Tips to Take your Dog Camping for the First Time

Taking your dog camping can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, provided you keep in mind a few guidelines to keep your dog safe.


Camping can be even more fun with a dog. But there are quite a few that you need to consider.

First and foremost, while you’re in the wilderness you are completely responsible for your dog’s safety and wellbeing. If you can’t control your dog, then you might want to think twice about bringing him along with you. But if you’ve attended obedience classes together and are confident that you can handle the dog, then you’re ready to take the next step.

Before you start, take Fido to the vet for a checkup. Make sure he’s up to date on all of his shots and get him a good flea and tick repellent. You might also ask your vet for a Lyme disease vaccination.  Get copies of up-to-date medical information and be sure you have any medications your dog needs to take while you’re out and about. Make sure your vet’s telephone number is in your luggage as well, just in case you have any questions.

If you live in the big city and your dog isn’t used to wide-open spaces, you might want to take him out for a few walks in larger parks or semi-wilderness areas so he can get used to all the new sights and smells he’ll be experiencing while camping.  This can also help build his tender pads up so they won’t hurt when you’re hiking on rough ground.

Once you’ve chosen a campground, call ahead to make sure dogs are allowed. (National Parks and Monuments don’t allow dogs on any of their trails and you can only have a leashed dog in the parking lot.)  Irresponsible dog owners have left a bad taste in some campground owners’ mouths. This is why it’s important for you to be responsible and follow all the campsite rules: your actions reflect on all dog owners and you could be the reason why others can’t bring their dogs camping later. Some campsites don’t allow dogs at all, but even if they do allow dogs, be sure that you keep your dog on a leash at all times and within sight. A tether that screws into the ground, or one that loops around a tree and hooks to itself, is a good investment. If you have two dogs, tether them far enough apart that they’re next to each other only when they’re at the end of their leashes, otherwise they’ll tangle each other up. Make sure you keep an eye on your dog while he’s tethered, so he doesn’t get stuck anywhere.

Give yourself enough daylight to set up camp leisurely. It’s important to choose a site with some shade for your dog to lie in and you might want to consider moving to a different site if you end up next to another dog owner, and it will be much easier to move to another site if it’s still light outside.

Your first several hours out in the wilderness are going to be very exciting for your dog. There will be all sorts of new things to explore. This is a good time to make sure you have your dog on a leash and you have plastic bags to pick up dog doo. Dog feces have a different chemical makeup than wild animal feces, and it’s harmful to the environment (not to mention ugly and smelly to everyone around you), so if your dog does his business pick it up immediately and throw it away. If you come across any other people or animals, keep your dog away from them, and don’t let him bark at them – it’s very annoying to go camping in order to get away from loud annoying noises and then hear a dog barking at everything it sees.

Next up: dinnertime!  Fido should stay away from the fire on his own, unless he’s overly excited, so try to tether him so he can’t get any wayward sparks on his tail.  Bring plenty of food and water from home, along with plastic dishes that don’t fall over.  Let your dog eat its fill, and then put any remaining food into your car so wild animals and insects can’t get to it. You can leave the water out, though – it’s important that your dog always has access to water. Don’t let him drink from any streams or lakes while you’re out and about because you don’t know how clean the water is. Also, while you’re outside, don’t let your dog eat random things that it finds on the ground. You never know what kinds of bacteria might be growing there.

Your night should be pretty easy, especially if you have a tent so your pup doesn’t have to be tethered all night. You should bring a blanket or a dog bed with you. To a dog, his bed is home, no matter where the bed is; and he will be much more comfortable both physically and emotionally. If it’s a chilly night, cover your dog’s entire body (including his head) with a blanket or let him sleep next to you to keep warm.

Hiking is a great pastime for both you and your dog. And most of the safety tips you follow yourself are things you should think about with regards to your canine companion. Keep a first aid kit in your backpack along with sunblock. You should apply sunblock to your dog’s nose and ears as well as other exposed areas, especially if its fur is light and its skin is fair. Put your dog on a sturdy, short leash. Retractable leashes are no good for hiking because you want your dog to be close to you, where he’ll be safest. If you’re hiking in rocky or dangerous spots, near drop-offs or other such areas, consider having your dog wear a harness instead of a collar. Dogs don’t have good depth perception and can slip through railings and fall off cliffs pretty easily if you don’t watch them. And if you let your dog wander into the undergrowth, he can come back with oak from poison oak or ivy on his fur, which can easily transfer to you; and he could also become host to a tick stowaway or two.

Dogs can help you with your load too if you teach them how to wear a pack on their back. They can carry a quarter to a third of their weight, and it’s safe to have them carry unbreakable items if they’re over a year old and don’t suffer from hip dysphasia or other joint problems.

If you have a dog, you undoubtedly feel that he’s a part of your family. He always enjoys tagging along with you wherever you go, and camping is no exception. Being in the outdoors, just you and your dog is a lot of fun - as long as you both stay safe. Enjoy the wilderness together!