camping with dogs

Happy Campers

Camping With Dogs Can Be Rewarding.

But a lack of preparation could turn it into a disastrous experience for man and beast.

Dogs are great company around the home and need not be left out every time you take the camping tent out of storage.

Camping by yourself, even in the most beautiful location, can be a lonely pursuit. A canine companion would be more than eager to share the adventure and be less intrusive on your solitude than many humans.

If you’re tent camping with the kids, dogs often double as a child minder, eager to play while the weary adult relaxes around the campsite.

A well-trained canine companion makes it easy for your group to befriend other dog lovers who will invariably want to pat your dog and ask about its breed.

A small well behaved family pet dog will help to calm nervy. This could be a big bonus when camping with toddlers.


Taking A Dog Camping Requires Thought And Preparation


It always pays to be prepared when taking a dog away from home. And that includes  taking responsibility.

Being able to physically control your dog with a leash, as well as with voice and gestures, is absolutely crucial.

Don’t kid yourself that Fido’s behaviour when camping will not change from when he is home in the backyard.

The dog will be excited by the change in routine and distracted by new sights and sounds.

Nature will provide many diversions in the form of new types of creatures to chase or the pets of fellow campers to sniff out.

Get to know your pet’s character, and remember there are plenty of children, and adults too, who are afraid of dogs.

Your lovable, playful hound in your eyes can do no wrong. But to others, even the most docile animal will seem like a snarling Cujo.

Be honest in your assessment  and be aware of what raises its hackles.

Know what triggers various responses like a threatening growl, a bout of annoying whimpering or barking.

Is it playful or aggro around other dogs? Does it relate well to children or strangers in general?

Some dogs, whether it be their aggressive personality or breed traits, just aren’t suitable for camping. Leave them home.


Be Confident About Going Camping With Your Dog


Just follow these basic precautions:

  • Ensure your dog is registered and always carries the appropriate tags.
  • All dogs should be micro chipped and make sure the information contained is up to date.
  • See your vet before you leave home for a doggy health check and to ensure it has all the necessary vaccinations.
  • Ideally have your dog enrolled in an obedience class. Having a well behaved and mannered dog will make it a much more pleasant experience all round.
  • Dog training classes are often free, or for a minimal fee. Check with your local town hall or civil authorities.
  • These days, there are also online training programs which are well worth the investment in your long term peace of mind.
  • Don’t forget, this training is not just to make you happy. A dog’s brain is wired to please us humans, and it appreciates knowing how to respond properly to commands (don’t forget to praise).
  • Canines are creatures of habit and can become anxious when their normal order of things changes.
  • Just as going camping with young children, a little familiarisation program is helpful.
  • try to schedule some day trips away with your dog, at least a few weeks before going camping.
  • Take along some of your pet’s camping equipment, such as bedding and food and water bowls.
  • I found that kids like play camping, with a tent set up at home, and dogs will respond well to this too.


Camping With Dogs Requires Some Basic Equipment



Ensure you have leash in good condition as well as a strong collar. Preferably, take a couple of leashes. You could take a strong cord leash for maximum restraint if you are near other dogs, and your animal is likely to lunge.

A lightweight retractable leash will allow for more freedom if there are less distractions for the dog.

Consider a longer tether, suitable for securing the dog to a tree or other suitable structure.

This will come in handy at night while sitting around a campfire. It’s also practical if you are just hanging out at the campsite and wish to give the dog some freedom, while maintaining control of its movements.

Even if your dog is the most benign of creatures, having a lightweight muzzle on hand could prove wise. Even a placid dog will bite if in pain and you are attempting first aid.

My friends own Lilly, a friendly border collie who plays happily with familiar canine friends.

But take her for a walk on the beach and encounter strange dogs, she will lunge at them.

A muzzle comes in handy for the “Jekyll and Hyde” hound that catches owners by surprise.


A basic air mattress with a blanket is good. Ideal would be some familiar bedding from home.

The old bedding will take a lot of stress out of being in a new environment. Make sure that there is a buffer underneath it to protect your pooch from the cold seeping up from the ground.

