Camping with Dogs

Camping with Dogs – Best Dog Gear for a Road Trip

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Are you going on a road trip or camping with dogs? Unsure what dog camping gear to pack? This comprehensive guide will help you decide what to take for your dog and what to leave at home.

Dog-friendly camping is fun. So is a road trip. We know we have been doing it full-time for over three years with our dog Chika. We have camped in many fantastic dog-friendly campgrounds and even the occasional caravan park as we have travelled around Australia.

Chika an active, adventure-seeking border collie, loves our life on the road. What is not to love? We get to explore mountains to beaches, forests to the deserts and cities to remote towns. Chika loves the great outdoors and thrives on every day being different.

Taking your dog on a camping road trip requires some planning and prep. Our gear guide to the pet travel essentials covers everything you will need for your furkid to keep them happy, safe and healthy.

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Must Have Gear for Camping with Dogs

Dog Car Restraints | Dog Car Harness or Pet Carrier

When travelling with a dog in a car, properly securing your dog is a legal requirement in all states in Australia except the Northern Territory. Restraining dogs in a vehicle required by law or not just makes good sense. An unrestrained dog risks being a potential distraction to the driver and could, in an accident, instantly become a missile and cause injury or death to themselves or others.

Restraining a dog in a car is best done using a harness, a pet carrier or a dog cage. Which option to use will generally come down to your dog’s size and temperament, the number of dogs you have and your vehicle.

Harnesses work by securing the dog around their body and using an adjustable strap connected between the harness and the seat belt clip or an anchor point. Pet carriers contain your dog inside a suitably sized well ventilated portable crate and are best suited for small or medium-sized dogs.

Dog cages are made from steel. A dog cage is a permanent setup usually on the back of utility vehicles and are mostly used for large and multiple dogs.

Our choice of car restraint for Chika is the in-car dog harness. With our caravanning setup, Chika has the entire back seat to herself. Most of the time, she will sleep and occasionally glance out the window or stretch before finding a new position and sleeping again. So much for border collies having limitless unrelenting energy!

Even though she occupies the entire back seat, setting up a dog cage in the back of our 4WD for her would mean losing vital storage space. So a dog cage is not an option for us. She is too big for a portable crate.

Something else worth adding from our experience is that some dogs need to be trained to behave in a car. Chika, when we adopted her, was not the dog-sloth she is today in the car. Initially, she would refuse to get in the car and when she was in, she would pace, try to get from the back into the front, lick, bark and whine. It was apparent she was feeling stressed, anxious and overwhelmed, and it made it an unpleasant and distracting experience for the driver and passengers.

Thankfully, by using a doggy car harness that limited her movements, along with some training, we were able to teach her to confidently get into the car, lie down and be calm. These days we sometimes get a look from the backseat ‘where is my treat? Do you not see me lying down and being calm?’ I will admit it, I am a suck for her puppy eyes and will give her a treat if I have something to give her.

Dog car Hammock

Sand, dirt, mud, water, leaves and anything else dogs can pick up and carry in their fur are likely to end up in your vehicle. I do not know about your dog, but my Chika is happiest, the wetter, sandy, dirty or more covered in poo she is (cow and kangaroo poo are her favourites). We are a couple that travels and live an outdoor lifestyle so it is going to happen that she is going to get dirty. This is a fact. No point resisting it.

What we can do however is try and preserve the inside of our car as much as possible.

By far one of the best purchases, we have made, since we started travelling full-time with our dog, is our car hammock. The car hammock has made allowing our mess-loving dog into our car much less stressful.

There are a considerable number of car hammocks available.

The main features to carefully consider when getting one for your dog and car:

  • waterproof,
  • attach easily (usually to the headrests),
  • slits for the seat belt,
  • side flaps which give added protection to the doors,
  • padding,pockets for storing items; and or
  • ventilation mesh.

Our choice of car hammock has been one that is waterproof, is easy to install and has side flaps for protecting the car doors and containing the water, dirt, and sand Chika brings into the car. The features of padding and ventilation have been unimportant as the seat underneath is padded and there is plenty of ventilation with the top being fully open. For your dog and vehicle chose the car hammock that best suits your specific needs.

