Planning a camping trip with Sparky this summer? Whether you’re braving the elements in a tent or camping comfortably in a fully serviced RV, we’ve done the hard work for you and created the “ultimutt” checklist for camping with dogs.
1. Find a genuinely dog-friendly destination.
While many state and national parks welcome dogs in their campgrounds, not all parks permit dogs on the hiking trails or in swimming areas. Before reserving your campsite, make sure that your dog can fully enjoy the park right alongside you. You’ll also want to find out where your pup is allowed to go. Generally, designated swimming areas and buildings are off-limits to dogs.
2. Read the fine print of the pet policy.
Most state parks require dogs to stay on a six-foot leash while out and about. Although some parks allow dogs to explore fire roads and unmarked trails off-leash, this is the exception rather than the rule.
On the other paw, RV parks usually don’t allow dogs to be tied up at the campsite or left unattended. (If you’re planning to leave your campsite for an extended period, it might be best to leave Fido at home and book a local dog sitting or dog boarding service.
Almost all campgrounds limit the number of dogs allowed per site and require proof of rabies vaccination at check-in. Breed restrictions and pet fees may also apply. While most campgrounds list their pet policies online, it’s always a good idea to call ahead with any questions.
3. Research the local wildlife.
Big beasts like elk, coyotes, bears, and cougars live in many state parks and wildlife preserves across America. Though these creatures tend to steer clear of humans, they might view smaller dogs as prey. As long as you follow standard safety measures, you shouldn’t have any close encounters with wildlife. Still, it pays to know what’s lurking out there in the woods!
4. Check the weather.
This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s important to keep tabs on weather conditions when preparing for your dog-friendly camping trip. If you’re camping in an area that’s extremely hot or cold, you might want to pack booties to protect your pal’s paws. You should also learn the signs of heat exhaustion and how to prevent it. A vest or doggy sweater might also come in handy if you’re camping with your dog in the winter.
5. Pack the right supplies.
Now that you’ve done your homework, you can move on to the fun part: packing supplies for your dog-friendly camping trip!
In addition to your own camping supplies, you’ll also need to pack some camping essentials for your dog. At the very least, you’ll need:
- collapsible food and water bowls
- dog food and treats
- drinking water
- harness or collar
- ID tags
- proof of rabies vaccination
- dog bedding
- a favorite toy (or four!)
- tick and flea repellent
- a first-aid kit (just in case)
- your dog’s medications
- biodegradable doggy waste bags
If you’re camping in the backcountry with your dog, consider bringing a doggy backpack so your pup can carry their own supplies. If your dog has never worn a backpack before, get them accustomed to it a few weeks before your trip. Fit the empty pack so it’s snug, but not too tight, and have them wear it around the house. Once they’ve gotten used to it, add items to the pack gradually.
6. Print off maps and brochures as needed.
While RV parks are often located in urban areas, many state park campgrounds are situated in remote areas without cell phone service or internet access. Bringing a backup paper map (or a printed list of directions) as well as a park brochure might come in handy in case you lose cell phone service along the way.
7. Hit the road!
You’ve finished packing and preparing for your dog-friendly camping trip and you’re finally ready to set out. Make sure your doggo is comfortable and secure in the car or RV, particularly if they’re older. (Check out our post on how to travel with your elderly dog.)
If your journey is longer than three hours, plan for potty breaks at dog-friendly rest areas or dog parks.
8. Stick to your dog’s feeding and potty schedules.
By all means, enjoy your vacation and be spontaneous, but keep your dog’s needs in mind, too. Canines are truly creatures of habit, and they’re most comfortable when they’re on a regular schedule. Try to feed them and take them out for bathroom breaks at the same times you normally would. Don’t forget to make time to play and brush up on their obedience training!
9. Don’t skip out on doggy duty.
If you’re exploring a state park or wildlife preserve, it’s crucial that you pick up any, erm, presents your dog leaves behind. Doggy doo may attract potentially dangerous wildlife, coyotes in particular. Always clean up after your pup even in deserted areas, and don’t linger too long after your dog does their business! Alternatively, some RV parks even fine pet parents who neglect their doggy duties.
10. Keep the treats locked up tight.
If you’re camping with your dog in bear country, store all food, toiletries, and other scented items in a bear-proof food locker or a locked vehicle (preferably the trunk). Also, dispose of any food wrappers or other debris that might attract wildlife to your site.
11. Explore the surrounding area.
Whether you’re an avid adventurer looking to do some hiking, boating, or fishing, or you’re a lazy landlubber looking to relax and do some picnicking, be sure to explore the areas near the park or campground. You’ll almost always find dog-friendly attractions nearby, including restaurants, bars, wineries, city parks, and walking tours that welcome leashed dogs.
And there you have it: the top tips for camping with your dog. What are you waiting for? Start planning your canine-friendly camping excursion and treat your dog to the experience of a lifetime!