Once you've decided on a location, your next mission is to find a suitable site. "There are many dog-friendly campsites out there, but be aware that they can vary in degrees of dog friendliness," said Karen. "Learn about the campsite and the facilities before you commit and book. Imagine if you got there and found that their 'dog-friendly walking area' is actually a grass verge, or that there are no poo bins on site. It is also a good idea to ring ahead just before you visit to check that their policies on dogs haven't changed since making the booking."
When considering a camping holiday, think about whether it's right for your pet. "Camping is mentally and physically exhausting for a dog," explained Karen. "He will be constantly on the go, doing much more than normal, and there will be much more stimuli than he is used to. Is he physically and mentally fit enough to cope? If you have a dog who is extremely reactive, or an older dog, then camping may not be the holiday for you. A reactive dog would find it far too stressful - as would you and your camping neighbours - and an older dog may not be best pleased to 'rough it' - it would be hard work for him, and he'd be much happier staying with a family friend, with his creature comforts.
"However, if it's well thought out, and you have a well-mannered, well-behaved, and well-trained dog, camping can be great fun. It's great for bonding with your dog as you'll be together 24/7 - he may even try getting in your sleeping bag!"
Before you go...
Organisation and preparation are key when camping with your dog. Here's a checklist of what you should do before you go:
- Decide where you'd like to go and thoroughly research the area for suitable walks and activities - the local tourist information centre is a good place to start.
- Familiarise yourself with your chosen campsite's policy on dogs - do they need to be on leads at all times?
- Most campsites will charge extra for dogs and some may have a ‘one dog only' policy - make sure you check this before you book.
- Research vets' surgeries in the area, print out directions, and put the contact details in your mobile phone.
- Make sure your dog is insured.
- Ensure that your dog's ID tags have up-to-date numbers, including a mobile.
- Consider an extra tag with your holiday accommodation details on.
- Make sure your dog's microchip details are up to date.
- Do a dry run with your dog in your tent by setting it up in the garden and spending the night in it.
Doing this regularly in the build-up to your holiday will familiarise your dog with being in a tent, and you'll know before you go whether you can all share it comfortably - you may need a bigger tent! Brush-up on your dog's basic obedience. Your camping neighbours won't appreciate a bad-mannered dog.
You'll need to pack more for your dog than you may think. Make a list of what you need and tick as you go so that you don't forget anything, including:
- Leads - obvious but often forgotten in the hurry of packing.
- Your dog's normal food - don't assume that you'll be able to buy it where you're staying, and changing his food may upset his tummy - which wouldn't be pleasant in a tent.
- Any medication your dog is taking.
- Your dog's food and water bowls.
- First aid kit.
- Something for your dog to sleep in - a travel crate or his bed.
- Blankets and toys.
- Portable water bowls for walks.
- Poo bags.
- Corkscrew stake or something to tether your dog to - this is essential, so that you don't have to shut your dog away in the tent while you try to do something (and he won't ruin the tent by trying to dig his way out to get to you).
- Windbreaks - these can be used to create your own area, such as a mini garden for your dog or some privacy for you.
Avoid going at high season - off peak will be cheaper and less busy.
Weigh out your dog's food into individual bags for each day, so that you only take what you need.
Take a dog-appeasing pheromone spray, such as ADAPTIL, to spray around the tent to help your dog settle.
Don't go alone. It's much more fun with someone else - plus going to the toilet block is much easier if someone can stay with your dog.