Ready, set, hike!

By Lindsay Tigar
May 26, 2021
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Ah, the great outdoors! For Mother Nature fans, there's nothing as thrilling or beautiful as spending an evening under the tapestry of the stars, breathing in the freshest air, and falling asleep in the serene quiet. That is unless you're a pet parent—and the only thing that could make your adventure better is bringing your pup along for the journey. Camping with dogs is a fun experience for the whole family, but it does require preparation. And, as with most activities, your doggo needs to come first so you can prepare for his needs on the trail. We put together a guide to climbing those mountains and scaling those rivers with your pup by your side.

Can All Dogs Go Camping?

It's a fair question, don't ya think? After all, some dogs can expertly run beside you while you train for a marathon, while others are better suited to cheer for you from the couch. However, when it comes to hiking, nearly all dog breeds can enjoy camping with proper planning, preparation, and supplies, explains Annette Louviere, DVM, a veterinarian and the manager of technical support at Wisdom Health. Before you take off to scale a section of the Appalachian Trail, though, think about the type of lifestyle and activities your dog enjoys. Not to mention any health conditions they may have.

"For instance, hiking long distances with arthritis is not just unpleasant—it's painful," Louviere says. "And asking a dog with a heart condition to do vigorous exercise is unwise." 

Plus, not all dogs will thrive in all weather conditions either. For example, Louviere explains flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds can have real trouble breathing and regulating their body temperature, especially in the summer heat, so accommodations must be made to keep them safe.

That being said, there's a big difference between a week-long hike through rocky terrain and a quick, leisurely jaunt to a peak you can picnic on. Be mindful of what your pup can handle before taking them on the journey.

What Dog Breeds Are Best for Camping?

While most breeds do some sort of camping or hiking, Louviere says active, athletic breeds are great for sharing adventures outdoors. These include:

Also, she says not to let size fool you! "Small to medium breeds can also be engaging outdoor companions with the right preparations," she explains. Breeds like miniature poodles, corgis, beagles, dachshunds, and Shetland sheepdogs tend to have high energy for adventuring despite their smaller stature.

cropped view of traveler in tent with funny golden retriever dog
Credit: LightFieldStudios / Getty

Dog Camping Gear You'll Need to Get Started

As Louviere says, proper equipment is vital to facilitate any good adventure. And this includes gear for you and gear for your pup. Here's a rundown of a basic packing list that will help to make camping with dogs easier and more fun for the whole fam.

6 Tips for Camping With Dogs Safely

As you consider going camping with your dogs, there are some strategies to take to ensure your pup is happy and healthy. You don't want to be caught off guard—in the middle of nowhere, without any cell phone service—and have an emergency. Instead, follow these six expert-guided tips, so everyone enjoys the trail.

1. Have a pre-camping vet visit. 

If you haven't visited your veterinarian in a while, book a check-up a week before your vacation. When camping you want to ensure your pup is fully protected from all potential threats. This includes flea and tick protection, up-to-date vaccinations, and parasite prevention protocols your vet can recommend. While it may seem like overkill, it's better to have peace of mind for your beloved floof.

2. Make sure your doggo is microchipped.

Louviere says it's also a good idea to have the pup microchipped in case an unthinkable separation happens during your camping trip and your dog gets lost somewhere in the Great Unknown. As scary of a thought as that is, a microchip will serve as a form of permanent identification for your dog, so you can always locate him.

3. Schedule a grooming appointment before. 

Different breeds have various grooming requirements, but even some short-haired dogs could use a haircut and/or a nail clipping before camping. How come? As Louviere explains, clean nails will prevent snagging on twigs or branches on the trail. And the trim will help to prevent them from overheating if you're camping with your dog in the summer. 

Beware though, there are certain double-coated breeds that should never be shaved, no matter the weather!

4. Never leave your pup unattended. 

"Your pup is your constant adventure companion," Louviere reminds. And by this, she means your dog should never be left unattended. There are no exceptions to this rule, no matter where you are, but particularly when you're on a new mountain, trail, or campground you're unfamiliar with. "Whether left at the campsite or in your vehicle, it's difficult to anticipate what may happen in your absence," she adds.

5. Know your dog's triggers.

All doggos have different levels of tolerance and personality types. While some are generally down-to-earth and calm, others are easily agitated or jumpy at sounds. That's why Louviere says it's essential to pay attention to what could potentially trigger your pup—from weather changes, wildlife near campgrounds, reaction to other dogs or people, and so on. You want to be prepared for anything.

6. Always follow campsite and trail rules.

Remember: not all trails are pet-friendly. Before you choose where you'll go camping with your dog, double-check they allow your furry friends to trot alongside you. The same is true for campsites: most are fine with leashed dogs, but others are not. And if they do happen to allow your pup to be off-leash, ensure they are well-trained to recall since you don't want them running away in a strange place.