Complete Guide To Summer Camping With Your Dog

dog and girl camping in the Rocky Mountains

With your dog as your co-pilot, there are a number of reasons to look forward to camping this year: the change to disconnect, explore new places, and for both your dog and you to become acquainted with the power of nature.  Like anything else you’re doing with your pup, camping together might require a little bit of extra planning, but we can guarantee it’ll be more than worth your time.  Before you head out, give this article a read to help you and your dog enjoy the great outdoors.

BEFORE YOU GO

Prepping for Being Away from Home

While you might not be travelling far away from home, any time that you’re going away with your pup, there are a couple of things that you should do to prepare. 

First of all, ensure that your pup’s tag and any microchips are up-to-date.  When you’re heading out to camp in the summer, you’ll also want to make sure that your dog has had their vaccines, especially for Lyme disease and rabies. 

In case of emergency, also make sure that you have your dog’s health information on hand, as well as the information of the closest emergency vet so you’re prepared should you need it.

Choosing A Dog-Friendly Campground

All Parks Canada campgrounds allow dogs, but they must be kept on a leash under 10 feet long at all times.  Parks Canada’s Pet-Friendly Places to Stay Overnight is a great place to start your search.

camping in Alberta dog and man

Photo credit @michaeldietrich

Most provincial parks are also dog-friendly, but make sure to double-check before you place your reservation. Once you’ve chosen your location, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the guidelines of the campground for pets, as some campgrounds don’t allow dogs in all areas, instead opting for dedicated pet beaches and fenced-in off-leash areas to allow your dog the space to explore.

A less common thing to check before you choose your campsite is the weather. Certain breeds can be more prone to heat-related issues, so you’ll want to ensure that the area isn’t too hot to ensure that your pet is able to remain comfortable with all that extra time outside.

YOUR PACKING LIST FOR CAMPING WITH YOUR DOG

Being prepared with the right outdoor dog gear can really help to make your camping trip even more enjoyable. We’ve split this list into essentials and nice-to-haves, so you have options about how much you’re wanting to pack in.

Essential Dog Camping List

Water and Portable Dog Bowl: Water is, of course, essential to stay hydrated, especially during the summer heat.  Because the water at the campsite might not be safe to drink, you’ll want to ensure that you bring enough water for your dog - and you.  Our Collapsible Dog Travel Bowl  is extremely helpful and folds up so you can easily pack it up for day trips or beach time away from your campsite.

RMD dog travel food bowl

Food and Treats: Pack enough food for the entire duration for your trip - and a bit extra!  This’ll make sure that you’re fully stocked should your trip last longer than usual and helps you avoid having to buy more food during the trip, which is especially helpful if your dog’s food is hard to find, as transferring them to a different kind of food can be a process. 

Your dog also might be more active when camping than at home and require a little extra food to keep their energy levels up.  

A Leash and Collar: Don’t forget to pack your dog’s collar to ensure that they have their tag on them at all times!  For camping, we suggest our Mountain Leashes, which are 6 feet so under the requirement set by most campgrounds and have a hands-free option so you can keep your dog close when setting up a tarp or cooking. 

dog wearing RMD leash in canmore alberta

Waste Bags: When you’re spending any amount of time in nature, it’s certainly important to respect nature and leave your campsite just as you found it! Stock up on our Poop Bags, which are biodegradable and are packaged in a recyclable box.

RMD disposable poo bags

First Aid Supplies A first aid kit ensures that you have everything you need should your dog get injured.  You can easily put together a DIY doggie first aid kit so you always have all of the essentials on hand, like disinfectant and gauze.

