If you’re going out into the wild, you can always take your dog with you. For an experienced camper, this is a breeze. But the first time, there are always mistakes and learning experiences. Here’s my guide for taking a dog camping for the first time.
Dog camping tips
Take a reliable dog that you trust. There isn’t a guide on which breeds are okay to take outdoors because they vary in temperament and behavior. So, here are some guidelines.
Dogs not to bring
These dogs are better left at home when you go camping.
You don’t want to bring a dog that is maladjusted or extremely fearful. There are wild animals and people he doesn’t know so it is better that you leave him at home.
Female dogs in heat
Never bring a female dog in heat. The only appropriate place for her is at home. Things are chaotic enough in a controlled environment, you don’t want to add all of the local wildlife to your list of unpredictabilities.
Don’t bring puppies. They’re not trustworthy. You probably don’t want to bring a very small dog. In the wild, the smaller a creature is, the more things there are that can eat it (same with puppies).
Don’t bring a constant-barker. A dog that barks incessantly will disrupt and possibly piss off the local wildlife. It’ll also ruin the experiences of other campers.
Don’t bring an aggressive dog. In a normal society, there are many challenges and ways that things can go wrong. In the wilderness away from cell-phone, even more.
Don’t bring a sick dog. If the illness is contagious, it will spread to the local wildlife that comes in contact with anything the dog touched. Even if it’s not contagious, the dog will be exposed to a brand new world of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Dogs that are sick need to be at home resting and recovering.
Dog camping checklist and preparation guide
Before you go, here are some things that you should have and prepare:
- Microchip and collar tags need to be up to date.
- Be sure the dog is up to date on all vaccines.
- Check with your dog’s veterinarian if there are any additional vaccines your pet should get. For example, the leptospirosis and Lyme vaccines, and heartworm pills.
- Practice your dog’s recall to be sure he will come when calling.
- Practice a command like “leave it” to leave something alone – for example, a porcupine.
- If you have a very energetic dog, work on a “settle down” command
- Prepare a doggie first-aid kit: gauze, styptic powder, peroxide, tweezers, and a towel. If you have a short-haired dog, also add sunscreen lotion.
- Plan everything out. What the rules are, where you will go and stay, where you will camp, what you will eat. Having a plan makes you more confident and that puts your pet pooch at ease.
- A doggie travel bag: a couple of favorite toys, treats, food dishes, and a dog camping bed.
- Consider a doggie backpack: not only can your dog carry around its own things but the added weight will wear it out quickly. Many dogs will understand that they are helping and this makes them feel proud.
- Consider a high-visibility or reflective vest, harness, or jacket.
- Consider a doggie light source, like a light-up dog collar. Not only will your dog be able to see better, but you will also be able to detect where your dog is.
- Extra provisions. The dog will need food, but also extra water. Make sure that your tent is big enough for you and the dog as well.
It’s a great idea to practice going camping, out in your backyard. This will give your dog a chance to acclimate to the new environment and expectations.
You can practice different commands, and even some unexpected scenarios that might occur, and keeping your companion calm and controlled.
Another benefit of a practice run is that you will get to set-up and expect all your equipment. Check the gear and be sure that you are ready for the trip.
As you practice, you can find trouble spots that you may not have noticed before. For example, perhaps your dog’s claws are puncturing your tent’s flooring because they are too sharp and need to be trimmed and grinded.
When is it okay to take your dog off leash?
When you are out in the wild, anything can happen. It’s very important to remember this even though dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years.
However, they can still have a split second decision to do something wild or stupid, such as darting into the street as a car comes, chasing a bear cub, or sniffing a skunk.
Without that leash, you are relying 100% on the dog’s recall (that is, the dog coming when called) and the dog not being so caught up in the situation that he can’t even hear what you are saying.
If your camping area doesn’t allow off-leash dogs, then the dog needs to remain on the leash. There may be issues regarding the local wildlife in that area.
If your dog is the type to wander around, explore and forget that you exist, you definitely want to keep him on-leash. It would suck to have a lost pet in the wilderness.
The other reason is that when a dog wanders off, you aren’t there to supervise the situation and you don’t know what he is doing. He could be sniffing some trees, or he could be playing with a poisonous snake.
What to do with Dog’s Poo?
When you take your dog outdoors, be sure to pick up his poop. This is part of leaving “no trace behind” so that the area can stay as it was.
Specifically, dog food contains much more nutrients than if the dog foraged naturally, and so does its poop, thus disrupting the “closed loop” of the ecosystem.
If the area has trash cans, dispose it there. Otherwise, you can dig a hole and place the bagged poop inside. If you want to be extra vigilant and carry it with you until you reach a trash can, consider placing the bag into an airtight bag, such as a Ziploc bag.
Happy Trails and Happy Tails!
Is it your first time camping with your dog? Taking him on a camping trip can get out of hand. So, before you take off, consider my tips on taking a dog camping for the first time.