Camping With Your Pooch
Does the Campsite Allow Dogs?
It might seem like the obvious thing to do, but before you do anything else find out if the campsite you will be traveling to allows dogs. If they do, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with their particular rules. You will need to find out where dogs are allowed and areas where they’re not. Many national parks do not allow dogs, while state parks and nationals forests are a bit more relaxed but still have regulations.
Is Your Dog Trained?
The most important thing you can teach your dog is reliable recall. Not only should your dog be trained to come when called, but he should also learn the “leave it” command, or a version of your choosing, in order to stop what he’s doing immediately or to drop whatever he may have picked up in his mouth.
Your dog should be trained to remain in your car until you invite him to come out. This will avoid any potential accidents or injuries that might occur if your dog leaps out of the car without warning, especially if you are near a busy road.
Even if your dog has only showed aggression one time, it is best to leave him at home. Whether it was toward a human, another dog, or a wild animal, there are too many things that can go wrong. It is best not to take the risk.
People generally go camping to relax and enjoy the quiet of the outdoors, away from their everyday lives. Keep this in mind if your dog is a barker. There is nothing worse than planning a camping trip to get away from it all only to hear a dog barking constantly during your entire trip. Believe it or not, the sound of a dog’s bark can carry a long way, especially over water. If you cannot keep your dog’s barking under control, it’s best to leave him at home. For your own sake, and for your fellow campers.
It is important to be sure your dog is up to date on all required vaccinations, especially rabies. Discuss appropriate flea and tick control with your vet and ask if you should vaccinate your dog against lyme disease, which is tick-borne. Be sure your dog is protected against heartworms, which are transmitted by mosquitos. According to the American Heartworm Society, heartworms have been reported in all fifty states.
Fleas and Ticks
It’s a good idea to apply flea and tick medication in advance of your trip, in order to give it time to soak into your dog’s skin and cover the entire body. Check your dog’s skin and fur often for ticks. If you need to remove a tick, do it promptly by grasping it near the skin, then pull it out gently and slowly. Never handle ticks with bare hands, as they can transmit disease not only to your dog, but to you as well. Always be sure to wear gloves when dealing with ticks. Be sure to brush your dog, especially after hiking. Check for ticks behind the dog’s ears, under his collar, and in his “armpit” area as ticks will hide anywhere that is snug and warm.
Your dog should always wear a collar or harness with identification tags. Be sure to list a cell phone number where you can be reached at any time. If your dog becomes separated from you, this is your first line of communication with the person who is able to make contact. Microchipping your dog is an added measure of protection if he gets lost. It’s important to register the microchip and to keep your information updated regularly, especially if you’ve moved or changed phone numbers.
If you have enough time before your trip, it’s a good idea to use an instant pet name tag machine, like the ones you see at pet stores, to create a tag with your camping information on it. For example, “Fido, Yogi Bear, Campsite A-4, 8/18/16 - 8/20/16.”
Tattoos are another option for dog identification, but according to Coyote Communications, “Tattoos are often hard (if not impossible) to find on the dog, and hard to interpret once they are found.”
What to Bring
- Always bring clean water for your dog to drink. You never want your dog to drink out of puddles or standing bodies of water. That being said, don’t forget your dog’s water bowl!
- Your dog’s diet shouldn’t change just because you’re going on a camping trip. Pack enough food and treats to last your entire trip, even a couple of days extra to be safe. Remember to pack your dog’s food bowl! Food should be packed in airtight plastic containers.
- Don’t forget bedding for your dog. Whether it’s his favorite bed, blanket or pillow, you want to keep his nighttime routine consistent.
- Dogs get bored just like people do. Be sure to bring toys to keep him occupied. Something he’s familiar with will help him feel more comfortable in his unfamiliar surroundings.
- It’s a good idea to bring along copies of your dog’s health and vaccination records just to be safe, especially when crossing state lines.
- Poop bags!
- Even if you’re not going anywhere near water, bring a couple of extra towels specifically for your dog. Camping shops and pet stores both sell towels that are extra-absorbent, and they not only soak up large amounts of water, but dry quickly, usually within a couple of hours.
- If your dog is on any special medication, do not forget to bring this along.
- A flashing red light that you can hang on your dog’s collar or harness so he can be seen better during twilight and evening hours.
First Aid Kit
It’s always wise to keep a first aid kit on hand, but one made specifically for your dog will come in handy should any accidents or injuries occur. Camptrip.com suggests including the following items in your dog’s first aid kit:
- antiseptic/rubbing alcohol (to clean and disinfect wounds)
- coated aspirin (for dogs to ingest if in pain. Do not give dogs regular aspirin and use extreme caution)
- butterfly bandages (to close wounds)
- waterproof surgical tape
- vet wrap (will stick to fur better than tape without pulling out hair)
- tick tweezers, tick key
- tick release
- ear and eye drops (a little Ottomax and Terramycin)
- Kwik stop/septic powder (to stop bleeding)
- sock (to put over paw if cut/injured)
- first aid gel for pets
- foot balm to protect paws in harsh cold/hot weather
It’s always good to know ahead of time where the nearest veterinarian is in the area where you will be camping. If your dog becomes ill or injured, do everything you can to keep him comfortable and get to a vet as fast as you can. In this scenario, giving your dog first aid will be to stop bleeding or prevent any further injuries while calming him down enough for transport.
Most people prefer the safety and warmth of their tent for their canine companions, but some like to keep their dog outside. There are many factors to keep in mind, as well as safety concerns for your dog.
If you prefer to keep your dog outside of your tent during the night, make sure that he is secured close to your tent area. A braided steel cable covered in a plastic coating is your best choice if you are going to keep your dog tethered. Remember, however, that a tethered dog should never be left unattended.
Place his bed in a safe area that is shielded from the elements, including rain, wind, heat and cold. You must place a plastic tarp underneath his bed to keep the cold and wet moisture from soaking up through the bed. It’s important that your dog stays warm during the night. Keep in mind that even in the hot summer months, it can cool down considerably during the evening and your dog can become chilled. If you’re camping during cooler months, 40 degrees F or 4 degrees C is far too cold for a dog to be sleeping outside. It’s important to remember that dogs are not wild animals and some will need extra help in keeping warm.
If your dog is forced to sleep out in the elements during your camping trip, he may have to contend with larger pests, such as raccoons, skunks, or bears. This could result in being sprayed by a skunk and having to deal with the aftermath, or even worse, being attacked by wildlife and possibly losing your beloved dog. It’s a good idea to put your dog’s food and water in secure containers at night to avoid attracting other animals as well.
Playing It Safe
Always keep your dog on a leash. This will keep your canine companion from wandering off, or disturbing other campers. Even if your dog is friendly and well-behaved, not everyone is a dog lover.
It’s a good idea to provide some activity time for your dog so he is not tied up all day and night. Dogs get bored too, and love the opportunity to play, be active, or even go on walks. Be sure your dog has a shaded area where he can go to cool off, as well as plenty of clean drinking water. Keep an eye out for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.