Portable Dog Pens and Tethering

Keeping your four-legged family member contained within the limits of your campsite and from wandering off to explore the surroundings or meet your fellow campers, is essential. All dog owners know many things that entice our dogs at campgrounds or caravan parks. The desire to go exploring and to meet others can be overwhelming for many dogs. I know, I can understand where our dogs are coming from however their wanderings can make them unsafe and annoying to other campers.

Keeping your four-legged family member contained within the limits of your campsite and from wandering off to explore the surroundings or meet your fellow campers is essential. All dog owners know many things that entice our dogs at campgrounds or caravan parks. The desire to go exploring and to meet others can be overwhelming for many dogs. I know, I can understand where our dogs are coming from however their wanderings can make them unsafe and annoying to other campers.

Chika, a border collie, has claimed under our caravan as her space. I think the low, almost enclosed area under our caravan gives her a sense of security. Protected from the weather means she escape from the searing high temperatures, rain, and wind.

So she can get in and out from under the caravan our preferred option is to tether her. We do this using a rope, one end tied to the caravan and the other to her collar.

If tethering is also the best option for your dog, it is easy to do by tying your dog by rope or chain to a sturdy structure in your camping setup or a metal stake screwed into the ground. Often the best choice for medium and large dogs, tethering is easy to do and no fuss.

Alternatively, soft and portable pens can be a great option for small size dogs, giving them space to play and rest. The other option is portable fencing. Portable fencing made from powder coated steel lets you set up an area where your small-medium size dog or multiple dogs can roam about, play, and sleep more freely than if they were tied up. The fencing can also be set up to different configurations.

Conveniently portable pens and fences can be disassembled or fold down flat to be transported and store away easily. The portable fencing option, in addition, has the bonus of a lockable gate and can be assembled into different sizes and shapes depending on how many independent panels you have.

Dog GPS Tracker 4G

If your dog is an opportunist and will take any chance to explore, then a GPS Tracker collar is something to consider. Undoubtedly losing your dog in any situation is awful but, on holidays or traveling in places you and your dog are unfamiliar with can feel even worse. Where would you look first?

A dog GPS Tracker is a waterproof device that lets you know in real-time your dog’s location. Waterproof, durable, and with the ability to set a geo-fence, you can keep your dog safe and save yourself the stress of losing your dog. If you have a wandering dog, this could be the fundamental difference between a fun camping experience and a stressful holiday with your dog.

Protection from Parasites

Have you had a dog with fleas, ticks, mites, or any worms? Is it not, horrendous for your dog and you? The stress of their stress, the annoying scratching, the secondary skin infections they can get from scratching as well as the messy treatments, vet visits and so on, is all enough to send you and your dog mad. Then if that is not all bad enough, there is the real potential your dog could get very sick or die.

As someone traveling through and spending time in many regions of Australia, I can say you must always protect your dog from parasites. By doing so, you give your dog the best chance of avoiding infection from fleas, ticks, mites, intestinal worms, and heartworm.

Parasites can be a real risk to your dog. Ehrlichiosis is one example. A tick-borne bacterial disease, currently infecting dogs in Australia and even killing some. Advice to dog owners includes having your dog on a regular tick control program and checking your dog daily for ticks. A tick remover is handy to have.

As travelers with a dog, I know that parasite infestations make everyone unhappy. Chika, we discovered after a journey of various treatments, elimination diets, and tests, suffers from a severe grass allergy. Her allergy would flair up constantly (grass is almost everywhere) as a rash and, she would scratch non-stop. The scratching caused her to get skin infections and, this made her skin the perfect environment for mites.

Eventually, we found an excellent vet who provided a prescription to control her allergy. The medication Chika is now on, plus a monthly parasite control program has made a world of difference. Everyone is happy again!

From our experience with Chika, I appreciate how important it is to keep your dog healthy and how important prevention is over cure.

There are very effective preventative over-the-counter products available to protect your dog against fleas, ticks, mites, intestinal worms, and heartworm. Regrettably, not a sole product will give protection for your dog against all five. To do so requires giving your dog at least two different chews/tablets/serum or for a vet to give your dog the proper injection/s.

