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Preparing for a Safe Camping Trip with your Dog

With the recent pandemic, many of us are in the same boat when it comes to wanting to take a holiday. Your dog may also be feeling the pressure... 

Whether you have been in lockdown or working from home, it is likely that your pet has noticed the change and they too need a break. So, why not consider planning a holiday where your pet can come along with you? 

Taking your dog camping is a fantastic option. Anyone who loves dogs knows that they love the great outdoors and exploring new places as much as we do.

If you've never taken a dog camping before, there are a few things to consider before you go. Written by Veterinary Nurse 
Leah Eichner, this short guide will get you well on your way to planning a pet safe trip that will have your dog's tail wagging and their tongue hanging out sideways!

Plan Well

When planning your trip, make sure you choose a camp area that is "dog-friendly". Not all camp grounds accept dogs and you can get slapped with a fine for taking them to dog free areas. There is a lot of information online that can help you here. There are also some great apps available that allow you to put filters in and help you find great spots. 

Veterinary Nurse Leah Eichner with dogs Chev and Brock in Cape York, Queensland



If you are booking at a caravan park, make sure you let your host know that you're bringing a dog.

Phone and internet reception is often poor, sometimes non-existent at campsites. Before you go, look up how far the nearest veterinary clinic is from your camp area. It is also wise to jot down their contact details and address in case you need it in a hurry. Calling the clinic to find out if they provide an after-hours service is wise. Hopefully, by continuing to read this article the chances of you needing this information will be slim but it's best to be safe.

If your dog is used to car rides and outdoor adventures, taking them camping is going to be less stressful than taking a dog who doesn't often leave home. If your dog is young or simply a newbie to these experiences, you may need to ease them into it. Taking inexperienced pets on short trips (one or two nights) and short car rides (an hour or so from home) to begin with, will allow them to get used to it.

Safety

Let's consider the car ride. It is the law in Australia that all pets must be suitably restrained when riding in a motor vehicle. Don't consider this just because it is the law. Having an excited dog walking all over the seats or over you, while you're driving, is undoubtedly dangerous. Dog harnesses that double as a car restraint are relatively inexpensive and are a great solution.

Having control of your pet in and outside the car is, by far, the most important thing you can do to keep your pet safe while camping. It should also be the most obvious and simplest thing to do. Believe it or not, veterinary clinics around Australia, still see dogs almost every day with injuries because they weren't on a lead or because another pet wasn't on a lead.

Leah Eichner with her dogs Brock and Chev on leashes


Make sure your pet is restrained on a strong, reliable leash and collar. It may save an expensive, emergency vet visit caused by any of the following:
  • Snake bite - stops your dog from romping through areas that snakes like to hide
  • Dog fight - stops your dog from entering other campsites and approaching other dogs
  • Burns - stops your pet from getting too close to the campfire
  • Eating foreign objects - if your pet is on a lead, generally you can see what they are sniffing and eating. Rubbish left over by previous campers and other toxins that may harm your pet are commonly found around campsites.
  • Harassing wildlife - part of our responsibility while camping is to look out for our native wildlife. Keeping your pet away from them is important for their own safety and for the native animals.

After snake bite and dog fights, the next biggest health risk for the camping pooch is tick paralysis. When a dog has visited Aussie bushland and presents to the veterinary clinic collapsed and displaying neurological signs. Ticks are normally at the top of the differential list.


Paralysis tick can be deadly. They are quite common all the way along the East Coast of Australia. They live in bushy areas, which are more often than not, the same areas that we like to go camping. Having your pet on parasite prevention that protects against ticks, is the only way to be sure your dog won't end up with tick paralysis. There are a few good options when it comes to prevention. Your local veterinary clinic can help you choose the right one.

While you are there, make sure your dog's vaccinations are up to date and ask for a certificate. If you are taking your pet to a caravan park, you may be asked to provide proof that your dog's vaccination is up to date.

Comfort

All dogs like to have a comfortable spot to sleep. Bringing your own dog's bed is a great idea. Along with comfort, it will provide them with something familiar, this helps many dogs relax.

There are lots of options when it comes to dog beds, even some which are designed for camping. If you buy them a new bed for camping, allow them to use it at home for a while. This will give them time to get used to it before taking it camping.

Bringing your dog's normal food and their own bowls can also help them feel more at ease. If you have a time of day you normally feed them, stick to it while camping. Again, this will feel familiar to your dog and help them relax.

While we camp, we tend to cook ourselves easy foods, like barbeques. Although, it can be tempting to throw our furred friends a sausage or a bit of fat off the end of our bacon, try to avoid it. Feeding different foods and fatty human food could upset your dog's digestive system. Having a dog with gastrointestinal upset is never fun. If they develop vomiting or diarrhoea while out camping, it is sure to put a downer on your trip!



Finally, make sure your pet is secure, particularly at night. Some people choose to use light portable fencing to make an area for them. Others choose to have them inside the tent, caravan or camper with them. Ensuring your pet's security at night will reduce stress levels all round, making sure you and your pooch get a good night's sleep.

Camping with Dogs - Check List

Here is a list you can check before you and your dog head off for fresher air and fun times.

Your Camping Essentials:

✔️ Car restraint
✔️ Parasite prevention
✔️ Vaccination
✔️ Local Vet Contact Information
✔️ Lead and collar
✔️ Comfortable bed
✔️ Dog food
✔️ Food and water bowl
✔️ Fresh drinking water (for you and them)
✔️ Dog Poo Bags
✔️ Dog First Aid Kit (Yes, they are a thing. Ask your vet.)

Great Ideas:

✔️ Dog life jacket
✔️ Portable dog fence or crate
✔️ Dog safe insect repellent (ask your vet)
✔️ Dog coat (if you are visiting cold areas)
✔️ Favourite toy
✔️ Tie out stake and cable
✔️ Collapsible dog bowl
✔️ Water or floating toy (if your dog likes to play water fetch and it is safe to do so)
✔️ Boredom buster toy (those you can add their food to are great)
✔️ Collar lights (for night time) 

With all of this covered, it won't be long until you are sitting by the campfire with your best friend by your side, enjoying together the best of what our great country has to offer.

written by
Leah Eichner, Veterinary Nurse & Freelance Writer, October 2021 for Australian Dog Lover


About the writer

Leah Eichner is a veterinary nurse with over 15 years of experience. She has worked in general practice, specialist dermatology and in emergency and critical care

She has an interest in Australian wildlife that took her on a field trip to Lady Julia Percy Island to study Australian Fur Seals with Melbourne Zoo.

She married Ben in 2009. In 2016, Ben and Leah's love for camping became their lives when they packed up their camper trailer and Toyota Prado, and their two dogs, Brock and Chev and went on an 11-month adventure up and down the East Coast of Australia. 

At the time, Brock, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross, was 7 years old. Chev was 6 years old and he was a large Wolfhound cross. Both had been on camping trips before but little did they know that this one was going to be extra long. They made it all the way from Melbourne to Pajinka (The Tip) in Cape York. 

Needless to say, they learnt some valuable lessons about camping with dogs along the way.

Read more about this adventure in Leah's travel blog at benandleahscamper.wordpress.com.


Related Topics:

Top Spots for Dog-Friendly Camping

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