Camping is an activity that can be enjoyed solo, but many of us prefer to hit the trail with our loved ones. Those of us who are dog owners know that Fido isn’t just a pet, but a member of the family, so wanting to bring your dog on your camping trip is only natural. While bringing your dog along can be a fun change of pace for your and your pooch alike, there are a few special considerations you need to make to be sure everyone is safe and happy:
Bringing your dog camping isn’t as simple as just loading him up in your car as you get ready to leave. Before you head out, pay a visit to your vet to make sure he’s up-to-date on all of his vaccinations. Because there are lots of other wild animals in the woods, it’s important that he has had his rabies shot and, because mosquitos can transmit heartworms, be sure he’s protected from them, as well. You also may want to consider having him vaccinated against Lyme disease, especially if there is a large tick population where you’re planning on traveling. No matter how well-trained your dog is, always keep a collar on him with the appropriate contact information. If you haven’t already, consider microchipping as an extra precaution as well.
If you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking, especially in hilly or mountainous areas, be sure your dog is physically ready. Take him on long walks and practice hikes so he can build his endurance and keep up with you where ever you go.
Find out whether there is plenty of water available for your dog at your campsite and, if not, pack enough for the entire trip. Same goes for food – bring along his regular dog food and treats along with a food dish and water bowl. You’ll probably want to bring an extra leash and collar in case one gets lost or is broken. If you have a bigger dog, pick up a dog-friendly backpack so he can carry his own weight on longer hikes, just be sure to give him a chance to get used to it before your trip.
During your trip
Be sure to bring a few toys to occupy your dog. It’s likely that he’ll be somewhat unsupervised at times, so keeping him busy will prevent him from wandering off and getting into trouble. If you are planning on bringing along any firearms or valuables that can be chewed on, take the proper precautions and keep them in a portable safe or small lockbox to make sure everyone is safe.
If this is your dog’s first time camping, there is a good chance that he’s never been around a campfire before, so make sure you keep an eye on him when he’s near it. Be sure he’s well-trained and understands commands like “leave it” something similar to get him out of trouble if he starts playing with something potentially dangerous. Perform regular checks for ticks, burrs or thorns, which should all be removed right away. While a burr may seem harmless enough, if your dog has long enough hair, you may find yourself having to shave the area completely to get rid of them if you don’t take care of them immediately. Ticks should be removed by pinching it as close to the skin as possible and pulling it slowly and gently. Be sure to wear gloves while you’re doing this, as diseases can be transmitted to you if you’re barehanded. If there is one nearby, you can bring him to a vet, as well.
There are times you may have to leave your dog for a while, so make sure he is safe and secure while you’re gone. Avoid tying him to a stationary object, instead opting for a crate or a portable fence. Make sure he has plenty of water, food and something to keep him busy while you’re gone.
Just like walking in the city or suburbs, there are certain unspoken – or clearly defined, depending on where you are camping – rules that you should abide by. If you have a dog that barks at his own shadow, it might be a good idea to leave him at home, especially if there are other campers nearby. Do your best to keep your dog with you while on the trail so he doesn’t disturb other hikers or stir up trouble with other wild animals in the area. Remember, not everyone is comfortable around dogs, so only let him off the leash if he is well trained in voice commands. And, even though you are out in the wilderness, it’s bad etiquette to let your dog do his business in the middle of the trail. Your best bet is to burry it off of the path.