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Camping with Your Dog: What to Know Before You Go

Camping with Your Dog: What to Know Before You Go

The Joys of Camping with Your Pup

If you’re like most dog owners, you probably want to bring your four-legged friend along wherever you go — including camping trips. And why wouldn’t you? Spending time with your dog can be incredibly beneficial to both of you. By strengthening your bond, you are encouraging your dog to trust you more and introducing them to activities that will keep them healthy and mentally stimulated. In turn, your dog can help you stay more active and develop your social skills. Plus, camping with your dog can be a lot of fun. Your dog will encounter many different environments and situations during your outing, including car rides, other animals, large groups of people and nature. It is crucial that you take time to prepare for every possible circumstance so your dog can have a safe and comfortable trip.

Finding a Dog-Friendly Campground

Although not every campground is pet-friendly, there are many places across the United States that welcome well-behaved dogs. Always contact a campground individually for information regarding their pet policy and rules. Some things to ask about include:

  • Whether dogs are allowed on the property
  • Any breed or size restrictions
  • Leash requirements
  • Fees or deposits for bringing a pet

If you want to keep your dog entertained while camping, search for a campground that has fun, dog-friendly amenities, such as select KOA locations. Before you reserve your stay, schedule a check-up appointment for your dog. Make sure your dog is:

  • Up-to-date on all required vaccinations
  • Microchipped and wearing a collar with ID tags
  • Spayed or neutered
  • Trained to be well-behaved around others

Packing for a Camping Trip with Your Dog

In addition to standard camping supplies, camping pet-friendly means bringing along everything your dog needs to have a safe and memorable time. Some dog camping essentials include:

  • Food and collapsible bowls
  • Leashes, harnesses and tags
  • Bedding and towels
  • Toys and treats
  • Poop bags and a trowel
  • First aid kit

The following dog camping gear is not necessarily essential, but recommended:

  • Cooling vest or pad
  • Paw wax or dog boots
  • Portable water filter
  • LED collar or light

To keep everything organized, consider using a separate bag for your dog’s belongings.

Planning Ahead for a Successful Camping Trip

Before you head out on your camping excursion, take a look at these tips for camping with dogs. Although a spontaneous trip with your furry best friend might sound like the dream, planning ahead is the best way to ensure both you and your dog have a safe and enjoyable camping experience.

Planning ahead means:

  • Researching pet-friendly campgrounds and trails
  • Bringing your dog’s medical records and a current photo
  • Keeping your dog leashed and supervised at all times
  • Packing the right supplies and gear
  • Introducing your dog to camping gradually

Most dog owners have several albums full of dog pictures, but be sure to take one before your camping trip just in case your dog gets loose, and you need help finding them. Make sure the picture is clear and straight on, preferably taken in natural lighting. Be sure to photograph any distinguishing features as well, including unique spots and markings. Print out a copy of the photo and keep it on you while you are camping.

Upgrading Your Camping Gear

One of the most helpful camping with dogs hacks is to upgrade your current gear. A standard leash and harness are suitable for your trip, but by implementing a few upgrades, you can help your dog have even more fun. For example, there are dog leashes specifically intended for swimming. They have anti-rust clips and float on the water, making them easier to grab. Reflective harnesses can make it easier for you and others to see your dog in the dark.

Dealing with Outdoor Allergies

Dogs can feel symptoms of outdoor allergens, just like people can. If your dog is sneezing, itching, wheezing or has a noticeable ear infection, they may be suffering from seasonal allergies. Talk with your vet about treatment options, and do your best to limit your dog’s exposure during high-pollen times.

Keeping Your Dog Entertained and Hydrated

Do not rely on the outdoors being enough stimulation for your dog. Although they will undoubtedly love the chance to roam and play outside, keep in mind that the weather can change quickly, or your dog might get bored. Plan ahead by bringing along some of their favorite outdoor-safe toys, including rope chews, plushies and tennis balls.

Even if you are not participating in any high-energy activities, being outdoors and in unfamiliar territory means your dog requires more water than usual. You can gauge how much water your dog needs by their weight, activity level and the temperature outside. Adult dogs need about one ounce of water per pound of body weight each day, but your dog requires more outdoors. Use a collapsible water bowl to keep your dog hydrated on the go, and use a large, outdoor-safe bowl at the campsite. Monitor the bowl frequently and remove any dirt or leaves that may infiltrate. To keep the water cool for as long as possible, set it up in a shaded area.

Preparing Your Dog for Camping

If you have never taken your dog camping before or they are new to traveling and the outdoors, consider working your way up. Some ways to prepare your dog for a camping trip include:

  • Taking them on shorter day trips or hikes first
  • Exposing them to new sights, sounds and environments
  • Practicing obedience and recall commands
  • Slowly getting them comfortable with a crate or tent

Staying Safe at the Campsite

Keep your dog leashed at all times. Most campgrounds have leash requirements, and it is the best way to keep your dog safe. Leashing is especially important when taking your dog for their first walk around the campground. Chances are, they will start to feel a little overwhelmed or excited by all the new sights, sounds and other pets, and a leash is the best way to keep them by your side.

This includes keeping your dog leashed while participating in activities, both on-site and away from the campground. A few exceptions include when your dog is sleeping in a secure place overnight, or when staying at a campground with a fenced-in dog park or pet play area, like KOA Paw Pen Sites.

