A dog can really be a human’s best friend, as well as one of the best adventure buddies there are. Hiking with dogs is one of the most common activities in the outdoors, as well doing a bunch of other stuff with them. Regardless of the kind of activity, chances are you will end up spending the night camping somewhere and your dog will have to camp with you.
This is not an easy task, especially if you have never done it before and you don’t know about all the things to keep in mind when camping with dogs.
So here’s a complete guide to camping with your dog, regardless of the kind of camping you choose. We’ll provide you all sorts of tips, tricks and ideas to camp with dogs safely and have both the best experience.
We could never, ever stress this enough, especially when you are with someone who cannot do it for themselves (i.e. the dog). You must know where you are going and what you are getting into. Somehow, it’s true, the adventure might fade a little bit here, however it can be the watershed between pleasure and danger.
Get as much information as possible in regard to where you are going to place your tent, or park your car. Inform yourself if you need a permit for your dog and talk with the camping-with-dogs community to know if there is any better place where to stay.
Some places could be too uncomfortable, some others could be dangerous, some more could just be a problem if you have dogs with you. Long story short, do always make sure what you are going to do and plan ahead, so you won’t have any bad surprise.
Remember about other animals and dogs
Consider not only that your dog might not be the only dog in the place, but it could also not be the only animal. And this is probably one of the most important things to keep in mind, for both the safety of your dog, of yourself and that of others.
If you are staying at a camping site that allows dogs, try to place your tent or van far from other dog owners. As much friendly as your pal can be, it doesn’t necessarily mean he will like all the others dogs, or that all the other dogs (or any other animal) will like him in return.
And if you can’t choose a place far from the others, then make sure to keep him on a leash, even if you believe in the no-leash philosophy. Remember, sometimes it’s for their safety.
If you are on a backcountry adventure, make sure your dog responds to your orders and doesn’t wander off every time he ears or sees another presence in the wilderness. They might fall down a ravine, or end up trapped somewhere and you might never find them again. Of course, this doesn’t mean they can’t be free to explore as much as you do, but at the same time they should respond to your call and orders and stop as soon as you tell them to.
Try to keep your dog inside the place where you sleep, whether it’s a tent, a car, or a van. When it’s the case of hammock camping, then tie them at a very long yet safe leash so that they won’t wander off while you sleep. At the same time, remember they have their needs and, especially if they are inside a vehicle or a closed space in general, you will need to wake up and set them free early in the morning.
Invest time in training - and not just that of your dog
Education in general is very important, both your dog’s and yours.
A dog that comes with you on your adventures, whether it’s backpacking, camping, climbing, skiing or anything else, should be well trained, both in terms of physical capabilities and behavior. He should be able to follow you and keep up with the pace, but also, as we said, he should never fail in responding to your orders, so you can keep him safe and healthy.
At the same time, you have to be trained too. You need to know how to behave when your dog has a problem, when your dog is sick, how to respect his needs. You should be physically trained to intervene in case of emergency: what if you had to carry him on your shoulders because he can’t walk? Would you be physically ready for it?
Also, you should know how to interact with him and what are the best ways to give him orders and rules.
Invest in training and get the help of an expert if it comes to it. Especially when your dog has a strong and exuberant character: it’s absolutely fundamental that you know how to keep up with him. In general, it’s never wasted money and/or time and it pays back forever.
Keep them warm too
At night temperatures fall and your dog might feel cold as much as you do. So always make sure to think about their warmth too when it comes to camping. Of course, you can find many different solutions.
If you sleep in a van, you might want to carry their kennel in case they have one, or their favorite blanket or anything that will keep them isolated from the floor. Otherwise, you can turn to blankets, or an actual sleeping bag, especially if he’s going to sleep outside. In this case, we also suggest to bring a camping mat for him too.
A dog jacket is another great thing to make him wear in order to keep him warm, not just during your outdoor activities, but also at night. As well as little paw shoes to keep him isolated from the cold ground and also a bit more protected from thorns and small things that could cut him.
If your dog barks too much, you must find a solution. This is a matter of safety and respect. As much as every dog has their own character and you don’t want to suffocate him, it still is an issue you have to solve to assure peace and safety to everyone and everything around you.
Indeed, barking might not be the best for your camping neighbors and might incite other dogs and/or animals too.
