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Safe And Sound Under the Stars: Tips for Camping with Your Dog

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Golden retriever on a Fall camping trip with man and woman

Camping can be a fun and exciting activity to do by yourself, with friends, or with your entire family. Camping with dogs can be an added amount of enjoyment for your trip. Before you pack your bags and journey to the great outdoors, there are many things to consider first for you and your dog to have a safe, prepared, and pleasurable trip.

Camping with Your Dog

Camping with your dog can be a rewarding activity and an enjoyable vacation. Whether you go camping just once to try it out or it becomes a frequent hobby of yours, there can be a long list of benefits that come along with it. Some of these include spending more time outdoors, being more active, and spending quality time with your close acquaintances and dog. One fantastic aspect of camping is its adaptability to different regions and budgets, making it an outdoor activity suitable for almost everyone.

RV Camping with Dogs

To help your RV camping trip go as smoothly as possible, there are a few items you can look into ahead of time. Foremost, if your dog has never been in a camper, spend some time hanging out in yours before the trip. Give your dog plenty of praise and treats and allow them to explore the space.

As you begin planning your trip and researching campgrounds, ensure that they are dog-friendly, review any pet restrictions they may have, and see if there are any added amenities for your pup on the property before booking a spot.

Some campgrounds may offer a fenced-in dog park, agility areas, dog-friendly walking paths, places to take your dog swimming, and dog-washing stations. Although it’s helpful to keep these amenities in mind while searching for your campground, don’t forget to consider the camp’s location. Some may be more remote, near hiking trails, and have tons of greenery on site. Others may be more exposed parking areas but be within a shorter distance of a dog-friendly city.

As you pack your bags for the trip, don’t forget to pack your dog a bag. Including essentials such as bowls, food, treats, toys, and poop bags, you should keep your location and activities in mind when considering what to pack. Some dog booties may be helpful if you’re out in muddy conditions, so your dog doesn’t track messy paw prints into your camper. If it’ll be rainy or you foresee yourself venturing into lakes and rivers, consider keeping a few extra towels in the camper to dry off your dog. 

If your dog is left alone in your camper at any point during your trip, it’s crucial that you set the RV’s thermostat to an appropriate temperature that will keep your dog comfortable. Hot climates may require extra fans or an open vent, and cold locations may be more favorable if you set up a cozy spot with your dog’s bed. No matter the external weather or if you’ll be gone for a few minutes or hours, make sure you always leave fresh water for your dog in an easily accessible area. 

When it’s time to move your RV, ensure your dog is in a secure and comfortable space for the drive. With pull-behind campers, your dog should never ride in the RV—they should always be up front in the towing vehicle with you. However, with drivable campers, it may be helpful to set up a safe spot for your dog to sit or lay while the vehicle is in motion. If you are already bringing their crate along for the trip, this may be the safest and most comfortable place for them to ride.  

As with any canine-accompanied road trip, don’t forget to give your dog small breaks to use the potty, stretch their legs, and get some water. 

Car Camping with Dogs

For many campers, car camping is the perfect middle ground between tent and RV camping. Cars provide more protection from the elements and allow you to be off the ground without the extra costs that come with a larger camper.  

If car camping interests you, you may first want to consider the following: 

  • The type of car you have and the size of your dog. 
  • Sleeping arrangements in the vehicle. Do you have a larger SUV or a car with removable seats? 
  • Do you need to make a custom plywood cutout for the front seat? Putting some cushions on top can create a great dog bed. 
  • The material you would like for your bed—a good night’s sleep is crucial to a successful trip. 
  • The average temperature of where you will be staying—for both the day and night. 
  • Extra blankets and maybe a sweater for your dog if it will be cool. 
  • If it’s hot, include battery-powered fans and screens for your car windows which allow airflow without letting in pesky bugs. 

Keep your dog’s needs in mind as you pack up your necessary supplies. For instance, after figuring out how much food to pack, go ahead and pack a few extra meals just in case. The same is true for water. Figure out how much you will need per day and how much your dog will need. If you are in hot weather or hiking a lot, plan to pack extra for both you and your canine companion. Don’t forget that you will also need some additional water for any possible cooking you may do.  

Depending on the location of your car camping, you may need to add a few other helpful tools for your pet. Rainy locations may justify a rain jacket and boot purchase for your pup, while a woodsy or grassy area may mean packing a tick removal tool and some brushes and combs.

Before your next road trip with your pet, think about including additional pet accessories for the car such as blankets, a collapsible water bowl, and a pet first-aid kit.

Beach Camping with Dogs

Camping on the beach can make for a fantastic trip—falling asleep to the sound of waves, swimming all day, spending time outside, and watching amazing sunsets or sunrises over the water.  

One of your top considerations should be location. First and foremost, you’ll need to find a place that allows dogs. If you stay in an established campground, you should be safe from rising tides. However, if you select your spot, be aware of high and low tide and any paths that may lose accessibility once water levels rise. 

When camping on the beach, it’s essential that you pack plenty of blankets, rain jackets, a rain cover for your tent, and multiple layers. Conditions can often become rather windy by the shore. Throughout the night, condensation can form, so don’t forget to bring any important items inside the tent to prevent them from getting soiled.  

Although it can get chilly at night, there’s a good chance that temperatures will soar during the day. Keep your dog cool by providing them with access to clean drinking water, giving them a shady place to hang out (possibly under a beach umbrella), and protecting their puppy paws from the hot sand. Sun protection is equally as important, not just to keep your pup from overheating but also to protect them (and you) from getting sunburnt. Just make sure anything you use is safe for pets! 

