How to Prepare Your Dog for a Camping Trip

If you’re heading on a camping trip with your dog, you’re going to need to consider their needs as much as your own. While you might be happy enough to live on S’mores and cold beans for a week, it’s unlikely your dog will be quite so happy. Neither are they likely to enjoy being exposed to bugs, ticks, and other little nasties without proper protection. If you want them to enjoy the experience just as much as you do, a little bit of advance preparation might be in order. Without further ado, here are our top tips on how to prepare your dog for a camping trip.

Check their ID is up-to-date

Venturing into unfamiliar territory might be exciting, but it comes with risk. If your dog wanders off and loses sight of you, the chances of them being able to find their way either back to you or back to base camp are slim. Before you head off, prepare for the unexpected by making sure their dog license and ID tags are up to date. As recommends, make sure the ID tag is both secure and legible and contains everything a would-be finder will need to reunite you with your missing friends – your name, home address, and contact number are a must, but it’s also worth adding your dogs name as well.

Say no to parasites with a tick preventative

Ticks, fleas, and other parasites can turn what would otherwise be a pleasant camping trip into a hellish one. Before you head off, make sure you apply a flea and tick preventive to stop your pet picking up anything nasty in the woods.

Don’t forget to do your research

The last thing you want on a trip is to set up camp someplace your dog isn’t welcome. Always check just how pet-friendly the area you’ll be staying is by calling in ahead. If it’s a state or national park, either check the website or contact the local DNR directly. Some places may have a strict no-pets policy, while others will accept well-behaved pooches providing certain stipulations such as abiding by leash length requirements or trail restrictions are honored. They’ll also be able to advise if there are any potential dangers for your pet in the area that you’ll need to aware of before arriving.

Get them into nature

If your dog’s a city -slicker, try getting them used to the sights, sounds, and smells they’re likely to come across on your camping trip by taking them out on a couple of hikes in the country. By the time they’re out in the wilderness for real, they’ll be much better acquainted with its peculiarities, and much less likely to feel overwhelmed by the experience.

Try a practice run

If this is the first camping trip you’re taking your dog on, get them used to the experience by doing a practice run at home. Set up the tent in the yard (or even the living room, if you’d prefer) and lay out their sleeping bag. Let them have a good old sniff so they can familiarize themselves with the scent and then encourage them to hop in – some treats usually help the process along. Repeat the process on a few nights in a trot until they feel comfortable and happy with the new set up. As well as getting them to test out the camping kit, it’s also worth spending a little time acclimatizing them to any new equipment you’ll be using on the trip. In the same way as we usually need to break in new hiking boots and get used to the fit of a backpack before heading into the wild, so your dog might need to get comfortable with a new leash or harness. Whatever equipment you’ll be expecting to use on the trip, start using it on walks several weeks prior to D Day – by the time of the trip, they’ll be familiar enough with it not to kick up a fuss.

Pack for your pooch

Your pooch-friendly packing list might vary to some extent, depending on how long you’ll be camping and how close you’ll be to certain amenities. That said, there are a few things you really don’t want to be without, starting with these top recommendations from

  • Water and food bowls (take a spare just in case one gets lost)
  • A leash (extendable ones are usually the most convenient)
  • A warm blanket (if you’ve got the budget, you could even splash out on a dog sleeping bag)
  • Ziplock bags to store kibble, or a cooler for raw food (if you’re backpacking, you might find dehydrated food the lightest option)
  • A selection of their favorite snacks (you never know when you might need to distract them or attract their attention)
  • Poop bags (remember the golden rule – leave no trace, especially in beauty spots)

Make sure their training is up to scratch

The last thing you want to find out in the middle of the wilderness is that your dog doesn’t know the difference between “eat” and “leave”. Tearing up the tent, picking up things they really shouldn’t, running off recklessly into the woods… all of these can cause no end of bother, and not just to them. Before the trip, spend a little time making sure their basic training is up to scratch. They don’t need to be able to jump through hoops or high five on command, but understanding basic commands like “stay”, “come”, and “leave” should be considered a must.

Don’t forget the first-aid kid

Most camping trips go by perfectly smoothly, but it always pays to be prepared. Just in case of any little accidents, it’s best to do as recommends and look for a first aid kit that’ll work double duty for you and your pooch. At a minimum, it should contain bandages, a tick key, and antibacterial ointment.

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