5 Tips for Camping With Dogs
How to camp with your best adventure buddy.
My name is Ellie and I have been road tripping Canada, living out of our roof top tent for two months with my partner and of course, my best friend, Akela the German Shepherd Mix. This is our second summer doing an extending camping trip and we have made mistakes, learned lessons and ultimately found out how to keep the most important family member safe, happy and healthy whilst living on the road.
I won’t lie, the first time camping with Akela was a nightmare. We were at Loch Lomond in Scotland and I don’t think any of us slept. I am going to start with advice that I did not follow! Set up your tent in the garden, or somewhere familiar and just hang out in it first with your dog. Start small... not a 3 hour canoe trip across a loch to a remote camp they’ve never been to in a tent they’ve never seen. Bad idea. Remember I said we’ve made mistakes?
With lessons learned in mind- here are our tips for a successful adventure with your dog:
I personally am the worst for remembering to hydrate myself- to me an iced coffee is as good and I’ll just wonder where the headache came from later. Realistically though, hydration is the most important thing for your pup, unfortunately we never managed to teach Akela how to use a hydro flask or yeti, so this what we’ve done instead!
First, you can never have enough. We carry a 23 litre Jerry Can of water in our car and on back country trips we normally take at least 5 litres for the three of us. This helps us to be prepared for whatever happens. Our best friend is a collapsable water bowl. The one we have has a clip which we can attach to our backpack, belts or even the leash, for easy access.
However, you don’t want water splashed all over your tent when you go to sleep and they inevitably kick it over and stand in it. For this we have used the ‘Lap-It-Up Dog Water BottleTM’. Akela really likes drinking from it. We keep that in the tent with us and always accessible in the car.
Although we said water was the most important thing- I’ll bet if you ask Akela’s opinion, it would be food.
Obviously this will depend on the length of your camping trip, but as our current trip is such a long one we prioritised variety, nutrients and space saving. Doodle Dogs helped us to calculate the amount we needed, ensure that we were meeting Akela’s nutritional requirements and also take into account a primitive preparation space. Whilst we love feeding Akela big patty’s of fresh food- filled with different organs, proteins and flavours- we had to find a way of replicating that on the road.
If you are going on a big trip like us and have the ability, we recommend buying a 12 volt freezer and pre-making some moulds using a variety of supplements. We alternated Primal goats milk, Borderland Bison Bone Broth and Big Country Raw Pumpkin Side Dish. Akela got one ice cube with her dinner every night.
In the morning we gave Akela ‘Acana Wild Prairie’ Kibble. This helped set her up for the day.
We found two brands that really worked for us.
Honest Kitchen dehydrated dog food was great because it took up the least amount of room in the car. A 10lbs box makes 40lbs worth of food. They are also complete and balanced which removes a lot of stress. We sometimes mixed it with some kibble as it has a porridge type consistency. The only downside of Honest Kitchen is that because it is a powder it definitely can be messier so pour slowly! We are pretty unorganised and would end up still on the road past Akela’s feeding time- which she knows. We often had to pull over in a rest area and feed her which was tricky. Honest Kitchen came into its own at campgrounds when we were set up and could take our time.
The other brand we used was Smack which is a dehydrated raw dog food. Whilst we got the Honest Kitchen in Beef, we got Smack in Pork and Caribbean Salmon fusion- which helped her rotate her proteins. The great thing about Smack was the
simplicity. It comes in large strips which resemble jerky. We added a little water just to moisten it, but this isn’t necessary. This was as easy as kibble!
On a side note- we added once a day some Omega Oil and a joint supplement!
As much as I love s’mores and stargazing, dogs can get bored when camping, especially as a lot of campgrounds require your dog to stay leashed. We would start by taking Akela around our spot and letting her sniff. This is a really natural enrichment and gets them settled in their spot for the night so win win.
We always plan time in the day for them- be it a walk or a simple game of fetch. We brought along a fold up agility set with some easy obstacles. This is a great activity while food is being prepared because they have to think and move which tires them out, allowing them to settle in for the evening. It’s also just fun!
Although Akela loves being with us and is a very human orientated dog, she still likes her own space, like many others. We designated two seats in the car that were all hers and when she was in there we didn’t touch her! We left the door open when we were in camp so that she could go and sit in there if she needed to. Being the princess that she is though, she also decided the hammock was her own personal bed.
I would encourage anyone to bring a blanket, bed, crate- whatever the dog is used to- from home so that they have somewhere comfortable and familiar to be.
We set up a ‘car seat hammock’ which clipped into the car, and allowed us to put her bed on the back seats and had a hole where we could clip her seatbelt in. Safety first!
We were camping from August until November so we saw it all! Extra blankets and cooling vests were needed. Ensure you have both on hand because who knows what Canada’s weather will throw at you! We would take an extra blanket that was just for Akela into the tent with us at night, which meant if we got cold, we had something for her.
The cooling vest was a god send- especially with a dog like Akela who is 90% hair. We used the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Vest which was perfect for us. We kept it in our 12 volt fridge.
Experiencing new adventures every day is always better with your K9 sidekick. Trust me, a dog taking in the view at the top of a mountain is the cutest. They count on us to keep them safe and happy, and with these tips there’s no reason they can’t love camping as much as you do!
If you have any questions you can reach us at @Crabbtacular on Tik Tok or Instagram. I’m always happy to chat to fellow adventure dog lovers!
By: Ellie Crabb