Tips for Camping & Hiking with Your Canine Friends

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It is the perfect time of year for going on an adventure and who better to accompany you than your dog? The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016, and everyone – even your dog — can take part in the celebration! Many national parks include dog friendly trails and campgrounds.

Just like with people, not all dogs are “outdoor dogs,” but for those who do enjoy exploring, vacationing together can be a great bonding experience for the whole family. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you and your dog have a great time exploring nature!


Before leaving home, make sure that your dog is up to date on vaccinations. If you are going to be heading to a different area of the country, make sure to ask about vaccines not typically needed in the area where you live but might be recommended based on the region you are visiting. For example, the Lyme vaccine is recommended in the Northeast while the Rattlesnake vaccine is used more commonly in the Southwest. You will also want to make sure that you have enough of any medication your pet is taking, including heartworm and flea/tick preventive, so that you won’t run out while on vacation.

If you are taking your dog on his/her first camping trip, you may want to consider a trial run locally before setting off on your adventure. Try camping in your backyard or a local campground overnight to see how they adjust and what you may need to do to make your furry friend feel comfortable. If all goes well, research your destination and confirm their requirements for camping with dogs so that you are prepared to follow all of the local regulations.


Once you know your destination and that your dog is up for the adventure, it’s all about packing. Here is a basic packing checklist:

  • a basic first aid kit
  • six foot leash
  • documentation of vaccines and medical history
  • tags, identification (including a recent photo of your dog in case you get separated)
  • food and water bowls
  • enough food and water for the duration of your stay
  • comfort items (dog bed/toys)
  • a life jacket if you will be near water

Keeping your pet on their normal food (and water!) can help minimize any gastrointestinal upset that they might experience from a new locale. Some pets do well with specialized harnesses with pockets so they can carry their own collapsible bowls and food/water on hikes. These are available at most outdoor recreation stores and pet stores. These should be introduced slowly with positive reinforcement so that dogs are accustomed to wearing them (with gear inside) prior to the trip.

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Consider how your pet will be most comfortable sleeping in the tent—some dogs find comfort in their crate versus a dog bed or sleeping bag.


Once you arrive at your new destination, plan extra time for your dog to settle into the new environment. Try to trouble-shoot any hidden dangers at the camp site—tent poles, tables, trees, rocks, etc. While out on your adventure, remember that if it’s not safe for you it’s not safe for your dog.

Some other considerations to keep your companion safe and comfortable:

  • Try to plan hikes and other activities for early in the morning or around dusk to minimize the effects of heat on your dog.
  • Try to discourage your dog from drinking from natural water sources as these may be reservoirs for Leptospirosis, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and other diseases.
  • If your dog has a light or very short coat, you can use dog-safe suntan lotion or protective covering to protect your dog from sunburn.
  • Keep an eye on your dog’s paw pads as rough terrain can cause abrasions or irritation.
  • Depending on the location and weather, dogs may need additional cooling during the day or supplemental warmth during the night.
  • A brush may be helpful in removing small leaves, twigs, or burrs from your dog’s coat.
  • Keep pet food protected, just as you would human food, to protect your campsite from scavengers and predators.


When returning home from your trip, keep an eye on your dog and allow them to rest and relax. If any gastrointestinal upset or other abnormal signs develop, make sure to inform your veterinarian that you have been camping. Some injuries (like “Limber Tail,” muscle strains, and sprains) can be treated easy with anti-inflammatories and rest, while others (tick-borne diseases, intestinal parasites, etc.) may need a more thorough work-up and treatment plan. By communicating your recent activity (with location!) to your veterinarian, they will be best able to help make your dog feel better.

Hopefully these tips encourage you to consider camping with your best friend and allow you to celebrate with The National Park Service as it turns 100!


Feature Photo Copyright: ljupco / 123RF Stock Photo

This article is taken from the archives of Pet Tails Magazine.

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