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First Time Camping With Your Dog

First Time Camping With Your Dog

taking dog camping first time cover

Be it a first time camping trip, a new hiking adventure, or another voyage for the experienced traveler, no vacation is quite complete without man’s best friend!

Table of Contents
First Time Camping With Dogs: How to Prepare

Injuries, Safety & First Aid

Conclusion: Enjoy Yourself!

First Time Camping With Dogs: How to Prepare

Whether it is your first time camping with dogs or you’re a seasoned veteran, preparation is always key to a fun, enjoyable experience! By following the clear and concise advice listed within the following article, you’ll find nothing is beyond your grasp.

Backyard Practice

Though today’s tents all but set up themselves, anyone who has ever worked with the older tents from 30-40 years ago will claim it certainly took three people to set up a three-person tent, and in no way could any child do it themselves. Of course, directions were mandatory- unless you wanted to spend an hour on a job that would take no more than ten minutes today.

Point is- make sure you’re prepared ahead of time! Practice setting up your tent in your backyard first, so you can easily and quickly do it again when it matters. Lay out all your gear on a poncho in your yard, create a checklist and take inventory. You absolutely don’t want to need something and not have it, especially with your dog relying on you!

Follow this link for our Smart Dog Camping Checklist!

hiking with dogs cover

Campsite Etiquette

This one goes without saying, but is, sadly, all too often ignored. Following the campsite, etiquette rules could be the difference between a fun time away and a bad experience and even have a huge safety impact.

Almost all campgrounds will provide their own ‘list of rules’. Make sure you know what they are! What are the rules concerning dogs?

Finally, there is a bit of an unspoken rule all campers live by- ‘leave no trace’. Leave no trace of your existence when you finally do pack up and venture back home. Everything Should be just as pristine and tidy as it was when you arrived.

Don’t forget your doggy bags, and always clean up after your pooch! Depending on the area, animal waste has the potential to seep into groundwater. Outside of that, no one wants to step in it.

Plan your route ahead of time

Whether you’re just camping in one spot, or a longer hike is what you have in mind, planning your route ahead of time will both prevent you from getting lost and add a sense of security to the experience!

  • Make sure your chosen campground is pet-friendly ahead of time!
  • Take note on landmarks in case you are lost
  • It’s often cooler during the mornings and evenings
  • Travel near a water source, or carry your own water supply along with a travel water bowl for your dog
  • Check and map your route ahead of time, marking rest stops with dog runs along the way.

Pre-Vet Visit

You can take care of all those immunizations, vaccinations and hard to remember checkups by visiting the veterinarian before you embark on your trip! Make sure everything is in tip-top condition with your furry one. Let the veterinarian know what you’re planning, and ask if there is anything they can recommend. The last thing you want is to discover a medical problem during a time when there is nothing you can do.

  • Vaccinations
  • Heartworm, flea, tick
  • Medical exam

Flea, Tick & Heartworm Treatment

Fleas and ticks are always a concern when camping with dogs outdoors during the summer months, especially among wooded areas. Ticks can carry/spread dangerous Lyme disease, and fleas can quickly infest your home if allowed to flourish, let alone the suffering they will cause your pet. Though not all, some dogs are actually allergic to the saliva left behind from a flea bite, making the issue that much worse.

Caused by a noodle-like roundworm parasite and only spread by mosquitoes who carry the larvae after biting infected animals, heartworm is perhaps both the most easily preventable and worst of the three above. Once they fully mature, these worms can (and have, many times) actually clog blood vessels and heart valves, leading to inevitable death of the animal.

  • The best protection against heartworm, fleas and ticks is prevention! Make sure to discuss prevention and possible treatment with your veterinarian.
  • Though flea and tick medications can often be purchased over-the-counter, most heartworm preventatives require a veterinarian’s prescription.
  • Heartworm is only spread by mosquito bites.
  • Six month preventatives are now available!

The Collar vs. Body Harness: Which is Better?

Almost every person anywhere who has seen a pet dog has seen a collar, hopefully with identification tags, whether they have pets themselves or not. Dog collars have become extremely common these days, both easy to use and superbly suited to their purpose! It takes a mere second to attach a lead to a collar, and there is a convenient little place for your pet’s tags. What more could you need?

The dog collar isn’t perfect though. Fitting the neck of the dog causes it to apply pressure to the dog’s trachea when pulled, offering one drawback. Some dogs have a head that seems to be larger than their neck, making it easy for them to slip their collar and run free. If the collar were to catch on something, a low hanging tree branch while hiking down a hill for example, your pet could choke.

Experts recommend against using collars with toy breeds or small puppies, due to their delicate tracheas and potential for injury.

Not everyone has heard of or seen a body harness, being relatively newer. A body harness is exactly that- a harness that fits around the body of a dog, not his neck. There is no chance for a dog to ‘slip’ his harness without completely breaking it, and no chance for your dog to choke.

For camping or hiking, the dog harness is probably preferable to a dog collar.

Injuries, Safety & First Aid

No pet owner likes the idea of their furry little-loved ones getting hurt. Thankfully, animals don’t perceive pain quite at the intensity humans do. All that being said, accidents do happen, and responsible handlers need to be prepared when camping with dogs.

