Dogs are our best friends, and excellent adventure companions! Camping can be a fun way to let your dog explore the great outdoors, and it can be a fun bonding experience for the two of you. Yet taking your dog camping for the first time can also be overwhelming for you and your dog. There are also some things you need to consider when you bring your dog along. Careful planning can help you both stay safe while having an amazing time in the backcountry.
Don’t have time to read it all now or want an easy way to prepare down the road? We’ve created a camping with your dog checklist that you can download at the end of this article!
This post contains affiliate links. This means we make a small commission at no cost to you if you click through and make a purchase. All prices listed are accurate at time of publication.
Taking Your Dog Camping For The First Time
1. Prepare Your Dog
If it’s your first time taking your dog camping they will encounter many new things: a new environment, a long car ride, new people, maybe wildlife. Make sure that prior to your first trip your dog has gotten exposed and used to as many different experiences as possible so they won’t be overwhelmed. If you have a brand new pup, make sure there’s enough time to strengthen your bond and bring them out and about so they can learn that the world is not a big, scary place but their playground. In new situations, it’s crucial that they knows they can trust you. Otherwise they may display behavior that will cause problems and can lead to you having to leave the campground you chose.
Don’t forget to schedule an appointment with your vet to ensure that your dog is up-to-date on all vaccinations, is microchipped, and has ID tags in case you get separated, and receives a flea and tick preventative.
2. Check rules and regulations
If you are wild camping (in places where that’s acceptable) you have nothing to worry about. But if you are planning to stay in a campground, there will be rules and regulations – if they allow pets at all! Make sure you read up on the following when camping with your dogs:
Leash requirements – Your campground is just about guaranteed to require that your dog is leashed at all times. This adds to the safety of pets, pet owners, and other guests. The requirements vary, but often the leash isn’t allowed to be longer than six feet.
Barking ordinances – While it is natural for dogs to let out the occasional bark, excessive barking is frowned upon and may get you kicked out of a campground.
Aggressive behavior – Safety is important, and aggressive dogs won’t be tolerated in campgrounds.
Here’s one very important thing to remember when taking your dog camping for the first time: while national parks and monuments are a popular destination, they aren’t welcome in a lot of these places. Make sure you look for pet-friendly national parks if you bring your dog along.
3. Plan your trip
Remember that Fido doesn’t like to sit in the car for hours and hours while en-route to your camping trip. Plan for several stops in nice places where you can take the pooch for a quick walk. Sitting for long periods of time isn’t healthy for either dog or dog parent, so stopping often to stretch and get the blood flowing is a win-win! Read this article to get some great tips for taking your dog on a road trip!
4. Stock up on gear
Make sure you have all the necessary dog camping gear. This includes food and water bowl, dog food, poop bags, plenty of toys, as well as a doggy first aid kit and more. Your dog’s gear will depend on the activities you are planning. But don’t worry – later on we have a whole list of dog camping gear that will suffice for any outdoor adventure!
5. Practice Awareness
Make sure you keep a close eye on your dog when camping with your dogs in new places. A new environment can cause an outbreak of allergies, such as food allergies from eating something they’re not used to, or seasonal ones such as tree and grass pollen, dust and dust mites, mold and mold mites, flea bites and fresh grass allergies in the fall or summer. If your dog shows any signs of allergies, contact your vet and ask for advice.
Observe their behavior when camping with your dogs. Are they perfectly normal, or are they showing any signs of stress? If so, remove them from the environment that causes them stress. Take them to a quiet place until they have calmed down.
6. Never leave your dog unattended
No matter if you are taking your dog camping for the first time or the 100th time, NEVER leave them unattended. Not in the car, not in your tent, not in your RV, not in the on-site dog park (if there is one). It’s too risky. Cars heat up very quickly, and that heat can cause great distress for your dog. Tents are simply not secure enough. Okay, so you have a fancy RV with ac and you think your dog is safe, but what if something breaks and the ac fails? In a new dog park your dog may face other dangers, from people and dogs they don’t know. Simply don’t do it. Plan a trip in a way that allows you to bring your dog wherever you go.
7. Plan only dog-friendly activities
And on that topic – if you are taking your dog camping for the first time, as well as any other time, plan only activities that include your best friend. While house- and pet sitting is always an option, there’s a reason you are camping with your dogs: because you love spending time with them, and all they want is to spend time with you! There are many things you can do that’ll be fun for both of you: hiking, walking, hitting the beach, kayaking or SUPing, and eating outdoors. Many restaurants allow dogs in their outdoor patios, so if you don’t feel like cooking, that’s a great option.
8. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
That’s not just true for you AND your dog, but also if it’s not 100 degrees outside. Being outdoors a lot when taking your dog camping for the first time means their hydration needs could be up. Make sure to always carry water with you when you bring your dog, and provide a large bowl for your campsite. Check the bowl often for dirt, leaves, or other things that aren’t supposed to be in there. Having access to plenty of clean water is imperative when you bring your dog along.
9. Plan a short trip first
A great way for taking your dog camping for the first time and getting him used to it is simply to set up your tent in your backyard. That is a familiar place for the pooch, and the tent will just add a little bit of extra fun. If you are a RV camper, just spend some time or even sleep in it with your dog while it is parked in your drive way. It keeps the excitement to a minimum and doesn’t overwhelm your dog. If that goes well, you can plan a shorter trip, maybe one or two nights, to a place nearby. Slowly build up to that month long road trip you have planned for next summer. Make sure you provide dog friendly sleeping arrangements. Bringing their regular dog bed along is a great idea, since it provides them with a familiar item in an unfamiliar environment.
