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Camping with your dog

4 Dog Camping Myths Debunked (Ruffin’ It)

Published on September 13th, 2022
Updated on February 17th, 2024
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Both you and your dog can experience the incredible physical and psychological benefits of camping.

It’s an amazing way to get away from the stresses of life, strengthening your bond not just with your dog but with nature, your companions, and yourself.

And your dog will be delighted at all the new scents, sounds, sights, and adventures the two of you get to enjoy together.

The best part: pulling off the perfect canine camping trip isn’t as complicated as you might think.

Below are 3 ways your dog benefits from going camping, 4 ways you benefit from camping with your dog, plus 4 common dog camping myths that you can consider officially busted!

3 Ways Your Dog Benefits from Going Camping

#1 of 3: Camping Stimulates Your Dog’s Mind, Body and Senses

Going camping with your dog

The scent of wild animals trailing through the forest… the sound of the campfire crackling and sizzling… the sight of the sunrise over a beautiful mountain vista… the feeling of the sandy riverbed and the cool flowing water…

All of these fascinating new sensations form new neural connections in your dog’s brain, sharpening his mind and delighting his senses.

He’ll also hone his navigational skills traversing the campground trails, problem-solve while playing fetch in the woods, and work his whole body running, climbing, and swimming. And at the end of the day, he’ll find enrichment and relaxation stargazing by the fire with you.

#2 of 3: Your Dog Can Meet and Befriend Other Camping Canines

Dog-friendly campgrounds can be excellent places for your dog to socialize with others of his species.

Because most campground stays are relatively short, visiting dogs don’t have the time to firmly establish their territories there. This makes the campground a neutral zone where dogs can meet each other without any defensive arguments — or aggressive fights.

Of course, it’s important to know and respect your dog’s limits and to always monitor for signs of tension when multiple dogs interact. But with proper supervision, camping with your dog can give him a great social outlet.

#3 of 3: Camping with Your Dog Means That Nobody Gets Left Behind

Separation anxiety is a very real issue for both dogs and humans.

But even dogs without clinical separation anxiety still feel sad when their humans disappear for days or weeks. And it’s hard on the humans, too: dogs are family, and it hurts to leave them behind knowing that they’ll miss you so much.

But that problem vanishes when you take your dog camping. From the drive out to the campsite to long days out in nature to cozy nights in the tent, you’ll be together the whole time — no missing out and no missing each other.

4 Ways You Benefit from Camping with Your Dog

#1 of 4: You’ll Save on Boarding or Petsitting When You Camp with Your Dog

Camp with a dog

When you have a dog, your camping costs can skyrocket thanks to boarding and pet-sitting fees.

In the U.S., boarding your dog at a kennel costs $40 a night on average. That number rises if your dog needs a larger room or special care, and those in higher cost-of-living areas can expect to pay even more.

And if you’d rather leave your dog at home with a pet sitter, it could cost you $100 or more per night!

Bringing your dog camping with you lets you avoid these large expenses, keeping your trip within budget. And while some campgrounds do require a small pet fee, many allow dogs for no extra charge.

#2 of 4: Camping Can Get Lonely — But Your Dog Can Keep You Company

If you’re camping solo, the feeling of being alone in the wilderness can be exhilarating at first. But it can also make you feel quite lonely, especially at night.

And even if you’re camping with your family or friends, your group may feel incomplete without your dog. After all, he’s a member of your family and your best friend!

Camping with your dog ensures that you’re never alone. He can be your cuddle buddy in the tent at night, keep you company while you cook dinner over the fire, and serve as the world’s best hiking companion.

#3 of 4: Your Dog Can Help You Stay Safe While You’re Camping

Traveling with a dog

Your fancy burglar alarms and doorbell cameras need to stay at home when you go camping, but there’s one portable security system you shouldn’t leave behind: your dog!

He’s great at detecting and chasing squirrels, chipmunks, and other wildlife around your home. And if someone walks up to your door, his bark alarm ensures that you’re immediately aware.

Those skills translate well to the wilderness, where he’ll alert you to the presence of food-stealing raccoons, dangerous snakes, and even strangers who happen upon your campsite.

And even if there isn’t any real danger during your trip, simply having your dog by your side can provide a sense of comfort and security amid the creaking trees, strange shadows, and blustering winds of the great outdoors.

#4 of 4: Camping with Your Dog Keeps You Active and Helps You Socialize

Your dog’s demanding needs — walks, playtime, food, attention — can sometimes feel like a burden at home. But when you’re camping, they’ll help you get the most out of your trip by keeping you active and alert.

