Summer’s inviting weather tempts most people to spend more time outdoors, and there’s no better way to do that than by packing up the car and heading out for a weekend camping trip. The beauty of this short vacation is that you can bring your dog along for the ride without worrying about finding a pet-friendly hotel.
Depending on where you’re headed, you may want to double check that dogs are welcome, but it’s pretty much a guarantee that your dog will be allowed to stay at almost any campground you choose. Be aware that some National Parks, like Yosemite, may allow dogs in certain campsites and not others.
Once you’ve decided where you’re going and you know that Fido is allowed to join you, there are a few more things you should consider before you leave that will help ensure a successful camping excursion with your dog.
- Food and Water. This is obvious, but you’ll need to remember to bring enough dog food and water for your pooch. You’ll want to bring his food bowls as well, so he has something to eat out of. If you plan on hiking, it may be a good idea to bring a collapsible bowl so your dog can re-hydrate while he’s on the trail too.
Note: Remember that wild animals will raid dog food just as quickly as they’ll raid human food. So if you put your food away to avoid those pesky squirrels and chipmunks or, more importantly, bears, don’t forget to safely stow your dog’s food as well.
- Poop Bag. Just like people don’t want to step in a big pile of poop when they’re jogging around the lake, they don’t want to step in it on the trail or in a campground either. Make sure you remember to pack some plastic bags so you can pick up and dispose of your dog’s poop properly.
- Long Leash. While you’re lounging around the campsite and the campfire, you don’t want to have to worry about your dog running off into other people’s camps and/or the nearby forest. However, your dog is out in a new area and probably wants to do some exploring of her own. Bring her regular leash for hiking and walking, but bring a much longer leash, cable or tether so that she can securely roam around the campsite and check things out, without you having to get up and find her every 10 minutes.
- Glow Stick. Any Target, drug store or home improvement store should sell a standard glow stick (or light stick) that you can manually activate by bending the stick and mixing the chemicals inside. Once activated, the chemicals will emit a neon light that continues to glow for hours. These glow sticks, which are also a favorite around Halloween, are perfect for keeping track of your dog in a dark campground.
Simply bend the stick to activate the light, tie the glow stick to your dog’s collar and let her run free (or on her long leash) around the campsite. You’ll be able to spot her easily because she’ll be producing an eerie green glow wherever she goes.
- Sleeping with your Dog. A lot of people let their dog sleep in the tent with them. This is a simple solution because you don’t have to worry about where your dog is and what he’s up to. Plus he’ll help keep you warm. However, if your dog is rowdy or curious, he might decide the tent is too confining and find his own way out. Then you’re stuck with a loose dog and a tent with an extra hole.
Some other options include cracking the windows and letting your dog sleep in the car or keeping your dog on his leash and letting him sleep outside. You might even want to bring his dog bed so he’s more comfortable. Where your dog sleeps really depends on your dog’s personality and your own experience of what works best for your dog.
Note: Be careful about leaving your dog outside to sleep by himself if there are dangerous wild animals (like bears) in the area.
- Other Animals. You should always be aware of what other types of animals (domestic and wild) might be around when you’re camping. Keep in mind that there may be other dogs at the campground, people horseback riding on the trails and little critters that your dog might like to chase running just about anywhere outside. If you’re in bison or bear country you should speak with a ranger to make sure that your dog is safe and you’re following the protocol for camping with a pet.
As long as you know and are prepared for the other types of animals that your dog could encounter on her camping trip, you shouldn’t have a problem. If you know, for example, that your dog does not take kindly to horses, simply stay off any trails where you’re likely to encounter horseback riders. It’s as simple as that.
If you have any questions about what animals are in a particular region or how to react if you encounter one, stop by the ranger’s station and ask.
- Hiking. Although most campgrounds allow dogs, there are many trails that do not. Some National Parks and other wilderness areas only allow dogs on paved trails while others let dogs go wherever their owners can go. Check the park’s website or with the park ranger at the entrance gate to determine what the pet policies are and whether or not there are any restrictions on where your dog can be. You don’t want to get to the trailhead with an excited pooch only to have to turn around and take her back to the car because she’s not allowed on the trail.
Camping with your dog can be a lot of fun for you, your family and friends and, of course, your dog. As long as you follow these basic steps, camping with your dog will be a great experience for you and for her.