Camping with dogs can be a bit—wild. Despite our best efforts, dogs will never comprehend or adhere to campground rules, understand that tents are for sleeping, or have a reverent respect for nature. So much digging and peeing! And, while dogs will always be dogs, we can take steps to make camping and hiking together a slightly more domesticated, enjoyable, and safe experience. To help you get started, Homestead Animal Hospital has created a guide to help ensure happy outdoor memories with our dogs.

  • Love them and leash them — Being in the great outdoors with your dog may stir up thoughts of freedom and wide open spaces, but don’t unclip that leash. Dogs in unfamiliar areas can quickly become distracted by the exciting sights and smells, and become disoriented. Any lost dog is dangerous and heartbreaking, but the stakes are much higher when they are lost far from home. Don’t feel guilty for leaving the leash on, because your dog can still have a fantastic outdoor experience without off-leash time.
  • Train, don’t complain—4 life skills for a safe dog — There is no substitute for a well-trained dog, and the peace of mind of travelling with one is priceless. While you do not need to be a master trainer, or to send your dog to obedience school for the third time, these four simple behaviors can save your dog’s life:
    • Come — A reliable response to coming when called is perhaps the most important life skill a dog can have. Teach your dog using only positive reinforcement, and lavish them with rewards when they come. Be careful to use “come” only for good things, and never a bath, or leaving something fun, like the dog park. Call their name or take them by the collar instead.
    • Leave it — Campgrounds and trails are full of enticing—and inappropriate—things for your dog to sample. From the benign (e.g., an old tennis ball) to the dangerous (e.g., charcoal briquettes, dead wildlife), having a dog who will relinquish their prize means no more prying open of jaws.
    • Stay — Teaching a dog to stay put can make the difference between crossing in front of a moving car, or stepping off the ledge of a cliff.
    • Leash manners — Don’t worry! A perfect heel position is not the goal here. Your dog should be able to maintain a loose J-shape in their leash while walking beside you. Barking, pulling, lunging, and jumping at other dogs and wildlife puts your dog at risk for an attack.

  • Know the contact information of the nearest veterinary hospital — Print out directions if you will be without internet connection. Record the names and doses of any medications your pet takes regularly, or take the pill vials with you, because you can easily draw a blank in an emergency, and the veterinarian will need to know what prescriptions your pet is taking.
  • First aid kit — Invest in a well-stocked pet first aid kit. (We believe there should be a kit in every car as well!) A first aid book to go along with the kit is always a valuable resource. Add an appropriate-sized muzzle to the kit to put on your dog if they are painful or injured.

  • Keep identification on your pet — A properly fitted collar and identification tags are crucial to helping lost pets get home safely. Microchipping is the best form of identification because it is permanent, and each pet’s number is unique. We recommend your pet have both. If your dog gets lost, a collar sends a clear message that they are owned and someone is likely looking for them. 
  • Parasite prevention — Wooded areas are hotbeds for ticks and mosquitoes, so don’t let your dog go unprotected. Ensure your dog is on parasite preventives year-round to prevent the transmission of many diseases and illnesses.
  • Food and water — Bring your dog’s regular diet and always pack extra. Avoid offering any new foods to your dog, especially meats, candy, and campfire s’mores. Bring water from home, provide bottled water, or use a  water purifier to prevent your dog from suffering a gastrointestinal upset related to unusual water sources. Pack any medications or supplements your dog is currently taking. 

Knowing that camping and hiking are incredibly exciting for dogs can help us overlook a little misbehavior, but recklessness, lack of training, and our own unsafe practices should be addressed. With some simple changes, you can transform your next campout or hike into a peaceful retreat. 

Call Homestead Animal Hospital and let us know how we can help you prepare for your next adventure. We will help ensure you and your dog are ready for the great outdoors.