A Place for Down Time:  Whether you opt for bringing your dog’s bed from home, their crate, or a travel dog bed, it’s important to ensure that your dog has a comfortable spot to rest during the day and at night. If you’re going somewhere that has cooler night temperatures, you might also consider a doggie sleeping bag like Ruffwear’s Highland Sleeping Bag

Nice to Have

An LED Collar: An LED collar makes it easy to see your dog in the dark of the night, and is a great item to add to your collection of outdoor dog gear to help your dog stay safe during those quiet evenings.  Our LED Mountain Safety Collar  can be set to glow, blink, or flash and is available in four different colours.  Plus, it has a rechargeable battery for plenty of adventures!

dog camping with RMD Mountain Beacon LED collar

Rain Coat: While we’d all certainly hope for the best weather on our camping trip, we all know that this isn’t the case.  A raincoat can help your dog battle the elements if there’s a sudden downpour and can make it easy to keep up with your adventures on a rainy day.

A Towel: To further help your dog stay dry, a towel is great to have to prevent that wet dog smell, rather it’s from the rain or a swim in a nearby lake or stream.

Sunscreen: Although your dog has natural protection from their coats, short-haired breeds can be more prone to sunburns, and the sensitive areas of your dog like the inside of their ears, belly, and nose can benefit from sunscreen. 

Because dogs are sensitive to zinc oxide, which is the active ingredient commonly used in human sunscreens, be sure that you have a special sunscreen for your pup like Epi-Pet’s Sun Protective Spray, which is easy to use thanks to a spray format or Pekin’s Doggy Sunstick, which is easy to swipe on noses.

Eye Protection: To protect your dog’s eyes from the effects of the sun’s rays, you can use a pair of Dog Goggles which act as sunglasses to protect your dog’s eyes from UV rays (and also block out debris from sand and dirt!).

dog wearing dog goggles camping

Bug Repellant: In addition to being annoying, mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks can carry parasites that can cause disease. You can check with your vet for a preventative medication, and add extra protection with a doggy bug spray like Vet’s Best Mosquito Repellant Spray, which uses natural ingredients and pet-friendly essential oils to keep bugs away.  Make sure not to use your bug spray on your dog either, as DEET is highly toxic to both dogs and cats.

Brush: While camping might not seem like the best time to be grooming your dog, having your dog’s brush handy can help to remove dirt and dust from their coat.

Toys: Even if you’ve got lots of hikes and swims planned to keep your dog busy as well as some much-needed downtime, toys are a great way to keep them busy and occupied beyond finding sticks.  We recommend a toy that you can play fetch with together and something that’ll keep them busy on their own, like a Kong.

Portable Dog Shower: If you’re planning to do a lot of swimming with your pup or go on possible muddy hikes while camping, a portable dog shower can help to make sure that your dog doesn’t track dirt into your tent or car.  The Kurgo Mud Dog Travel Shower is a great option: because it attaches to a plastic bottle, it’s easy to use and doesn’t take up much room.

Portable Dog Pen: If you’d like to give your dog a little extra room to roam without being staked out, a portable dog pen is a great option.  Something like the Pet Gear Travel Lite Octagon Pet Pen also has a ventilated top to protect your dog from the sun.

Paw Balm: Walking on the rough ground can be tough on your dog’s paws, which might be even drier during the summer months. Our Organic Paw Balm  can help to protect your dog’s paws as well as soothe them after a long hike.

RMD paw cream for dogs

A Tie-Out:  While you can make create a makeshift way to secure your dog by extending a rope between two trees and then attaching their leash to it, a tie out is more portable and allows you to create a safe space to secure your dog, no matter what the set-up of your campsite might be.

TIPS FOR CAMPING SUCCESS WITH YOUR DOG

Start Small

Camping is an adventure - and it can take some time for both your and your dog to work out the best routine for you.  Starting out with a weekend trip can help to introduce your dog to camping, and help you figure out the essentials for you and your dog.

Don’t Forget About Travel

If your dog experiences stress when travelling, you may want to stick to a campground close to home.  As always, practice good car ride etiquette, ensuring that your dog is properly secured, and allow for breaks to keep them happy and comfortable - even before you arrive.

