Camping with Dogs - Sleeping Ruff with Huw and Finn
It’s pretty hard to go anywhere in the house without your best furry friend joining you. The kitchen, the dining room, the bathroom, they tend to just want to be with you at all times. So when you go camping, you’re naturally going to either want to take your dog, or you’ll be guilt-tripped into taking them when they pull a sad face at you!
Once your dog has made you feel like the worst pooch parent out there and is coming along, here are some things to think about when taking your dog on a camping trip.
Practice Makes Perfect
Let’s face it, some people absolutely hate camping, and no doubt some dogs do too. If your dog is frightened of loud noises, or might be skittish when it comes to people talking in the dark, perhaps camping isn’t for them. Just like you’d put your tent up in the back garden before a trip, it’s a good idea to check your dog is okay with the noises, dark and cold before planning a week-long summer camp. You can get some great bits of dog camping gear to help with the noise and the cold, which I’ll highlight at the end, but it’s harder to get around behavioural issues, dog control and aggression. If you’re planning a trip to campsites or trails where other people will be, you’ll need to make sure that your dog is controllable and non-aggressive to humans or wildlife. Base your decisions on your dog and other people, unfortunately your needs come a little further down the list!
Before You Set Off…
The days leading up to your departure are the best time to make sure that you have everything you need. While it’s never a good idea to liken having a dog to having a baby around people with kids (they’ll probably tell you that you have no idea what you’re talking about!), it really is essential to make sure you have everything you need to care for your dog. Think about getting them their own small bag, the Mountain Equipment Wet & Dry Kit Bag is great for shoving everything into, then an additional dry bag for any wet towels or dog jackets that need to be smell-sealed.
As well as getting all the equipment you’ll need, it’s handy to do some research on where you’re going. If your dog isn’t great with people, wild camping where it is safe and legal will allow you to get away from others and allow your dog to relax. Be sure to check for wild animals before letting your dog off the lead though. If you really want to stay on a campsite, check that the site allows dogs, and that there’s plenty for your dog to do around the site. Some sites are more dog friendly than others.
Sharing a Tent with Your Four-Legged Friend
A lot of the time, camping is a means to an end. It’s the necessity between walking, kayaking, mountaineering, driving or other adventures, but it can be an adventure of its own! And the art of sleeping in a tent with a dog is definitely an adventure!
After a day full of playing fetch, retrieving sticks from lakes, or just following you around, it will be time for your dog to settle down. If you choose to settle your dog down in the porch of your tent, make sure that they are secured properly. Some people may choose to have their dog sleep in with them, especially on cold clear nights when they’re a great hot water bottle! I hear a lot that dogs will be fine no matter how cold they are because “they have a built-in jacket”, but that’s not always the case. The picture to the right shows how cold a dog’s ears can get at night. Out walking on cold nights, my dog’s paw temperature has gone below 0 degrees, but normally warms back up in the tent. The fact is, our pampered house dogs aren’t Alaskan snow dogs, and might need us to look out for them with it’s really cold or really hot. Little ideas like elevating your dog off the ground will mean the world to them, and always having fresh water available.
On the Trails
Out in the trail between camps is sometimes the hardest part of going camping with your dog. Making sure they’re under control, keeping an eye on them at all times, and making sure they’re safe in hazardous environments. But the same things always apply, think about others and think about your dog. Keep them away from wildlife and make sure they’re under control. Some people go into the mountains to get away from it all, and dogs may be one of the things they’re trying to get away from. If you come across other people with dogs on a leash, yours should be on a leash too. And it goes without saying that if your dog goes to the toilet on the trail; make sure it gets picked up. A large 1L Nalgene bottle will make sure it doesn’t smell while leaving the trail with you.
Basically, camping with dogs requires time, effort and thoughtfulness. Think about what your dog needs and be prepared. When we go walking in the mountains, we may take a first aid course to make sure we’re safe, why not do a bit of research on dog first aid? Keep thinking about the people around you and how they may react to your dog. We all share the outdoors, so we should all be able to enjoy it equally.
Here’s a check list and some equipment I use for making camping more enjoyable with my dog:
Before you go...
- Vaccinations, flea & tick preventative
- Microchip your dog
- Get a name tag with your phone number on
- Exercise your dog to make sure he/she is in good condition
- Make sure they heel on command if off leash
- Check for anxiety
Dog Camping Gear
- Doggie first aid kit & doggie sun lotion
- Adaptil Pheremone spray or collar
- Collar and spare
- Water & food portioned up in sandwich bags
- Food and water bowls
- Leash and spare leash. I use a leash for wet and one for dry
- MANY towels
- Dog robe
- Toys including a tennis ball and thrower
- Camping pad
- Sleeping bag
- Rain jacket & cold weather jacket
- Canine life jacket (if needed)
- Doggie boots (if cold or around nettles)
- Stake and long line
- Poo bags
- Nalgene bottle
- Buddy beacon or glow sticks
- Spare blankets
- Wet wipes
- Kitchen roll
- Travel crate (if needed)
When you're back...
- Give your dog another once-over for fleas and ticks
- Clean around eyes and ears, checking as you go
- Wash EVERYTHING
- Pay attention to eating and toilet habits to make sure all is well
Huw is a scientist, adventurer, photographer, film maker, and ambassador for Ruffwear. He spends most of his life in the outdoors or trying to get into the outdoors. He’s a climber, mountaineer, runner and everything in between. He spends a lot of time travelling around the world to new and sometimes very old places. Find out more at www.huwjames.com.