Camping is often a wonderful experience for the whole family. If your family includes a canine companion, you don’t need to leave the dog out of your vacation plans, but a little preparation is necessary in order for everything to go smoothly.
First, you need to consider the temperament of your dog. Is it likely to panic around strangers or wild animals? Does it have a tendency to bark incessantly or lunge at others? If so, leaving the dog at the kennel may be a better option.
The next thing to do is research campgrounds that allow pets. Many of them don’t, so you can count those out right away. Meanwhile, there are a number of campgrounds that allow dogs only in specified areas. Make sure that those sites are both available and to your family’s liking before committing to bringing the dog camping with you.
Once you’ve settled on the proper campground, stock up on proper supplies. Bring along the dog’s food and water dishes and make sure that you have ready access to fresh water. If necessary, bring a jug or two of water from home. Most campgrounds have spouts with water for washing up, but this is generally not suitable for drinking. Additionally, before you leave, you should make certain that your dog’s vaccinations are all up to date.
You should also be sure to bring a kennel or similar enclosure for the dog to stay in when you cannot keep it close at hand. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have a chain that allows the dog room to stretch but isn’t long enough to reach the nearest campground road. To help keep the dog occupied continuously, bring bones, chew toys and other items that will make it feel more comfortable in these strange surroundings.
Take time out to play with your dog and include it in as many of your activities as possible. While one reason to bring a dog on vacation is to save you the cost of boarding, presumably the main reason is so that you can all have fun together, so take advantage of the opportunity. Play tug of war or fetch within the area that the dog is chained, and take it for plenty of walks around the campground. Don’t leave the dog completely unattended for any length of time.
A leash is an absolutely essential piece of equipment for anyone camping with a dog. You will need to keep your pet restrained while still allowing it an opportunity to exercise. Even if your pooch is extremely well-behaved, don’t let it off the leash at any time when you are walking together. In unfamiliar surroundings, it would be all too easy for it to wander off and get lost, and antagonizing other campers is a very real possibility, especially if there are people nearby who don’t like dogs.
Along with the leash, you will need to make sure that you clean up after your dog. Many campgrounds have pet waste disposal centers scattered around, complete with small plastic bags. To be on the safe side, though, you should bring your own bags, as well as a scoop to make your job easier.
The collar is an important consideration as well. Make sure before you leave that your dog’s collar is firmly attached and that the tag is clearly readable. Even though you are away from home, it’s good to have that information available. If you don’t already have your cell phone on the tag, you may want to make an extra one with that information on it – though in many campgrounds, cell phone reception isn’t very good. If you lose your dog, inform a park official.
You also must be prepared for the possibility of an emergency. Before you leave home, find out where the nearest veterinary office is and make sure you know how to get there. If none are anywhere nearby, another option might be to ask a ranger for assistance if your dog becomes injured.
Camping is an adventure for those who are willing to undertake it. Just keep these basic guidelines in mind, and you will be ready to let your dog join in the fun.