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How To Take Your Dog Camping – The Right Way!


April 4, 2018

Pawtivity Dog Camping Tips

Dogs love being outdoors and being with you! So, find a dog friendly campsite and get out with your dog! We give you the essential tips for camping with your dog the right (fun) way!

Most dog-friendly campgrounds that allow dogs require them to be on leash at all times. The campsite is for relaxing, socializing, and bonding.

Still, dogs need to explore, see and smell things. Make sure you plan some great outdoor activities to make your camping trip with your dog even more exciting. We give you some activity suggestions below so keep reading!



Vet Approval For Camping – Get a checkup to make sure your dog is ok to go camping with you. Ask your vet for appropriate conditions for your dog and special medication your dog may need. Make sure your vaccinations and dog licenses are up-to-date.

Basic Training – Any outdoor dog needs to know these basic commands and skills: stay, leave it, come/touch (recall), sit, and to follow your pace. Training and obedience make it so much easier to communicate with your dog and to get him to do what you need him to do.

Car Travel – Most, if not all, campers drive to their destination. Make sure your dog can travel for long distances. It may take many short, local trips in a car before your dog can take a longer road trip. Dogs need to be harnessed or in a crate while they are in a moving car. Bring something for your dog to chew or play with and a mat or seat cover for your dog to lie on. If your dog throws up by chance, it’ll be easier to clean up! Always keep plastic bags, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer for clean-up jobs and waste.




There are so many dog-friendly campsites to choose from that offer different activities, scenery, and experiences. If you are new to camping, we suggest reserving a campground at, or a similar site. Many established campgrounds have bathrooms and running water to make your experience more comfortable. Among the choices for campgrounds are beach camping, desert camping, wilderness camping, backcountry camping, car camping, RV camping, cabin camping, backcountry camping, and even glamping with pets. Although many national parks and national monuments do not allow dogs on trails, they often will allow them in campgrounds.

Always keep in mind your dog’s temperament when you choose a campsite. If your dog is a barker or is aggressive to other dogs, get a remote location miles away from other campers or go car / RV camping because no one wants to be woken up in the middle of the night. If your dog wants to chase after every squirrel or wildlife animal, choose a location that won’t have a lot of wildlife or go RV camping where your dog won’t be able to charge after anything moving.

Another consideration when choosing a campsite is what wildlife is in the area. Dogs can actually attract wildlife, and even bears. That’s why some areas don’t allow dogs at all. The desert has many unfamiliar animals and insects so if your dog has poor recall and obedience off-leash, you may want to keep them on leash and their nose out of dark corners.

Backcountry camping involves setting up camp often without running water or bathrooms. You are often far from immediate help and civilization. It’s important to have enough survival skills and knowledge in case you come up against bad weather, sickness, injury, or unforeseen circumstances.

Pawtivity can help you choose the right dog friendly campground for you and your dog. We will give you everything you need to know or point you in the right direction to make your trip with your dog easy and fun. Use the search banner on our homepage to find a camping location close to where you live.



Checklist are always easy. We have a basic checklist that you can use to go on a weekend camping trip with Your dog. The list is made specifically for standard wilderness camping. Special gear and other equipment may be needed if you go backcountry camping, beach camping, desert camping, or car/RV camping.

Download Our Dog Camping Checklist




Don’t just plan a camping trip to sit by the campfire all day and then sleep in your tent at night! Plan some fun activities to do outside of the campsite. Your activities will be limited by what is offered or available in the location you choose. Below are a few activities that you can consider.

Hiking / Backpacking – This is always a favorite for dogs. Go on a short day hike with your dog or plan a long weekend backpacking trip hiking from campsite to campsite with your dog. Either way, you’ll get to enjoy nature up close away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. If you want to use a backpack on your dog, wait until they are a year old and work up to the amount of weight you want them to carry. Dogs can carry about 25% of their weight.

Geocaching / Scavenger Hunt – Another fun activity that involves going on the trails is geocaching. It might be a fun way for your dog to sniff out any hidden treasures. If you are with kids and dog, you might want to do a nature scavenger hunt.

Biking / Trail Running – Get in a morning workout by biking or trail running with your dog. Many parks offer trails suited to mountain biking, road biking, or running. When in doubt, ask your ranger to see what trails are allowed for specific bikes.

Water Sports / Water Fun / Beach – Most dogs love playing in water, so it’s a great idea to find a campsite near a lake or river. You can go rafting, kayaking, snorkeling, tubing, swimming, surfing, stand up paddle boarding, or even visit a tidepool and beach area. Many campgrounds offer equipment rentals or you can often find a local outfitter that offers water sport tours and rentals. Some campgrounds offer dog friendly beach access where you can spend the day with your dog or go camping right on the beach. Pay attention to signs that mention water safety. To be safe, bring your own drinkable water for you and your dog.

Boating / Fishing – Several campgrounds offer fishing options, but you most likely will need a license. Boat and canoe rentals are often available nearby. Remember that not all dogs will immediately like being on a boat. Don’t get out in the water only to find out your dog just wants to go ashore. Don’t forget to put a life vest or lifejacket on your dog!

