It may seem like a natural thing: your furry family member in the great outdoors – what could be more enjoyable? Many pets take to camping like a Lab to water. But others…not so much. We have domesticated and trained our pets to be well-behaved in our homes, so to expect them to adapt to canvas walls and zipped doors is a stretch. Here are some tips to make your pet a Happy Camper:
Practice Makes Perfect
If possible, set up camp at home. Use treats and praise to encourage them as they get to know the new environment. From the tent, to camp chairs and head lamps, these are all new and curious items. Because staying in a campsite with hundreds of other campers can be like sharing a large room in a youth hostel, make sure your pet is well-socialized and well-behaved. Is there anything less relaxing than trying to manage a stressed-out pet in the great outdoors? Practice hiking with friends and their pets; or, arrange to meet a friend on a trail with their dog so you can work on distraction and redirection.
Camping takes a lot of preparation so that you can focus on nature instead of Googling the nearest convenience store. Make sure you are as prepared for your pet, if not more so.
Before you go:
- 1 Make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines, heartworm prevention and flea/tick prevention. Confirm with your Vet that they are healthy enough to participate in your planned activities.
- 2 Pack your pets’ medical information with a current picture in case you need to visit a Vet or, God forbid, they go on a hike without you. We HIGHLY recommend micro-chipping your pets AND registering updated contact information with your chip provider. It is far too easy to slip out of a collar or lose tags on a branch.
- 3 Confirm that your campsite and chosen hiking trails allow pets. Some may even have breed restrictions.
- 4 Locate the nearest emergency vet, but also pack a first aid kit for your pet.
Even the most well-behaved suburban dog can react differently (through fear or confusion) to a new stimulus. Keep your dog leashed or contained for their safety. Portable play pens or their crate (with shade) from home will keep them calmer. Hot tents, cars or Campers are not an appropriate place to contain your pets.
Pick up after your pet. Wild animals know to bury their poo, domestic pets do not. Be courteous to your fellow campers.
Bring distractions to occupy your pets while you are away from the campsite so that barking, howling or whining does not pierce the tranquility. Better yet, wear them out with a swim or a hike before leaving them on their own. Avoid bones or meat-infused Nylabones so you can avoid a wildlife party at your campsite. Also, put away their food after they eat to avoid the same issue.
Sometimes it may feel like you are taking the entire house in order to be prepared for all eventualities but when traveling with a pet, there are a few things you absolutely must have. Pets are naturally curious, bless their furry heads, and might get into this nature thing a little more that you anticipate (rotting carcass? Don’t mind if I do…) From campground grazing, to aggressive squirrel hunting… even drinking from puddles may do a number on their sensitive tummies. Here is our go-to packing list:
The Good Scout List for Pet Camping
- Food (extra for those days they burn more calories)
- Water from home (can use ice melt from cooler)
- Bowls for above (obviously… but also the most common item to leave behind)
- Towels, Bedding
- Favorite Toy(s) for comfort/distraction
- Pet-friendly bug repellent
- Brush to remove burrs and bugs
- Extra Leashes and Collars (with tags)
- Poo Bags
- Crate, Play yard, or tie-out
- Vet Records
The Eagle Scout List for Pet Camping
- Plain Rice, Low Residue Canned Food or Pumpkin Puree for upset tummies
- Benadryl for motion sickness
- Life Vest for water activities
- First Aid kit with Wound Wash, Saline spray, Tweezers, Nail clippers (for porcupine quills) gauze pads, Vet Wrap, Neosporin for very minor wounds (apply after washing thoroughly with soap and water), hydrogen peroxide for inducing vomiting AFTER you check with the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline (888)426-4435 and the contact information for the nearest emergency vet clinic.
- Enzymatic Spray or Shampoo for aforementioned rotting carcass or a skunk
The more prepared you are, the more relaxing you can do! Have fun out there!
--West Chester Veterinary Center