Those pleading eyes and excitable wiggles can be just the push you need to get up and start that long hike. And even if you’re taking a day to just relax in your tent, he’ll surely still want to play fetch or walk around the campground.

Your dog can keep you socially active while camping, too: meeting new people while camping is much easier when you have your dog with you. Folks will stop along the trails to pet your dog and ask about him, and other dog owners might invite you to their campsite for a puppy playdate.

4 Dog Camping Myths Debunked

Myth #1: Camping and Traveling with a Dog Is More Expensive Due to Pet Fees

A happy couple with a dog having fun in a vintage van

It’s true that traveling with your dog can get pricey fast. Many hotels don’t allow pets, and those that do can charge hundreds of dollars in nonrefundable pet fees.

Truth: Dog-Friendly Campgrounds Are Everywhere — And They’re Cheap

Affordable traditional lodging may be tough to score when you have a dog, but it’s a different story when you’re camping.

The Perks of Private Campgrounds

Many private campgrounds, such as KOA, allow you to camp with your dog for no extra charge — and if there is a fee, it’s typically very small ($10 or less).

What’s more, these campgrounds often have facilities specifically for dogs: dog runs, cleanup stations, and even campsites with private fenced areas just for your dog.

Pups Can Stay Free on Public Lands

Most public campgrounds, such as those in state parks or national forests, don’t charge a fee for pets. Depending on where you go, you might need a camping permit for the humans in your party, but there’s typically no additional cost for your dog!

You may not find the same dog-friendly facilities at public campgrounds as you would at private ones, but many offer basic amenities like pup-height water spigots and poop bag dispensers.

Going Glamping with Your Dog

And if tent camping isn’t your thing, worry not: pet-friendly RV parks, motels, and inns are becoming much more common around the country. It’s also worth checking sites like Airbnb and VRBO for pet-friendly glamping options like tiny houses, cabins, and camping pods.

Though some of these lodging options will make you pay dearly for bringing your dog, the majority charge only a nominal fee for your dog to stay with you. Some are even owned by fellow dog lovers who eliminate the pet fee altogether!

Myth #2: Camping with Your Dog Limits the Places You Can Go

If you’ve ever looked into camping at a national park or wildlife refuge, you may have been dismayed to see that dogs aren’t allowed on many of the trails. And at some locations, they’re even banned at the campsites.

It’s unfortunate, but there’s a good reason for it. These places are often home to rare or endangered animals and plants that are easily disturbed by dogs, hence the seemingly harsh restrictions.

Truth: There Are Plenty of Places that Welcome Dogs — And Easy Backup Options

A place that welcomes dogs

But for every park that doesn’t allow dogs, there are scores more that do.

Different Parks for Different Pups

State parks, BLM land, national forests, wilderness areas, and national trails don’t typically ban dogs, so you’re free to hike and camp with your leashed pup.

These parks may not be as famous as many of the national parks that prohibit dogs, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth visiting. In fact, they’re often less crowded and filled with hidden gems: amazing views, clean facilities, and tons of opportunities for adventure.

Bringing Your Dog Into Town

Worried about venturing into town for emergency marshmallows and graham crackers and not being able to bring your dog? Worry not — more and more shops, especially in rural areas near campgrounds, allow well-behaved dogs inside.

And while dogs may not be allowed inside most restaurants and cafes, pet-friendly outdoor seating is easier than ever to find. You can keep your pup with you while you sip your coffee before heading home or share a quick bite of fast-food chicken with him when campfire food can’t quell your cravings.

Finding Care for Fido While Camping

If you do need to go somewhere that doesn’t allow dogs, apps like Rover, Wag, and PetBacker allow you to quickly book a dog sitter for a few hours while you run your errands or check out that exclusive hiking trail.

And don’t forget about your neighboring campers — if your dog has hit it off with theirs, they might be happy to hold a doggy daycare session for you!

Myth #3: Dog Camping Gear Is Expensive and Hard to Find

Dog camping gears

You could certainly try camping without a water filter, multitool, or other special equipment, but it would be a lot harder — and a lot more dangerous.

And the same goes for your dog.

Depending on where you’re camping and what you’ll be doing, picking up some gear for your dog is a wise idea. Bowls, leashes, clothing, and safety equipment designed for the camping canine are lightweight, compact, convenient, and potentially life-saving.