Properly treating and protecting your dogs against fleas, ticks, mites, intestinal worms, and heartworm is easy to do and does not require your dog to visit a vet.

My choice for Chika is the Big 5 Pack because the pack comes with two chews Credelio and Interceptor Spectrum and, gives the broadest preventive on the market. It does not protect against mites.

There are numerous other brands available. When considering each be careful to review which parasites they protect against and which they do not.

Sentinel Spectrum provides monthly protection in a chew against fleas, heartworm, and intestinal worms. Additional treatment is needed for mites and ticks. Nexgard Spectra protects against fleas, ticks, mites, heartworm and intestinal worms excluding tape worm.

Dog Muzzle

Your dog’s safety while camping is paramount. Not to scare you into thinking it might be easier to leave your dog at home, another risk to dogs on a road trip is 1080 baits. Used widely around Australia, 1080 baits control feral fox and wild dog numbers by killing them, quickly. The baits are made to be irresistible to dogs and unfortunately, that includes pet dogs.

A dog muzzle, usually associated with aggressive or dangerous dogs, is the most effective tool available to stop your dog from scavenging for things to eat on a walk. National parks and others that lay baits will signpost warnings. Use these signs as indicators as to when you may want to put a muzzle on your dog.  

Muzzles come in two basic types – soft and cage or basket muzzles. Soft nylon muzzles are close-fitting to a dog’s snout and usually limit your dog’s ability to pant and drink. A cage or basket muzzle is slightly heavier but still let your dog drink and pant. There are even plastic basket muzzles that can be heated and molded to the shape of your dog’s snout for best fit and comfort.

When selecting a muzzle choose one that is well-fitting and comfortable. There is no point in having one your dog can remove (and many will try) or causes discomfort. Ideally, too, a muzzle should have good airflow and adjustable straps and allow enough jaw movement for your dog to pant and drink water.

Note that a muzzle should be used for short periods. And most dogs will need to be introduced and trained to wear one. Dogs should be directly supervised at all times when wearing a muzzle.

For Chika, we currently use a soft nylon muzzle. Notably, she hates wearing it. I think it is because it fits snug around her snout, annoying her. A cage or basket muzzle would possibly be a better choice for her. For now, she has to be supervised when wearing it otherwise she will successfully remove it.

Dog Boots

Prickles, box thorns, searing hot road surfaces, and even occasional snow or ice can cause injury to the dog’s paws. We have been in a situation where a patch of ground looks fine. Chika will go off running as she likes to do, and then she will halt suddenly, realising her paws have prickles or a thorn. Sometimes it is a matter of pulling it out and directing her where it is safe to run or walk. Other times she has needed to be carried because there are just too many thorns and prickles.

Dog boots look both cute and rather ridiculous (sorry if I am alone with this but, a dog in shoes always makes me giggle) are a viable solution. Not all dogs take to wearing dog shoes in their stride, however, with some training and exposure to wearing them, most dogs get used to them.

Dog boots are available in different sizes. 

Life Jacket

A dog life jacket may not be something you have considered for your dog. If you enjoy spending time outdoors in, around or on the water and your dog enjoys joining in, then your dog may benefit from having a personal floatation device (PFD).

Although dogs have the natural ability to swim, I can say from experience both from owning my dog and doggy-sitting, not all breeds can swim confidentially or safely. Therefore, dogs can benefit from wearing a dog life vest when:

  • out on boats, canoes, or kayaks with their owners,
  • your dog lacks confidence swimming and or are fearful of the water,
  • assistance to stay afloat in various water conditions such as waves, currents, and debris,
  • there is a risk of your dog suffering swimming fatigue.

A life jacket for dogs supports your dog in the water, giving them confidence and reducing the risk of fatigue. Dog life jackets in Australia come in various sizes. The one you select for your dog should be durable, lightweight, fit well and be the correct size (recommended weight). Also, look for one bright in colour that will be easy to spot in the water and has a handle on the top (very useful for getting your dog back into your water vessel).

Chika has a PFD she wears when we go out in our kayak. She has fallen into deep waters from our kayak on numerous occasions. This is because she likes to stand, balanced on the front tip of the kayak. Sometimes she loses her footing and falls in.