Dog Travel First Aid Kit

You don’t have to be a medical expert, and don’t need to worry about advanced medical degrees, but basic first aid knowledge is important.

  • Pet first aid book
  • Emergency contact numbers (and a personal cell phone, assuming you’ll get service)
    • Veterinarian
    • Poison control (ASPCA- 1-800-426-4435)
    • Nearest veterinary clinic
  • Self- adhesive bandage (bandage that stretches and sticks to self, not fur or skin)
  • Emergency muzzle to prevent biting (don’t use if pet is vomiting, and be aware dogs perspire via panting and need to be able to pant). Your pet isn’t going to understand why you might be touching his injury, and that your attempts to help might be uncomfortable.
  • Always carry a cellular phone, and know your coverage areas!

Basic supplies:

  • Tweezers
  • Pillow for comfort
  • Absorbent gauze
  • Blanket. ‘Foil’ emergency blanket if possible
  • Hydrogen Peroxide to induce vomiting if your pet eats/swallows something toxic. Be aware of the amount needed for your pet’s size, and be prepared for your dog to struggle (he won’t enjoy the taste one bit!)
  • Scissors with blunt ends (trauma shears for the medically savvy)
  • Cotton balls, swabs
  • Non-latex disposable gloves. Assume very little will be clean of bacteria out in the woods/wilderness!

Follow this link for our Smart Dog Camping Checklist!

Nail Trimming

Keeping your dog’s nails neatly trimmed down to the quick (careful not to cut into the quick) will help maintain prime traction. Dogs with overly long nails often have difficulty with their footing. Ask your groomer to cut/trim your pet’s dewclaws also. Long dewclaws carry the tendency to catch on the brush when running, causing the dog pain.

Never pull dew claws out! Though these claws may seem useless, like they are simply hanging and serving no function, they are in fact attached to connective tissue beneath the skin. Removing them incorrectly can not only be unbearably painful for the dog and easily lead to infection.

Surviving the Heat

There are a few simple steps you can take when camping with dogs to make sure neither you nor your pet suffers any heat-related injuries, unfortunately much more common during summer months than you might think!

  1. Always carry plenty of fresh water, and a foldable/rubber travel pet water bowl.
  2. Consider traveling (if you are hiking) during the mornings or evenings, when it is cooler.
  3. Offer rest breaks during your travels, so your pet can relax in the shade before continuing.
  4. Never, ever, leave your pet unattended in a car during the summer, even if the windows are cracked and air conditioning is on. It’s never a good idea to leave your car running while you are absent in the first place, and cars can easily heat up quickly even on a semi-warm day.

Double Coated Breeds

Never completely shave a double coated breed, no matter how thick your dog’s fur is. Breeds who have two coats evolved this way, their topcoat acting to trap in cool air during the summer while offering protection from the sun’s rays and insect bites. Shaving a double coat removes the topcoat first and these protections along with it, making it much more likely your dog will overheat.

If you feel the climate is too hot for your pet, stay indoors. The risk isn’t worth it!

Tracking a Lost Pet

As thousands of dog owners will attest, losing track of your dog is a terrifying experience and will ruin your camping trip! The feeling of helplessness is almost painful, knowing your beloved little fur-child is all alone in a city full of dangers.

Though large roads and speeding cars pose a huge threat, there are people and animal shelters you can rely on in cities. There are probably not going to be many people around the wilderness when camping with dogs, and certainly no large animal shelters!

Identification Tags

Safety is going to be that much more important. If another camper does happen to run by your dog and see a nice collar (or more preferably- brightly colored, reflective harness) with neat identification tags attached, he’ll know that dog has an owner who cares for him.

Assuming your pet is well socialized with strangers and not prone to run in the opposite direction, a passerby will be able to read those tags and eventually contact the owner. If a stranger happens to notice a lone dog without any collar, harness or tags of any kind, on the other hand, he might assume it is just another wild animal.

  • A bright, reflective harness or collar will help your pet stand out.

Micro chipping

Microchipping is a simple, painless process in which a tiny chip is inserted under your dog’s skin, carrying information like his name, breed, age, your name and contact info (phone/address), vaccination information, and almost anything else you choose. When the dog is brought into an animal shelter or veterinary clinic, the chip can be read by an attendee and you can be instantly contacted!


Though they are relatively newer and tend to run on the expensive side, collars with GPS (Global Positioning Systems- using satellites orbiting the earth) devices are now available and perhaps the absolute best way to track a lost pet! In fact, many of these pet collar- GPS devices will integrate with cell phone apps for convenience

Conclusion: Enjoy Yourself!

Theres still time to go camping this summer. When you go be sure to take your best friend! Be sure to check out our latest review blog on the Top Dog Camping Gear for 2018.

This is one of the precious few times your dog will get to experience the fresh multitude of sounds, scents, and sights among a natural, wild setting away from the hustle and bustle of urban city life. Have no doubt he (or she) is going to relish in these moments, and the bond between pet and owner, parent and child, will only strengthen.

As long as you follow the advice above when camping with dogs, your pet isn’t only going to thrive, your little one will relate the experiences to those able to share them with!

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