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One of the many great things about the Pacific Northwest is how easy it is to spend time outside. There are parks, lakes, rivers, mountains, the Salish Sea, the Pacific Ocean, and so much more. One fun activity I loved growing up was camping! My family would take long weekends and go to different campsites across Washington with family friends during the summer. We’d go for hikes or go swimming, make smores over the campfire, and so much more.
Camping is also a great way to travel with dogs! However, there are plenty of things to know and prepare for beforehand. The National Park Service has a page on things to know about camping with dogs and even have a BARK Ranger program. BARK, if you’re curious, stands for Bag your pet’s waste, Always leash your pet, Respect wildlife, Know where you can go. You can even earn a BARK Ranger Dog Tag! Plenty of other campsites and areas have their own policies so it’s good to figure out the pet-friendly places before you go.
Know the Policies
While camping, it’s important to know the policies and regulations, especially for dogs. For example, you need to keep your dog(s) on a leash in many places. National parks and campsites require the leash to be no longer than six feet and the National Park Service will fine you $130-$300 if your dog is off-leash. Most campsites also prohibit excessive barking and aggressive behavior. Many sites, rangers, and other campers understand that dogs will sometimes bark but if your dog is barking for extended periods of time without stopping (especially at night), you might be asked to leave.
- Hiking With Your Dog – Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Alaska
Pack the Right Gear
Going on camping, hiking, or backpacking trips with your dog means having the right gear for them. This includes their collar with a current id tag, leash, an extra leash and collar, enough food and water, bowls, a harness if your dog wears one, plenty of poop bags, and a collar light and/or reflective material to see them in the dark. And make sure their collar and harness fit correctly!
Other things to pack include: dog backpack, sunscreen dog first aid kit, vaccination paperwork, health certificate*, current photo, toys and bones, grooming supplies (shampoo and brush in case your pup gets dirty), medications, blanket and towels, dog rain jacket, booties, paw protection, and paw balm.
Bringing their bed or a blanket can also provide a comfy spot for your dog to snooze after a long day. Plus, if your pet happens to get off-leash and wander off, there are different GPS trackers you can put on their collars from companies like FitBark. It’s also a good idea to make sure your dog is microchipped and the information on it is up to date.
*Have the Right Paperwork and Schedule a Vet Visit
Traveling with your dog often means having the right paperwork. If you decide to go camping in Canada (or in the US if you’re Canadian) or stay in a hotel, you’ll need your dog’s vaccination paperwork proving that they’re up to date on vaccines like rabies, distemper, and parvovirus.
- PawPrint is an app where you can access your pets’ medical records right on your phone! You can also set reminders, track important information, and even share the info with pet sitters and friends.
Going to the vet before a big trip can also make sure that your dog is healthy and doing great. If your dog is under the weather, postponing the trip until they feel better will make the experience so much more fun for everyone. Plus, if they’re sick with something like parvo or kennel cough, you won’t get other dogs sick. It’ll also be good to ask your vet about Lyme disease prevention, especially if you’re traveling to places that have ticks, and make sure that your dog is up to date on their flea and heartworm medication.
It also might be good to know some of the veterinary hospitals near your road trip route or campsite, just in case there’s an emergency.
Do Trial Runs
Before doing a full camping trip with lots of activities, it’s important to know what your dog is capable of and comfortable with. If your dog gets anxious or uncomfortable with car rides, getting them comfortable in the car will definitely make a road trip so much better. Also, try going on long walks or some hikes near you to see how your dog does and what they’re capable of. You don’t want to get unexpectedly stuck on a hike because your dog gets tired!
Camping in your backyard or a nearby campsite for a night can also help acclimate your dog to the new activity. If they seem anxious or unsure at the beginning, don’t worry. Dogs love repetition and a schedule so it might take some time for them to adjust to the new setting. Try sticking to a similar schedule that you have at home, like feeding them at the same time you normally would.
- Van Life with a Dog: Tips For Living & Traveling with Pets by Kristen Bor, Bearfoot Theory
Plan Appropriate Activities
The spring and summer are some of the best times to go camping in the Pacific Northwest but it also means dealing with sunny, warm days. On hotter days, it’s important to not plan activities like really intense hikes so you and your dog don’t get heat exhaustion or a heat stroke. Consistent access to clean, fresh water and shade for everyone in any situation can make a big difference on these trips, especially on hikes. Other activities on a road trip or while camping include:
- Visiting a dog-friendly beach (or two!)
- Exploring parks and pet friendly places (like dog bars!)
- Swimming, boating, or even kayaking
- Outdoor games, like fetch
If there are activities you want to do that can’t involve your dog, do not leave them in your tent or car. A car can easily overheat and cause all sorts of issues or even death. And leaving them in a tent leaves them vulnerable to wildlife or escaping. One option is to plan the trip around the fact that your dog will always be with you. But if there’s something you really want to do without your dog, you can try and see if a nearby doggy daycare can take your dog for the day! That way, your dog is taken care of and you don’t have to worry about them.
- Nine Tips For Finding a Good Doggie Daycare by Sarah Sypniewski, Embrace Pet Insurance
Taking them to a new doggy daycare will require that your dog is also up to date on their vaccines and flea/tick medication and good with other dogs. It also means doing some research before leaving to see where doggy daycares are on your trip, their policies, and what people have said about them.
All of this might sound overwhelming but planning ahead and being prepared can make sure that you and your canine friend have the best trip possible! There are so many fun things to do with your dog on a camping trip and bringing them along could strengthen your relationship with them.
Have you ever gone camping with your dog? Let me know in the comments!