Top Tips for Camping with a Dog

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Thinking of bringing your plus-one on your family camping trip? Be sure to plan ahead so you and your pup can have the best adventures together. Check out these tips 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

Dog in orange sleeping bag

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 them there. This preparation will help you understand if your dog is comfortable inside your tent and how they respond to the sounds and scents of the great outdoors at night. If they’re restless sleeping in the tent (or if there’s not enough room to accommodate your furry friend), they 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 them from wandering off to explore the sights and smells of the campground and nearby wildlife!

2. Find a dog-friendly campground

A woman, toddler, and dog huddle around a campfire.

Lake Winfield Scott Recreation Area (Katherine Willess, Share Your Story)

Rules for pets while camping vary by campground, so do your homework before you head out with your pup! allows you to easily identify campgrounds that are pet friendly. Simply filter your search results to include “pet friendly” campgrounds. Once you’ve found your ideal location, check out reviews for mentions of pets to see how others prepared.

3. Visit the vet

Dog on leash sitting in a field

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 their collar if you typically leave it off day-to-day.

4. Pack for your dog

A man pours coffee into a tin mug while his dog perches in his lap

Black Hills National Forest (Caleb Uran, Share the Experience)

Your dog needs to be prepared too. Don’t forget to pack bowls for your dog’s water and food. Bring their 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 campsite 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 campsite.

5. Keep your dog on a leash and don't leave them unattended

A woman kneels beside her two dogs and smiles for a photo

Assateague Island National Seashore (Elizabeth Antosy, Share the Experience)

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 pup wet or overheated. If they get lonesome, scared, or agitated, they could start barking, whining, or howling. That can create a nuisance for other campers seeking relaxation.

6. Pick up after your pup

A man kneels down to high-five his dog

Mt. Hood National Forest (Mike Hoderman Jr, Share the Experience)

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.

High five for picking up and packing out!

7. Capture the experience

A woman and her dog pose for a selfie along a river.

Larissa Rochford, Share Your Story

Make sure you take photos and video of your dog enjoying nature. Consider capturing the perspective from their level. Your photos will help you preserve the memory and could inspire others! A number of contests, including the Share the Experience photo contest and the Share Your Story writing 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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