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Should You Go Camping With Your Puppy?

The great outdoors can be even greater with our four-legged friends. But unlike the backyard, local park or dog run, taking them out for a camping trip or backwoods adventure may be more than you bargained for. 

Besides extra safety for their sniffing and scampering about, taking a dog camping—and especially a puppy—requires a lot of extra preparation, gear and precautions. We’ve gathered up all the basics on hitting the road and into the wild with your pup, and why sending them to doggie daycare for their own puppy vacation may be your best bet.

  • The Who

Getting outdoors is great bonding time with family and friends. Taking your puppy along may be yet another opportunity to expose them to new experiences, smells, places, people and depending on where you are, wildlife as well. But watching a puppy and keeping them safe when they may encounter a deer, wild turkey or something more carnivorous like a red fox is unpredictable at best, so be prepared to watch them like a hawk!

Related: How Old Must My Puppy Be Before Boarding For the First Time?

  • The What

Besides your own food, water and gear, your pup needs just as much if not more. You must pack enough food, plenty of water with travel bowls, collar, leash, bed, toys and treats. An extra-long (30’ or more) leash is a must to secure them in a campsite or open area. If needed (or just in case) bring their crate and if it will be cold, a blanket or towel to cover it for extra warmth. You may need outdoor gear like a jacket, booties, or their own backpack depending on the size of the dog. There are also backpacks FOR the dog, as little puppy legs get tired on the trail. You should also be sure to check with your vet about a flea and tick meds or a collar as they can be not only a nuisance but real threat to your pup’s health. Quite frankly, it’s quite a lot of gear to consider.

  • The Where

First, are you sure where you are going is pet friendly? You don’t want to arrive only to be turned around. Most national parks have restrictions that pets stay in designated campsites or picnic areas to protect wildlife. If your puppy has not finished their vaccinations, be sure they won’t be exposed to other dogs or animals, and of course be COVID safe everywhere you go. It’s tough enough to be safe for humans, so take extra measures for the safety of your pet.

  • The When

Be aware not to expose your pup to extreme temperatures. If it’s too hot or cold for you, it most definitely is for them. In cooler weather you need to have enough ways to keep their temperature regulated, from warm gear to a cozy place to sleep. In summer or warmer weather be sure to have shade and bring a cooling mat or elevated place for them to rest. Always monitor their behavior (ie: excessive shivering or panting) and keep them well hydrated. You really don’t want to take a puppy on a camping trip and have them spend the entire time in your car because it’s the only safe place.

  • The Why

Your pup loves to be with you and they love the great outdoors just as much as you do. While getting away from it all may be just the opportunity you need to unplug and unwind to enjoy peace and quiet, your puppy can enjoy some quality time socializing with other people and pets at doggie boarding. It’s also a good chance to ease them into spending time without you and preventing separation anxiety, it’s also a good training opportunity in a different environment with new distractions.

Related: Consistency is the Key to Puppy Training

  • The How

No matter how much you like to get away, consistency is key for a developing puppy. Whether you are in a tent, trailer or RV, it’s super challenging to use the same rules you have at home. To keep them under supervision at all times to minimize their risk of getting in trouble or having an accident is already enough of a challenge. Even if your pup is house trained, a camping trip can confuse matters. There’s a lot to consider in staying safe and aware of surroundings, including dangerous plants, terrain and wildlife. You must secure any and all food, including dog food and treats, in a bear-safe environment like inside a car in a bear-proof container. You must be sure to keep a curious puppy away from open flames in a fire pit or stove, and manage their urine and feces as not to attract any unwanted animal attention.

With a lot of planning and extra thought, bringing your puppy on a camping trip is possible. When they are a little bit older, wiser, house trained and vaccinated, they may be better prepared for the trip, so for now lots of hugs and kisses, treats and playtime at an overnight pet boarding facility is a wise choice and probably much more their speed. 

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  • Mark October 30, 2020

    Smart Pet Parent, while visiting National Parks are at one end of the spectrum of things that hard to do with your dog, there is a school of thought that we (humans) are involving our dogs in too many human activities. Tufts Veterinary School wrote about this issue in 2017, we, of course, disagreed with them. https://www.petcamp.com/tufts-says-leave-your-dog-at-home/