Top Tips for Camping with a Dog

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If you’re thinking about bringing your dog on your next camping trip, be sure to plan ahead. Check out these tips from Recreation.gov to prepare appropriately and get the most out of the experience.  

Seven helpful tips to prepare for the ulti-mutt camping adventure

1. Try a practice run in your backyard with your dog in the tent

Little boy and dog in tent with lantern

A practice run at home will tell you a lot about whether your dog is ready for a camping trip. Set up your tent in the backyard and try spending the night with him there. This preparation will help you understand if your dog is comfortable inside your tent and how he responds to the sounds and scents of the great outdoors at night. If he’s restless sleeping in the tent (or if there’s not enough room to accommodate your furry friend), he may not be ready to “ruff it” by camping away from home. Remember that allowing your dog to sleep in the tent will also keep him from wandering off to explore the sights and smells of the campground and nearby wildlife!

2. Find a dog-friendly campground

A woman holds her dog with beautiful view behind them

Jessica Sander, Share Your Story

Requirements and rules for pets while camping vary by campground, so do your homework before you head out with your pup! Recreation.gov allows you to easily identify campgrounds that are pet friendly. Simply filter your search results to include “pet friendly” campgrounds. Pet friendly facilities are also easily identified by the green paw print icon. Once you’ve found your ideal location, check out reviews for mentions of pets to see how others prepared.  

3. Visit the vet

Camper with his dog smiling at camera

Mario Velasco, Share Your Story

Head to the vet before you leave town. It’s smart to make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations, flea and tick treatment, and has clipped nails before you hit the great outdoors. You’ll also want to add your dog’s rabies tag to his collar if you typically leave it off day-to-day.

4. Pack for your dog

Your dog needs to be prepared, too. Don’t forget to pack bowls for your dog’s water and food. Bring her leash, collar, ID tags, poop bags, a light towel in case of rain, and a favorite blanket. If you’re planning to hike with your furry friend, be sure to pick up a water dispenser that can keep her hydrated while walking. Some campers recommend buying a second, inexpensive dog ID and adding your camp site number to it with a permanent marker. If for some reason your dog gets loose, and cell service is spotty at the campground, others will be able to return your best friend to your camp site.

5. Keep your dog on a leash and don’t leave her unattended

Dog looks at magnificent view

Rebecca Turchanik, Share Your Story

No matter how well-behaved your dog is, pets must be on a leash at all times. Check for local leash guidelines at the campground and the surrounding area you plan to visit. It’s the “leash” you can do to make sure your dog doesn’t get lost or bother other visitors and wildlife.

Remember, you are your dog’s best friend! Whether you're tent camping or have a trailer or RV, your buddy cannot be left unattended at your campsite or inside a vehicle while you’re out exploring. Weather can change and create unexpected rainstorms or heat, leaving your canine wet or overheated. If she gets lonesome, scared, or agitated, she could start barking, whining, or howling. That can create a nuisance for other campers seeking relaxation.

6. Pick up after your pup

One of the best ways to ensure our federal lands and waters stay beautiful for future generations is to leave no trace. In short, whatever you bring with you should be removed when you leave a natural area. That includes your dog’s poop! Always pick up your dog’s waste and pack it out with you; it can contaminate drinking water. Remember, that as much as your dog may love digging holes or scratching things, try to leave the environment as you found it.

7. Capture the experience

Small dog looks out the window of a camper

Make sure you take photos and video of your dog enjoying nature. Consider capturing the perspective from his level. Your photos will help you preserve the memory and could inspire others! A number of contests, including the Share the Experience amateur photo contest and the upcoming Share Your Story contest, encourage visitors to share their adventures on federal lands and waters for the chance to win great prizes. Go ahead and become a pup-arazzi!

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