Man’s Best Friend. Woman’s Best Friend. Everyone’s Best Friend.
Dogs are amazing. They light up our lives like extensions of our souls showing playfulness, compassion and wisdom which continually astounds us. I’ve known grown men openly weep when they’ve lost their beloved pooch and it stands to reason why – they are part of the family like no other species outside a human can be.
But should we be taking dogs camping?
We think so for sure. As long as your dog is well-behaved and is not going to bark all night like a hound yodeling at the moon then there’s not alot that can go wrong. But you need to be sensible as an owner and put the wellbeing and safety of other campers at the forefront of your mind.
Some dog owners may find this a bit patronising, but in our view the onus for a successful experience when camping with dogs is 100% on the dog owner. Let’s face it, the dog is going to have the time of their lives whatever happens, and their exuberance may spill over into annoyance to other campers unless kept in check by firm ‘parenting’ from their human pack leaders.
In this article we’ll discuss the key tips to bear in mind when camping with dogs. From dog camping beds to exercising your pooch, we’ll guide you through the essential tips for a happy canine camping experience all round!
Dog friendly campsites
Most campsites in the UK accept dogs – a quick straw poll on PitchedUp shows that out of 1573 campsites in the UK, over 83% of them are dog-friendly. In fact, you have to go quite a long way to find campsites which prohibit bringing dogs along. Some people may choose to camp at such a site, and that’s their prerogative but if you own a dog then the world is pretty much your oyster in finding a suitable campsite to enjoy together.
But there are rules in place at most campsites for dog owners. These are pretty sensible in the main. For instance, your dog must usually be kept on a lead at all times in the communal grounds of the campsite. It’s also probably sensible not to leave your dog alone (in the evening especially) if they’re prone to howling – it could disturb the people trying to sleep in the tent next door! And of course, make sure any ‘waste products’ are not left lying around….
If you’re more adventurous and want to pack a lightweight two-person tent in your rucksack and go wild camping then there are obviously no such restrictions. A tent like the MSR Elixir 2 which we reviewed recently is perfect for this purpose, having just enough room for your dog to curl up next to you. A shared experience you’ll both treasure! We highly recommend the Outdoor Inspirations Youtube channel with Shamus and his German Shepherd Petra who go camping together on Dartmoor. Wondrous stuff!
Dog Camping Gear
When taking dogs camping, you really don’t need to splash out much cash. They can survive pretty well with what nature gave them, especially in the summer months. However, some items can be a godsend if they help you better enjoy your time away with your pooch.
If you’re tenting at a campsite and have a large porch at the front then this can be an ideal place for your furry friend to kip down for the night. Alternatively it may be worth buying a little pop-up kennel such as the Pawise portable tent. These are great because they pack down extremely small when not being used but provide a homely, comforting space for your dog to call its own.
Be sure to also include some means of keeping Fido secure so he/she can’t run off in the night. Tents are definitely not escape proof for doggies, even if zipped up – they can be pretty ingenious little escapees when they put their minds to it!
There are many dog anchors on the market which can be secured in the ground, ranging from the screw or spike type to our favourite which uses five bolts hammered into the turf and allows your dog to move fully around it for 360° of motion. No chance of escape but plenty of freedom for Fido.
Dog Food and Water
We recommend bringing your dog’s usual food along with you to the campsite, even though tins can be heavy and take up space. Most campsite shops should store some dog food if you’re desperate or you may need to pop into the nearest village or town if you run out.
Changing your dog’s diet on your holiday is a bad idea. Feeding the odd tidbit from the BBQ may not create many problems (apart from some nasty smells at night), but a wholesale change in diet may give them an upset stomach. Not much fun for anyone!
Water is really important for your pooch – they can easily get dehydrated, even if it’s not particularly sunny weather – it’s all the walks and running around which does it. Most campsites will have fresh water taps near to the camping areas and so you don’t need to specifically bring water with you. However, some form of water barrel or container may be worth considering to save going out in search of dog water at all hours.
Dog bowls for food and water are one area where the camping manufacturers go nuts with innovation. You can get a wide range of collapsible bowls from any reputable campshop and they don’t take up much space.
We have had leakages from some cheap Ebay bowls though, so make sure you choose a shop with a decent reputation who will replace any items which fail in this way. Alternatively, get something like the Regatta folding bowl which is really great value and isn’t going to leak unless you stick a skewer through it!
Collar/Harness and Short Lead
As mentioned above, it’s really important to keep your dog as subdued, friendly and obedient as possible on the campsite itself. Bring along a short lead so that they will stay at heel when checking out their new campsite surroundings with their owner. Extendable leads are great for giving your dog a bit more freedom, but bear in mind there is a 2m limit at Camping and Caravan sites.
It’s probably best not to let your dog get too close to other dogs at the campsite or small children who are often really inquisitive. However, if you know that your pooch is as docile as they come then it should be ok if you check first with the parents of the kid or owners of the other dog.
Dog ID Tags
Heavens forbid if your dog does get loose from you then you would want anyone who finds him/her to be able to get them back to you as quickly as possible. A decent set of dog tags will help in this. We like these tags when we’re taking our dogs camping because you can write any information you like on a slip of paper and seal it inside the tag.
Just remember that mobile phone coverage may not be very good at your campsite so we find it useful to include the location of our tent on the site in the ID tag as well.
If it’s a scorching summer then you need to keep your dog out of the direct piercing sunlight. A sun shade or parasol is a great addition to your gear and there are loads of options on the market such as the Costway Dog Sun Canopy.
Alternatively, buy a big parasol which can create shade for both you and your pooch if you don’t think they will lie on their own raised bed like on the Costway.
Dog Coats for Walking in Cold and Wet Weather
Conversely from the dog shade, if it’s cold outside then you will want to invest in an insulated and waterproof dog coat, especially if your pooch is small. These will help stop your best friend getting too chilly and perhaps getting hypothermia.
If your dog has short fur and is the sort who likes to jump in puddles or streams then a dog coat is a must!
Transporting Your Dog to and from the Campsite
Getting your pooch to and from the campsite may present some difficulties if your boot is filled with all your camping gear.
One option is to use a roof bag or box for all your camping gear and then the dog can travel in the boot of your car. Often these roof containers are not large enough to transport everything you need however and so your dog will likely have to travel in the car with you.
One way to help secure your dog is to use a harness and seat belt. Alternatively, you can buy a full on seat transport option and harness which is probably the safest method.
Either way, it goes without saying that you should not let your dog be loose when they’re travelling in a moving car – the consequences could be too awful to comprehend!