Whether you are RV’ing full time or just doing a weekend backpacking trip, you need to do some planning to take your dog along. From packing the right food, to knowing your schedule, or anticipating their emotional needs, here are some tips for how to camp with dogs.
Camping with dogs can add some complication to the trip, but their company can also add a lot of joy! Some things to consider:
- Where do they sleep?
- What do you need to plan for their physical health?
- What about their emotional health?
For us, we were worried our dogs wouldn’t like traveling, would bark too much, and would be a bit of a drag when it came to seeing the world. But a life on the road wouldn’t be the same without them, so we decided to learn what they need and plan for it.
If you are planning on camping out, it’s important to plan on where, when and how your dogs will camp with you. Thinking about the type of campground, and the type of shelter, like tent, RV or otherwise will be key to success.
Before your big trip, make sure to look into if the campground allows dogs.Most RV parks do allow dogs but make sure to know their rules before making a reservation. A lot of national parks also allow dogs, but don’t allow them on the trails in the park so make sure to know before you go.
RV vs. Tent Camping
One of the most important things to consider when camping with your pup is temperature. Dogs can easily overheat or become cold. So depending on where, when, and how you camp, make sure that your dog is in a controlled environment that is comfortable for your pup.
Because tents do not come with a heating and cooling system like RV’s, be prepared to stay with your dog during your trip unless the temperature is very mild. Even with the perfect temp, animals can get in the tent and dogs can often get out so consider staying with your dog no matter what. Tent camping and backpacking can work if dogs are very easy going and athletic breeds, and can keep up with your adventures.
When she was a kid, Jessi’s family tent camped with their 140lb. Newfoundland. They never left him unattended at camp sites, which meant the dog tagged along in the car on day trips. He also kept up with them on their hikes. With big dogs, little children, and cool climates, this combo can work. Having a huge dog around while camping also gave the family some peace of mind, because he could guard against animals in the night.
Nowadays, our dogs are good at warning us of raccoons raiding our camp, but are more likely to hide between our legs rather than protect us. They are also not great to hike with. We have two dogs: a border collie that could keep up with iron-man runners, and a short stubby terrier that can barely make it a mile. The little dog has more anxiety when left without his partner, so we generally keep them together. RV’ing gives us the flexibility to leave them together in a cool comfortable place for a few hours while we go exploring. It also gives us peace of mind knowing they are be cool and safe at home.
One of the luxuries of owning a RV is that they often come with a heating and cooling system. Because of this, it’s super easy to leave dogs behind when we are out for a few hours. It is important, though, to check with your RV park or campsite, because a lot of the places say that dogs are not allowed to be unattended. Most of the time, as long as your dog doesn’t have separation anxiety and howls the entire time you’re gone, you should be fine.
Pet medical Health
Just as you may prepare for your medical needs before going to a foreign country, it can be helpful to plan for your dog’s medical needs before hitting the road for long camping trips.
When traveling, you wouldn’t believe the amount of critters your dog can get bit by! From ticks to the heart-worm carrying mosquitos, make sure to stop by the vet to get your pup vaccinations and the proper flea/tick/heart-worm medication. The humidity of the American Southeast means dogs need to take heart-worm medicine. Beaches are great places to pick up fleas, and ticks love jumping on dogs in forests. Now our dogs take a topical pill once a month that takes care of all three. Super easy and convenient-just the way we like it!
When we started traveling in deserts, we were surprised that our dogs developed paw problems for the first time. In New Mexico, our border collie started limping, and we realized her paws had gotten cracked in the heat and aridity. In dry climates, it’s important to moisturize your dogs paws and check for pricks and in moist climates there are a variety or burrs that can get stuck in their paws. We do some routine checks to make sure their paws are in good working order.
When our little terrier had a leg problem, we visited a variety if vets in a variety of states in order to get him fixed up. It was helpful to have records so the new vet could evaluate what to look for. Unfortunately, every new vet will have to do an initial evaluation and costs about $100 extra each and every time. Traveling with pets can be pricey so just prepare to help make the process easier.
