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Our essential guide to camping with dogs

Happy friends doing breakfast brunch meal in nature with home pet


Read our guide for camping with dogs and share your holiday with your furry friends


Planning a holiday but dreading leaving your furry best friend behind? Quite right too, your vacation is a nice long chunk of time that you can spend with your dog and really enjoy a bit of 24/7 canine company. Check out the number of followers of some of the camping with dogs accounts on Instagram to get a feel for how popular taking your dog on a camping holiday is – 250,000 people can’t be wrong. Dogs make ideal travelling companions on camping trips and here’s what you can do to avoid missing out on quality time together (plus saving a fortune on kennel fees). Decide which part of France you want to visit, enter your vacation dates, select ‘rent on site’ or ‘pitch’, and press search. Then click on the filter and tick the ‘pet friendly’ box. You will be pleasantly surprised at how many campsites allow dogs on-site: currently close to 450 sites all over France are pet-friendly. Once you have chosen the site you want to book through Campsited, double-check individual campsite regulations – you have already filtered for pet-friendly sites, but you need to know about any specific related rules, especially about keeping dogs on leads. In most cases, it makes sense to keep your dog on a lead anyway, just for your own peace of mind, but there may be additional requests such as muzzling and controlling barking. Now you have selected the site or sites that suit you and your pet best, you are ready to start making plans!


What do you need to think about when planning to go camping with dogs?


Let’s take a look at everything we need to take into consideration in order to have the perfect camping holiday – perfect for you and your doggy friend.


Dog breeds


Let’s take a quick look at which breeds may not be allowed into France with visiting holiday-makers. Of course, if no one stops you, you might travel around France with one of these dogs and have no problems at all, but it’s better to be aware of the regulations just in case. The following breeds can be seen in France but people have to have a licence in order to keep them as pets and, as dogs from abroad will not have a licence issued in France, theoretically they cannot be imported: Staffordshire terrier, American Staffordshire terrier (Pitbull terriers), Mastiff (Boerbull), Tosa, Rottweiler (pedigreed), non-pedigree and crossbred dogs with “the appearance of a Rottweiler” and non-pedigree dogs classifiable as generic attack dogs. If you do decide to go on holiday with a dog of this type, be aware that these particular breeds are required by French law to be muzzled and on a lead at all times.


Travelling by car


If you are travelling by car, plan a route that includes plenty of stops on the way, to allow your dog to stretch their legs. Pack their water bowl and a big bottle of water inside the car, easily accessible, so that you can offer your dog a drink of water each time you stop.


Travelling by ferry


Think carefully about ferries – the shorter the crossing the better. Look at your ferry company’s website to see what their rules are when it comes to bringing animals on board. If you are travelling by car, the ferry company might let you leave your dog in your vehicle or even bring it to your cabin, but most ferry companies insist that dogs are transported in a crate, and that the crate is stowed away in a designated place for the duration of the crossing. Double-checking before booking is the best advice!


Travelling by air


Again, regulations vary according to the airline you choose. Check each one carefully before booking. Some carriers allow small dogs (in crates) into the cabin while others ask that dogs (always in crates) are stowed in the luggage hold. They say the temperature and pressure in the hold is similar to the cabin, so this should not be a concern, but pets should be accustomed to spending time in the crate.  So if travelling by air or ferry with your dog, make sure they are practiced at sitting in the crate for several relatively long periods of time. Travelling into France with a pet will almost certainly be easier if you are coming from a Schengen-area country but, nevertheless, check the relevant websites before booking.


Packing


If your dog is coming along, you will need bowls for food and water (perhaps the collapsible camping or hiking types), a bed or blanket that they are used to sleeping on and plenty of old towels (nobody wants to share a tent, van or mobile home with a wet dog). Of course, the usual dog waste bags, ID tags with your holiday contact details on them and leads (and possibly a muzzle, just in case it is required). You also need to pack the vet records in case there are questions about vaccinations, and perhaps ask the vet if you should take any specific anti-parasite treatments that may not be needed at home but may be advisable for a trip to the French countryside. Also pack a photo – if the unthinkable happens and your dog gets lost (hence the importance of ID tags), you may need to ask for help in finding him/her. 


