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Taking your dog along on their first camping trip? This post will help answer a lot of questions about how to camp with a dog.

How to Camp with a Dog for the First Time

Our preferred method of overnight travel with dogs is camping. Not only is it the most dog-friendly way to explore, but spending the night outdoors creates a wonderful bonding experience between you and your canine companion.

Sleeping outside introduces new stimulants for your dog. Before heading out for a night under the stars, make sure to take a look at these tips below. They will tell you important information about how to camp with a dog and help make sure that your dog loves camping as much as you do.

Practice at Home First

Dogs can be sensitive to new objects, so making sure they love the tent is crucial for a successful camping trip. Start by setting up the tent inside the house and allow your dog to explore. Reward them when they approach and go inside.

Once you’ve determined they feel comfortable, try a backyard camp out. This will help your dog get used to sleeping outdoors and to nighttime noises. No one wants their dog keeping them up all night growling and barking at every little sound they hear.

Pro tip: If you’re car camping or bring a battery pack, download a white noise machine app like Sleepio to drown out some of the noises.

Don't forget to pack a first-aid kit if you plan to take your dog camping.

Pet First Aid Kit

Pack a first aid kit that contains medical essentials for you and your dog. It’s easy to toss in a few extra dog-specific items into your own kit or purchase one for you both. Consider taking a pet first-aid course and and bring along Dog First Aid: A Field Guide to Emergency Care for the Outdoor Dog so you know how to properly care for your dog in a medical situation.

Make Sure Your Dog is Up-to-Date

Before going off on that first adventure, make sure that your dog is up-to-date on all of their flea and tick meds and has been microchipped. Double check that your dog’s ID tag is current with your contact information. Since we move so frequently, rather than have our phone numbers listed, we use our email address.

Camping is one of the most dog-friendly ways to travel.

Finding Dog-Friendly Campsites

One reason we love camping as much as we do, aside from the fact that we enjoy spending time outdoors, is that it is one of the most pet-friendly accommodations available. It’s rare to find a camping spot that doesn’t allow dogs. Of course, do check before heading out that dogs are indeed allowed.

We tend to avoid national parks, given the heavy restrictions against dogs, and instead seek other public lands, like BLM and National Forest areas that allow more freedom for dogs and generally attract fewer people. They’re also great for off-leash hiking, as many spots allow dogs to run free. Just be sure to keep your dog on leash inside the campground.

Packing and Carrying Dog Food

Depending on whether you are car camping or backpacking you’ll carry your food differently. In the car, either pack your dog’s food in a resealable bag or container to keep them from getting into their stash on the drive to camp. We prefer to use dry bags to minimize our ecological footprint.

If you’re backpacking, then measure out the exact amount you need, plus one extra day, in case you are stranded for whatever reason. Seal the food in a small dry bag and feel free to make your dog carry some of the load in their dog pack if they accustomed to doing so.

When you go to sleep at night, don’t forget to include the dog food when you pack your food in a secure place to avoid luring wild animals to the site. You can use a bear canister or a dry bag and a thin paracord to tie the food to a tree.

This post explains how we pack dog food when we travel.

Keep your dog hydrated with a collapsible dog water bowl.

Stay Hydrated

This goes for you and your dog, of course, but you can regulate your own thirst better than your pup. Always provide fresh water for your dog. Organized campsites will almost always have drinking water available, however if you are camping somewhere without potable water, either pack several gallons of water in the car or bring a water filter if you’re backpacking. Bring along a collapsible water bowl that clips to your pack, such as these from Dexas.

Read Keeping Your Dog Hydrated on Outdoor Adventures for more tips.

Bring a Tether

As most campgrounds require dogs to remain on leash, a tether like the Ruffwear Knot-a-Hitch will satisfy leash rules and keep your hands free. This way, you can set up your tent or make your camp meal and leave your dog to hang out unattended without having to worry about them running off.

We also advice bringing a chew toy or a treat dispenser to keep your dog entertained while you tend to other duties.

Check for Ticks Before Bed

It’s a good idea to scan your dog (and yourself) for ticks before turning in for the night. Even if your dog is on flea and tick medication, they still may latch on and it’s best to catch them as early as possible. If your first aid kit does not contain a tick key, then make sure to add one.

If you camp with your dog, be sure to bring a towel in case it's muddy or they get wet.

Bring a Towel for Your Dog

If it’s muddy or raining, you have to go through river crossings, or there’s a lake for your dog to play, you’ll want a way to dry them off. Having a wet, muddy dog inside the tent makes it dirty, stuffy, and stinky. The goal is to keep your sleeping space as clean as possible.

We bring along a small microfiber towel from Kurgo to dry off any wet dogs and we always wipe off their paws before entering the tent at night.

Where are your favorite places to camp with your dog?
What tips would you add to this list?

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Jen Sotolongo

Jen is the Chief Storyteller and Photographer for the Long Haul Trekkers. Born with the travel bug, she has lived in Spain, Chile, and New Zealand. When she’s not galavanting around the world by bicycle, she is running long distances in the woods, exploring nature, or whipping up delicious vegan meals. She is always planning her next adventure.

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