Why would you want to go camping with your dogs? When you speak with other people who take their dogs, they will most likely say they do this because they enjoy sharing the adventure, and strengthening relationships in their family and dog.
Getting the most out of this precious time with loved ones is made that much more fulfilling when your four legged friends can join you. The kids will love it too! Probably more so when they are sharing their dinner with the dog.
Camping with Your Dogs
Having your dog with you at the campsite is likely to be the catalyst for more social engagement with other people at your site. It’s a great way to make new friends! Loads of people love dogs, and they often provide the means of a first talking point.
There is also a big benefit in the reduction of stress for you and your dog while you are away – no boarding kennels or dog sitters. This is also less stressful on the pocket as it is very cost effective
Many dogs have a natural tendency to protect their family. If you are camping or hiking alone, they can be a great way to feel like you have more security as they will sound the alarm when something is wrong, and possibly provide a reliable deterrent.
Basic Considerations when Camping with Your Dogs
When out for an adventure it can sometimes be a bit tricky finding the most suitable and pet friendly places to go. Thankfully, this great article includes a list of places where you can access pet friendly sites when camping with dogs.
Before you hit the trail for that epic adventure with your little buddy, maybe try a short stay closer to home or overnight camping in a friend’s yard.
When it comes to hiking with your dog for the first few times, try taking your dog on shorter hikes near home. This will make getting help (if needed in an emergency) that much easier, and it will allow both you and your dog to adjust to something new.
Food and Water
For the sake of reducing the weight you need to carry, you may opt to choose dry food, or food that requires some rehydration for your dog.
Water can be a little hit and miss, depending on where you are. If you can top up your water safely along the way, you won’t need to carry as much. I prefer to have a backup plan for situations where I’m relying on water from sources like streams and lakes.
Something that has proven to be invaluable is the LifeStraw Flex. It’s a multi-use water filter with a collapsible squeeze bottle, and some coffee filters.
If the water is particularly dirty, I’ll use a coffee filter (sometimes a few of them) first, and then run the cleaned water through the LifeStraw Flex.
There are other options like this such as the Survivor Filter Pro, both of which do a great job at making water safe to drink.
Given that water has a 1 liter to 1 kilogram weight to volume ratio, anything that you can do to reduce how much water you need to carry, but still have a safe source of water is going to be a big plus. Especially as you will be planning for you and your dogs!
Dogs will be Dogs
Just like they saying “Boys will be boys” or “Girls will be girls”, dogs will be dogs. Many dogs are curious and playful by nature. Wanting to explore and make friends is what many dogs do best. In some areas there may be requirements to keep your dog on a lead.
If this is the case, on lead requirements need to be respected for your dog’s safety, and the safety of others (including the local fauna). Keep in mind that there may also be livestock in the area. If your dog isn’t accustomed to these types of situations, you’ll need to be that bit more diligent.
Puppies in particular want to play with everyone and everything. Avoiding having them encounter a person or an animal that is not in a playful mood is a good idea.
Fixing a tie out cable between trees in the campsite area you immediately occupy is a great way to ensure your friend has some space to play, but you can also set up camp without trying to hold them while on a lead. Make sure there is shade and water available when setting up a tie out cable.
If you have someone who can keep your dog happy and occupied while you do what you need to, even better.
Setting Up Camp with Your Dog
There are a lot of great tips on what o consider when setting up your camp so that it works the best for you and your dog. If we were to look at a writing out a comprehensive list we could easily come out with an ebook.
The top considerations for me are in keeping your dog safe and happy, and your sleeping arrangements enjoyable.
These can easily be achieved with a little planning, and very little additional equipment. The less you have to pack and carry, the more you’ll be able to focus on the fun.
Make sure your dog has something to sleep on so they are not exposed to possible drops in body temperature. Ground temperatures can draw the heat out of your dog. On cold night this isn’t going to be a lot of fun for them if they are a breed with a short or thin coat, so a mat of some sort to help insulate them is a great idea.
Remember; condensation can form where their body heat meets a cooler surface. Using a plastic sheet under their mat will help limit the impact of drawing moisture up into their mat. It helps to keep them dry, the mat cleaner, and you smiling.
If they are going to sleep inside the tent with you, put their mat and what they need closes to the entry for the tent and train them to stay on that side of the tent. This way, you will reduce the amount of debris that is walked into your sleeping area. You get a good nights sleep, they get a good nights sleep, everyone is happy.
Hiking with Your Dog
For many of us, the whole reason we take our dogs camping with us is that we want to share the adventure, and hiking can play a big part in that. Keep in mind that there may be limitations with your dog’s capabilities when hiking for a long time, ad over rough terrain.
Consider what your dog is predominantly exposed to in their day-to-day. Are they normally indoors or in the same yard? Do you normally take them out for walks in the park? What are they accustomed to?
Some thing that are not a normal part of your dog’s day may have the potential to trigger them. Things such as creeks and large obstacles can cause anxiety for some dogs, particularly if their owner is on the other side calling them to navigate the obstacle.
Keep in mind that obstacles don’t need to be physically large to have an impact. For example, my Jack Russell struggles with the garden hose. She refuses to walk over the top of it if it is in her path. Knowing what your dog is comfortable with and capable of helps to ensure that it is a fun time for all.
If you are able to take your dog out on short hikes first, your camping trip is likely to be so much easier with the acclimation achieved through repeated exposure to hiking trails and the outdoors.
Anything you can do to take anxiety out of the equation when camping with dogs is a great idea. Don’t underestimate the impact of strong winds and rustling tent material on your dog’s disposition.
Whose that Lost Doggy on the Trail?
Consider the fact that your dog may stray at some time, or potentially get lost. This can be distressing for you and your dog. Whatever you can do to help them find their way back to you is going to be well worth the time and effort.
Name tags and a collar are normally the required minimum (along with microchipping) in most places. But, have you ever come across a lost dog and tried to help it by checking the collar to find out how to contact the owner?
Consider getting an embroidered collar with your contact details bold and clear on it so people who may find your dog don’t need to put their hands within biting range to get your number. This is particularly important if your dog has a tendency to be aggressive towards strangers, or when stressed.
Also consider including a tag with the details about the campsite you are staying at. If you are planning on being in the same area for a while it may be a good idea to include your site number and the campsite name, just in case your dog wanders off without you noticing.
A simple weather proof tag you can write on with a permanent marker or sharpie will do the trick. Some pet shops will have writable temporary ID tags typically in packs of 10 or more.
Do you want to get you hands on the Ultimate Dog Camping Gear Checklist? Then check out this great article for a whole lot more on camping with dogs.