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Camping with Fido can be fun, but there’s lots more to consider than packing the tent.
While nothing beats bringing your best friend along there’s extra thought that needs to go into your trip so you – and those around you – enjoy the great outdoors. It starts with planning.
Not all campgrounds are pet-friendly. KOA suggests first contacting the campground for information regarding their pet policy and rules. Some things to ask about include leash requirements – the general rule is no longer than 1.8 metres (6 feet) long – and barking ordinances. It’s also a good idea to ask if there are dog-friendly amenities.
Dogs are welcome in most of Canada’s 48 national parks. However, regulations require they be kept on a leash of 3 metres (just over 9 feet) including in the campground, at the beach, and in the water. Some national parks such as Banff and Jasper in Alberta have fenced off-leash areas. For more tips on visiting our national parks with your fur friend visit here.
Provincially, many parks allow dogs. In Ontario, you can use their park locator tool to find out which ones do. Ontario’s leash requirement is six feet, and pets are not allowed in park buildings.
Finally, if your pet is aggressive, leave them at home if you feel they might not respond well to other dogs, new people, or unfamiliar surroundings.
Here are some tips for your trip:
Before you reserve your stay make sure your dog is:
Up to date on vaccinations: Many pet parks and campgrounds require your dog to be up-to-date before entry. Make sure they’re healthy before taking them on the trip.
Using flea/tick prevention: Fleas and ticks are common outdoors. Speak with your vet about prevention.
Groomed: It may sound strange, but a good groom can help keep Fido safer. A hair trim can help keep them cooler in warm temperatures and a nail trim helps protect them from getting snagged on anything.
Another good idea is to let your dog check out your camping gear. Set up the tent and let them go inside. You could even have a practice run in the backyard if they’ve never camped before. Close quarters, new surroundings, and lots of new people can be difficult for pets to process. Train them as young puppies if you can.
Create a checklist: food, water, dishes, medications, supplements and treats, a collar or harness and a leash (along with a spare), your dog’s bedding, a couple of towels, a comb/brush, a personal flotation device (if canoeing/boating), some first aid supplies, a light-up collar, attachable ID tag, and dog waste bags.
Bring a current copy of your pets’ health records. If an unexpected trip to the vet is necessary while you’re on the road, you’ll have all the information you need. Know where the closest animal hospital is located and carry a current photo, too, in case your pup goes missing.
Take more food than your dog would normally eat – about 1.5 to 2 times the usual amount – to account for higher activity levels. Keep the food in a sealed container to keep bugs out of it and stow it safely away so as not to attract wildlife.
Don’t forget a touch of home. Fido’s favourite blanket or toys will provide comfort in an unfamiliar location.
Tip: Bring water from home rather than use tap water at the campground. Even if it is potable, a change in the animal’s water can cause acute stomach upset. Or, use water from the ice chest since it’s processed and less likely to cause upset. Provide your pup with extra hydration while camping, and never let your dog drink from stagnant water.
Many campsites offer a chance for you and Fido to enjoy the outdoors including:
Hiking - Consider the difficulty of the trail and the ability of your dog. Stay away from rocky paths, steep drops, or areas that allow mountain bikes. Build up stamina and toughen paws before you go. If you have a smaller dog not keen on hiking, consider a dog carrier backpack. That way you enjoy the hike, and your pooch enjoys the view. Avoid backcountry trips.
Canoeing – A great activity if your dog is obedient and calm. However, this isn’t the activity for pups that can’t resist the water (think Labs) or who won’t sit still.
Cycling – Well-trained dogs who are used to it can run beside the bike. For smaller breeds, consider a dog basket that can be fastened to the bike and take them along for the ride.
Swimming - Some campgrounds may even have special beaches for your canine friend.
Tip: Be on the lookout for wildlife, including both plants and animals. Research and know how to identify potentially poisonous plants before going for hikes or walks.
One way to have additional peace of mind while camping with your pet is to know their care is covered should something happen. One such insurer is Pets Plus Us. If your pet is accident-prone or becomes ill while travelling, you can take them to any licensed veterinarian – even specialists and emergency care providers. Their Blue Ribbon Benefits offer 24/7 complimentary access to PetHelpFone, which can provide veterinary advice outside normal business hours.
Camping with your dog can be a memorable experience. Good planning and camping etiquette will help ensure everyone enjoys getting away from it all.
RELATED READING: Find pet-friendly campgrounds, RV sites in Canada by province