How To Camp With A Dog

Man wearing rainboots hiking with his dog on a leash

I was fortunate enough to have grown up with a dog. His name was Sarge and he was a Sheltie. Where we went, Sarge came along. Road trips and stays in motels along the way? Yep. We had a pop-up trailer and a couple of tents we camped in for most of my formative years and drove to Newfoundland and back again to our home in Belleville. Sarge was along for the ride too! My children and I are on waiting lists for a dog and I cannot wait to get out and camp with a dog.

Lots of people must have adopted dogs and pets during the pandemic and quarantine. I am seeing so many posts where people are saying they’re going camping with a dog for the first time! Since I have years of experience in my formative years and I am in prep mode for next summer for taking our new family pet camping, here are some things you need to know.


How To Camp With A Dog

Straight up, camping with a dog is different. You’re going to have to accept that you have a little less freedom and if you have camped with toddlers, this is something you should basically understand. For purposes of my own expertise, I’m going to speak from the experience of tent camping. I cannot speak from the experience of bringing a dog RV camping.

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Don’t Leave Rover alone

The first thing you have to realize, your dog cannot be left on your site, in a tent without a human. RVs and trailers are a different story. Dogs bark. So even though you think and know that you have a well-behaved pooch, you have no idea what could set your dog off in unfamiliar territory. A squirrel or a blue jay coming too close to the tent might upset your dog. Essentially, the campsite is their new turf. So anything on their turf is fair game to protect from. Long story short, if your dog is zipped into a tent and you leave, the dog could bark a lot, get upset, rip through the canvas, get lost and has the potential to upset other campers.

Unless your dog is coming with you; not everyone can leave the tent site. If you need an escape from your kids, this is a good thing. 

The author with sister and dog as children

Leash Your Dog

It’s a good idea to keep your dog on a leash at all times. Most parks indicate this rule via signage. No one’s dog is an exception to the rule, not even yours because they don’t run away. It doesn’t matter how awesome your dog is, you cannot account for the potential of other animals. If you are going camping, you’re in the woods and in the woods live foxes, coyotes and other wildlife.

Also, don’t forget that adults like to break rules themselves when camping so you cannot account for poorly trained humans that you might run across. Kindly keep your dog on a leash or a long tie when at the campsite

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Bring The Dog Into The Tent At Bedtime

This should probably go without saying because it’s just like the whole idea of leaving your dog alone in unfamiliar surroundings. That and bugs and animals outside all night with your dog is like a recipe for disaster. It’s just not a good idea to have your dog tied up to your picnic table or chair all night when you are cozy in your tent.

Children sleeping with dog in tent

Your Dog Needs Food and Water Too, But Don’t Leave It Out

It’s a good rule of thumb to store your dog’s food where you store your food. Most experienced campers know how to protect their food from coyotes, bears and other wildlife, so do the same for your dog’s food. And seriously, same with their toys. Don’t leave a chew toy or bone out, it’s bait for wild animals.

Just like at home, your dog will need lots of clean drinking water. Possibly more so than at home as your dog won’t have access to being inside air conditioning. Lake or river or creek water is not always best for your dog to drink because their stomachs could get upset due to the chemicals, e coli and whatever else is floating around in there. Think of it this way, if you wouldn’t grab a glass and drink it, don’t offer it to your dog.

family at campfire with dog

Water Baby

A lot of places that you find yourself camping at have natural bodies of water and they might have a beach that dogs can access. This is good, bring the dog, have a blast there. 

If you do your research ahead of time and find that the beach where you are does not welcome dogs, don’t be that person who brings the dog anyway and cleans up after them. One, you could be asked to leave by park staff. Some parks may levy a fine against you. Other campers might not like your pooch as much as you or some people actually have canine fear due to past experience in life and might be there because the beach is canine free.

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In the end, your dog will just want to be where you are and will likely be a happy camper. As long as the dog is with his people, is exercised, loved and fed, it should be a positive experience for the family. Hope this helps you to prep for your future and how to camp with a dog.



How To Camp With A Dog - You’re going to have to accept that you have less freedom and if you have camped with toddlers, you will basically understand. Food, sleep, water, it's all covered here