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How to Camp with Your Dog Safely this Summer
By: Brianna Gunter
For many of us, few things are better than spending quality time outdoors with our four-legged friends. And now that summer has arrived, this includes camping! But hang on just a moment—camping with dogs comes with a variety of hazards and is only for those willing to take it seriously.
Wrangling your four-legged pal in the wilderness can be a challenge of its own, but one of the biggest dangers on camping trips is interactions with local wildlife. Many wild animals (especially moose) are easily triggered by dogs, and this leads to reports of attacks every year.
So, before you grab that tent and hop in the car, it’s time to review some important dog camping safety tips.
10 tips for going camping with dogs
Make camping with your dog a rewarding and memorable experience by following these useful safety guidelines.
1. Practice camping with your dog first
If your dog has never been camping before, the last thing you want to do is jump right into it. He may become easily overstimulated with all the new smells and sounds (especially if he hasn’t spent much time in the wilderness prior), and he may not be comfortable spending the night in a tent.
Try going “camping” in your backyard first, or pitch a tent for the afternoon in a local park. Starting out with long hikes will also help to gradually introduce your dog to nature and all of its unique sensory stimulation.
2. Update your dog’s ID tags and microchip
Life is unpredictable, and even the best-trained dogs can become lost. Fortunately, equipping your pal with valid identification can greatly improve the likelihood of you reuniting. This identification should include both a collar with your current address and phone number, and a microchip embedded just below your buddy’s skin.
Since many dogs have microchips put in while they are still puppies, now’s a good time to make sure the information on it is up to date. If your dog isn’t microchipped (or you’re not sure), ask your local veterinary team about it. At most places, they can get it done on-site during routine veterinary appointments.
3. Pack a pet safety kit
It’s a good idea to bring along a safety kit in general whenever you go camping. And when you have your dog in tow, this should include plenty of items that will help him in particular (like paw protection and wrap-around bandages). A pet first aid kit isn’t a substitute for veterinary care, but it can give you the tools to handle small injuries in a snap.
This safety kit should include some recent, printed out photos of your dog. Sure, you probably have a ton on your phone. But if your dog happens to go missing, you’ll want to have something physical to show other campers or park officials without having to worry about Wi-Fi or charging. And if you bring extra, you’ll have a couple to post quickly in public areas.
4. Pick your tent wisely
Yes, there are a lot of dog tents out there. But depending on where you’re camping and for how long, you may want to have your pal sleep in the same tent as you. This may also help him feel calmer and less likely to bark or growl. In fact, some camping areas require dogs to be kept in tents with their owners or in vehicles at night due to roaming evening wildlife.
To do this, you’ll want to use a tent that is both secure (your dog can’t easily get out of it on his own) and spacious.
5. Consider switching to a harness
The traditional collar-leash setup works great for walks around the neighborhood. But when you’re out in the wilderness, a dog harness can prove to be much more useful. Not only will a harness provide more opportunities to grab onto your pet if there’s danger nearby, but a brightly colored one will also make it easier to spot her if she ventures too far.
6. Don’t leave dog treats out
Naturally, you’ll want to bring along some tasty treats for your furry friend while you’re camping. But these treats (as well as all other food, both for humans and canines) should only be brought out when they are going to be consumed. Stow away any leftovers in a plastic container or sealable plastic bag, and put them in a backpack or other thick bag. Animals like bears can smell food easily, and the last thing you want is for them to come investigate.
7. Bring extra water
It’s a good rule of thumb to bring along a portable pet bowl and more water than you think you’ll need. In addition to needing clean drinking water for both you and your pal, you’ll have to bring some jugs of water to put out campfires safely. If it ends up being hotter than anticipated or hikes turn out to be strenuous, the extra water will be a life saver.
Plus contrary to popular belief, dogs shouldn’t just drink from any stream or pond nearby—all of these bodies of water could contain harmful bacteria.
Even if it looks like the weather will be fairly pleasant or even cool, you’ll want to take steps to keep your dog hydrated and prevent overheating.
8. Follow the rules
This should go without saying, but be sure to follow all the rules wherever you’re headed. Check websites beforehand for the rules, and always look around to see if any additional ones are posted on-site. When no dogs are permitted in a certain area or they are required to be on a leash at all times, the sad truth is that it’s often because of previous incidents involving dogs and wildlife or the destruction of nature.
While you’re at it, make sure you’re practicing good dog owner etiquette to create a positive experience for both you and your fellow campers. And yes, you should go ahead and bring that extra roll of dog waste baggies.
9. Keep your dog within sight at all times
Never let your dog wander off by herself, even if she’s on a long lead. Even the most independent and best-behaved dogs can quickly find themselves in trouble when out in nature. Fortunately, this is more preventable when you can always see where your pal is and can actively stop her from doing things she shouldn’t.
10. Know when to call a camping trip short
Camping isn’t for everyone, and this includes some dogs. If your dog is acting out or is overstimulated by their surroundings, their behavior could pose a risk to you and them, not to mention any nearby campers. Knowing when to pack it up early and head home isn’t giving up—it’s being a responsible pet owner.
Dog safety in every activity
Practicing good canine safety is important no matter what you’re doing with your best friend. From summer camping trips to wintertime snow romps, the great outdoors can offer a lifetime of good memories for both of you as long as the proper precautions are taken. Sign up for our newsletter to make sure you’re getting all the latest pet advice for each season!
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This blog is designed to be a community where pet owners can learn and share. The views expressed in each post are the opinion of the author and not necessarily endorsed by Trupanion. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice.