Your first camping trip with your dog! For us outdoorsy people who have gotten dogs, the first camping trip with a dog is an exciting event akin to a merit badge. Human and pooch in the wild! Wait, but how? If you aren’t sure where to start, read on for tips on how to prepare yourself and your pooch for an amazing first camping trip!
1) Go on a camping trip yourself.
Yes, please leave your dog at home for this one. If you have never been camping before, take your first trip! It doesn’t have to be epic – choose a nearby state park and buy, rent, or borrow the appropriate gear, and bust out some s’mores! Don’t set any expectations – just go and try it out. Become familiar with your gear, how to cook, how to set up your tent, and bask in the glory that is nature. Once you’re comfortable in your skills, go on to the next step.
2) Gear up!
You can really go as crazy or not crazy as you want here, so I’ll present some things your dog will need and the DIY version as well as the fancy gear version:
Water and food bowls:
- Collapsible silicone bowls (our preference for small dogs; these ones for larger dogs) or rustic canvas bowls or Ruffwear Quencher bowls
- DIY: Tupperware container
- Waterproof storage bags for dry kibble (love these!) or cooler for raw food. Don’t forget your scoop!
- DIY: Gallon Ziploc bags
- Ruffwear Slackline leash (this is the one that we have and it easily extends and can be attached to a picnic table)
- DIY: Any leash and a good knot
- Alcott Explorer Bag or Ruffwear Highlands Sleeping Bag
- DIY: Any old but warm blanket you have. If you don’t have one, check Goodwill
Snacks or cookies:
- I like to give my dog something to do around camp. He loves bully sticks, so he will get one when we are around the campfire. For treats, we love Zuke’s Mini Naturals.
- DIY: make your own!
3) Do a practice run.
Get your dog comfortable with his new sleeping bag at home. Show it to him and use it as his bed for a couple days. Set up your tent in your living room or backyard if you have one and sleep in it with your dog in his sleeping bag. If he’s uncomfortable, do more practice runs until he is okay with this setup.
If your dog has never been outside of a city, now is a good time to take him for a hike so he can get acquainted with nature’s sounds and smells.
4) Shots and fleas and ticks, oh my!
Is your dog up to date on his shots? The annual rabies shot is a must (and is usually required by law), and, depending on where you live, it can be really important to get certain other shots. If you live in the South, get a Lyme shot for your dog. Lyme disease is a big problem and if left untreated can cripple your dog. A Leptospirosis shot is also a good idea. Please consult your vet for further advice as I am not a medical professional and my advice should not be treated as such.
Flea and tick protection: for meds, contact your vet
Fleas hate peppermint and ticks hate rose geranium. Get a bandana and peppermint essential oil and rose geranium essential oil and apply about 2 drops of each to the bandana. Tie it around your dog’s neck before you go hiking, and apply one drop of each on your dog’s lower back as well (just above their tail).
if your dog eats kibble, this is easy to bring along. Just measure out the amount of cups for food your dog normally gets for the amount of days you will be gone. Add in one extra day of food for emergencies and if you’ll be doing a lot of hiking, add 25% more food for each day. If your dog gets one cup of food a day, adding 25% more a day would have you bringing 1 and 1/4 cup per day.
Include your measuring scoop and put it all in a waterproof bag.
If you raw feed your dog, you’ll need to bring their frozen portions along in a cooler. Be aware of how effective your cooler is – depending on how long you are gone, you may need to stop in town once or twice to top off on ice to keep things frozen.
6) Plan your trip
Now for the fun part! Where do you want to go? If you’re not sure, you can use the following tools to help you find an amazing spot. Make sure to always check to see if they are dog-friendly!
Simply navigate to the general area where you want to go and search for camping. You can look at pictures and get a link to the campsite’s website to check rates and availability. I’ve found some amazing places to visit just by browsing.
Allows a search of state and federal (National Park) sites. Most state parks allow dogs. Most National Parks do not but sometimes they will have campsites that will allow them. Confusing, I know.
Note: Recreation.gov sucks as far as pictures go, so if you find a site, you’ll need to do some additional googling to find out what it looks like. It includes dog-friendly yurts and cabins too!
Mainly for the Pacific Northwest, this site has lots of fun pictures and site details to get you stoked for your trip. It also includes the amount of congestion at sites and trails which is a must if you want solitude.
Nothing fancy is needed for camping! For the sake of your sanity and others, please make sure your dog knows the quiet command and has good recall if you plan to let them off leash (most campsites require that you leash your dog). Remember that you and your dog are ambassadors for dogs everywhere and the better behaved your dog is, the more likely dogs will continue to be allowed there (and sometimes will even lead to more places allowing dogs!).
For the dog that will get bored around camp, bring along a toy or bully stick for them to work on when you’re hanging around camp.
If you struggle with a dog that barks a lot, we’ve had some great success with the GoodBoy anti bark collar that trains your dog through sound and vibration.
8) Bring a first aid kit
And know how to use it.
9) Stick to a schedule.
Dogs love routines. Bring a sense of normalcy to an unfamiliar situation by sticking to your normal feeding and sleeping schedule.
10) Have fun!
Having fun is really what this is all about. Well, that and the hokey pokey. Do your best and don’t stress the rest – if you’ve followed the steps above you should be more than prepared for your camping trip. Maybe even more so than most of the campground!