Whether camping in a tent, a cabin, or a camper, there is nothing better than doing so with your best friend.
Picking your Partner
In my case, my best pal is my pup, Ben. Now, he didn’t exactly have much of an option but to camp since we first crossed paths on a cross country road trip. Luckily for me, he is a natural in the outdoors. But, how can one tell if their favorite housemate is ready to camp?
Some things to consider are your dog's comfort level with travel, their ability to change up their routine, temperament around people and animals, and of course, a desire to adventure.
Ask yourself, can your dog handle a long (or short) car ride to your destination? If not, camping may not be for them. A camping trip does not need to be far from home, but generally involves some travel. Next, how does your dog handle change? For most of us, camping is quite different from our normal routine. This can mean a change in feeding and bathroom routines, as well as sleeping in a different environment. Take into account how you will be camping. Whether you are in a tent, a cabin, or a camper, think about how your dog usually sleeps. Keeping their routines as close to normal as possible will help ensure you both enjoy your camping experience. Depending on your location, it is likely you will encounter other campers of all ages, as well as their pets. If you are at a public campground, RV park, or cabin resort, it is important that your dog be comfortable with strangers.
Lastly, what kind of adventures does your dog enjoy? In my case, Ben likes anything that involves water, fetch, and getting pets from anyone, especially kids. Is your dog high energy like mine? Or are they more content with an afternoon basking in the sun? Any dog can be a camping partner as long as you find the right trip for them!
Location, Location, Location
While any dog can be a camping dog, not every location will allow them to be. When looking for a place to camp, there are a few things to consider.
Private campgrounds make-up their own rules. While many campgrounds, RV parks or resorts post their pet policy on their website, it is always a good idea to call to make sure your partner in crime will be welcome.
State park and state forest campgrounds tend to be more pet friendly. Keep in mind, your pet will need to be leashed at all times while in the campground and on trails. This is for your pet’s safety, as well as for others. Campgrounds are often busy with both car and foot traffic. As always, bring plenty of bags to pick up after your pet! One thing to note is that in my experience, state park and state forest yurts and cabins do not allow dogs.
Wherever you choose to camp, it is a good idea to keep your pet leashed. If your pup is well trained to be off leash, do so in an area that is designated for off leash, or is free of other visitors. I like to bring a long wire tether for Ben, as he has a habit of chewing through anything he can when tied up! This gives him freedom to roam, but keeps him a safe distance at all times.
Tips & Tricks
You know the saying, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing… The same can be said about camping! Luckily, Ben and I enjoy cool weather together. And, while we both melt in the heat, it can be much more dangerous for him. One way that we help beat the heat is by camping near water. Ben is great at knowing his limits and will find his way to water when he starts to overheat. However, it is still important that you keep an eye out for signs of heat stress. Dogs don’t sweat the same way we do, so it can be more difficult for them to dissipate heat. If your dog is panting heavily and acting lethargic, this is a sign that they are too hot! The best way to combat his heat is to provide them with plenty of cool water to drink, shade, and a cool space to rest. Wetting your dogs fur and going for a drive with the windows down is another way to help lower their body temperature.
When camping in cooler weather, make sure to provide your dog with a warm place to curl up. Ben’s double coat makes him an ideal winter dog, but smaller dogs and dogs with short fur are not. If you notice your dog shivering, give them a blanket to lay on or cover them with. In a pinch, you can usually put one of your sweaters or jackets on, putting their front legs through the sleeves.
Hot or cold, camping is always best when done with friends. Once you know your pup is ready for an adventure and you’ve found a place, plan some fun activities. Go for a hike, a swim, play fetch, or take a nap, because any adventure with your dog is a good one.
Written by: Samantha Glowacki
Animal Care Foundation
Providing elderly and disabled community members access to veterinary care for their beloved pet.