5 Tips to Enjoy Camping with Your Dog
Camping is probably one of the cheapest, easiest vacations you can take with your dog. You get to enjoy the great outdoors, hike, cook over an open flame, make s’mores and count stars – what a great way to relax and reconnect with nature and your pooch. The only real downfall to camping, besides the bears, would be trying to find a good spot to go potty in the woods, but that’s why you bring the dog, right? Here are some tips for camping with your dog:
1. How Ya Gonna Keep the Bears Out?
Most parks will strongly recommend you pack all of your food in airtight containers to keep the bears out. These keep your dog out as well. Some camping spots will actually provide you with a metal lock box; it is strongly suggested you use it.
Everything counts and should be stored properly. According to nps.gov.com, “All food and anything with a scent (even if you don’t consider it food). This includes garbage, recyclables, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen, first-aid kits, baby wipes, lotion, hairspray, scented tissue, air freshener, pet food, insect repellent, tobacco products, baby car-seats and window cleaner. Bears recognize ice chests, cans, bottles and grocery bags, so store them also.”
Bears are amazing creatures, but they do not make good guests. They’ll eat all your food, trash your stuff and fight with your dog. Who needs that? So if you happen upon a bear, nps.gov.com says you should do the following:
On the Trail:
It is amazing to see animals in their element, but disrupting them could have serious consequences, so follow these simple rules:
Stay together, especially with children and dogs. The bigger your group, the better.
If a bear changes its behavior – you are too close. You need to go – quickly, but no running as they might chase you.
Mama bears are notoriously protective of their cubs, do not get between a female and her cubs. It will not end well.
Don’t stand there staring, move on.
At the Campsite:
It’s a good thing to make bears feel unwelcome in areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas and buildings so they don’t get habituated to people or take their food. Help keep bears wild and alive by following these suggestions:
Make sure that all your food and food-related items are stored properly – leave absolutely nothing out.
Get everyone together to appear large and make lots of noise (yell, bang pots and pans, etc.). Be assertive, but not aggressive.
Never surround a bear - they need an escape route. Not to mention this will agitate them. Do not agitate the bears.
Again, a mama bear will not hesitate to let you know you’re too close to her cubs, so don’t even think about going near one or trying to seperate one from his mama. Very. Bad. Idea.
If a bear does get your food, let him have it. Your safety is more important.
If a bear huffs at you and shows its profile, it may be ready to bluff charge. It’s best to stand your ground, or better yet, back away slowly. Do not run or you’ll be mistaken for prey and the bear may have a predatory response. Bluff charges are generally meant to scare you, and rarely result in contact.
You may see park staff using more aggressive techniques to “haze” bears away, such has paint-ball guns, pepper spray, slingshots or rubber bullets. Please do not try these techniques yourself. The park staff is trained to haze bears safely, and no bears are harmed. Remember, you’re in their territory. Please be respectful.
2. No Shirt. No Shoes. No Dogs.
Sadly, dogs are not allowed on some of the trails in national parks, which is why you should always check before you and your dog travel all that way for nothing. Also, most national parks welcome all breeds, but some private parks may ban bully breeds such as Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, so it’s important to check that out, too, if you have one of these breeds.
For the trails that do allow dogs, make sure you have a leash and that you use it when hiking, no matter how tempting it is to let your dog be the trail guide. There is still the chance of an encounter with a wild animal.
And last, but certainly not least, bring poop bags. Just because a bear does it in the woods, doesn’t mean your dog should.
3. They’ll Be Checking IDs at the Door
You’re dog should be up-to-date with all of his vaccinations and be wearing a collar with a tag that has his current information on it. He should also be microchipped. This is a given for any situation, but in the wild, dogs are on sensory overload. They could get lost chasing a critter, fall into the river and float away, get attacked by a bear or mountain lion – any number of things can happen, so make sure your dog is current on his tags and vaccinations.
A pet first aid kit is a must-have on any trip, really, but it’s very important on a camping trip for both you and your dog.
4. Cover Me, I’m Going In
Trees aren’t just for dogs to relieve themselves on, they also provide shade and shelter. Since you won’t be going inside to sit in the AC, and you most likely aren’t camping in the winter, you’ll need a spot for your dog to cool off. Dogs can get dehydrated, and that would completely ruin your camping trip. Trees are excellent for napping under. After a good morning hike, curl up with your pup under the shade of that big pine tree and revel in the peace and quiet.
If it’s possible, try to set up your camp near water. It’s an easy source of water for your dog, and a great way to cool off.
5. Can We Keep ‘Em, Mom? Can We?
The woods are ripe with bugs, some of which will stick to your dog like glue and make for a really uncomfortable trip overall. Besides the mosquitoes, there will be ticks and fleas! Yikes! Make sure your dog has been treated for both, and is currently on heartworm prevention medication.
In case you want extra protection, there are over-the-counter products you can use on your dog. Also, bring along a brush or fine-tooth comb and go over your dog after every hike or trip into the woods. You do not want to take home fleas and ticks.
A Few Other Things…
Bring along a long leash or line for your pup to safely roam around but not really go anywhere. Most dogs are going to stay campside, but again, your dog is being exposed to a great many new sights and smells, so one tantalizing whiff could have him off and running. It’s best to make sure he can’t get very far.
Bring extra food and water – especially water. Make sure you don’t leave your dog’s food out, as this will attract unwanted guests and visitors like bears and bugs.
If you’ve got them, collapsible water and food dishes make for easy storage and packing. If you’re hiking, these bowls are ideal as they can easily and weightlessly fit into your backpack.
Lastly, bring along extra towels and blankets. The weather can change at any time and it’s better to have these things and not need them than to need them and not have them.