Full disclosure upfront. This post is written by a dog obsessive. I’m the proud dog mom of a Great Dane cross (crossed with what we haven’t a clue, though we think the other breed is Labrador) and Duke is our dog baby.
We love travelling too and didn’t think that becoming doggy parents meant we had to curtail our adventures. Good news! We have been proven right. Duke, four years old now but still acting a quarter of his age (Great Danes have very extended puppyhoods), is an ideal travel companion.
It seems he is not the only dog who goes camping. There is a trending hashtag on Instagram - #CampingWithDogs - that has some seriously heartwarming photos of dogs enjoying camping trips with their clearly besotted humans.
Now, let me be upfront about what it takes to ensure that camping with dogs is a successful venture. Duke, and his friends on Instagram, did not become ideal travel companions by osmosis.
- Training is key - training should be a huge priority for anyone with a dog but if you intend to go camping with your four legged baby, it is even more critical. Training keeps everyone happy - your fellow campers, your dog and you. Campsites are fascinating places for dogs, there are a whole load of new smells and terrains to explore, and... hey, is that a stick, and a tree, and woah, another dog?! Man! Is it Xmas? That is just a bite size commentary of what is possibly running through your dog’s mind as soon as he or she jumps out of the car. If you haven’t trained your dog before you get to a campsite to listen and obey your instructions, you’re in for the holiday from hell. Knowing we were adopting such a large breed, we had Duke in training two days after we brought him home. This has paid dividends for our camping trips. Duke knows not to get out of the car until we have given him the nod to do so, and no matter how far ahead he might be exploring in front of us, one command and he is by our side in moment.
- Consider the dog baby’s feelings - this one is not as touchy feely as it sounds! I camp to get away from a busy, digitally “on” lifestyle. My camping trips are all about not switching on a laptop or tablet and kicking back with a very archaic instrument called a book. In other words, I index on the lazy side when I’m on holiday. Dogs don’t and nor do they enjoy books. They want to explore their new environment. Making sure they get a good dose of exercise takes care of the dog’s needs and makes for a calm, relaxed animal. My partner is the polar opposite. He is very energetic and loves to get out and about when we’re away. Obviously, he and Duke are a match made in heaven when it comes to camping. However, there is a word of caution to heed here too for energetic people who go camping with dogs. Dogs do get tired and over-exercise is not a good idea either, especially when the weather is warm or hot. Make sure that there is a lot of water for your dog at your tent and if you’re going on a hike, take water and a bowl with you so your dog can get regular water breaks.
- Consider fellow campers’ feelings - part of going on a camping trip for anyone, lazy or not, is getting back to the outdoors. As much as we love letting Duke run free, we only do this if we are on a stretch of beach or in mountains with few or no other people around. Campsites that allow dogs often have clear instructions on where the pets can be off the lead and where they need to be on the lead. We adhere to these without question and when we’re in an area where other people are, we make sure Duke is on the lead regardless. This goes a long way to making sure that people treat us with goodwill as they see we make an effort to consider their feelings.
- Poop - there is no other way to put this - pick it up! Not everyone is madly in love with dogs and dog poop lying around does little to improve their feelings. Bring doggy poop bags with you when you camp and use them. End of.
- Keep accessories to a minimum - recent years have seen the sales of backpacks for dogs soar. These can be handy but vets do not recommend that you use them until your dog is fully grown. And even when your dog is an adult, please keep the backpacks light. Carrying too heavy a backpack for a long period can be damaging to your dog’s joints. It’s also advised that you put whatever your dog is carrying over their shoulders and not over their spine.
- Lights - in the dark you’ll want to be able to see where your dog is and a light attached to their collar is a brilliant way to do this. We use a cycling light and Duke twinkles like a little star under the night sky. We provided this tip (glow stick bracelets!) to parents at the start of the summer to make they can keep an eye on their kids, it’ll work for the dog babies too.
- First aid kits - don’t leave home without it. It isn’t a pleasant thought to entertain, but just as a human can get hurt or ill on a trip, so can our pets. You can mitigate a lot of the harm that can come to them by making sure you have a dedicated dog first aid kit packed in the car when you go on trips. Make sure you have your own vet’s number saved on your phone in case you need to call for emergency advice, and do a bit of research online before you go regarding the closest vet or animal emergency clinic in the area you are camping. For a list of the essential items to keep in your dog first aid kit, take a look at the end of this blog post where we have listed all the must haves.
- Prepare your dog for the adventure - make sure you have your dog used to the car before you embark on a camping trip. Most dogs find their “car legs” quickly but that comes with repeated exposure to the vehicle. Set your tent up in your backyard, if you have one, and invite your dog in so that he or she can give it the once over.
Dog lovers the world over will tell you that there is nothing like the companionship these animals bring. It’s great to see offices and social places starting to capitalise on the fact that people want to take their dogs with them while they go about their day. We often frequent a local pub here in Ireland with Duke. He’s a hit with the bar staff and patrons alike!
A number of campsites, both in Britain and Ireland, allow campers to bring their dogs with them and we have them listed on Campsited.
Click here to book a dog friendly campsite in Ireland. Click here to book a dog friendly campsite in Wales. Click here to book a dog friendly campsite in England. Click here to book a dog friendly campsite in Scotland.
We hope you’ll be booking a camping trip for you and your favourite canine soon!
Essential items for your dog first aid kit
This list may be long but many of the items are once off purchases.
- Scissors - needed to cut bandages and matted fur...it happens.
- Tweezers - removing splinters or debris in a wound is easier with a tweezer.
- Antiseptic wash/wipes - don’t be tempted to clean a wound with alcohol, it can sting and cause an infection.
- Thermometer - ask your vet to educate you on what a dog’s vital signs are.
- Antibiotic topical ointment - handy for small skin wounds. Make sure though that your dog can’t lick it. I know… easier said than done but gauze and bandages help.
- Gauze and bandages - don’t ever wrap too tightly.
- Toenail trimmer - in case of torn toenails. To reduce the chance of this happening, keep your dog’s toenails trimmed as a matter of course.
- Painkillers - your vet will recommend dog friendly painkillers. Don’t use human painkillers for your dog as they can make your dog ill, and in worst cases be fatal.
- Medical tape
- Syringe - helpful to administer liquids and to flush out eyes
- Latex gloves