Love camping with your family, but not sure about bringing your dog along for the trip? We’ve got you covered with everything from what-to-pack dog camping gear essentials, to must-know do’s and don’ts around a campsite, with expert tips from Jasper National Park Resource Conservation Manager, David Argument.
1What to pack (a dog camping gear checklist)
While dogs each have their own unique needs, from medicine to favourite blankets, here are the essentials Argument recommends you’ll want to be sure to pack, when camping with your dog:
- A collapsible bowl
- Lots of clean water
- Poo bags—and a receptacle for carrying full bags out with you
- Leash and collar
- Cord or rope for a tie-out (also handy for fashioning a leash or collar in a pinch)
Other items you might also want to consider packing when camping with your dog:
Shop dog camping gear
2Know the rules and regulations of your campsite—before you go
Argument’s number one piece of advice for anyone camping with dogs? Understand that all dogs—even small, cute, fluffy puppies—are descended from predators. This means it can be stressful for local wildlife, causing them to alter their behaviours, or even vacating the area.
“When you visit a National Park, you are visiting the home of wildlife,” explains Argument. “All wildlife, no matter the species, are protected in these special places. While we need to be able to access and enjoy parks, we need to do so in a way that has the least impact possible on the wildlife that lives there.”
Beyond that, Argument suggests visiting Parks Canada’s Dogs in Canada’s Protected Places page, for an overview of rules governing all parks, as well as the Parks Canada website for specific regulations that pertain to the campsite you’re visiting. Be sure to also navigate to the Important Bulletins tab to learn about local restrictions and regulations.
“In many places, there are seasonal restrictions or closures for dogs because of sensitive wildlife or other ecological issuea,” explains Argument. “It’s always best to check first, rather than assume your dog can accompany you.”
Shop dog protection gear
3Health and safety
When camping with your dog, keep these important health and safety tips in mind:
- Keep your dog under physical control at all times
This the simplest and most effective way to keep your dog safe. It will prevent her from sticking her muzzle into a den and getting a snoot full of porcupine quills, chasing a skunk and getting sprayed, or tumbling down a ravine she can’t climb out of.
Keep in mind, too, that dogs can be seen as potential prey for larger wildlife. “One of the biggest risks in bear country is a loose dog annoying a bear,” said Argument “Once your dog realizes they’re unable to take on a bear, they will invariably run back to their human, and may bring that bear along in pursuit.
For this reason, Argument says the most important camping rule is to keep your dog under physical control at all times. This could mean using a leash, stake, or creating a fenced off area. (It’s not just recommended, it’s the law.)
- Avoid peak bug season
Mosquitoes and other insects make life very uncomfortable for dogs and they can be extremely hard to deter. “If your dog is sensitive to biting insects, I suggest leaving them at home if you’re overnight camping during the height of bug season,” says Argument.
- Only let your dog drink the water you bring
Standing water may contain pathogens and parasites such as Beaver Fever, which can cause sickness and even be fatal. “My German Shepherd once drank from a slow moving creek on the north boundary in Jaspers, ” recalls Argument. “The results were dramatic and rather unpleasant for us both.”
- Don’t leave your dog alone in a car during the day
Some campers are tempted to use their car as a makeshift method of containment for their pets while they’re off exploring, but this is extremely dangerous and can quickly lead to overheating and death—even in shaded areas.
- Mind how you stake your dog
It’s tempting to give your dog a little more room to run, but the risk isn’t worth it. The stake should be in the centre of an open area with a short radius. “Long cables will just get wrapped around trees, picnic tables, fire pits and legs.”
- Limit feeding to meal time
Feed your dog and then stow the leftovers, just as you do your own food. Leaving food out is bound to attract a variety of wildlife to your campsite, which won’t end well for anyone. “It can result in habituation of wildlife to supplied foods, wildlife health issues, and safety issues for you and your dog.”
- Don’t leave your dog out overnight
Dogs left outside overnight are at risk of having a negative interaction with wildlife. They’re also at the mercy of the elements. It’s neither safe nor comfortable. “If you’re at a drive-in campground, your dog should be in the vehicle. If you’re tenting, I’d recommend bringing it into the tent with you.”
Shop dog safety gear
4How to make your campsite comfortable and dog-friendly
Domesticated dogs don’t have the same need for creature comforts we do, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be completely at home in the wild—especially at night, with the chillier temperatures and noises that come when the sun sets. Packing a few items with your pup in mind can help them adapt to your campsite and get a good night’s sleep.
- Think about a washable dog camping bed
The safest place for your pet to bunk down is in the tent with you. Some dogs may want to cuddle up by your sleeping bag, others might enjoy having their own bed. You likely know best which they’d prefer.
When your dog is in your tent, she might need something to occupy her time. Bring a couple of fresh toys along to keep her busy, but don’t overdo it. Remember: You’re in the wild, and there’s plenty of nature-based adventures she’d jump at given the chance!
- Consider a collapsible carrier for crate dogs
If your dog likes the security of her crate at home, you might try bringing a collapsible carrier. Easy to pack and wash, these handy pseudo-crates double as a good place to sleep. If you have the opportunity, let her get used to it at home before you leave so she’s more likely to use it at camp.
- Never be without water
Dogs need access to clean water. Be sure to keep a bowl or, better still, a dispensing water bottle within reach of her stake, and refill it often.
Shop dog comfort items
5How to contain a dog and be respectful of others
Argument offers this simple guidance for anyone camping with dogs: “Don’t assume that everybody feels the same way about dogs as you. Be concerned about other visitors and your dog’s impact on them.” To ensure you are respectful of other park visitors, he had the following suggestions:
- Respect area closures
Not all areas and activities are open to dogs. Respect park restrictions—they’re there for a reason—and ensure your dog only enters areas in which it’s permitted. It’s for their own good as much as it is for the safety and comfort of other campers.
- Always pick up your dog’s droppings
Argument is especially adamant about cleaning up doggy doo-doo: “Nothing upsets non-dog people more than uncontrolled dogs, and having to navigate the ‘gifts’ that get left behind on the trail.”
- Think twice about bringing a loud dog
A very vocal dog can be upsetting for other visitors. “Barking dogs can really damage or disturb the wilderness experience and the peace and quiet that many people seek in a visit to a national park,” says Argument. As much as you may want to explore the woods with your little woofer, it’s important to also be considerate of others.
- Remain calm
“Dogs pick up so many cues from their owners,” explains Argument. “One of the best things people can do to calm their dog is to inform themselves about the park they’re visiting and get comfortable with the potential hazards they might encounter so that they can stay calm and collected themselves, which I find rubs off on the dog.”
Shop more dog camping gear
6Dog-friendly camping activities
When camping, there are number of activities that can be as fun for you (and your kids) as for you dog. Create lasting memories with any of the following recommended dog-friendly activities:
- Hiking – A walk in the woods with your canine pal is nothing short of bliss.
- Boating – Many dogs love being out in a canoe or motorboat with their people.
- Beach runs – A quick romp in the sand after waking up—with proper consideration for other visitors and shore birds, of course!—can make for a magical morning.
- Playing – Well-socialized dogs have an opportunity to meet and play with other pups in dog designated areas.
- Tent snuggles – After a long, active day, get close and cozy, and enjoy a good night’s sleep.