If your dog has its bedding outside, put a waterproof barrier underneath.



Check with camping ground supervisors or rangers if local water in rivers, streams and lakes is free of contamination, whether bacterial or chemical. Clean drinking water is essential for humans and dogs alike.

If there is no potable water available, take suitably large containers from home. These can be refilled with drinkable water from a source within reasonable driving distance from your campsite, if staying for an extended period.

Don’t drop your guard and let the cooler season suggest you can get by on only the barest minimum of water. Things change.

The same applies to dog food. Always take more than for your planned time away.

As with your own food, do not store edibles in the tent. Use a bear box if available, or store the grub in your vehicle.

Bears might not be a problem in your neck of the woods, but there are plenty of other creatures snooping around at night for a free feed.



Be prepared for your dog to roll in something unpleasant and then need a quick sluice down or a plunge into a river.

Once the excessive water is shaken off, there is still enough moisture on the fur to dampen bedding or your sleeping bag. You wont regret bringing that extra towel.

The practical equipment needed is pretty basic but be prepared to make a decision about your dog’s suitability for camping. Leave emotion out of the equation.



As well as your own backpack, take a pack for your hound, too.

It could contain necessities, like food portions stored in plastic baggies or an airtight container, food and water bowls, a canine first aid kit, basic grooming tools, poop bags, an extra leash and collar with identification tags, and bedding.

Dogs love to do their bit, so if it’s a suitable breed, let it carrying at least some of the supplies.

Do some training with the canine pack before setting off camping and hiking with your dog.

The pack could include extras, like a blinking LED collar, booties, a high-visibility jacket and a life vest for safety if camping near a lake or river.

Remember to bring a favourite toy, like a Frisbee or ball for retrieving.

Something familiar will help the dog feel more comfortable wherever you’re camping.



If, like me, you prefer your dog inside the tent with the family, the correct configuration of tent helps.

A camping tent with separate compartments fits the bill. Click here and read why I recommend the Big Agnes Flying Diamond tent as one of my favorites. A great alternative is the Coleman Red Canyon.

If you are new to camping, with, or without dogs, click here for some helpful tips.


Some Breeds And Personalities Do Not Make For Good Camping Dogs.


Taking a dog camping

Just one of the guys

An aggressive dog, no matter how sweet indoors at home, is the first to cross off the camping list. it’s just trouble waiting to happen.

I live in a small country town in Australia, and some of my friends have Jack Russell terriers. They are terrific, hardy companion animals but many don’t respond well to training .

My friend’s Jack Russell, Cookie, has lept from a moving car on spotting some passing animal.

She has jumped off the side of a boat trying to get a fish before it was landed.

In the bush she would disappear into the scrub and return when she felt ready for it.

 I don’t want list a whole lot of breeds here and antagonise their fanciers. There are exceptions in all breeds.

I have had a series of beautiful, feisty Australian Silky Terriers over the years, but never would take one camping.

Persistent barkers of any breed should not go camping. Breeds consistently fitting this category, include my beloved silkies. Others are Yorkshire and Maltese terriers, Pekingese and Shih Tzus.

Barking is bad enough in the suburbs, but the sound travels long distances in the countryside.

At a busy campsite, new friends could soon become enemies if you bring along a barker.

It is possible to train a dog not to bark, but that’s best left to a professional.

A determined wanderer can make life difficult in a large camping ground.

It will prowl neighbouring campsites in full scavenger mode. Leave them home if you are not prepared to have them constantly tethered.

A bitch in heat would not be advisable as a good dog for camping. Nature being what it is, you will find your campsite the target of unwanted attention.

The most suitable dog breeds for camping are in the working dog category. They included German Shepherds, Border Collies, Australian Cattle Dogs, Hungarian Vizsla.

Also Spaniels and other retrievers, like the Golden and Labrador retrievers.

The list could get pretty long, and apart from the pure breeds already listed, don’t forget the mixed breeds and pound dogs. All could make excellent camping dogs.

Dogs make great camping buddies, but some breeds, such as snub-nosed pugs and bulldogs, will need extra attention.