The best solution is always training. Take as much time as you need and don’t rush it if you think your dog is not ready. Indeed, in some cases you might get fined or you might be asked to leave the place even.
Be honest with yourself, but don’t be mad at him
This is something that many dog owners fail at...a bit like parents. Just because it’s your dog, it doesn’t necessarily mean he is the best. He might be aggressive, disobedient or hard to manage. He might be way too playful, way too intrusive and way too noisy. He might not have an adventurous character, or he might not be strong enough to follow you to the moon and back. Be honest about your dog and the things you actually can or cannot do with him.
At the same time, this doesn’t mean he is a “bad boy”. He is just what he is, as every other living being. Respect him and never force him, or you might end up harming the safety, happiness and relax of yours and of others, besides that of your dog in the first place.
Work with what you have, find solutions and compromise. Always remember that a dog is not necessarily meant to be your adventure buddy, and he might need a lot more lazy time than you expected when you took him in.
He should leave no trace either
Leaving no trace when exploring is very important to respect nature and assure its protection. When you camp with a dog, it should be no different. Clean after him and make sure to dispose his garbage properly - including his poo.
Keep them clean - so you can keep the camp clean too
Dogs in the wilderness can get incredibly dirty. Think about your dog getting dirty and then double the dirt: that’s it. You want to be ready for it, not just to make sure that your dog doesn’t get sick, but also that he doesn’t get everything else around him as dirty.
First of all, be ready for rain and in general water paddles, rivers and whatnot. Bring a dog-poncho to keep him safe from the rain, and also bring a towel in order to dry him faster once he gets out of the water.
Also, be ready to clean mud off of him. You don’t want your tent, your car, your van or any of your gear to be covered in it too, so it’s very important that you know how to clean him before letting him in. Of course, in case of emergency never place cleanness before safety. However, you want to have all the right tools and gear to keep your dog clean, without restricting his opportunities to explore, play and, basically, be a dog.
Also, make sure you keep him safe in terms of vaccinations and bugs of all kinds. Be very careful and keep a very accurate record of all the therapies you make him go through, in order to not miss them, but also to not overdo them. Balance, as always, is key to this. Know how to remove ticks in case you have to and always give your dog a check at the end of every day.
Don’t over-feed him
Camping time usually goes together with good camping meals that involve barbecues and exquisite food. Driven by the relax of the atmosphere, you might want to treat your dog too, but never too much. This is absolutely important: too much eating, especially when the food is particularly greasy, or smoked or even a bit burned can be almost poisonous for a dog, as much tasty as it can be.
His begging eyes shouldn’t matter, especially when we are talking about camping for multiple days in a row, hence multiple treats.
At the same time, make sure you always have enough food and water with you for him too. This is particularly important when you are camping away from civilization and shops. You should never run out of food or water for yourself, of course, but also for your dog. He relies and depends on you when it comes to it.
Be responsible and never camp out if you can’t provide a meal to your dog. And once you made sure this is not the case, then also include in the diet some treats for active dogs. Many brands are specializing in food for outdoorsy pups, to give them that extra yet healthy energy that they need to explore and adventure all day long.
The breed counts
If you didn’t care about the breed and aesthetics of your dog when you saved him from the shelter, that’s absolutely great, but now that you have to take care of him and train him for your adventures, the breed of your dogs (or the many ones he carries in his genes) matter a great deal.
Indeed, depending on his breed, he will have different needs, different physical strength, endurance and resistance and a different attitude to unforeseen events.
Getting to know everything about these features is very important when it comes to providing him with the right gear, the right training and, of course, the right location to camp.
The temperament might be very different, as well as his capacity to resist cold temperatures or, for example, his incredible attitude to hunting, or fetching, or swimming. That’s the reason why there are specific breeds that are used to accomplish specific tasks, such as guarding, or saving, or guiding, or keeping company. And your dog is no different. Of course, don’t forget that he surely has a character of his own and a personality that depends on his own history. Don’t give anything for granted and get to know him as much as you can from all points of view.
Last but not least, never rush. If you are new to the art, then don’t act like you and your dog are experts at it. Take the time you need and if you are not sure about something, then don’t give it for guaranteed. It takes a lot of time and patience, like in any other relationship.