Your pup can also cool off by playing in the water or going for a swim. It’s typically best not to go swimming at night when visibility is low and to save the aquatic activities for daytime. Use caution and allow your dog to explore the water at their own pace. Don’t force them out into deeper water, as the waves and currents are foreign to most dogs and may make them uncomfortable. If you’re worried about your dog’s safety around the water, you may want to consider a dog life vest. And, of course, never leave your dog unattended in the water.

dog sleeping in a tent

Tent Camping with Dogs

Before embarking on the adventure of tent camping, you may first want to consider if your dog is up for it. Some dogs, frankly, don’t enjoy spending much time outside or sleeping on the ground, or they may be older and not have enough energy to do a lot of hiking. However, if you think your energetic pup is up for the challenge, introduce them to your various camping supplies, particularly the tent, beforehand. Allow them to be near when you build and take down your tent and let them walk in and spend time inside. 

Besides acclimating your pup to your camping setup, you will also want to make sure they are comfortable with the outdoors. You can work on loose leash walking, not to pull when they see a squirrel or other type of wildlife, and how to listen to basic cues such as sit, stay, come, and down while being in an outdoor setting. Practice these skills outdoors before your camping trip, starting in a familiar space, like a backyard, and gradually moving to more distracting or lively areas.  

Like car camping, you will also need to consider your sleeping arrangements. Some dogs may prefer to sleep in their bed inside the tent, while others might be content sharing your sleeping bag with you. If your dog is most comfortable and used to sleeping in their crate, you could consider bringing that along, assuming your tent is large enough to accommodate it. 

For your dog’s safety, never leave them unattended in the tent or alone in the campground. Be aware of what wildlife is in your area and know what to do in case you have an encounter. Even when it comes to smaller creatures, like bugs and ticks, it’ll be necessary to check your pup’s coat each evening to ensure nothing is caught. This could also include burs or thorns.

Check out our Vet Locator Tool to find a veterinarian anywhere in the country.

Essentials for Camping with a Dog

No matter what type of camping you will be doing or where you will be, some essentials remain the same. When packing, be sure you have more than enough food and water for yourself and your dog. It doesn’t hurt to throw in a bag of treats for your pup as well. 

What To Pack for Swimming or Boating: 

  • Towels for drying off 
  • A doggy life vest 
  • Dog-safe sunscreen 

What To Pack for Hiking: 

  • A hiking pack for your dog (if they are comfortable wearing one) 
  • A collapsible water bowl 
  • Drinking water for your dog 
  • A comb or brush to remove ticks or burs from their coat  

When you are out in nature, there is typically one common rule, no matter where you go: leave no trace. You may have also heard the saying, “pack it in, pack it out.” In other words, it’s crucial that you do not litter and that you properly dispose of or remove your waste. This includes your dog’s as well. To help leave the trails clean for others, it’s essential that you always have a few poop bags on hand. 

Be mindful of any medication you are bringing along and that your dog will not be able to get ahold of it accidentally. Related products, such as bug repellent, should also be checked to ensure that it is safe to use around canines. 

Ensure you have all your leashes, collars, and harnesses necessary for your camping activities. You can even look into lighted leashes for easy evening and night visibility.

Infographic titled 'Safety Tips for Camping with Pets'. It outlines essential gear for camping safely with dogs, including a pet first aid kit, poop bags, familiar toy, pet-safe bug repellent, fresh water with portable bowls, collar with ID tags, a doggy hiking pack, and a blanket. Additional safety tips include bringing plenty of fresh water, packing out all waste, being aware of local wildlife, and knowing emergency procedures.

Camping Safety for Dogs

Before you head out on your great road trip with your four-legged pal, you should first figure out how long your trip will be. It never hurts to take your dog to the veterinarian ahead of a trip. Check with your veterinarian that your pal is in good health and has the all-clear, is updated on necessary vaccinations, and if they are on any medications, make sure they will have enough for the trip. These can also include preventatives for fleas, ticks, and heartworm. 

Other safety measures that should be on your pre-camping checklist include: 

  • Check your dog’s tags—make sure information is visible and updated. If they’re microchipped, make sure the information is current. 
  • Check your pup’s collar, leash, and harness. If one has become worn out, replace it before your trip. 
  • Pack a bag for you and your dog, and make sure to include the address and phone number of a local veterinary emergency clinic in the area in the event of an accident. 
  • Brush up on what to do if you or your pup were to have an accident out on the trail. 
  • If you will be out of cellphone range, keep some paper maps or directions downloaded on your phone. 
  • Let your friends or family know where you will be and what day they can expect you back. 
  • Look ahead at the forecast and pack accordingly. 
  • Keep them away from campfires and keep an eye out for wild animals. 

When it comes to camping, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Taking a few extra safety precautions can really make all the difference.

Learn more about how pet insurance could help you cover your pet’s eligible veterinary care expenses.

Places to Camp with Your Dog

When deciding where to camp with your dog, the possibilities are endless: forests, deserts, mountains, and the beach. As you consider the pros and cons of each place, you might also want to keep in mind which activities to do with your dog while camping.  

Don’t forget to double-check that your camping location is dog friendly. With proper planning and the correct supplies, you and your dog can have plenty of fun camping trips and make memories that’ll last a lifetime.

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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