Summer is the season for camping and enjoying the gorgeous outdoors. Why not bring along your four legged family member to also take in the fun in the summer sun? After all, dogs love being outside and enjoy spending time with the family. By bringing your dog along for the journey, you’re likely to make wonderful memories the entire family will love to look back on.
Camping with your dog can be a lot of fun, however some planning should take place before bringing them along. I have brought my dog, Ranger, on every trip I’ve gone on in the last 4 years (with one exception) as it’s one of my favorite things to do with my dog. He has been to 37 states, 2 countries, 17 national parks, and has traveled by car, bus, ferry, and plane. It’s safe to say that Ranger has traveled more than most people have.
Here are my top 10 tips to traveling and camping with your canine!
Check the pet policy and be a model dog owner
If you are traveling to one destination, make sure you check their pet policy. Not all businesses are pet friendly so be sure you pick the right place for you and your dog. If traveling to a campsite, be sure to ask about their pet related policies as well. Maybe you are visiting multiple locations on your trip (this is how I like to travel), if that is the case then you’ll just want to check the policies of each place you visit. Along the same lines of policies, be a model citizen and follow them. Pick up after your dog, keep them on a standard 6ft leash, train them to be respectful of others, and more.
Determine how you are traveling and prepare your dog for it
How are you traveling? Car, RV, plane? Plan ahead for this. If your dog travels well in the car then you are off to a great start. However if your dog is less than ideal while driving places you will want to do some training before the trip happens. The same goes for the place in which you will be staying. Are you staying in a hotel, or tent? Be sure to create positive associations with these environments so your dog does well. It’s also a good idea to decide if the trip will be too much for your dog. It’s possible the trip will just stress them out more than make them happy. If this is the case, find a trusting friend or family member to watch them while you are away. If that is not an option, boarding facilities or some vets offices can watch your dog while you are away. Just be sure to ask all of the right questions before booking with them.
Be mindful of the environment in which you are traveling to
How loud do you think your destination will be? How crowded? Do you think the environment will be over stimulating for your dog? These are factors that must be addressed before taking your furry friend on the trip with you. You don’t want your dog to feel stressed when out and about. This sets them up to feel anxious more often even when back home, and it increases the chances they react in a negative way to things that scare them. Manage the environment as much as you can. For example, avoiding busy sidewalks, staying clear of things that you know your dog doesn’t like, and setting your dog up for success always. Even dogs who handle crowds and loud noises well still need breaks, so plan accordingly.
Check your campsite or place you’re staying for potential dangers too. Walk around the area to make sure there isn’t anything your dog could hurt themselves with or eat and get sick.
Emergency planning is a must
Plan for emergencies! We always hope things go well when traveling but there’s always a possibility something could go wrong and you want to make sure you are as prepared as possible if something does. Check to see where the nearest emergency veterinarian’s office is. Is it close enough to where you are staying or should you change your plans or find alternate options? Are there other resources nearby that you could use like a non-emergency vet office or pet store with medical equipment should you need it? Though it’s never fun to imagine these scenarios, we want to make sure we are ready in-case something does go wrong.
Keep on eye on the weather forecast
Do you know what the weather is going to be like where you are going? Rainy and cold? Hot and humid? Watch the forecast and make sure you are prepared for what kind of weather you are staying in. Prolonged time outside in temps over 80 degrees can be harmful to your dog. Long time spent in the cold and snow can cause ice to build up in the webbing of your dog’s paws and fur which can be painful and even cause bleeding. You definitely don’t want to travel somewhere and realize the weather is making things difficult for your pup.
Purchase the right equipment
There are lots of equipment you can purchase to help make traveling safer and smoother for your dog. Some ideas and recommendations are:
Travel crates (hard sided or soft sided) and/or travel harness set ups. These keep your dog strapped into the seat or secured in a crate while driving which means if you were to get into an accident they would be more protected.
Travel bowls and other useful tools can help for quick feedings when at a rest stop or on a hike. There are also water bottles designed for your dog in mind to help them drink easier.
If you use a bell or some kind of device for your dog to alert you that they have to go potty, don’t forget this! The first thing you should do when arriving is show your dog the bell, and take them out to go potty.
Plan their food and water
Depending on how long you are gone for, you may need to bring an entire bag of food along for the trip. If you raw feed, you need to plan ahead about whether you want to bring a cooler for your dog's food or supplement a certain kibble for the duration of the trip. Also make sure you have clean drinking water available at all times for you dog. If you plan to hike often, camp with no air conditioning or just be more active, you definitely want to make sure you have an adequate supply of water for both you and your dog.
Mental stimulation is important
Just because you are traveling with your dog doesn’t mean you should forget about their mental enrichment needs. Bring job toys, puzzles, a snuffle mat, etc. to keep your dog busy while you are at the campfire (and to keep them away from the campfire) or while you are playing a board game since they can’t join. Mental enrichment will keep your dog relaxed (especially if any nosework is involved) and keep them out of trouble. For more ideas on mental stimulation, read my previous blog on the topic!
Determine if your reactive dog is ready to go with
Does your dog not get along with other dogs, people, or both? This can make traveling challenging because unless you plan to stay away from people altogether, you will have encounters with others and possibly dogs as well. Depending on how far you are in your behavior modification plan (if you don’t have one, you should set one up with a professional certified trainer or behaviorist) you may feel it is time that you take this next step with your dog. Management is key here, so be sure to always set your dog up for success by scanning the environment and not bringing them to places you know that will overstimulate them. If you feel the trip will be too much for your dog, don’t be afraid to find a trusted friend or family member to watch your dog for you (in your home if at all possible). This way, your dog can be kept safe and comfortable and you can go on vacation and not worry about the constant stressors that might upset your dog.
Stay consistent with your training
Last and most importantly, be consistent with everything you have taught your dog! Help your dog understand that the rules still apply even if you are not at home. By doing this, your dog will listen to you better and you will enjoy your trip so much more. Consistency is key in dog training! You are helping them become wonderful travel companions by doing so. To give you a personal example, Ranger has to sit and wait for the verbal cue “take it” before he gets to eat a meal. This has been established from the very first meal he had with me. As stated above, we have traveled all over the country, sleeping in the car more times than I can count, waiting in airport terminals, and camping to our hearts content. Not once have I gotten lazy and decided to just feed Ranger without asking for a sit and cuing “take it”. Why? Because I want him to understand that the rules apply no matter where we go, what we are doing, or what’s around us.
I hope these tips help you and your dog enjoy your adventure together! Traveling with your pup and showing them the world is one of the best gifts you can given them, in my eyes.
Please be safe and have a great time.
Happy training (and traveling)!