On of our biggest concerns when planning for a year-long road trip, was the fact that our dogs got motion sick. Our little terrier, Maxwell, used to throw up while driving a mile to the neighborhood vet. Dog vomit in the back seat is NOT a fun thing. To anticipate this, we discovered giving them Dramamine in Pill Pockets every few hours. At first, we could tell when the medicine wore off, because they dog would start salivating and looking like he needed to throw up. Miraculously, the dogs eventually stopped displaying any signs of sickness. Now we travel hundreds of miles, and Maxwell sits up with us and shows us the way with no problems. We think this is due to him feeling more comfortable in the car but dramamine worked either way. Always check with your vet before giving any medicine to be safe.
Food, water & good climate
Most importantly, looking after their health and safety means planning for their water, temperature, and nutritional needs. If you are going somewhere remote, remember to pack dog food, or you’ll be feeding them people-food all weekend. If you are traveling someplace hot, make sure they have lots of water. Dogs’ primary source of cooling is through their sweat-glands in their paws, or through panting. Lots of water will help them drool to cool off. Particularly if you are taking them along hiking, it can be easy to forget to pack extra water for the dog. Sure, some hikes may have streams, but many do not.
If the day is between 50-60 degrees, they may be able to spend a little time in a shaded car with the windows open, but if it’s cooler or hotter than that, keeping them with you and well hydrated, or leaving them in temperature controlled rooms are essential for their survival.
Emotional health – you, your dog, and your neighbors
So it’s great to look after your pet’s basic needs, like food, shelter, and medical needs, but the real secret is planning for you dog and your own emotional needs. Most of us, after all, have dogs because they add some emotional benefit and companionship to our lives. They take care of us emotionally, so we need to take care of them emotionally. But they can also add some responsibility, and therefore a layer of stress. They can also annoy others, so planning on how we may be imposing on others is key to traveling well with dogs.
Dogs love Routine
Dog’s love routine and love to know what to expect during their day. If your dog has anxiety, creating a routine will help them immensely. Walks, food, and bedtime should be relatively the same time of day everyday. Our dog has gotten so used to his routine, at five o’clock on the dot he reminds us to feed him his dinner.
Keep your sanity – and sanitation
Any dog owner knows that having dogs, means cleaning up after them. Yes the poop bags, but also the fur balls. Managing the fur and dirt created by your dog can feel like a full time job. We found a mini vacuum called Pet Hair Eraser* that has worked like a dream. It easily picks up fur in our cushions and has helped us keep a relatively clean home. Other tips include keeping a fur remover available for your clothes.
Be a good Neighbor
Clean up after your dog and be a good neighbor. Make sure your dog is well behaved and all around not a nuisance if you have a camping neighbor. A lot of people enjoy traveling with their dogs but recently more and more campgrounds have stopped allowing dogs because of problems. Don’t be that guy! Just be considerate and all will be ok.
Bring your own guest room
Another advantage of traveling with an RV, is that we feel like we are less of an imposition when we are visiting friends and family. Parking a little camper in someone’s driveway is much less work on both host and visitor’s part than making up a guest bed. As a visitor, you get more privacy and space. You can “retire” to your own house, sleep in your own bed, and not worry about waking up or making as much of a mess in your host’s home. Best of all, you can visit people who can’t handle dogs in their home.
We have a few friends that have little children or are allergic to dogs. Now, it’s pretty easy to leave the dogs in the camper when we are inside visiting. After dinner, we can still go on with our doggy routine of walking, feeding and putting the dogs to bed, as usual.
Know your dog
Last of all, the best way to prepare to travel well with your dog, is knowing what they need, and taking good care of them. If your dog has a lot of anxiety, has behavioral problems, or health issues, make sure to evaluate your unique position before going on your trip. Things like crating, anxiety medication, or having a strict routine can help but are not cure all’s. Sometimes, it’s better to leave the dog with a sitter rather than have a stressful vacation. But hopefully, with a little planning, you can have a lot of fun camping with your dog!
Happy and safe travels everyone!
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