Nothing quite completes a campsite like a lazy dog hanging around it. If you’re a proud dog owner, camping with dogs is the perfect opportunity to burn their excess energy, to practice obedience training in an open and somewhat secluded environment, and to give them much needed exposure to their wild roots. There will be plenty of chances for them to traipse through the creek bed and get nice and dirty, and there are plenty of unique smells to be had all around.
There are some special preparations that need to be made if you’re dog is heading out with you on your camping trips. Let’s layout several considerations that need to be made if your canine companions are coming along on your next camping trip.
Just like any trip with your dog, there are some basics that you should always pack. These include a walking leash, a longer leash for tying your dogs up, a harness for the leash and longer tie up rope if needed, and a stake and/or carabiner to aid in the tie up process. Water and food bowls should be packed as well, and you might want to consider the fold up bowl variety if you’re trying to pack especially light. Finally don’t forget a good supply of treats. You’ll need to reward them, and possibly grab their attention, at different points throughout the trip. These are the basics to start with, but there are plenty of other considerations to factor into the trip.
Water / Food Concerns
Naturally your food and water supplies need to increase when you have more companions coming on the trip. Water is your foremost concern, as extra potable water will mean more weight and added space in your vehicle. An ample supply of fresh water is always something to load up on anyway, and this becomes even more important when you have thirsty dogs running around all day. You’ll want to minimize their exposure to natural water sources like creeks and rivers by keeping cold fresh water out for them throughout the day. A large aqua-tainer is always a wise investment, and if you have a way to filter water from natural sources nearby, it’s always wise to pack it as a backup.
Of course food preparations are just as important, especially if your dog is on a specific diet. Always pack more than you need just in case your trip is delayed or your friends show up with their dogs and forget to pack food.
Jacket / Outerwear
Depending on where you camp, the nights might get pretty cold, and the warmth from the campfire isn’t going to be enough for your canine companions. It pays to invest in some outwear for your dog, and dog-specific jackets are specially designed to fit tight, shed rain and keep your dogs warmer should the temperatures drop. Make sure to choose the right size for your dog because an extra large or too small jacket won’t be as effective.
If your dogs are young and still growing, or if you don’t have the budget for proper dog outwear right now, you’ll be able to get by just fine with a sweater from the thrift store or your closet. The same sizing considerations come into play here, and you’ll want to pay special attention to the end of the sweater as you don’t want it to interfere with the dog’s normal “business.” You can trim off unnecessary portions of the sweater, including the sleeves, and fashion a workable replacement for dog outerwear. It’s best to pack a couple of these makeshift sweaters as one is likely to get dirty and or wet and you’ll need to swap it out.
Bedding / Warmth
It can be pretty trying for a dog to spend the night curled up on the tent floor. A lot of heat is lost when they lie on the cold ground, and many times they won’t stand for it and they’ll try to crawl up into your sleeping bag…naturally getting it dirty in the process. It’s also never a great feeling to wake up with your feet numb and asleep because the dog curled up on them in the middle of the night. Instead make sure you pack bedding especially for the dogs, and make sure it is thick enough to insulate them from the cold ground. The combination of a jacket or sweater and decent bedding should be more than enough to get the dog through the night comfortably.
Lighting / Collar Lights
A good addition to your dog camping gear is a collar light. These lights clip on to the collar right next to the dog tag and glow orange or red when turned on. These are great for visual confirmation that your dog is still around after the sun sets. They can also be useful if you need to call for your dog or worse case try to find them if they’ve wandered off a bit too far.
In addition to the collar light, it’s good to have a high powered flashlight on hand as well. Many of us are of the opinion that dogs should be allowed to wander when camping (as long as you’re not in an established campground, which likely has rules against it). Of course it all starts with training as you need to be confident your dog will return when called for, but when their ready, it’s time to give them some trust and let them do a little exploring for themselves. This said, sometimes dogs get a little too ambitious, and you need to do a mini “search and rescue” to find them, especially if the sun has set. A good flashlight with serious lumen output is a valuable tool should you ever need it.
First Aid / Tweezers
An injured or cut paw is a pretty common occurrence for dogs around the campsite. You’ll want to address it properly, and a first aid kit and a good pair of tweezers are the best tools for the job. If you have a bare-bones first aid kit and several people on the trip in addition to your dogs, it’s best to upgrade to a larger kit in case both you and your dogs need attention on the same trip. The tweezers come in handy for tick and splinter removal as well.
Camping with dogs is always a great time, as long as your dogs are properly trained and you pack appropriately for the trip. We’re of the opinion that dogs need the exposure and freedom to the outdoors that only camping affords. Do yourself and your dogs a favor and skip the established campgrounds and find a primitive site where the dog can run and play all day. You’ll never see your dog happier…well aside from when you offer them a treat.