the camping sites dog rules and regulations

Many camping sites are pet-friendly and allow dogs but it’s best not to assume. Some sites do not allow animals or there are restrictions in place. 

Here are some examples of things you might run into:

  • Limits for the number of pets per camping area
  • Certain requirements like proof of rabies shots or a collar
  • Pet safe and pet restricted areas within a campsite
  • Leash style and length requirements

Each state has its rules and regulations related to pets and camping so check there but also check with the specific campsite you intend to stay at. If they are not posted online, give them a call and ask to be sent a printed copy.  

Check the weather before you go

The weather can be a big factor in how enjoyable your trip is. Really hot weather, cold windy days, rain, etc. Can all affect your dog while camping. 

After checking the weather think about what your dog might need and plan accordingly. As an example, rain all weekend might mean you need to bring a raincoat for your dog, extra towels and a bigger tent with room to stretch out in. 

You can’t control the weather but you can prepare as best you can for what comes. 

Plan activities both you and your furry pal will enjoy

Will all the planning and preparing don’t forget to plan some fun for your trip! Usually, when it comes to camping there’s natural fun built into the trip. Hiking, swimming, exploring nature, etc. These are things your dog will love to do too. Just as long as they are not restricted from hiking areas. 

For some campsites with heavy doggy restrictions or if your ideal camping life is relaxing in a chair by the fire, then it may be beneficial to plan some fun activities for your dog as well. You can explore the local area for pet-friendly fun, have a doggy date, or just remember to bring along your dogs' favorite toys from home. 

It’s no fun for your dog to be tied up all day or sitting around bored all day. Not to mention it can end up causing you headaches if they begin barking or getting into trouble because of their boredom. So make sure you have your dog in mind when you’re planning activities to do and to take along. 

What to Pack For Your Dog's First Camping Trip?

When it comes to taking your dog on their first camping trip, what you pack is just as important as the preparation beforehand. The last thing you want is to make an emergency trip into town or have your trip interrupted because you didn’t have everything you needed. 

Here’s my suggestion on some of the essentials you will need to pack for your dog.

Sleeping Items

You don’t want your dog to sleep with you in your bed. Even if you don’t mind cuddling with your furry friends at home, things fare a little bit differently while camping. 

When camping, your dog is going to get dirty. They’ll have dirt on their paws and dirt in their fur and you really don’t want to have dirty bedding the entire camping trip. In most cases, you will also have less space in your bed than you normally do. This could make for rough sleeping throughout the night. Both of these are really good reasons to bring along sleeping items for your dog. 

You can bring a dog bed, doggy sleeping bag or some extra blankets for them to lay on. 

Food and water

Just like any camping trip, you will want to make sure you have access to drinkable water and have plenty of food. 

Because of the increased physical activity, and just in case, we always bring extra food and water. You’ll never know how much more your dogs will drink while camping and you want to plan in case anything happens. 

I also like to bring doggy treats. When you have a younger pup or one who is out on the campground for the first time, it is really important to reward good behavior so they develop the right habits and experiences. And us humans get treats while on the campgrounds so why not them?

Lastly don’t forget their food and water bowls. You can bring the dedicated bowls they use at home, but if you’re tight on space you can opt for collapsible bowls just like they make for humans.

Doggy Gear

Packing for your dog’s camping trip is a lot like packing for young children. You’ll realize they need a lot and you may also end up packing a lot of “just in case” items. That’s O.K. when it comes to camping with a dog it’s best to be prepared. 

Here’s a checklist of the supplies you’ll need to bring for your dog on the camping trip. 

The essential gear

  • Tether 
  • Leash with collar and/or body harness
  • Poop bags
  • Dog friendly bug spray
  • Towels
  • Toys

The optional gear

  • Rain jacket
  • Boots
  • Kennel or crate

Not only do you need to abide by the camping grounds regulations and ensure your dog has the basics, you also want to make sure they aren’t miserable. Not every dog is going to need a jacket, boots or a crate but it’s worth considering to make sure your pup is happy throughout the camping adventure. 

A large tent

If you tent camped as a child with family or friends then you know the surprising amount of bodies you can fit in a little tent. But when it comes to camping with dogs or any animals for that matter, you want to make sure you have a larger tent available. 

For starters, you’ll need room for them to have their own sleeping area. This isn’t a very big deal unless your dog likes sleeping in awkward positions everywhere but their designated sleeping area. If they are good about sleeping in their area you can size out how much room you need before heading out. This will ensure everyone has plenty of space to stretch out when they sleep.

Sometimes it’s not about the sleeping conditions though. A larger tent can be for your own sanity. If you plan on spending time in your tent or it looks like the weather might force you to stay in for a reasonable amount of time then you will want room to stretch out. You don’t want your tent experience to be a constant switch between your dog's face in your face then his tail in your face. 

Lastly, you may even want a popup tent for your pup. Often times dogs like to have a safe place to go to sleep or just to watch the world around them. If you don’t want that place to be your tent, then bring along a little popup tent for them to crawl in and out of when they want throughout the day.

Your Dog’s favorites 

A dog’s first camping trip can make them overly excited or can cause them stress. If you don’t want to spend your entire camping trip calming them down, then I would recommend bringing along some of their favorites from home. 

Things like toys, bones, bedding, and other items your dog is familiar with can help occupy them and keep them calm. These things offer comfort if a dog is stressed. They can also give them something to do when they are feeling rambunctious but you want to relax. 

When your dog’s first camping trip is through, you will have wanted them to have a good experience so they learn to enjoy the future camping experiences. Every little bit to help that experience, including their worn-out rope, is beneficial. 

Bring extras of everything

“Why are we packing so much stuff?” Is a question I ask every time we go camping. Yet as the camping trip unfolds, I’m rarely disappointed that we packed extras. 

You can never plan exactly how your dog’s first camping trip will go, so it’s important to be prepared. Remember your dog may be running around more than usual and may eat more, drink more, get into more things or break things more often than usual. To avoid having to pause your camping trip to make a supply run, it’s best to just pack extra. 

Pack extra food, water, towels, an extra leash, etc. Whatever essentials you plan to pack, make sure to plan extra. After a few camping trips with dogs, you will have a better feel for what you really need. 

A final word of advice

As much as we love our furry family and want them to join in our adventures, we need to understand that not every trip is right for your dog. Sometimes it’s necessary to leave the dogs behind. 

Think about the trip itself. Is it the right kind of adventure for your dog? Camping trips not designed with the dog in mind can cause a lot of stress for you and them both. 

You also have to know your dog and their limits. Take a look at your camping plans and activities. Is it something that your dog will fit into? 

At the end of the day, you want your dog’s first camping trip to be enjoyable for everyone. That means planning appropriately and ensuring the trip is a good adventure for your furry friend to join you on. 

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