Can I take my dog camping?

Ask your dog if she’s ready for a camping adventure, and we bet you’ll receive an exuberant reply. Dogs enjoy romping in the great outdoors and your canine companion would love to be included in your next camping trip. However, before packing your bags and hitting the trails, ensure you and your pooch are prepared for whatever nature has in store.

Visit your veterinarian

Clear your pup for strenuous hiking by asking your AAHA-accredited veterinarian to perform a thorough physical exam. The veterinarian will check your dog’s health and ensure she is current on the vaccinations and preventive medications needed for camping, including heartworm, flea, and tick prevention. Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states and tick-borne diseases are on the rise. Plus, you don’t want your dog carrying any creepy-crawly hitchhikers into your sleeping bag. In addition to preventive products, pack enough of your pet’s medications to ensure you don’t run out far from home. Also consider asking your veterinarian to microchip your pet so she is permanently identified in case you are separated.

Pack canine necessities

Don’t forget any of the basics—food, water, bowls, airtight containers, and waste bags. Dry kibble may be easier than toting canned food that needs to be chilled once it’s opened. (And don't forget the can opener!) Store all your pet’s food and treats in waterproof, airtight containers to reduce attracting wildlife. Follow the leave-no-trace rule while camping with your pet: Don’t leave food out if your pet doesn’t eat it all immediately, remove waste as soon as it touches the ground, and keep the campground as pristine as you found it.

Consider confinement options

In addition to a sturdy collar or harness and leash with up-to-date identification tags, pack a long tether and stake. Confine her safely and securely in the crate to prevent an escape and protect her from roaming wildlife. An inquisitive pooch may rip a flimsy tent apart if she hears or smells an intriguing critter. She also may be lured astray while at the campsite. Many pets listen well and stay nearby at home, but that training may fly out the window while camping.

Stock up on entertainment

Nobody likes a noisy neighbor, especially when you’re trying to enjoy the peace and quiet of the great outdoors. Your pet may become antsy while tethered at your campsite, so bring distractions, such as a sturdy rubber toy to fill with peanut butter or treats, long-lasting chews or bones, or food puzzles.

Add pet first aid supplies to your kit

Ideally, you’ll already have a first aid kit packed and ready to go, but you should add some pet-specific supplies, including tweezers and protective booties for injured paws. Before you lose a cellular signal, download the Red Cross Pet First Aid app, which demonstrates basic techniques and has a hospital locator so you can find an AAHA-accredited veterinary hospital anywhere you travel.

Brush up on obedience

Unruly, energetic dogs who are not easy to handle at home can be even more challenging in a new, exciting environment, so train your pet to ensure her safety outdoors. The ASPCA has created an excellent training guide for dogs outdoors that includes leash walking, reliable recall, “leave it,” “sit-stay,” and a variety of hiking games.

Ensure your campground is pet friendly

Nothing is more disappointing than loading your gear and driving to a campground only to discover pets are not allowed. Check out your next location or the list of all parks by state before you hit the road and ensure your canine companion will be welcome.

Camping is a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors and bond with your canine companion, but ensure your preparations include you both. Where will your next adventure take you?