Bringing Your Dogs With You to the Great Outdoors

By Rachel Puryear

If you love the great outdoors and you have a dog, then chances are, your dogs also love being out in nature as much as you do. If you’ve been hesitant to bring them along camping hiking with you because you’re not sure how, read on for tips for bringing your dog along with you on your outdoor adventures!

Man hugging golden retriever dog while in the great outdoors. By Eric Ward

Bring All the Supplies

How much to bring can vary depending upon whether it’s a day trip, or overnight. However, this is more general:

You probably have your own packing list – and your pup should have one, too. Food (including a can opener if needed), bowls, water (if you won’t have a clean water source there), medications, bedding, leash and collar, toys, treats, poop bags, footwear*, brush or comb*, and any other regular home essentials should be added to the list.

Make sure your dog’s ID tags are on, and current!

Use bowls during hikes to share your clean water with your dog – don’t let them drink out of creeks and streams, they could get sick from that. Don’t let them eat other items out there, either, for the same reason. Don’t let them eat human food, either, as common food items like chicken bones, garlic, and chocolate can be very harmful to dogs – keep feeding them dog food.

Bring a first aid kit for your dog, and for you as well. This is a suggestion, but check with your vet as well about what that might include for your pet.

Bring bedding for them to sleep inside the tent or vehicle with you. This will protect them from predators and the elements, as well as help them better alert you if there’s a predator nearby. Make sure that they also have an extra blanket, in case it’s cold. For that matter, avoid ever leaving your dog alone outside, but especially after dark.

Get All Shots and Bug Treatments Up to Date

Being out in the wilderness, it’s especially important for your dog to be current on their vaccinations. Check with your vet if you’re unsure. If you will be staying at hotels or campgrounds with your dog, bring a copy of their current vaccination records.

Ask your vet to give your dog an anti-rattlesnake vaccine, just in case, if you will be in the woods. However, best practice is to keep your dog close by – rattlesnakes will not bite most of the time if they are not provoked. Your dog might just be curious, but another animal might nonetheless feel provoked.

Be sure they have an up-to-date flea and tick medication application, as well. They will thank you for that.

Know Where a Good Nearby Vet is Ahead of Time

This is something you hope you won’t need, but if you do need it then it’s crucial. If you’re away from home, know a good place to take your pet to if something happens and they need veterinary care. If you do need to take them to a vet’s office, time is of the essence, so know where you need to go.

Make sure you also have your regular vet’s contact information handy, so that the out-of-town vet can talk to them if necessary.

Check Pet Policies Before You Go

Many campgrounds allow pets, and some hotels do. So make sure to confirm that your destination does allow pets before you go, and find out the details of their pet policies.

Anywhere you go, though, they will require dog owners to pick up poo – plus, it’s best for wildlife and other campers. So be sure to bring plenty of poop bags.

Know Your Dogs, and Train Them Well

It is essential to protect your dog from wildlife, and also to protect wildlife from your dog. There will be lots of new smells and cool things to check out in the woods – so having your dog trained well enough to override their instinct to chase after something and come to you instead, can make the difference between a safe trip with your dog and not. You know your dog best, so assess this as you’re planning your trip.

If ever in doubt, keeping your dog on a secure leash can keep them and wildlife safe. In some localities or parks, leashes may also be required.

Don’t Forget Their Feet, and Check Their Fur

You probably would not enjoy hiking through rocky, rough, prickly, hot, or cold terrain without shoes on. Your dog’s feet and paw pads should be protected, too, while hiking anywhere you would also wear footwear. You can get footwear to protect your dog’s paws, if you don’t already have it.

Also, check your dog’s fur regularly for things like foxtails, ticks, and other nasties – as well as possible injuries. Bringing a comb or brush is a good idea, to help keep their fur clean and detangled.

Keep Them Safe in the Car, Too

Be sure to have a proper restraint system for your dog for the car ride. For small dogs, a carrier tends to be best; while for medium and large dogs, a harness is likely preferable.

In looking for places to stop for bathroom and rest breaks along the way, most rest stops have areas where your dog can get out and stretch, too (leashed), and relieve themselves, too (just pick up after).

Also, remember that on a warm day, the inside of a parked car with the windows rolled up can quickly get more than 20 degrees warmer inside than outside. Parking in the shade helps, but even this is not automatically safe on hot days. Never leave a living creature in a parked car on a warm day, without someone attending who can look after them.


Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to enjoying nature with our furry family members.

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