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But until recently, getting your hands on these things was trickier than it should have been. Many local stores didn’t stock dog camping gear, requiring you to order online from expensive specialty stores — and pay a premium for shipping.

Truth: Dog Camping Gear Can Be Affordable and Accessible — And You Can DIY

These days, dog camping gear is easier than ever to find.

Hit the Shopping Plaza — and the Web

Big box pet stores and outdoor retailers now stock a wide variety of dog camping gear at reasonable prices, and even smaller specialty retailers are becoming more common and more affordable.

And if you can’t find what you’re looking for in person, you can probably find it on your chosen store’s website for the same price you’d pay in-store. Bonus: shopping online lets you use coupon codes to get even better deals.

Shop for Dog Camping Gear Secondhand

Dog camping gear doesn’t necessarily have to be bought new, either: you can often find some gear secondhand on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.

If you have a local camping, RVing, or hiking club, try asking if any members have the extra gear they’d like to sell — you can often get amazing deals on top-of-the-line equipment.

Reuse and Repurpose Old Stuff Into New Dog Camping Equipment

You can even make some of your own dog camping gear with a few simple hacks, saving money and keeping old materials out of landfills.

Try removing the strap from a basic headlamp and clipping it to your dog’s collar or harness for a cheap and simple safety light. Or take some old foam from a mattress pad or chair cushion, then cover it in a cozy fabric and sew it closed to make a DIY doggy camping mat.

Myth #4: Bringing Your Dog Camping Isn’t Worth the Added Stress

A dog camping

We’re not going to lie and say that there’s no extra stress associated with bringing your dog camping. After all, he’s dependent on you but also has a mind of his own, like a toddler who’s simultaneously needy and dependent at all times.

What if he gets injured on a trail, and you’re hours away from a vet? Or what if he causes trouble with the neighboring campers and creates tension that ruins your plans for a relaxing trip?

It can be hard to balance your sense of responsibility toward your dog with your desire for a pleasurable, relaxing camping trip. And the thought of dealing with this stress drives many people to leave their dogs behind when they go camping — the pros just don’t seem to outweigh the cons.

Truth: A Little Extra Planning Can Alleviate a Ton of Stress

Camping with your dog doesn’t need to be stressful. A little preparation goes a long way, as does understanding your dog’s needs and limits.

Make Safety Preparations for You and Your Dog

Safety always comes first when camping, and your dog’s safety can be a huge source of stress when planning your trip. But easing that anxiety is simple: a high-visibility dog vest and safety lamp will instantly make your dog safer — and easier to find should he run off.

Make sure to bring a canine first aid kit with all the wound dressings, emergency medication, ointments, and tools you need to treat minor injuries and illnesses. You can purchase these kits from pet stores or assemble your own with guidance from your vet, who may even have premade kits available for their patients.

It’s also worth taking the time to complete a canine first aid class. You’ll learn how to diagnose common issues and get the lowdown on how to properly utilize your first aid kit.

Know Your Dog’s Triggers and Work Around Them
A woman traveling into Mexico with her pet

As for non-medical stressors, remember that much of a dog’s so-called “bad behavior” is actually a response to stress. Knowing your dog’s stress triggers and avoiding them will make camping much easier for both of you.

If your dog is wary of strangers and you’re worried about him barking at neighboring campers, try pitching your tent far away from campground amenities like pavilions or restrooms that attract lots of people. Ask around to find out which trails, beaches and other areas are less crowded, then stick to those during the day and check out the popular ones during off-peak times.

Dogs that are fearful of crowds and loud noises might not do well at a popular campground on Memorial Day weekend or the Fourth of July. Pick a site that’s more off the beaten track, or simply push your camping trip forward or backward by a week or so

And for times when stressful situations can’t be avoided, bring treats that contain stress-relieving ingredients like valerian root, chamomile, L-tryptophan, or CBD.

Understand Your Dog’s Physical Limits

A small chihuahua isn’t going to be able to handle the same long, strenuous trails that a larger, more athletic dog can. Dogs that can’t swim well shouldn’t be taken to campsites located near rivers, lakes, or oceans.

And if your dog has a medical condition that may require urgent care, don’t bring him on lengthy or difficult hikes. It’s also wise to research emergency vets in the area and pick a campsite that’s convenient to one, just in case.

Take the time to tailor your trip to your dog’s needs and preferences. The result — a fun, rejuvenating, bond-building camping trip you’ll both remember forever — will be well worth the effort.

 Tips for RV Camping with Dogs (Video)

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