Three girls hike on mountain with their dog

Etiquette Rules for Camping with your Dog

Three girls hike on mountain with their dog
Stefani Robinson's image for:
"Etiquette Rules for Camping with your Dog"
Caption: Three girls hike on mountain with their dog
Image by: Laubenstein Ronald, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Taking your dog camping can be a wonderful and rewarding experience for both dog and owner. However, you may find that fewer and fewer campgrounds are allowing dogs to accompany campers. Some still do but many have either banned dogs outright or are charging an additional fee for all dogs. This movement against dogs on campgrounds is largely because of poor etiquette from past dog owners. Just because you are in the wilderness does not mean you should behave any differently with your dog than you would in the city park. There are several things you can do as a dog owner to make sure that a camping trip with Scruffy is as enjoyable for all the other campers as it is for you.

The first rule of proper camping dog etiquette is to determine if you should take your dog in the first place. Just because a dog is an animal doesn’t mean that all of them would be suited to spending time in the wilderness. There will be a lot of new smells and sounds that your dog isn’t used to.  For a nervous or aggressive dog this can be a recipe for disaster. As the dog’s owner it is your responsibility to assess your dog’s personality and training to determine if they can cope with a camping trip well. The last thing that you want is for your dog to get frightened in the middle of the night and wake up everyone else with its howling and panic.

Before you leave for your camping trip with your dog, pick up some bio-degradable trash bags. It is good etiquette to clean up after your dog. Nobody wants to go to a campground and find it littered with dog poop that no one had the decency to pick up. Yes, it is the wilderness and plenty of animals relieve themselves in the woods, but that is still no excuse not to clean up after your dog. Campgrounds put in a lot of work to keep their hiking trails and guest areas clean and well maintained. Not only that, but leaving excrement around the campsite is an invitation to bugs or bacteria and may even attract larger animals into the area to investigate. If you go hiking and your dog needs to relieve himself, not only do you need to clean up the poop but also try to make the surrounding area right again.  Throw a little dirt and some leaves on the area so that no one gets an unpleasant surprise on their boots when they follow you up the trail.

Keep your dog leashed at all time when you are camping. You wouldn’t let your dog run around off leash in your neighborhood and so you shouldn’t while camping either. Most campgrounds that allow dogs require leashes and even if they don’t it’s just good etiquette. Think about it from the perspective of other campers. Would you want a strange dog’s nose poking into your tent while you’re trying to nap? Would you want to be hiking and be approached by a strange dog that you don’t know? Of course not, so don’t put other campers in that situation unless you’d want them to do the same to you. Also, when you are hiking, if someone else comes up to you and your dog to pass it is polite to step to the side of the trail and keep your dog at your side until they pass. Not everyone likes dogs and so it is the right thing to do to be courteous of your fellow campers.

Make sure that your dog has some basic obedience training. Even if you plan to keep your dog on a leash at all times and crated at night, accidents can happen and you need to make sure that your dog will obey you. If your dog should happen to get off their leash then you need to be secure in the knowledge that a firm “come” command will produce results. Not only is this polite for your fellow campers but is for your dog’s safety as well. If your dog doesn’t listen to you and runs off they could get hurt and lost, which is not what anyone wants to have happen. Also make sure that you can keep your dog quiet, especially at night. An odd bark at a prairie dog here and there is normal and not problematic, but a dog who spends most of the night barking at shadows is a problem that no one wants to deal with. If you know that your dog has an uncontrolled barking problem it might be best for him not to go on the camping trip at all.

Understand the campground’s rules and requirements surrounding dogs. Most campgrounds will require that your pet is vaccinated and that you provide proof of those vaccinations. If that is going to be required of you it’s best to know beforehand. Does that campground welcome dogs in the first place? It will put everyone in a bad position if you show up with your dog and find out they don’t allow dogs in that campground. Ask prior to your trip about their rules regarding having a dog on site. Do they have any specific places they prefer that you let your dog relieve themselves? Are there specific trails or areas that they prefer you not take your dog? Do they require that your dog is crated at night? These are important things for you to know to make your camping trip as painless and easy as possible for everyone involved.


More about this author: Stefani Robinson