I am the type of person that would rather spend a weekend alone with my little West Highland Terrier, Woody the westie, than do anything else. It isn’t uncommon for me to even cancel plans to spend time with the little guy. So when I started getting back into camping my first thought was to introduce Woody to the activity.
It was a little stressful, to begin with. I wanted to make sure he enjoyed it without me having to be always looking after him. Camping with a dog is meant to relaxing after all.
Luckily Woody loves being outside in the wilderness, so camping was always likely to be a hit with him. That is something you will have to think about, as yours may not enjoy being outside for long periods. Especially if they are an at-home type of dog.
My main advice for anyone planning a camping trip with a dog is to ensure your campsite is dog-friendly and that you have a checklist of dog camping gear that you need, not just yourself! You may be able to share a lot of things with your furry friend. I am sure you won’t be wanting to share a water bowl or towel!
10 Useful Tips For Camping with a Dog
Test out the concept with your dog
Camping can be a drastic change for your dog, and it may be unsettling. You might want to do what I did, test run in the backyard. You can set up your tent, get things the way they will be when you actually go camping and then sleep in the tent for that night with your dog there. You will want to use a tent that your dog is comfy with, I have a list of the best tents for camping with dogs that you can take a read through. Anything that has enough space and a dedicated area for your dog is fine though.
The test run gives your dog a chance to get used to the situation and gives you the safety net of being literally on your doorstep. This is the best time to test out different sleeping situations, what works and what doesn’t. It is also good to note if your dog will even sleep and rest in the tent or if it’s just too daunting.
Woody and I did this exact thing, and I am so glad I did. I was able to learn a lot of different aspects of what he liked and didn’t about camping before we left the house. So now I know Woody would prefer to sleep next to my head instead of at my feet where I assumed he would sleep. I also know that he will want to check outside every so often if there are noises that are worrying him. These are all things I can deal with and help him get used to. Also, it’s better to realize these things at home instead of miles into the wilderness with no help.
Doggy Health Check
Step one for any vacation or trip with your dog is to have them checked over by your veterinary surgery. You will have to ensure that all vaccinations, worming, and medical issues are taken care of or at least under control for where you plan on camping.
One last point regarding health is to ensure you pack a little first aid kit for your dog. You will be surprised how many times Woody has done something silly and ended up with a bit of an injury. Last time he had some small twigs caught in his paws – heartbreaking to see the little man hobbling around until I got him sorted out.
Pack Some Entertainment
Much like when you go camping with kids, and you take some toys, games and prepare some family entertainment. You will have to do the same for your dog. I like to bring along some of Woody’s favorite toys and a few that we like to play games together with.
I also like to ensure Woody has his favorite rubber ball in his mouth when we go walking through the Forrest and wooded areas so he is a lot less likely to pick up sticks or anything else that might be dangerous for him to be chewing.
Like all owners, I feed my Woody better than I feed myself sometimes and that is especially true when I go camping. When I go camping, I like to treat woody to a few things that he doesn’t get at home (My wife wouldn’t be best pleased!). So thing such as sausages, beef, and even some treats.
In most cases, I will pack dog-specific foods for treats and maybe one or two main meals just as backups. Though Woody does prefer to have some of whatever I am having, as long as it won’t harm him!
One last item that I always pack is some dental cleaning treats. Ones like Pedigree DentaStix or Dentalife for dogs is perfect as they don’t take up much room.
Try not to feed your dog too much
Camping is often the ideal time to get a little BBQ on and have some burgers, sausages, and other meats. I’m sure your dog will be drooling as soon as the fridge opens while you are preparing for the trip, never mind when it’s being cooked at the campsite.
I tend to spoil Woody with some meats and other foods he doesn’t get on a typical day. I have though learned from experience not to feed him too much food.
Most of you will be thinking that it’s because when a human overeats they don’t move as much, become a little lazy and might even feel sick or have a stomach ache. Now, that is all very true.
The main reason though is I don’t want to deal with Woody’s apocalyptic farts in the tent. Remember your tent is small. You will likely have your dog sleeping inches from your face – do you want to deal with farts all night?
You may also have the joys of thinking your little fun-loving dog doesn’t need the toilet when you have walked with him for 45 mins. Only to find out he had so much fun on the walk he forgot to poo 4 times and as soon as he gets back to the campsite… He remembers.
Plan the full trip with your dog in mind
Don’t forget to plan around having your dog with you. By this I mean you will have to take into consideration that your dog will have to be with you constantly to ensure they are safe and keeping themselves out of trouble.
Many people like to tie up their dog while at the camp which is great but do be sure to keep an eye on them. Weather can change fast, and of course, there will be other animals around.
Don’t Take an Aggressive Dog
You shouldn’t take an aggressive dog camping. We all know they can get boisterous and excited which can be a recipe for disaster if there is aggression involved.
You may think you can control them at home and in your backyard, but camping is a different situation altogether.
If you have any doubts about your dog’s behavior, then my advice would be to spend more time training the dog to behave and react to situations in a better manner. The last thing you will want to deal with is your dog showing aggression towards animals or other campers.
My advice for all dog owners is to ensure they are on a lead at all times, with a responsible adult and well trained to ensure there will be no fighting or biting.
This isn’t to say that if your little friend gets into trouble while camping that it’s the end of the world. It just depends on the type of trouble. It wouldn’t be the first time I have seen a dog steal food from another campsite! Although hilarious and not a concerning problem to have, can you imagine if they were aggressive?! Doesn’t bear thinking about!
Take more towels than you think you need
You will need them.
If your dog is anything like mine, then he will want to jump in every single puddle, lake, and river. You know, just to make sure it’s safe for the family (or something…).
I own some dedicated dog towels that are only for him at campsites.
Many people think they will only need lots of towels for wet months but I find I need more during the summer as Woody tends to jump in rivers and lakes to cool off.
Seek Shade and set up camp
Once you get to the campsite be sure to look for somewhere that is within the shade. Dogs can very quickly get too warm so having an area that isn’t in direct sunlight will be useful.
Keep fresh water in the bowl
Another tip that is obvious but you will have to be extra careful to check the water level and cleanliness of the bowl regularly. You will be surprised how much your dog drinks and how dirty that bowl will get.