9 Tips for Canine Camping Success
We’ve camped in tents, cabins, and RVs in the desert, under the redwoods, in the mountains and on the beach.
I’ve been camping with my dogs since childhood and my present dogs, two Australian Shepherds and one English Shepherd, have camped up and down California, east to Louisiana, and throughout the Southwest. The joy of the outdoors is amplified when my dogs are with me.
Training is Vital
Obedience training is absolutely necessary when camping with your dog. Almost all campgrounds require dogs to be leashed, but it’s no fun to walk your dog when he’s trying to pull your arm out of the socket. Plus, if you’re in an area where your dog can be off leash, your dog needs to understand that coming when called is not optional. Other obedience exercises your dog should understand include ‘leave it’ (ignore that), down and stay, and watch me. When your dog will respond to those reliably, you’re ready to go.
Take Photos on Your Phone
Take photos of your dog’s medical records, especially any problems that he might be taking medication for and take a photo of that prescription as well. You’ll also want to take photos of your dog’s vaccination records, his local license, and rabies certificate. Save these photos to your phone so you can show them if necessary. A few good quality photos of your dog, face on and sideways, are also important should you need to identify your dog or worse yet, should he get lost.
Your Dog’s Abilities
Is your dog is a hard-bodied, fit working dog or a laid back couch potato? Does he have a coarse, all-weather coat or cotton curls? Is he always ready for something new or is he a worrier? Your dog’s individual characteristics will determine whether he’ll be comfortable wearing a pack and hiking the high country with you or he’d be happier sharing the hammock with you in front of the cabin. Be realistic about your dog’s fitness, physical characteristics, coat challenges, and even his mental toughness (or lack thereof). Choose the camping trip that will suit both of you.
Food, Water, and Supplies
Bring enough food for your entire camping trip plus two or three more days. Don’t assume you’ll find his food at the closest store; plus, a change in food mid-trip can cause gastrointestinal distress. I like to bring enough water for the first few days and then gradually change my dogs over to the local potable water. Ask local rangers or park supervisors if the local river or stream water is safe for your dog to drink. Check your dog’s collar to make sure it’s in good repair and his identification tags have up to date contact information. An extra leash is always a good idea while other supplies depend on your camping trip; does your dog need a blanket or two, towels, boots, a jacket, or a life vest?
Pack a Combination First Aid Kit
My friends tend to make fun of me for my first aid kits; I have several but when anyone (human or canine) is ill or injured, they always know where to find one. When camping I pack a combination first aid kit that includes supplies for both people and dogs. Not only does this save space but many of the supplies can be used for either myself or my dogs.
Abide by the Rules
When dogs are no longer welcome in a campground, it’s usually because too many dog owners have ignored the campground rules for dogs. Dogs that bark excessively annoy everyone. Aggressive dogs (towards people or other dogs) are unsafe in a camping situation. Off leash dogs, trained or not, are a problem if the campground rules state that dogs need to be on leash. For the sake of your dog and mine, and anyone else who may wish to bring their dog camping, please abide by the rules.
Watch Your Dog
As you’re enjoying the camping trip, be aware of your dog and watch for signs of stress. Every dog has his own way of showing stress but most dogs will pant more than normal, pull the ears back, and tuck the tail. Your dog could stress over being in a strange place; especially if this is his first camping trip. Some dogs also worry about the change in routine, the increase in exercise, or any number of other things. Some attention from you, time to relax, and perhaps a game of tug or ball could help your dog lose that stress. Watch, too, for injuries. A recent trip to the desert found all three of my dogs and two of my friend’s dogs with sore paws from the rocks and the goat’s head burrs. The next time we go there the dogs will all wear dog boots.
Fleas, Ticks, Foxtails and Other Pests
When camping, every evening before it gets dark I brush and comb my dogs and go over every square inch of them to find any injuries that might need care. I also check for and remove any fleas or ticks. Plus I look for foxtails, burrs, and other stickers, grass seeds, and weed seeds. By making a habit to check each dog every evening, I hope to catch small issues before they turn into bigger ones.
Scoop the Poop
No one should have to deal with your dog’s feces except you and if you think leaving it on the trail is natural, you’re deluding yourself and well, just being lazy. Carry bags with you, scoop the poop, and carry it out with you to the nearest trash container.