Camping with Your Dog

April 3, 2023

Camping with a dog

With spring rolling into Kansas City, we are taking any excuse to get outside! Whether you are a regular camper or interested in trying it for the first time, camping with your dog can be a wonderful way to bond and enjoy the outdoors together.

I’ve never tried camping with my dog. Where do I start?

Camping in your backyard

If you are unsure of how your dog will do camping, a trial run in the backyard is a great place to start! Your dog may have never seen a tent before or isn’t used to the swishing sound of a sleeping bag. If this is the case, a low stake camping trip in your backyard is a great place to start! You can practice getting your dog in and out of your tent, work on drying off wet paws, and more to get a sense of how your dog will do at a campsite. You may also consider trying out day hikes in your area to see how they do around new people and wildlife. When you do finally make the leap into camping with your furry friend, start with a single night out to see how they (and you) do!

Before you depart

We recommend ensuring that your dog has had the proper obedience training before ever considering a camping trip. This can help prevent potential disasters such as losing your dog on the trail. Think about the kind of trip you may take and the skills your dog may need to have to be successful.

Things to consider when training are:

  1. Recall – it is imperative that your dog comes back to you when you call them, especially around distractions like other people, other dogs, and wildlife. 
  2. Stay – Duration commands such as a sit-stay or a down-stay are great to have when hiking. You may need to wait for other people to pass you going up and down a trail and many people do not want a jumping or charging dog coming toward them as they focus on their hike. Having your dog be able to remain in a position when others pass by can be a game-changer. 
  3. Loose Leash Walking – depending on the type of trail, your dog may need to stay at your side while you are hiking. Making sure your dog can walk next to you without pulling helps with both safety for you and your dog as well as increasing the enjoyment of the hike. 
  4. Heel – Having your dog come to you and then stay with you as you walk may be a helpful skill to have for camping and hiking. 
  5. Leave it – From leaving potentially dangerous items alone to not having your dog eat wildlife feces, having a strong “leave it” command is a fantastic skill to practice before camping. 
  6. Is your dog reactive to people or other dogs? – Having a reactive dog is not an automatic “no” in terms of going camping, but it is important to understand your dog’s needs before taking them into a camping scenario. Going through reactivity and aggression guidelines is outside of the scope of this blog. For tips and suggestions, see “How Can I Help My Reactive Dog?“, or contact us

In addition to relevant obedience behaviors, make sure your dog is up to date on the following items: 

  • Vaccinations
  • Flea and tick prevention
  • Heartworm
  • Prepare properly fitted IDs including a microchip

General Guidelines for Camping with Pets 

Check with the specific campground on rules and regulations. Each location is going to be different, and you want to be prepared before you arrive. Leash laws and barking ordinances are just two dog-specific regulations to consider. 

Keep your dog with you. Some locations do not allow you to leave your dog in a tent while you explore solo. Your dog will likely be a constant companion on the trip. 

Know the trails. Some trails are dog friendly while others are not. For example, dogs are not allowed on trails and Rocky Mountain National Park, but they are allowed on other trails nearby such as at Estes State Park in Colorado. 

Keep your dog on a leash (especially at camp). Campgrounds most often require that your dog be leashed and under control. You don’t want your dog wandering off to visit with other campers or even exploring on their own to the point where they get lost. 

Pick up Waste. Put food away at night. You don’t want to accidentally feed the wildlife!

Suggested Packing List

Vacation with your dogs

Now that you have the training and the safety materials in place for a camping trip, here are some items that you should consider packing with you.

  • Leash
  • Harness
  • Travel Water Bowl
  • Food and Plenty of Water
  • Treats
  • Longline
  • Bedding
  • Relevant Toys
  • Printed Photo of your Dog with Distinguishing Marks 
  • Recent Photos of your Dog on your Phone
  • Dog First Aid Kit (in addition to yours)
  • Properly Fitted IDs 
  • Dog Waste Bags 
  • Grooming Equipment
  • Towels

Dog First Aid Kits

There are plenty of dog-specific first aid kits on the market such as this (basic) or this (extensive). However, if you wanted to create your own, here are 11 essential items in a dog first aid kit

  1. Keep an updated copy of medical records in the kit. 
  2. A basic guide of how to respond to emergencies with your pet is also available like the Pet Emergency Pocket Guide. Having a guide, especially when stressed due to emergencies can be helpful to have on hand. 
  3. Non-stick bandages 
  4. Gauze
  5. Tape
  6. Antibiotic spray or ointment 
  7. Scissors
  8. Tweezers
  9. Towels
  10. Extra Leash and Collar
  11. Water Bowl

Please note that this is just a guide and your kit will likely look different based on your travels and your pet’s specific needs. 

Most importantly, have fun with it and make memories with your companion that will last a lifetime!