Sunny days and balmy nights are finally here, and that means weekend getaways and adventures in the great outdoors. Camping is the classic summer pastime that’s fun, affordable and great for the whole family—including your dog. If you’re never taken your dog camping before, you may be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is. With the right preparation and vigilance, sleeping under the stars can be stress-free and enjoyable for the entire family—your poochie included.
Before You Leave Home
Dog friendly camping tip #1: Bug off, bugs! Apply flea and tick prevention and double-check that your pet is current on heartworm prevention before you leave for camping trips, or even go on an afternoon hike, urges Dr. Katy Nelson, a veterinarian at the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, Virginia.
Dog friendly camping tip #2: Check with the vet. Call your pet’s doctor to ask about any special vaccines, such as a Leptospirosis or Lyme vaccine, that may be recommended for the area you’re traveling to, says Dr. Nelson.
Dog friendly camping tip #3: Bring only his usual food and dog treats. “It is best to keep your pet on the food that they are accustomed to eating, and not make abrupt changes during travel,” says Dr. Nelson.
Dog friendly camping tip #4: You may want to buy a bigger tent. Plan to keep your pets in your tent/cabin/RV with you, so they’re not left exposed to the elements or in danger from wildlife, says Dr. Nelson. Not so much looking forward to your retriever trying to squeeze herself into your sleeping bag? Then you might want to pick up a dog bed for this purpose, such as the Frisco Steel-Framed Elevated Pet Bed. During the day, you’ll want to keep your pet contained and safe while you’re fixing meals or otherwise can’t give her your full attention. That’s when a pet pen can come in handy, such as the Frisco Dog Exercise Pen with Step-Through Door.
Dog friendly camping tip #5: Secure her tag. Make sure your pet is wearing a properly fitted collar with identification, just in case she gets lost. “I would also recommend checking your dog’s microchip and updating any old information,” adds Alyona DelaCoeur, an animal behaviorist and veterinary assistant in Seattle.
Dog friendly camping tip #6: Pack smart. Accept the fact that your dog is going to get dirty—perhaps really dirty. Since it’s quite possible that a hose or other means to wash her may not be readily available when you need it most, it’s wise to stash dry shampoo, and/or a few packages of dog wipes, in your suitcase.
Dog friendly camping tip #7: Prepare for an emergency. While the odds are that you won’t need a vet on your camping trip, it’s also likely that there won’t be one nearby if you do, and you may not even have Internet access to look up first aid steps. Of course, pack a first aid kit, like the Kurgo Pet First Aid Kit, made for dogs, but also “familiarize yourself with basic first aid so you could help your dog if an emergency happens. Learn about any toxic plants in the area you are going to and be prepared to induce vomiting if necessary,” urges DelaCoeur.
Dog friendly camping tip #8: Prep the car. Consider picking up a dog car seat cover. You may not have used one on your daily errands or runs to the park, but on a longer trip, it can really help keep your car clean, as well as keep your pet comfy on the road. Before putting the dog car seat cover on, do a sweep of your vehicle, picking up any stray trash, especially food wrappers, that your dog might decide to snack on.
While You’re Camping
Dog friendly camping tip #9: Hide the hot dogs. As tempting as it is, do not let your dog nosh on burgers and sausages, or other human food. A sick dog is hard to deal with at home, but at a campsite? It’s enough to ruin your whole trip. It’s just not worth it. For the same reason, emphasizes Dr. Nelson, keep pets out of the garbage. “Keep all trash and food scraps out of reach of your pets (and wildlife, for that matter) so that you can all enjoy your time off the grid,” she says.
Dog friendly camping tip #10: Feet, please! Look at your pet’s feet and fur at bedtime and remove any burrs or twigs that could cause irritation, says Dr. Nelson.
Dog friendly camping tip #11: Make swimtime safe. If your pup goes for a dip in the lake (highly likely, if there is a lake!), make sure her ears are completely clean and dry afterwards. This is important to prevent ear infections, notes Dr. Nelson. And if your dog is going for a swim with the family, make sure she is wearing a dog life vest. Contrary to all those movies showing dogs rescuing drowning children, you can’t expect your dog to jump in the water and swim like Michael Phelps. Just in case she didn’t pass Dog Paddling 101, suit her up in a dog life vest, such as the Paws Aboard Lifeguard Neoprene Life Vest for Dogs, or the Outward Hound PupSaver Ripstop Dog Life Jacket.
Dog friendly camping tip #12: Keep him on his leash. This is not a good time to practice his off-leash recall. DelaCoeur notes that if a dog doesn’t consistently listen to you at a dog park at home, he’s certainly not going to listen to you with the wilds of nature all around her. The Outward Hound Daypack doubles as a harness, comes in vibrant colors and has reflective accents, so it’s easier for your dog to be seen. You can attach your pup’s leash directly to the D-ring clip.
Dog friendly camping tip #13: Do not let her drink from puddles or creeks. “It can contain harmful bacteria,” says Toni Lynn Mark, MA, Training and Behavior Education Specialist at PetSafe. Bring a travel pet bowl, such as Outward Hound Port-A-Bowl Pet Bowl, and keep it filled with fresh water.
Dog friendly camping tip #14: Carefully consider activities. Just like with people, some dogs are in better shape athletically than others. One might do fine on a long hike on a warm afternoon, but pushing a dog who is used to his couch and the a/c into the same activity can result in injury, says Mark.
When you get back home, check your dog carefully for any ticks, rashes, cuts or bites, says Dr. Nelson. “Also, if your pet shows any signs of illness within a couple of weeks of your trip, have her seen by your veterinarian immediately.”