Camping with Dogs – Campground Etiquette

Camping Etiquette for Dogs

1) Always keep your dog on a leash:

This sounds so trite and as a dog owner you have heard it time and time again. But, it is one of the most common problems. There are a number of issues associated with letting your dog off-leash in a campground. First, they could get lost while running after a rabbit, deer, or coyote. Second, there might be a bigger, dog-aggressive dog tied up in the next campsite that could eat your dog for lunch. Third, you are giving the rest of us a bad rap and the campground might decide to ban dogs. Enough said, I hope.

2) Call ahead:

Even though campground guides may tell you that the campground accepts dogs. Be sure to call ahead, because many of them only accept dogs under 25 pounds or they charge per pet. Look in our guide to camping with dogs here or look in the Travel Life directory here.

3) Clean up after your dog:

We have found that the bags sold for doggie do do are very expensive in pet stores. Instead, we use simple food storage bags from the grocery store. Not the kind with zipper seals, but the plain old gallon size food storage bags with twist ties. These are slightly larger than the pet store bags at less than half the price. The only drawback is that they are clear instead of colored, but you’ll get used to it!

4) Make sure your dogs don’t bark too much:

A lot of dog guides recommend that you stay home if you have a dog that barks too much. This is not fair, every dog should go camping. If you have a dog that barks his head off at the drop of a pin, you probably better spend some time training him. Try to give him treats whenever he stops barking upon command, eventually he will get the picture.

5) Dog aggressive or people aggressive dogs:

Again, everything I have read recommends that you keep these kinds of dogs at home. I disagree. Dog aggression and people aggression are often natural behaviors for dogs. The trick is to keep these dogs under ABSOLUTE control at all times. You must be diligent in this one, or someone or some dog could be seriously injured. Here is what I have learned from my dog that is afraid of strangers and weighs 130 pounds.

a) Get a restraining collar that provides total control of your dog.

b) If you leash them outdoors at the campsite, always be outside with them.

c) Don’t take them for hikes on trails, this is asking for trouble.

d) Find a campground with spacious sites; look in Fodor’s Best Campground Guide at for the site spaciousness and privacy factor.

e) If you must take them in crowded situations, use a muzzle (but only use a muzzle sparingly).

f) Be vigilant at all times, I have camped full-time for two years now all across the country without incident. However, I am always with my dog and I have him under my complete control (not, always easy with such a large dog).

Following these five simple rules will allow you and your dogs to enjoy camping, while not creating any complaints from other campers. If you do receive a complaint for any reason, try to be bigger than the complainant – act calmly and address the problem. After all, you are going camping to enjoy life!