Camping is a family affair but one member gets overlooked a little too often. However, it doesn’t have to be this way as camping with a dog can be a fantastic and rewarding experience.
One of our favourite trips would have to have been when we went to Cape York along the Old Tele Track with our kelpie. Swimming with him in all the creeks and jumping off ledges into crystal clear water was a blast.
Along the Birdsville Track, a quick stop to stretch the legs and have a play.
He was a bit of a celebrity amongst the other campers along the track who were missing their own dogs – they all knew his name and wanted a pat. Getting a photo with the whole family at the tip of Australia is something we will always cherish.
Splashing around in Canal Creek on Cape York’s Old Telegraph Track.
It’s a dog’s life
Being able to bring along the family dog has so many positives and taking a walk with your four-legged friend, or going kayaking or swimming is a great way for everybody to get some exercise. Playing games like chasey, or throwing a stick is good entertainment that you don’t have to plug into a power socket.
He just wants to get the ball. Having a play is better than looking at a screen.
Being able to take your dog camping is a big positive, especially when there is a strong family bond. Plus, it means you don’t have to feel sad, or guilty about leaving them at home.
A bond is formed forever on Cooper’s first camping trip with our daughter.
The best parts of camping with your dog
It’s a great way to meet new friends too. Everyone loves to pat a dog and without a doubt, he’ll be at the next camp making friends. It’s an easy way to break the ice and make staying in a campground more enjoyable.
Bringing your dog camping means it’s easy to dispose of your food scraps after dinner, and you don’t have to organise someone to watch your dog at home which makes life a little easier. Pet motels or dog kennels can be expensive long term and probably not as enjoyable for your dog as a camping trip with the family.
Waiting for leftovers, he eats better than us sometimes.
Another big benefit is the extra safety and companionship that having a dog with you brings, more so when travelling solo. Dogs have great hearing, sense of smell, and night vision.
They can be excellent with giving an early warning against crocs, dingos, feral pigs and snakes. Also against things that go bump in the night, mainly other people who should not be so close to your camp.
Dogs give you that safety and companionship.
Dog-gone-it – cons of taking your pooch camping
There are some cons to taking your best mate along with you. Depending on the size of your dog, they can take up a fair amount of your limited room inside the car. Roof racks and trailers are an option in making up that lost storage space for your gear.
It’s important to keep your dog safe when you’re driving, we keep Cooper secure in the rear of our car behind a cargo barrier and beside the fridge slide. When he was small enough to be in the back seat, we used a harness through the seat belts. For more details on travelling with dogs check out this resource here.
Having a dog can also limit where you can stay. National parks and nature reserves are out, but some state forests, private campgrounds and lots of free camping spots are dog-friendly.
One of the biggest fears is losing your best friend. Having them microchipped and a tag with your details on their collar is a must, but keeping treats in your pocket should be enough to keep your dog from wandering too far. Having them trained to come back when called is a command you should have mastered so your dog can have a little freedom around camp.
Cooper gets a thick foam mattress for trips in the car.
Depending on the campground and your dog they might need to have a lead on too.
Getting tangled up with guy ropes is so frustrating, the moment you untangle them, they are stuck around another 3 poles and ropes. A screw/hex peg is the perfect solution so that they can be tethered out of reach of awnings and tents. Just make sure they always have water and shade. Having a guy rope trace spring on the peg should stop your dog from hurting themselves and pulling the peg out of the ground.
Picking up their waste isn’t pleasant but it’s something you have to do, otherwise, sites will ban dogs from being able to stay. Keep biodegradable bags with you at all times, do the right thing and keep the campgrounds clean.
Going for a walk around camp at Bigriggan, a long lead gives Cooper a bit more freedom.
10 essentials for taking your dog camping
- Bed to sleep on at night
- Camp chair or mat for lazing around on during the day
- Dog food and bowl plus treats for good behaviour and training
- Glow sticks, on the collar at night time so you can see them
- Long and short leads
- Screw/hex peg with a guy rope trace spring
- Collar and tag with names and details
- Biodegradable waste bags
- Toys to play with and chew on
- Dog suncream/glasses – especially at the beach
A bit of luxury, having somewhere comfortable to sit in the shade.
How to find places to camp with your dog
There is fantastic information published to find places to camp. Some of our favourites include Landcruiser Mountain Park, North Stradbroke Island, Bigriggan and Neurum Creek Bush Retreat. Guide books like Camps 10 detail whether or not dogs are allowed at each campsite.
There are lots of resources to use to find suitable camping spots.
Online there are Facebook communities, sites like Wikicamps and Find-a-camp or you can just google the area you’re interested in.
Make sure you understand and respect the different rules for each site. If it’s not what you’re looking for, find someplace that is.
Landcruiser Mountain Park has plenty of room to run around, but he’s always keeping watch.
Extra things to consider when camping with your dog
Never leave a dog locked in the car, even for 5 minutes with the windows down a crack. Not only is it dangerous but could land you in court with a big fine. Find a safe shady spot if you have to and make sure they have plenty of water. We always keep a collapsible bucket in the car.
Make sure your dog is up to date with vaccinations and tick treatments. Speak to your vet if you’ve never taken your canine camping if you’re unsure. Always check for ticks or strange bumps especially around the face and legs, if their bark or walk is not right after a trip away, get to the vet ASAP. We’ve never had a problem but be diligent.
Don’t leave your dog alone in a car.
Check out any fire pits around your campsite for heat. I’ve seen our dog stand in one straight after jumping out of the car, thankfully it had no heat.
Some people may want to have pet insurance should the worst happen. Ask your insurer if their dog is covered when camping or travelling and what they are covered for.
Camping just west of Birdsville, these two are inseparable.
Some of our best memories of camping have been with our dog
The most memorable camping trips we’ve been on have been with our kelpie. The hardest part has been trying to convince him to jump out of the car when we get home as he just lays in his spot with these big brown sad puppy dog eyes wanting to go back camping.
Stopping in for a look at Ilfracombe on the way home from the Gulf of Carpenteria.
So, don’t leave your best friend at home on your next trip, do some research, make some room in the car and go and have an adventure together.
I still laugh when I think about the time Cooper ate Lara’s sandwich that was on the camp table, what’s your funniest experience camping with your dog?
About the writer...
From short weekends away to epic trips seeing the most iconic places in Australia. Travelling with our kids and our kelpie whenever we can get away from work. We love going overland and have travelled from the northernmost tip of Cape York to as far south as you can drive on Tasmania. From Fraser Island west to Uluru and everything in between. Currently building up for a big lap of Australia with a new camper and a 25 year old Nissan Patrol. Follow our adventure @goingoverland on Instagram, YouTube or Facebook.