Do you have cozy dreams of your dog curled up at the foot of your sleeping bag, trotting happily down mountain paths, and gazing into the campfire flames by your side at night? And does your dog have cozy dreams of hogging the entirety of your sleeping bag, terrorizing squirrels from dawn until dusk, and smuggling a hotdog from an unsuspecting child?
It sounds like you and your furry adventurer both want to book a camping trip!
This article began to take shape in my head as Steve and I packed for our weekend camping trip to Louisville. No sooner had we pulled out our sleeping bags and cooler, but Ranger knew something was afoot. He took a keen interest in our preparations and made it his job to sniff and snuffle through our packs and gear while we busied ourselves with food prep and readying the car for loadup. Right before we left he was ready at the door, letting us know in no uncertain terms that he needed to be packed, as well! He wriggled with happiness as he leapt into the backseat and nestled down on our pillows and bedding.
Since we’ve take our canine on several camping several trips each year, I may be able to offer some sage advice: things to consider before going, and what you’ll need to pack to ensure you have a smooth easy trip with your creature.
Things to ask yourself before planning a camping trip with your dog:
1. Are the trails you plan to hike welcoming of dogs?
You may be surprised to find that each park has its own rules concerning dogs. Some ban our furry friends due to wildlife conservation, or land preservation. Although their reasons are sound, sometimes it just feels like they’re being big fat meanies! Plan accordingly so Fido doesn’t throw a wrench in your plans. Also, fines are usually steep for these laws, so don’t be a rebel and try to hike anyway, lest you stumble upon a ranger!
2. If you plan to hike, can your dog keep up with you?
This may sound obvious, but can your dog keep up the same pace as you all day? If you’ve had your dog for a few months you should know the answer to this. If you just adopted/bought your dog last week and have a trip on the calendar, you might want to hold off. Just like humans, dogs need to work their way up to intense exercise. If you dog has been spending most of its days snoozing on your pillow, it may not have the stamina to keep pace. Also, if your dog is overweight or suffering any medical condition, it’s best to make a quick call to your vet to get their opinion on the trip.
Even if your dog is used to intense exercise every day, it might be nice to plan a lowkey day of simply hanging out in a scenic area. Our dog was a trooper on our twelve-day camping trip in Michigan, but by the end he was looking a little worn. In retrospect, we should have planned a recovery day for all of us!
3. Is your dog chill or a Nervous Nellie?
Your dog will be experiencing something brand new every day, and sometimes multiple times a day. On our Michigan trip we camped in a different town every night and traveled to several different locations each day. Too much newness can be overwhelming for a dog who is used to a quiet home and a predictable routine.
4. Will your dog be a nuisance to other campers?
If you’re staying at a campsite with other campers and your dog is prone to barking or being a general nuisance, it may be best to leave them at home. Most people are tolerable of a little barking, and I find campers to be a super laid-back crowd, but if it’s incessant I’d leave Rover at home.
5. Will your dog fare well in the elements?
Are you camping in the winter with a short hair? Or hiking in the summer with a Frenchie? Certain breeds need temperature-controlled conditions in order to survive comfortably. Don’t force your dog to endure the outside weather if they’d be much happier in a thermostat-controlled home.
6. Are you okay with being outside all day every day?
Having your dog with you means never being able to enter an establishment. Especially food related ones. We’ve found most towns where we’ve stayed to be extremely dog friendly, and days we chose to eat at a local restaurant we were often able to sit out on the patio, and where there wasn’t a patio we simply ordered our food to go and ate it somewhere with a pretty view.
One evening we did encounter a brewery that did not allow dogs, even on the patio. Unfortunately, we learned this after we ordered our beer, and Ranger was outcast to the sidewalk, separated from us by a wrought iron fence. We hurriedly gulped our beers, while he basked in the attention of the passersby’s..
Now, if you’ve answered all the above questions appropriately and still want to embark on the journey together here are a few things to pack (the list is short, since dogs are wonderfully simple creatures).
What to Pack
we found -and after talking to other dog owners have realized this is common- that when in new environments our dog tends to eat much, much less. Left to his own accord, he may not eat at all for long periods of time. Since anticipate spending all day hiking and burning calories, we pick up wet dog food at the store to supplement his dry food on camping trips. We get the small packets on sale that are a dollar each and pour them over his hard food about twice a day. This is usually enough to entice him to fuel up.
common sense, but don’t forget to always pack enough water to share with your dog. Be on the lookout for signs of dehydration and offer him or her water frequently. Our dog usually prefers to drink from streams and creeks, but when the land is dry it is important to carry our own stash.
Always make sure your dog is properly medicated to prevent fleas and ticks. We’ve found it’s not a matter of if your dog acquires these nasty little creatures, but when.
If you’re out in the wilderness enough with your dog you will have a run in with these parasites. Prevent now to avoid having to deal with a tick bite or flea infestation while camping, or bringing one of these bugs home!
No one knows your dog better than you, so take care, pay attention, and be safe out there!
Did I miss anything? What are some great tips for camping with your pooch? What do you pack to ensure safe travels?