Introduce Your Dog to the Site Once You Arrive

Although you might be tempted to jump straight into your set-up once you arrive, ensure that you arrive earlier so that you have time to allow your dog to explore the site and also allow you to recognize any potential problem areas you may want to avoid, like certain plants or areas your dog might get tangled up, like picnic tables and fire pits.  Do this with your dog on-leash, to allow him to safely explore.

Practice Good Campsite Etiquette

While practicing good campsite etiquette is important even when you’re travelling sans dog, there are a couple of extra things to keep in mind when you’re with your dog.  Make sure that you don’t leave your dog unattended outside, and don’t leave any of their food or bones out to avoid attracting wild animals.  And, of course, make sure to pick up after your dog!

Create a Plan for Rainy Days

Even if the weather looks good, you might consider having a plan should a storm roll in, whether it’s hanging out with your dog under a tarp or going for a car ride.  You might also consider packing something for quieter days, like a Kong or brain game to keep your dog busy and engaged.

Have Fun Activities

hiking devils thumb lake louise alberta

While it’s simple enough to slow down and enjoy the outdoors, planning some engaging activities like swimming, fetch, summer hiking, or even an evening walk around the campground can help make camping with your dog that much more enjoyable.

Training Your Dog for Camping

Like when you head out for a hike or to the local park, you want to feel confident that your dog will be well-behaved while in your campsite and the surrounding areas.  Even if you’re planning to keep your dog on-leash, in order to protect both your dog and the wildlife in the area, it’s important that your dog be familiar with several common obedience cues.

Stay: If you’re planning to let your dog off-leash (and it’s within campground rules!) stay is a must  Even if you’re leaving your dog on a leash, the stay command can be helpful to prevent pulling should a squirrel run across their path, for example. 

To begin mastering stay with your pet, begin by asking your dog to sit or lay down near you, pairing this with the word “stay” and an extended hand. Immediately use your release word like “Okay” or “Free”, encouraging your dog to come to you.  Gradually work on increasing the time of the stay command, and then work on increasing distance. 

Come: When you’re outdoors, come is essential should you need your dog to come away from a potentially dangerous area. To learn the come command, start by calling your dog’s name paired with your choice of word while holding a treat out to encourage them to come towards you. 

Gradually fade out the treat to increase recall. Work on increasing the distance between you to help your dog to master the command. If your dog isn’t coming to you, try to avoid going after them as this can make them believe you’re playing a game of chase!  Instead, attract their attention and run in the opposite direction to encourage them to follow you. 

Quiet: When you’re seeking solitude, dogs who are engaged in a barking war can quickly get annoying.  Teaching your dog to learn to be quiet can be a bit of a process, but it is important. 

When at home, ignore your dog when they are barking and reward them once they quiet. You can begin to pair this with an instruction to be quiet until they get the hang of it.

If you’re having trouble with this command, another way to help your dog stop barking is to ask them for an incompatible command, such as come, sit, or go in your crate. Ensuring that your dog gets plenty of activity and exercise can also help to reduce unnecessary barking: a tired dog is a well-behaved dog.

Leave it: When your dog is naturally curious and thinks everything is a potential snack, “leave it” is an important command to help keep them from eating anything unsafe while in the great outdoors. Begin by using a hand to cover a treat, instructing your pet to “leave it”. 

Once they do, allow them to be rewarded with the treat.  Build up to having a treat left uncovered, using your body to block your dog should they go for the treat before they are released.

Although this might not be something that you think about, when our dogs are used to sleeping indoors, sleeping outside (even under the shelter of a tent) can lead them to feel vulnerable and needing to protect their space all night.

To prep for camping with your dog, you might try a little backyard camping to get them used to this new sleeping environment, making sure to use treats and plenty of praise to make it a positive place. A little comfort and familiarity can also go a long way, so try bringing the bed or blankets your dog is used to sleeping with at home into your tent with you.