Dogs who are fussy eaters


Try to accustom your dog to eating a variety of foods before setting off because transporting heavy tins of dog food or bulky packets of dog biscuits may not make your holiday any easier. If you really think your dog will refuse any unfamiliar food no matter how hungry he/she is, it may be best to check the website of a local French supermarket to see if they stock your dog’s favourite food. 


Other campers


Think about other campers – if your dog tends to bark, or even if he or she doesn’t usually bark a lot but gets noisy and excitable around lots of new people, think ahead about how to ensure that he or she doesn’t disturb your fellow campers.


Rules and regulations


If you are camping with dogs, you will have filtered for ‘pet friendly’ campsites before selecting a place to stay, but then you need to look at the specific, pet-related rules and regulations at the campsite. 


Benefits of camping with your dog


And now for the best part: all the benefits of camping with dogs. Here are 5, but there are many more!


Spending time outdoors


Both you and your dog will get a lot more fresh air and sunshine than usual. You’ll probably sleep and eat better as a result and overall be in better form.


Getting more exercise


Having your dog with you will encourage you to take more exercise because most dogs love hiking in the great outdoors with all the exciting scents and sights to be found there. So camping with dogs gives you a great incentive to go hiking.


Camping with your dog is a great stress-buster


Just watching your dog enjoying exploring exciting new surroundings will lift your spirits. Enthusiasm is contagious and you will have more fun too, when you go out and about with your furry friend.


A great way to meet people


There is something about having a dog that encourages complete strangers to strike up conversations, leading to opportunities to make new friends or just have enjoyable chats.


Camping with dogs can save money


Think about all the money you will save by not having to pay extortionate kennel fees. And how wonderful not to miss your pet, or feel guilty about leaving him behind.


Important questions about taking dogs camping


Now let’s look at a few questions that people often ask.


How do I find the best location for camping with dogs and should I choose a seaside resort?


Even though there are some year-round, pet-friendly beaches, most French beaches are closed to dogs during the summer months. So it is worth doing a bit of advance research before booking your campsite, if a seaside holiday is really important to you. Or how about filtering for camp sites on or near hiking trails? That could be the ideal way of finding a site that offers great outdoor dog and owner activities. You could go to the ‘camping themes’ tab and look at the variety of locations and opportunities to enjoy the fresh air and warm weather, including campsites near regional parks, forest camp sites, riverside camp sites (they might be a more pet-friendly way of giving your dog a chance to swim than a beach), mountain camp sites and even farm camp sites, although not all farm camp sites are pet friendly, for obvious reasons.


How can I get more information before I make a decision?


Don’t forget to read some of the thousands of reviews from verified guests to get tips and ideas about the local area and what to expect at your chosen campsite.


Should I give my dog a professional haircut before we leave?


If you are going somewhere a bit warmer than where you live, it might be a good way of making sure your dog doesn’t overheat in the hot weather.


What other preparations do I need to make?


Double-check that your dog is current on all vaccinations required for France (most pet parks and campgrounds require your dog to be up-to-date before entry) and of course be sure your dog is microchipped. You may not need to show proof of this, but it is a legal requirement in France and it will be invaluable if the worst happens and your dog runs off and gets lost in unfamiliar surroundings.


Do I need to worry about my dog’s health if I take him/her camping with me?


Read as much as possible about dogs and changes in temperature before you travel to France. Don’t forget that your dog probably spends a good part of the day asleep and gets a couple of shortish walks each day when you have free time. A sudden switch to very long walks in unusually warm conditions may take a few days to get used to – build up to the more ambitious hikes by going a bit farther every day, starting well in advance of the holiday. Above all, be aware of the symptoms of heat stroke in dogs and what to do about it, and make sure you avoid the midday sun if you have chosen to go to the southern parts of France.


So, tell your dog he’s coming camping with you this year!

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