Camping With Your Dog

Unfortunately, uncontrolled dogs and irresponsible pet owners have contributed to the closing of many campsites to dogs, and the hostile reactions by some fellow campers when they see you have dogs with you.  Always ask at the camp station if dogs are allowed in the campsite, and respect all rules the station has regarding dogs.

 Training (before the camping trip):  

      Puppy classes are great for socialization and basic manners.  Continue with obedience classes as your dog gets older.

      Crate training is excellent. A fold up wire crate is the most versatile for travel. When riding in the car, have your dog ride in his crate. That way if you have to slam on the brakes, they won't fly into the windshield.  It also prevents the dog from darting out of the vehicle when you stop, during unloading, loading, etc.  If you stop somewhere open the windows, park in the shade, and leave him secure in his crate.

      Teach a reliable, off-lead recall.  You never know when he might get away from you and you will need to call him back. 

      Learn to use plastic bags for poop pickup.  Use the bags from the supermarket, newspaper or sandwich bags.  Commercial bags are available that attach to your leash or are compacted into small easily carried "pills", which are my personal favorite.  Insert your hand in the bag, pick up the offending matter, turn the bag inside out and toss it in the trash. Keep a supply of plastic baggies handy.  Always pick up after your dog in a campsite -- dog waste is not the same as other animal waste, even that of wolves or coyotes.  It is bad for the environment, particularly near water sources, and most bothersome to other campers.  Again, you are contributing to people's bad feelings about dogs, and contributing to more campsites being closed to dog owners, by not scooping.  Scoop or else.

Prep, Packing and Care:

      Bring your dog's proof of vaccinations and rabies tag with you when you are camping.  It is probably not a good idea to take a puppy camping with you until he has had at least three sets of shots.

      Carry emergency contact information not only for your family, but also for your pet.  If you should become injured the authorities will need to contact someone to care for your dog. 

      Talk to your vet about the need to be vaccinated for Lyme Disease. 

      Get your dog tattooed and microchipped as soon as possible. Remember to register the chip or tattoo. This will really help if your dog gets lost--especially when you are far from home. Keep photos of your dog with you.

      Make sure your dog is always wearing a collar with current contact information on it.  If possible make a tag for each trip with the name and phone number of the campground you are staying. 

      Flea-tick control. Advantage is excellent for fleas but does not get ticks. Frontline does a good job on both. These are both once a month applications. Some of the other products like Revolution and Sentinel are taken internally instead of applied to the skin.

      Bring bedding (a blanket, an air mattress, etc.) to keep your dog off the ground.  This will go a long way in keeping them warm, dry, and clean.  Put plastic underneath cloth beds on the ground to keep out moisture.  Bringing their home beds along while camping is as much behavioral support as comfort; they believe that wherever their beds are, that's home.

      Booties: Depending on the type of terrain and if the dog is not used to being outdoors, consider buying some booties to protect your dog's feet.

      Dog food: take two-extra days of dog meals beyond our planned stay, just in case. Whatever you use for food storage, it should be sturdy, water proof and critter proof. Keep it in your vehicle so it doesnt attract other animals.

      Dark colored dogs overheat more quickly than light colored dogs and they don't sweat. A dip in a pond or a quick hosing down with cool water (or even misting water over the head, neck back, and belly) will help cool an overheated dog.  If you hike with your puppy remember that he cannot go as far as an adult dog can and that you need to watch him for overheating. Take plenty of water along for the dog to drink and to pour over him if need be.

      Some items suggested for dog first aid kit:

o        coated aspirin (don't give regular aspirin to a dog, except by doctor's suggestion)

o        VetWrap- sticks to fur better without pulling out hair

o        Kwik Stop, septic powder or Blood stop powder

o        Small nail scissors

o        Ear and eye ointment- in 1/8 oz tubs (a little Ottomax and Terramycin)

o        Good tick tweezers and maybe Tick Release

o        Hemostats, needle nose pliers and lighter Razor blade to shave hair from an injured area  

o        Butterfly bandages- wound closure strips

o        Waterproof surgical tape

o        Sam splints

o        Secta-soothe

o        Mole skin

o        Irrigation syringe (to flush eyes and wounds

o        Trauma dressing and 4 x 4 bandages)

o        Benedryl (in case your dog is stung by a bee or fire ant)

o        Tube of triple antibiotic (works great for plugging puncture wound)

o        kotex (to absorb blood and act as a dressing)

o        bandana

o        Enclose items in a zip-lock bag to keep it waterproof.

Camping Discipline:       

      LEASH YOUR DOG.  Keep your dog on a leash at all times.  Even a well behaved dog may run off at the sight or scent of other animals.  Additionally, don't let your dog chase wild animals/game.  Remember, you are the visitors - please respect it.  You must be physically able to restrain your dog in the presence of distractions, such as deer, squirrels and other critters.  No matter how well-behaved you think your dog is, it is both impolite and dangerous to other campers NOT to have your dog somehow restrained at all times.

      A tether that fastens around a tree, a picnic table leg, truck, etc, can create a really long restraint that allows dogs almost total freedom within your campsite.

      A flexi-lead is a retractable lead that allows the dog run out and then run back to you.  Great for those long walks.  If you use them on hikes make sure your dog does not get out of your sight.  Remember, there may be another hiker around that corner that you cannot see. 

      Remember that not everyone is a "dog person".  Do not allow your dog to approach someone unless they consent to it.

      Ask campgrounds what their pet rules are when making reservations.  Many campgrounds have prohibitions on pets and others may limit the size of dogs they will allow.

      While a campsite may be lively during the day, once night falls, it's time to settle down. Your dog will need to understand when play time is over and how to be quiet (no barking!).  If your dog has never been to dog school, ENROLL IMMEDIATELY. The cost is minimal and it will make you a better, more responsive dog owner, as well as a better camper with a dog.

      Know Your Dog.  What excites your dog?  What puts your dog "on guard"?  What makes your dog bark, growl or whimper?  Know your dog's language, know what sets him off, and know how to calm him down. Learn to read his tail, eyes, ears and body posture.  If you can't anticipate your dogs reactions to various situations, you are not ready to camp with your dog.

      Bring a muzzle, even if your dog doesn't bite.  If your dog is injured, he may need the muzzle to prevent him from biting you or others trying to give him first aid.

      Dog fight deterrents:  Even if you don't have an aggressive dog, you could encounter one.  An old empty (soft) plastic soda bottle (2 liters) makes a TERRIBLE noise if you hit the fighting dogs with it, but it wouldn't hurt them. Halt! is a mild pepper-spray, a soda can full of pebbles, or some other noise maker.  Shake it during a dog fight.  All of these ideas may be enough of a distraction to get your dog out of an aggressive situation.