10. Keep your dog safe and leave no trace
A new place poses new challenges and new dangers when your bring your dog. Be aware of wildlife and plants that can potentially be harmful for your pup. Always keep your dogs leashed in new surroundings, even when you are out walking or hiking and your dog is typically very good off leash. You simply don’t know if the sudden sight of a deer will get them so excited that they start the chase. In some areas, you may encounter wildlife that can be harmful to dogs, but that they don’t know to stay away from because they’ve never encountered it. Porcupines are a great example of this.
Always carry poop bags and pick up after your dog, not just when taking your dog camping for the first time, but always.
Dog Camping Essentials
We’ve already listed a few essentials your dog will need to be prepared to go camping. But to be fully prepared, make sure you pack every item on this list that applies to the kind of trip you are planning.
Collapsible bowls are all the rage for camping with your dogs. They are easy to use, and don’t take up much space in your car. A travel water bottle is handy for hiking and other outings. You may consider bringing a stainless steel dog bowl to keep at your camp site because it’s generally bigger and less easy to knock over accidentally.
Don’t forget to bring your dog’s food! This is especially important if your dog is on a special diet. If you are planning a camping trip to a different region or country, they may not have the exact same food available your dog is used to from home, and it’s not a great if they have to get used to a whole new diet. Treats may be a different story, but if poochie has a favorite, bring along a supply, just in case.
While your dog will encounter many new and interesting things on this camping trip, they will appreciate having their favorite toys along. Having plenty of entertainment will help keep him entertained and prevent destructive behavior and excessive barking. Balls are always a favorite. Get an indestructible dog chew toy to keep boredom at bay. If your pooch loves balls, consider this thrower & ball dog toy.
Leash & Harness
It’s important to have your dog leashed, so make sure you bring along your favorite leash! If you are planning on going hiking, a hands-free leash is a great option. Additionally, bring along a harness your dog can wear at the campsite. The sudden appearance of people or wildlife may cause him to lunge, and we don’t want them to choke.
ID tags are important at all times, but especially when you are taking your dog camping for the first time. At home, all your neighbors know where they belong, but that is different in a new environment. Having them wear ID tags with your contact information is crucial.
It’s imperative to get a good dog bed when taking your dog camping for the first time, especially when tent camping. The ground will be hard and uneven, possibly strewn with rocks, so you will need to provide a bed that makes up for that. Get a cooling elevated bed for those hot summer days, and a cozy outdoor mat for those chilly nights around the campfire.
If you are tent camping and don’t fancy sharing your sleeping bag, a doggy sleeping bag is a great piece of dog camping gear to add! They provide a safe and cozy space for relaxed nights under the stars.
LED collar/ clip-on light/Reflective neckwear
Nighttime visibility is super important for your dog’s safety. If you think you’ll be out in the woods after dark, get an LED collar, a clip-on light, or a rechargeable necklace that lights up by itself. A rechargeable reflective dog vest is also great. When spending time around the campsite, have your dog wear something reflective, like a collar or a buff.
Campsite Dog Hitching System
Give your dog room to roam with a campsite dog hitching system! Just set up the line between two trees or other anchor points et voila!
If you are planning any water activities when taking your dog camping for the first time, do add a life vest to your list of dog camping gear to acquire. Choose a life vest in bright colors for best visibility.
Boots are a tricky topic. Barefoot is your dog’s natural state and he might not be too excited about having his feet stuck in boots, but they do wonders for paw protection! Sharp rocks, hot surfaces, or icy slopes (or, even worse, salted sidewalks) are no match for a pair of proper doggy footwear. We highly recommend to buy the boots ahead of time and give your dog plenty of opportunities to get used to them!
Depending on age and size, your pooch can carry his own gear in a dog pack. Make sure the pack has a saddleback design, allowing for even weight distribution, fits well, and is comfortable. Make sure to get them used to wearing an empty pack before adding weight and going hiking with your dogs.
If you have a small dog whose short legs just can’t keep up with your need for a long day hike, get a dog carrier backpack to comfortably carry him in.
A bright and sunshiny day doesn’t just hurt your eyes. prolonged exposure to bright sunlight can cause eye conditions like pannus, sunburn around the eyes, and cataracts. To avoid that, get Fido a chic pair of goggles!
When you take your dog camping for the first time, add some outerwear to your dog camping gear list. If it’s chilly out, make sure he has an insulated jacket to wear. Out in the rain all day? Keep him dry with a nice rain coat.
First aid kit
Being out in nature, with woods, rocks, critters and the likes exposes your dog to some risks. Just as you carry a first aid kit for humans, you should carry one for Fido!
Even if your dog is on flea and tick preventative, they will latch on. if you discover a tick on your dog, remove it immediately. If you are comfortable and have done this before, you can use tweezers. If not, don’t worry, it’s not hard, and there are tools that will make it safe and easy. This tick remover kit works for humans and pups alike! Before you head out, gather information on the tick situation in the area. You can get your pup vaccinated against Lyme disease, but note that full vaccination requires two shots, given 4 weeks apart. Even with that vaccine, there are other diseases ticks can carry. Check your dog thoroughly every evening and remove every tick you find.
Dog Camping Checklist
DOWNLOAD THE CHECKLIST
To make life easy when you take your dog camping for the first time, we are providing you with a dog camping checklist, which you can download here!
Jenny grew up in Germany. All she ever wanted out of life was to leave and have adventures. Jenny always traveled as much as the budget would allow, and when she met her husband traveling became a full-time thing. You can follow Jenny on her blog and Facebook.