Camping is practically synonymous with summer, and of course you want your dog to come along and join in the fun. But there are risks involved when you and your dog are enjoying the great outdoors. We put together several safety tips from the experts – Trupanion (pet insurance), Ruff Wear (the outdoor dog experts), and a dog trainer (me) – to make sure you have a safe and relaxing vacation.
Location, Location, Location
We all agree that before you jump in the car and head to your next adventure, make sure your pup is welcome! Most national parks do not allow dogs on a vast majority of the trails and have limited “pet friendly” camping sites. Do your research beforehand so you aren’t stuck with no place to pitch your tent come nightfall!
Scope out your camp site ahead of time and make sure it’s doggy safe. Ruff Wear says to look for things such as cliffs, water and the abundance of wildlife that may pose dangers to your dog.
Is there shade? Shade is important for your dog during hot summer months. If there is no tree cover, be prepared to bring your dog his own canopy of some type to help keep him cool.
Speaking of heat…where are you camping and what are the average temperatures? Make sure it’s dog-friendly! Camping at the Grand Canyon in August, for example, is probably too hot for most dogs and the pavement around the park is definitely too hot for their paw pads. Take into consideration your dog’s comfort when picking a camping spot.
Of course, Trupanion wants to make sure your dog is as safe as possible while camping, so they provided the following great tips on keeping your dog in good health while you enjoy outdoor living for a bit.
Food and Water. Make sure to pack enough food and clean water for your pet while you are camping. Letting your dog drink unfiltered water on the trip can pose a risk for exposure to bacterial diseases, which can be life-threatening. Also be sure to take precaution and store food safely out of reach of wild animals.
Medications. If your pet requires certain medications, don’t forget to pack them. Talk to your veterinarian to make sure they are up to date on parasite preventatives and vaccines. Look into putting together and bringing a dog first-aid kit.
Sunburn. Most pets are generally safe from sunburns, provided that they don’t spend extended periods of time in direct sunlight. However, those with light colored noses and skin and thin coats are especially susceptible. Try to keep your pet out of the sun as much as possible or consult your veterinarian for pet-safe sunblock.
Overheating. While the temperature may feel mild to you, it can be deadly to your pet. Dogs with flat faces (Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, etc.) are especially prone to overheating, as they do not cool down as quickly as other dog breeds. Be sure to stay in the shade during high temperature times, take regular breaks from physical activity, and bring lots of water.
Depending on when and where you are camping, it could be hunting season. Make sure you are aware of this and deck your dog out in a bright color like orange or yellow so she won’t accidentally be mistaken for wildlife. A lot of companies make bright, reflective leashes, collars, and even safety vests for this very use.
Trupanion gave us a brilliant use for glow sticks – attach one to your dog’s collar or snap together to form a ring to place over your dog’s neck (as long as your dog doesn’t chew it!). This makes for a great way to see your dog after dark.
Don’t forget your dog’s life jacket if water play is on the to-do list at the campsite as well.
If you aren’t watching your dog, he needs to be secured in some way. A tie out is a great way to ensure your dog doesn’t get into trouble while you are fixing dinner, for example. Or bring a crate for your dog to chill in while you are distracted. Do not leave your dog in the car – it’s too hot! At night, be sure your dog is secured with you in the tent. Do not leave your dog outside alone at night, he could wander off or be attacked by a predator (especially smaller dogs).
Before hitting the campsite, be sure your dog is brushed up on cues that could save their life in an emergency situation.
Come – This is always important, but especially if they are off-leash in the wilderness. A dog that wanders off and doesn’t come when called is a lost dog. Maybe for good.
Leave it – This is important in case your dog starts to investigate something poisonous or dangerous. Depending on how you trained him, you can even use this if your dog starts going toward the edge of a cliff or towards dangerous water (“come” works for these too!)
Drop it – Did your dog just stick an unknown berry in his mouth? Drop it can save their life!
Stay – “Stay” is great for keeping your dog safe while you unpack the car, set up the tent, etc. If your dog doesn’t have a steadfast stay, consider tethering them to a tree or a tie-out while you are busy setting up camp. That way, they won’t wander off while you are not watching.
Follow these simple tips to make sure you and your dog have a safe and happy camping trip. Happy trails!