Dogs are often more than just dogs, they’re family. And when folks go camping, many canines go along for the adventure. We answer the most popular questions campers have when it comes to camping with dogs.

What are the benefits of bringing the dog?

Just like with people, spending quality time with your dog can strengthen the bond and sense of trust you share. Your dog develops good people skills and trail etiquette over time, effectively becoming a Canine Good Citizen in the process, which is a dog that is a joy for all to be around. Then, there is there are the benefits to you and your dog’s mind and body when you spend time outdoors and living an active lifestyle. It’s a winning scenario all around.

How do I know if my dog can come to the campground?

You know your dog the best. You know his personality, quirks, buttons, and history. If you think your dog would thrive with camping, then make the effort to make it happen.

Most state parks, national parks, wildlife areas, and campgrounds are friendly to dogs as long as some basic rules are followed, but it’s a good idea to check the house rules with any campgrounds you plan to stay at.

These basic rules or requirements include: keeping your dog on a leash no longer than six feet while outside the RV. Some campgrounds may not allow retractable leashes, preferring a standard leash. Barking is a nuisance for everyone, and even though all dogs bark at some time or another, if your dog tends to bark a lot – i.e., doesn’t like to be left out of the activities and is stuck inside – then you may be asked to relocate.

Along with incessant barking, any dog with an aggressive streak should simply be left at home, because of the potential risk to people and other dogs at the campground. If you can’t bear the thought of leaving your dog at home, then think in advance and sign up for obedience classes to help tame those negative behaviors.

If you have a relatively well-behaved canine who minds (or is learning to mind) the leash and can handle new situations, then bring him along. Every time you go camping together, the expectations will become more solidified in the dog’s mind and the skills of being a good camping buddy will further develop.

What can I do to practice before embarking on the real thing?

It’s important to work your way up, not just bring your dog and think he can handle it or that you can handle him when you get there. Start by talking longer walks to work on leash manners and basic obedience. Walk once or twice a day. Mix up where you walk so that your dog encounters new people, sights, smells, and creatures… but keep the expectations the same. Commands on which your dog should be reliable include a recall command (i.e., come or here) and the leave it command. Practice these commands during your walks.

Another thing you can do is invite your dog to hang out outside with you. If your dog tends to wander, then keep a six-foot leash on them and let it drag so that you can step on it if they start going too far. Reward your dog for good behavior.

Take your dog on some play dates so that they better understand how to interact with other dogs. These play dates could be with a neighbor or a family member who owns dogs, or visiting a dog park.

And, practice makes perfect. If you’re still unsure or want to be super prepared, then have a backyard campout with your dog. Assess your dog’s behavior as you go about as though you’re at a real campsite. There will be fewer surprises for your dog when you reach the campground.

Should I visit a vet before going camping?

Yes. If your dog’s annual appointment was close enough to your camping schedule, then this will be sufficient. However, you may need to schedule a check-up if you missed last year’s annual physical or wish to utilize some other services, such as microchipping (not a requirement) and grooming (trim nails are better for your dog’s feet). Make sure your dog is up to date on vacations, and that you have a health record for your dog on hand when you go camping. Your vet may recommend flea and tick prevention based on where you plan to camp. And if your dog has a chronic illness or allergies, discuss getting new or additional medications to bring along with you; your vet will also be able to recommend a course of action for treating your dog while you’re camping.

What should I pack for my dog?

It’s a good idea to create a tote that’s just for dog supplies. Camping essentials for your dog include: dog food, food bowl, water bowl, treats, stake or tether, dog first-aid kit, water bottle, outdoor-safe toys, favorite indoor toys, at least two leashes that you don’t mind getting dirty or wet, dog bed, vet records, and waste bags. If your dog has been crate-trained, then bring the crate as well. Your dog should have a collar and ID on him at all times, whether that’s woven into the collar or an attachable ID tag.

Additional camping gear that is not necessary, though some campers would disagree, include: a dog brush, outdoor harness (gives you better control), doggy daypack, dog rain jacket, and booties or paw protectant.

What can we do together?

We offer some Dog-Friendly Places to Visit in West Michigan and Dog-Friendly Places to Visit Across the Northern Upper Peninsula that you could look into visiting. Many other sources, such as the Michigan DNR, National Park Service, and individual cities offer information on their websites with respect to dog-friendly places. As previously mentioned, most parks and wildlife areas are fine with dogs – but check anyway because some trails may be off limits to dogs – and a growing number of businesses and downtowns are as well. Beaches can be another story, so it’s a good idea to check out the rules before you start making your way there.

How do I keep my dog safe while we’re camping?

Your dog’s safety depends on you. Camping Care for Your Dog: Swimming Safety has some good tips when it comes to spending time in and around water, including watching for blue-green algae and knowing pet first aid and CPR. Your dog should be a solid swimmer, but if he’s injured, old, not very good at swimming, or you plan to spend time on a watercraft, then a pet life vest is another item to add to the packing list. It’s important to wash your dog after they spend time in any water to remove anything that may have been in the water and dry your dog well to avoid skin problems and bacterial infections.

Hot weather doesn’t just happen in the summer; we have some toasty spring and fall days, too. Never leave your dog in a hot RV or tow vehicle. In fact, try not to leave your dog unattended at all. If your dog is showing signs of being warm, such as panting a lot, then cool off his paws and belly with water. Offer your dog plenty of fresh water to drink while hiking, swimming, and on very hot days. If the days are forecast to be warm, then try to embark on ground activities earlier in the day and save water activities for later. Here are some other things to care about when the weather is warm: Caring for Your Dog in Warm Weather.

It’s important to check your dog’s paws routinely and after time spent on any trails or beaches. Hot pavement, salt-melt, burrs, sharp rocks, broken glass, and zebra mussels can cause abrasions that may need attention. Boots or paw protectant can help avoid your dog from getting abrasions and help their paws to heal. Here are some other Outdoor Hazards to be apprised of.


Traveling the great state of Michigan and camping with your dog, seeing the sights, and spending time together is a wonderful way to spend the seasons. Be prepared, stay safe, and have a good time!