Dogs and Camping–What Expert Campers Say

We’ve always gone camping with dogs. Some years ago our camping buddy and his wife had a terrier called Jay that they took camping with them.  It was Jay’s mission in life to catch a squirrel. He never did, but it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm one bit. When we went camping with them, Jay found a new hunting buddy in the form of my brother. Every morning they would get up, have breakfast, and then off he and our friends’ dog would go to hunt squirrels. Both would come back an hour or so later tired but well satisfied with the search (and, as mentioned before, squirrel-less.)

Jay was a good example of a great little camping dog.  He was obedient, happy, and rarely barked (except when he was positive there was a squirrel in a tree pointed out to him.) He slept quietly at night and never peed anywhere he wasn’t supposed to in camp. Jay lived a long, happy, woods-filled life and many of us miss him to this day.

What made trips with Jay so successful? A lot, it turns out. Great dog owners consider a great number of things before going camping with their dogs.  You can have a great camping trip with yours by considering these tips from experienced dog owners who camp.

consider YOur Dog’s Temperament.

Many dogs aren’t suited to camping. They bark a lot, or get too excited to deal with the surroundings.  Take your dog on small walks in new areas and see how he reacts. Is he well trained? Do you know if he will stay by you when he sees animals, or will he go charging off after them? You need to know. Overly-excitable dogs don’t do well in a camping situation, and your camping neighbors won’t be happy about a dog that barks all the time, especially at night.

Dogs have Four Legs. tHey can Run FAster and Farther than you.

As good as your puppy may be, sometimes that squirrel or rabbit (or dragonfly) is just too tempting. Take a zip line along so he won’t leave camp but can still move around. Absolutely bring a leash and collar for your dog, for your safety and his. If it’s out in the wild instead of an established site, it’s even more important to restrain him. Some owners feel they can let their dog run around in the woods when they go camping.  All that does is put the dog and the wildlife in danger. And bears chase dogs–he may just bring one back to you! An established site is different–but even then, knowing how your dog will react is important.

Keep in mind, too, what kind of leash and collar your dog may need.  Camping is a different situation from day-to-day. is a great resource for dog owners.  Read their excellent article on choosing a leash and collar, and why each type works (or doesn’t). You may decide to leave the flat collar at home, and invest in one more suited to the environment and your dog’s temperament.

One last thing: don’t assume your tent will keep your dog restrained. They are masters at clawing their way out of things sometimes.  All you may end up with is a lost dog and a destroyed tent.

Dogs are like kids. Take care of them the same way.

Out in the wilderness, she’s going to get cold, and she’s going to get sore feet. Things might happen. Take booties along for your dog, and a blanket for night time or whenever she’s cold. There are sleeping bags especially for dogs, and some owners like the idea of a dedicated sleeping bag for them, but as long as you have a foam pad and warm blanket, she’ll be okay.  The colder you think it’s going to be, the more warmth she’s going to need.

Your pup is also going to get wet and/or muddy. Take along a beach towel to scrub her dry with. Maybe two, if she’s a mudder.

Other things to take along: A first aid kit especially for dogs, food and water and plenty of it, food dishes and a favorite toy or two. The toys are important; a family member who owns two dogs says a favorite toy calms his right down in a strange environment.

make your dogs findable.

When you are travelling a considerable distance to get to your camp site, take along your dog’s veterinary info.  If something happens and you need to get your pet to a vet fast, having the info on hand will save a lot of time and trouble. If the trip is out of province or out of state, find out what the regulations are regarding travelling with your dog. Some border crossings require ownership and veterinary papers for him. Check before you get to the border.

Dog with glow collar
This handsome fellow is Charlie. He is wearing a glow ring dog collar, in green…

When camping with dogs, no matter what precautions are taken, a dog can slip off-leash and run into the dark. One of the best ideas I ever saw was this one. It was brought to my attention by a Twitter pal called @bushcamp2 (if you come across him, give him a follow. He’s informative, helpful and just an all-around great guy). I’m buying a couple for my brother’s dogs for the next camping trip.


Here’s what he said in a tweet:

dog with glow collar
…and in red. There are other colors, too.

dogs get bugged, too.

Mosquitoes, ticks, flies and other insects can drive your dog crazy. A good repellent especially for pets is wise to have around. Don’t put it directly on to their skin; put it on the collar around their neck, or tie a bandanna around their neck or collar and put it on that. Check for ticks regularly when you’re camping. Do that by combing your fingers through their fur. Apply enough pressure so that you will be able to feel any little bumps on their skin. Don’t forget areas like ears, under the chin and between the toes. Have a tick tool in your dog’s first-aid kit, as well as instructions for removing ticks if you are not used to doing so.

Last tips and cautions When Camping With dogs.

When camping with dogs it doesn’t hurt to ask your vet if they should be vaccinated against Lyme disease, if you think the area you’ll be in has ticks. Remember, too, that mosquito bites can give your dog heartworms, so make sure he’s healthy before he goes and ask about protection against them.

Add a tag to your dog’s collar with a cell phone number you can be reached at. If the unthinkable happens and they go missing, you can be contacted if someone locates him.

Taking care of your dog is a serious responsibility, but that responsibility is paid back a hundred fold by the love and dedication your best friend gives you every day. So if their temperament allows it, take them camping. You’ll both love it!