Other Activities – Find a nearby field and play a game of ultimate frisbee followed by a few tosses to your dog. You can also play a soccer, frisbee / disc, or flag football game with your fellow campers.



Snuggling In A Hammock – Your dog loves to snooze during the daytime. We do too! Find a location between two trees to put up a hammock where you and your dog can snuggle or watch the stars together.

Campsite S’mores – Let’s face it. Man likes fire. We like roasting marshmallows on sticks and sitting around the campfire. Make your dog a s’more (without the chocolate) of melted marshmallow sandwiched between two layers of graham crackers. They’ll lick their lips for more.

Campfire Grilled Cheese Sandwiches – If you don’t own a cast iron pie iron, get one! They are wonderful for roasting grilled cheese sandwiches in the campfire. Add some bacon or ham. Don’t forget to share with your dog!

Play Musical Instruments – Camping is really all about socializing and having fun with the people around you. Bring your guitar and other instruments and play some tunes! Your dog will just enjoy being with everyone and may even start signing his own tune.

Tug of War – Dogs love to play tug, so why not get all your campers involved and play a giant game of tug! Give an incentive for winning the game; losers have to wash dishes after dinner.



Leash Your Dog – Most campsites will require your dog to be on leash at all times. A few campsites even restrict leashes to be tied around trees so you may have to tie your dog on a picnic bench or stake in the ground. Bring lots of chew toys and treats to keep your dog occupied when you are busy.

Stay Organized So You Can Spend More Time Having Fun – While camping can be a lot of fun, you do have to spend some time packing food up and putting them in a bear box or in your car. Don’t put anything in your tent – wildlife will sniff it out and may even try to enter your tent to see what you have. It’s a good idea to keep your camping gear and food organized so setup and cleanup is a breeze. Look at our camping checklist for tips on how to organize your camping items.

Bring Your Own Water – Even if the campsite you go to has drinkable water we always recommend bringing your own drinkable and portable water with enough for you and your dog. Not all water sources are clean. A good rule of thumb is to bring 32 ounces for every 2 hours of moderate exercise for yourself. Your dog will need about an ounce of water per pound of weight. Water needs will vary based on individual, activity level, and environmental factors.

Check Your Dogs For Ticks – Your dog will likely roam the brush around your campsite and attract ticks. It’s a good idea to bring a tick remover with you and check for ticks periodically. Don’t forget to give a good rubdown and check between the toes and in the ears before bed!

Set Up Your Tent On A Flat, Clear Surface – Before you set up that tent, pick a site that’s free from twigs and rocks or you may be waking up with a sore back! Choose a flat location or sleep with your head at the uphill. You should also set your tent away from wind and campfire smoke. Generally, you should layout your campsite so you are 200 feet away from a water source or from trails. Your tent, food storage, cooking and bathroom should also be about 100-200 feet away from each other. The park may have additional guidelines on how far away to set up camp based on historical flood patterns from known rivers, streams and lakes.

Use a Ground Cover Under Your Sleeping Bag – It’s preferable to use a waterproof ground cover, otherwise you will get cold and damp as you sleep. Don’t forget to provide ground cover for your dog too!

Control Your Dog At All Times – Keep in mind that dogs may actually attract bears. This is usually if a bear becomes curious about the dog or if the dog annoys them in some way. If you see a bear, keep your dog close to you and farthest away from the bear. Calmly and slowly back away. Prevent your dog from giving chase or challenging another animal without very good reason. Dogs that chase bears may be chased back to the campsite where the bear may attack you instead. Stay clear of raccoons that scavenge the campsite at night – they can be surprisingly viscous. Occupy your dog with treats, toys and your attention!

Follow Area Rules on Fires – Some areas have strict rules on campfires so make sure you understand what is required and where you can set up a campfire. Conditions may vary based on time of year.

Pack up your Food – Bears and wildlife will be attracted to any food that you have. Either pack all your food in your car, put them in a bear box or hang up your food in a bear bag 15 feet high. There’s a method to handing your food properly which we don’t cover here.

Camp & Trail Etiquette


Clean Up After Your Dog – Many areas follow a “Leave No Trace” policy, meaning you have to pick up or bury your dog’s poop. If you bury your dog’s poop, make sure you do so at least 200 feet away from a water source.

Off Leash or Leash – Even though your dog may be “good” not all dogs are. You need to respect the boundaries of other dogs and people as you pass them. Some people are afraid of dogs, even friendly ones. You never know how someone will react to a dog. Your “good” dog may get caught off guard and react poorly to confrontations or become more guarded seeing someone approach you who is not calm. Have great recall and training skills for your dog. Ultimately you are responsible for your dog, but regulations are posted for the welfare of everyone.
We hope that gives you enough information to go on that first weekend camping trip with your dog! Camping with your dog can be a lot of fun with the right preparation and information.

Tell us about your camping experience. Where do you like to go camping? What do you like to do?


Is there a great dog-friendly activity or event missing from our list? Contact us so we can share it with the community!

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Related Pawtivity / Event: Wilderness Camping, Beach CampingDesert Camping
Activities: Camping, Social, Great Outdoors

About the Author

Life is an endless journey with a dog at your side. Find your next dog friendly adventure on Pawtivity!  We are a community that inspires and captures the stories of our dogs.

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