Most dogs relish the outdoors, but there are things to consider.

Remember, a dog with a shorter snout is not as well-equipped to cool itself, so could on occasion experience some trouble breathing and panting.


It’s Your Call If You Take Your Dog Camping, Just Take The Responsibility…

…and be considerate of fellow campers

  • Remember, not everyone responds well to a friendly but overly exuberant dog jumping up on them.
  • No matter how cute your canine is, it will not always be greeted warmly when it wanders over to the strangers in the neighbouring tent.
  • Don’t let your dog bound up and down hiking trails if there is a lot of foot traffic. Let them loose when things are quiet.
  • Reassure hikers who feel threatened that you have your animal under control.
  • Be prepared to back off or change directions if approached by a strange dog whose owner has failed to adequately restrain it.
  • Take the time to clean up after your hound has done its business. When a dog has to, it has to go. But there is no excuse for you to ignore a steaming pile of dog excrement. Bury it, even if you are hiking off a recognised trail.
  • Commonsense rules.


Know where to camp with your dogs


Avoid disappointment by checking if your desired camping spot allows for dogs camping.

Many state parks will permit it, others may not.

Some supervised camping sites allow dogs, others don’t. Even ones that do, will have regulations you must adhere to.

Dogs might be allowed in camping grounds within national parks, national monuments and national forests, but be excluded from trails within them. Be prepared.

At least these days you have the luxury of the internet to check up on sites and determine if you can go camping with dogs.


Thank you to for this great checklist graphic.

Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Your Dog


Camping And Hiking With Your Dog Is Great For Bonding

Former cheerleader, Anne Waterbury found a unique way of bonding with her dog, Jude.

She and her Alaskan Malamute, Labrador cross successfully hiked the length of the 567-mile Colorado trail.

They came home all the better for the experience.

You learn a lot about life with your dog when the two of you hike the Colorado Trail together.

Read her story below:


“My dog Jude is a wonderful companion,” said Anne Waterbury, a Niwot High School graduate and former school cheerleader.

“He has a true trail mentality. He would run ahead, and then wait for me as if he was saying ‘Come on, let’s go!’

I think he probably ran double the miles that I hiked, because he was always running ahead and coming back for me.”

Waterbury hiked the full 567-mile Colorado Trial for six weeks, starting July 5 and ending August 15.

While the trail may be slightly easier for a four-pawed Alaskan Malamute/Labrador mix, it’s no secret that tackling the Colorado Trail is daunting.

The trail runs from Waterton Canyon south of Denver to Durango, and a through hike generally takes four to six weeks to complete.

According to the Colorado Trail Foundation, trail users will pass through six wilderness areas and cross eight mountain ranges, with the highest elevation topping out at 13,271 feet.

The average elevation is over 10,000 feet, and the trail rises and falls dramatically. Users who hike from Denver to Durango will climb a total of 89,354 feet.

Travel is recommended between late June and late September, because of snowpack issues, and a finish before “snow becomes plentiful” in late September is cautioned by the foundation.

And in those few summer months, hikers have to look out for lightning and hail and insects.

“I got bitten several times by horseflies. I hate those things,” Waterbury said. “The trail was pretty buggy at times.

But I was really lucky with the weather. Even though it rained pretty often, I was below the tree line when the bad storms occurred.”


Waterbury works in the paediatric intensive care unit at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian /St. Luke’s in Denver.

It’s a very flexible job, which provides a lot of time and freedom to lead the active lifestyle Waterbury prefers

. She had completed short backpack trips—nothing longer than three days—and had even hiked small segments of the Colorado Trail before this odyssey. Still, this was a big undertaking for her.

“I decided in January that I should do something more challenging this summer,” Waterbury said. “It seems like summers disappear so fast. I wanted this to be a memorable summer.”

Read the full article, Written by Kim Glasscock


You don’t need to go to the extremes that Anne did, but I think you’ll find her adventure inspiring.

I guess the breed of her canine companion, Jude made it more practical than if she had been accompanied by one of the toy breeds.


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