Other campers and their dogs are not the only interactions you need to be wary of on your camping trip. You also need to be on the lookout for wildlife, including both plants and animals. Be aware of your surroundings when at the campsite and participating in outdoor recreation with your dog. Never let your dog drink from stagnant water and be cautious of lakes, ponds or rivers that could be infected by blue-green algae. Research local plant life and know how to identify a potentially poisonous plant before going for hikes or walks.

Dog-Friendly Camping Activities

If you are bringing your dog camping, it is probably because you enjoy spending time together. To make it fun for both of you, incorporate plenty of dog-friendly recreation. Some of the best dog-friendly camping activities include:

  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Fetch and other games
  • Visiting dog parks
  • Exploring nature trails

Remember, not all attractions are dog-friendly. Many state and national parks, beaches, private trails and shopping and dining centers do not allow pets. If you decide to take your dog for a public stroll in a town or city near the campground, always consult local leash laws and bring plenty of dog waste bags.

Preparing for Emergencies

Never embark on a camping trip without a pet-friendly first-aid kit, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors. Always carry your dog’s first-aid kit with you while camping, participating in off-site activities and when traveling. Some first-aid kit camping essentials for dogs include:

  • Gauze pads
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Bandages
  • Digital thermometer
  • Tweezers
  • Antibiotic ointment

Before you choose your campground, research the nearest emergency vet services. Print, save or screenshot the address, name, phone number and directions.

Staying Safe in the Great Outdoors

Camping can be beneficial for both you and your dog, but only if you do so safely. Because you are spending time outdoors and in unfamiliar territory, there are a few dog camping tips to keep in mind for a safe and worry-free vacation.

Beware of Overheating

Dogs can get overheated in the sun, just like humans can. Dark-colored dogs or dogs with an abundance of hair will get hot faster than most as well. Combat overheating by keeping your dog in a cool area during the hottest part of the day, and monitoring their behavior while on walks or playing. Always keep cold water accessible. To prevent overheating, watch your dog closely for the following symptoms:

  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, use the digital thermometer in your first-aid kit to take a temperature reading. A temperature of 104 or higher indicates overheating. Move your dog to a cool location, preferably in air conditioning or shade. Give them a bowl of cold water. Apply a wrapped icepack to their groin area and continue taking their temperature until they have cooled down. Should symptoms worsen, or if your dog is lethargic, unwilling to move or is having trouble breathing, take them to an emergency veterinarian as this could indicate heat stroke.

Protect Your Dog’s Paws

The pads on your dog’s paws are sensitive to temperatures and abrasive materials, such as:

  • Hot pavement
  • Rough terrain
  • Sand
  • Salt

To protect your pup’s paws, use a pet-safe or veterinarian-preferred paw protectant or invest in a pair of booties. If your dog has never used any form of paw protectant or shoe, give them plenty of time to acclimate to it at home before going camping.

Identification is Key

In addition to having your dog microchipped at the vet, make sure you have physical ID tags so people know how to get ahold of you should they find your dog. Consider including multiple types of identification, such as a tag on your dog’s collar and ID information inside their harness. You should also add a temporary ID tag that has your campsite number.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I go camping with more than one dog?

Camping with more than one dog is a good way to keep each dog entertained, especially during car rides. Double-check with your chosen campground that there is no pet limit policy in place. You may also want to bring along a friend or family member to make walks and recreation easier.

What if I’ve never camped with my dog before?

If you have never taken your dog camping before or they are new to traveling and the outdoors, consider working your way up. Some ways to prepare your dog for a camping trip include taking them on shorter day trips or hikes first, exposing them to new sights, sounds and environments, and practicing obedience and recall commands.

Where can I go camping with my dog?

Whether it is the mountains, coast or an urban hotspot, as long as you are abiding by all local and campground regulations, you can take your dog camping in many different places. For many dogs, car rides are exciting. For others, it can be scary and cause extreme anxiety. If you have never taken your dog on a car ride and plan to do so on the way to a campground, work your way up to it by going for small rides each day. Gradually increase the amount of time your dog spends in the car.

Camping with Your Dog at KOA

If you’re looking for a pet-friendly destination for you and your dog, KOA has you covered. While not every location is pet-friendly, many campgrounds across North America welcome your four-legged friend. Remember, pet policies, restrictions, rules and amenities all vary between campgrounds, so always contact specific locations for the most up-to-date information.

In addition to easy access to nearby attractions, events and activities, many KOA Campgrounds also provide:

  • Designated dog parks or pet play areas
  • Waste stations and disposal services
  • Dog washing stations
  • Treats and toys available for purchase

In addition to these dog-friendly features and amenities, every KOA implements safe speed limits inside the campgrounds and has clean facilities, so you know you and your pet are in good hands. Visit KOA online to reserve your stay today.

About the Author

Kampgrounds of America (KOA) is the largest system of open-to-the-public campgrounds in the world, with over 500 locations across the United States and Canada. Founded in Billings, MT in 1962, KOA’s family of campground brands – KOA Journey, KOA Holiday and KOA Resort – today serve more than a million camping families each year. KOA is dedicated to “connecting people to the outdoors and each other” by providing people with a variety of camping experiences and the information they need to make the most of their camping trip. Read more of their camping and travel resources by visiting

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