Taking a Dog Camping for the First Time

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If you love camping, there’s no reason your best friend can’t join in on the fun!

While you do need to plan ahead and take some things into consideration, camping with your dog can be a great experience for both of you.

In this post, we’ll give you some tips on how to make sure your pup enjoys their first camping trip as much as you will.

7 Tips for Taking a Dog Camping for the First Time

1. Do a Test Run at Home

Sleeping outside can be a bit overwhelming for most canines, especially if it’s their first time on a camp trip.

The best way to prepare your dog for the adventure is to set up a tent in your backyard, or even in the living room. Sleep there for the night, and see how it goes.

That way, you’ll have time to reassure your dog if he refuses to enter the tent or sleep in his travel bed/sleeping bag. Starting at home is a great way to train your dog for outdoor adventures in a safe environment.

2. Prepare Your Dog for the Drive

If your dog isn’t used to riding in the car for extended periods, now’s the time to practice and ensure that the ride is as comfortable as possible for your dog. Invest in a waterproof seat cover, both for your pet’s enjoyment and to keep your car clean.

3. Do Your Research Beforehand

Not every campsite allows dogs. Likewise, some campgrounds require that you keep your dog on a leash, and others require you to pay a fee.

When looking at your options online, be sure to take the time to filter out those that don’t accept dogs, and familiarize yourself with the rules before you arrive.

Here are some pet-friendly campgrounds in the US.

4. Check the Weather

Although camping is a year-round activity, when you’re taking your dog with you for the first time, try to plan it around good camping weather. Sunshine is far better than thunderstorms in terms of how much stress your dog could experience.

A little rain here and there is probably not going to hurt, but you should probably avoid extreme weather like strong winds or extreme heat or cold.

5. Treat Your Dog For Fleas And Ticks

Campsites are filled with fleas, ticks, and mosquitos that can irritate your dog’s skin and possibly expose him to diseases. Even though your dog should have flea and tick protection all the time, it’s especially important when you take him camping with you.

In this case, I’ll probably use a flea treatment that doesn’t enter the bloodstream and instead spreads throughout the skin, glands, and hair. Most brands should keep your dog safe on camping and other outdoor activities, just be sure to follow the instructions.

6. Get a Tent Big Enough for Everyone

Some campsites won’t allow your dog to sleep outdoors, so you need to be ready to have him sleep with you in the tent. If it’s just you and your dog, you need to bring a tent that will fit both of you.

However, there’s no need to break the bank. A 2-person tent is more than enough room for you and your large dog. If you have a smaller dog, you can even fit another person in there.

7. Bring A Dog Backpack For Walks

A doggie backpack is a convenient, hands-free way to carry all your essential items if you go hiking. For example, food and water, bowls, waste bags, first aid, cell phones, etc.

Obviously, a backpack is more suited for medium and large dogs, since they can actually carry it. If you’re looking for a good one, check out my product recommendations below.

The Ultimate Dog Camping Packing Checklist: 11 Essential Accessories

1. ID Tag

Simply put, your dog should never leave home without his ID tag.

ID tags aren’t expensive, and they provide other people with your information, just in case your pup happens to get lost. Consider getting an additional tag with the campsite details in case your dog goes missing and can’t find his way back.

2. First Aid Kit

Hopefully, you won’t ever need to bandage your dog, but being prepared for emergencies is important.

Look for a pocket-size kit that only includes a few essential items. Also, make sure it’s lightweight and can be easily attached to leashes and/or backpacks.

The kit should come with a first aid manual and a place to write critical phone numbers. For maximum protection, I would add a styptic powder to stop bleeding quickly and a tick removal key as well.

3. Travel Bed

Your dog will probably nap a lot on the trip, as that’s what dogs do.

While you can find waterproof dog beds that are also made for outdoor use, a sleeping bag is often more durable, and it usually comes in a pouch for easy carrying.

Don’t forget to bring a blanket just in case it gets too cold at night.

If you’re serious about camping and traveling with your dog, and plan to do this often, invest in a high-quality sleeping bag that will last for many outdoor ventures.

4. Clip-on Flashlight

It’s easy to lose track of your dog when he starts to wander throughout the camp at night. If you’re going to let him go without a leash, it’s best if he has a flashlight on him to keep him from getting lost.

Clip-on LED lights are ideal for camping, considering that they’re durable, weather-resistant, and have long battery life. You can attach the light to your dog’s collar or harness, or better yet, to a LED collar.

5. Dog Leash

Some campsites require that your dog stays secure, so don’t forget to pack a short leash and a stake or a tether. Keeping your dog on a leash is also safer, as he can’t decide to wander alone at night or run after a small animal.

You should also bring a longer leash, like the one you use when you go to the beach or the park. This will allow your dog to run and play freely while keeping him under control.

6. Collapsible Bowls

When you bring your dog on a trip, you have to pack quite a few things. Therefore, any product that’s easy to carry and doesn’t require a lot of storage is a worthwhile investment

Collapsible bowls are perfect for camping as they’re lightweight and take up minimal space in your bag. Ideally, the bowls should be made of durable silicone, and come with a free carabiner so you can attach them to a backpack or a tent.

Notice that these bowls are usually quite small, so if you have a large dog, you may have to fill them more than once.

7. Food and Water

Since you won’t have a fridge out there, it’s best to go with either dry dog food or unopened cans of dog food. In the case of kibbles, I suggest measuring and packing each meal separately to make things easier.

Also, make sure you have enough dog food for the whole trip by packing a little more than you would need at home. You can even sneak a few dog treats and toys to comfort your dog when he’s stressed, as well as to keep him busy while you’re setting up the tent or cooking.

Remember that bones aren’t a good treat, as they pose a choking hazard and can attract wild animals. Bring a chew toy instead.

Additionally, if you’re unsure about the quality of the water at the site, buy enough bottled water to last you both throughout the trip.

8. Waste Bags

It’s easy to forget about waste bags when packing for a trip, but you have to respect the site and the people in it by picking up after your dog.

Honestly, the only time I’d use waste bags is on camping and similar outings, as they’re smaller than produce bags and easier to carry around. Go with simple poop bags and skip the scented kind.

9. Dog Coat

If it’s cold, a coat or a sweater is necessary for protecting your dog from hypothermia, especially if he has short or thin hair.

Any insulated coat will do the job. Look for a jacket that’s also reflective, so it will help you keep an eye on your dog, even in low-light environments like campsites.

10. Microfiber Towels

Your dog needs his own towel in case he decides to go for a swim or shows up with muddy paws.

Microfiber towels are super lightweight, and they dry much faster than a usual towel, which makes them perfect for camping trips. Find towels that come in multiple sizes and get one for your dog, as well as for yourself.

11. Dog Booties

You need to protect your dog’s paws, whether it be from sharp thorns, hot surfaces, or rocky ground. However, not all dog boots will do well in the woods, especially if it’s raining and there’s mud everywhere.

You want to look for shoes that will be comfortable, but also something that’s functional, and durable. Also, make sure they’re water-resistant and provide your dog with good paw protection and grip.

Let your dog try his boots on and get used to them before the trip.

12. BONUS: Wireless Fence System

While not a must-have, a wireless dog fence is a nice addition to your camping trip. It’s portable and easy to carry, and it shouldn’t take more than an hour to set it up.

About the author

Li-ran Bukovza

Li-ran believes that our dogs can teach us more than we could ever teach them. He's fascinated by the dog-human bond and loves researching and writing about new pet trends. With the help of Richie (his trusty Maltese sidekick), he hopes to help as many people as possible understand the beautiful, complex world of canine companionship.