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Camping with Your Dog

pet travel tips

Are you planning a camping trip, but can't decide whether to bring your dog?

Going on a camping trip doesn't mean that you have to leave your dog behind. That's right! Camping with your dog is a great way for both of you to get exercise, experience new sights and smells, and spend quality time together.

Although camping is fun for both you and your pet, you should be aware of the responsibilities as well as precautions involved with bringing along your furry friend. Below is a list of steps that will help you and your pet have a fun and safe vacation, as well as some great campgrounds that allow pets.

Before your camping trip:

  • Consider your pet's health and disposition. When it is time for a walk, does your pet respond with enthusiasm? Is your pet an outdoor lover, or is it more comfortable curled up on a pillow at your feet? Is your pet in shape? Answering yes to all of these questions will ensure a more enriching vacation for your both.
  • When planning your camping trip, research pet friendly campgrounds and parks. Some national parks do not allow pets, but there are some great alternatives that offer everything a national park does, and you can take your dog along on the trip as well.
  • For safety purposes, take a selfie or have a friend or a neighbor take a photo of you and your pet on your cell phone. If you and your dog get separated, this will come in handy in identifying you as the pet owner.
  • Before camping with your dog, you will need to gete them current vaccinations as well as paperwork from your veterinarian, so plan to make an appointment shortly before your departure date. Keep a copy of the paperwork with you in case it is requested by a park or campground official.
  • Go to the hardware store and grab an extra set of dog tags with the exact address and campsite number where you and your dog will be staying.
  • Getting your dog a microchip and registering it is always be a good idea. If you ever get separated, this could be the difference in whether you see your best friend again or not. Over 80% of all dogs that are lost that are not chipped and registered are never reunited with their owners.
  • If you are driving to the campsite, please restrain your pet in the car, either with a harness or a crate. In case of an accident, these products acts as a seat-belt, and will keep your dog safe. If you are transporting the dog by truck-bed, it is imperative that you crate your pet during transport. There have been plenty of horror stories of dogs jumping out the back of truck-beds and sustaining serious or fatal injuries. A leash is NOT an alternative.
  • Make sure to pack 2 dog leashes with a maximum of 6 feet in length, a few towels, and a brush to help against the dirt and insects you might encounter on the trip. Don't forget your dog's food and plenty of bags to clean up after your dog.
  • Another great idea when camping with your dog is to attach a bell to your pet's collar. (A jingle bell will do fine.) This way, you can hear your pet no matter where they are. GPS trackers are fine, but you might not want to bring your laptop or cell phone with you or service may be poor (that's the point in getting away from it all), so this device might not be as helpful as it would be in town.
  • If you plan to have your dog sleep outside the tent, make sure you bring a doggie bed or their favorite sleeping apparatus. This will make them feel more comfortable as well as keep them a little cleaner. In addition, bring some rope or a sturdy anchor to tether your pet while you sleep.
  • You and your dog will need plenty of water, so make sure to plan accordingly. Portable water bowls are easy to pack and allow you to provide hydration to your dog anytime.

During your camping trip:

When choosing a campsite, try to pick a spot with a shaded area, especially during the summer times. Your dog will be exposed to a lot of heat during the trip and it is important to keep your best friend cool.

Pick up after your dog! This is the cardinal rule of camping with your dog (leave no trace) and one reason some parks don't allow pets. Let's try to change these perceptions, one scoop at a time.

Try to keep the barking at a minimum. Quiet hours usually start around 10:00 PM at most parks and are strictly enforced. If barking is an issue, try to see a specialist prior to going on the trip to curb that habit.

When camping with your pet, NEVER leave them unattended.

Some fun activities like swimming, fishing and hiking are perfect to do with your dog. Here are a couple of tips when engaging in these activities:

  • Unless your dog loves to swim, do not throw them into the water. As excited as both of you are, it is a new environment for them and might take them some time to get used to it. Get in the water first and throw a ball in to help encourage the process.
  • Bring plenty of fresh drinking water. Even freshwater lakes and streams can contain different bacteria and parasites that maybe harmful if swallowed.
  • Make sure your dog always has an exit route. Some dogs are so excited about jumping into the water, they don't always know the best way to get back on land. Jumping off a dock or a boat is a perfect example of this. Try starting in shallow water where they are not fully submerged.
  • Depending on where you're camping, always be careful of other animals. Especially in the Southeast, alligators tend to reside near the shores of large lakes. Snakes can also be a concern. Check beforehand and ask park officials. Most importantly, respect posted warning signs. They are there to prevent accidents and keep you and your pet safe.
  • After swimming, be sure to clean your dog's ears out extensively. Not doing this could lead to bacteria in the ear canal, resulting in painful ear infections.
  • If you plan on fishing with your dog, make sure to keep all fishing accessories far away from your dog's reach. Cutting a fishing hook out of a dog's paw would certainly not be fun for either of you.
  • When you hook that "big catch," don't be too distracted and forget to keep an eye on your best friend as well.
  • Keep your dog out of your bait bucket. Upset stomachs are no fun to deal with.
  • Unlike the relaxing time you can have camping with your dog, hiking is a physically strenuous activity. It is recommended that when you see your veterinarian for your health exam, have them do a physical on your dog to make sure they are healthy enough for hiking. Obviously, age and condition would also play a role in your decision to bring your pet along for a hike.
  • Keep your dog on a leash and as close as possible at all times. Try not to let them go farther than 4 - 6 feet from your side. This is mandatory while on the trails in most dog friendly parks.
  • Unlike your home, you might encounter plants or trees that your dog isn't exposed to normally. Do not let them close to these new plants, unless your recognize them. Poison ivy affects dogs just like it affects humans. Also, you might run into shrubs with berries that shouldn't be eaten by your pet. The last thing you want on your vacation is an emergency trip to the animal hospital.
  • Always keep an eye out for the wildlife and use good judgment. If you see a animal that your dog should not be interacting with, make sure that you both keep a good distance.

Use common sense and have fun when camping with your dog!

Some examples of great pet friendly national parks:

Grand Canyon National Park - Pets on a leash are permitted in the park and a few designated hiking trails.

Yosemite National Park - Pets are allowed in most campgrounds, paved roads, and developed areas.

Yellow Stone National Park - Pets are allowed in any areas within 100 feet of roads, parking areas and campgrounds. They are prohibited from entering the back-country or any trails due to wildlife activity.

Acadia National Park - There are 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads in the park where pets are permitted. The two swimming beaches (Sand Beach and Echo Lake) are also pet friendly except from May 15 to September 15.

Smoky Mountain National Park - Dogs are allowed in campgrounds, picnic areas, and along roads, but must be kept on a leash at all times. Dogs are only allowed on two short walking paths: the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail.

Rocky Mountain National Park - Pets are permitted in Rocky Mountain National Park, however they are NOT permitted on trails or in the backcountry. They are allowed only i n areas accessed by vehicles, including roadsides, parking areas, picnic areas and campgrounds.

Big Bend National Park - Pets are NOT allowed on trails, off roads, or on the river. Basically, your pet can only go where your car can go.

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