We have learned that her wearing a life vest is essential in these situations. Her fear of deep water means that she may panic, impeding her ability to swim. The buoyancy of her PFD gives us peace of mind that she will stay afloat. Also the handle on the top is excellent for lifting her back into the kayak.

Our practical tip is where or when it is possible to tether your dog to your kayak, canoe or boat. Do this by tying one end to your water vessel and the other to the convenient handle on your canine’s life vest. If necessary, use the rope to pull your beloved dog back towards your boat and the handle to lift back into your kayak or canoe.

We would encourage you to get your dog a flotation device even if your dog is a confident active swimmer especially, if you will take your dog out into open water or where water conditions can vary greatly. The extra floatation will help to keep them safe.

Dog Collar and ID

Every dog, without exception, should have a dog collar with an ID tag and a microchip. A dog tag and microchip with your correct contact details are your best chance of having your dog returned to you if your dog becomes lost, wanders off, or takes off in fright. The contact information on your dog’s ID tag and microchip allows anyone who finds your dog to contact you quickly and easily.

For dogs that enjoy camping or caravanning with their family, the need for them to have an ID tag and a microchip is amplified. If they were to run or wander off, getting lost in an unfamiliar location it is harder to predict where they might go or where to look for them. Therefore, your best hope is often that another person will see your dog, get a hold of them, and will then use your contact details on the ID tag to call you. Failing that, if the tag has somehow fallen off your dog’s collar, your details are retrieved by a vet reading the microchip. The end is the best-case scenario you and your dog are reunited.

Having both experienced Chika wandering off and ourselves finding a lost dog on our travels around Australia, I cannot drive home strongly enough how necessary it is to have your contact details on your dog. An ID tag is the first best option, and a microchip is an essential backup.

Losing dog tags has been an issue for Chika. So she now has her name and phone number written directly onto her collar with a black marker.

Our experience of Chika going missing happened when we were staying with a friend in Tasmania. We had decided to go out and leave her in our friend’s fully fenced backyard.

While out, we received a phone call and on the other end of the phone was a woman asking if our black and white border collie named Chika was missing. It turned out that Chika had no desire to be left alone in a backyard, something she had not experienced since we had started traveling in our caravan. She instead decided to go looking for human company.

She found what she was looking for at a cafe, just down the road from our friend’s house, and there she made herself known to the staff. It was a worker at the cafe who had called us. Chika happily waited for us at the cafe enjoying pats and food treats (plenty of yummy food at a cafe for dogs!) Before we knew she was wandering, we had gotten a call saying she was safe, and we picked her up no harm done.

There was also the time when we found a lost dog, a border collie, at a campsite on a lake in Victoria, with no collar or ID tag. It was also a public holiday and, vets were only open for life-threatening emergencies.

After asking around the local area, finding no one who knew the dog we turned our search to social media. In this scenario, it was social media that thankfully helped us to find the owner. It was a slow process and it was really by sheer good luck that someone on our Facebook page had family in the area and it was they who knew the owner.

Happily, Toby and his owner were reunited. It had taken 10 hours and some social media luck to make it happen. If Toby had had an ID tag, we could have contacted his owner straight away.

Please, make sure your dog has a collar with your contact details. Too often, I see dogs camping with no collar and no identification. It makes me so nervous because I also see how much these dogs are loved and are a part of their families. It would be devastating to lose them.

Dog Lead

The purpose of a dog lead is to keep your dog close to your side and tethered to you. A dog lead is an essential item for any dog. When out and about camping or on a road trip there are countless times when a dog leash will be necessary. 

Dog leads come in a variety of types as well as lengths, colours and styles. Some types you may like to consider besides conventional types are retractable leads and hands-free leads.

A retractable lead is perfect for dogs that cannot be off-leash because they take off. A retractable leash is a good compromise as it allows you to vary how much distance to give your dog away from you by shortening or lengthening it. 

Hands-free leads that attach to your waist and are often a popular choice among hikers and runners. Another time they could be handy is doing camping activities when you need to use your hands and your dog is with you; activities such as building sandcastles on a beach or fishing. 

Typically selecting a lead comes down to what appeals to you and will work with your dog’s temperament. It needs to be a reasonable length and feel comfortable in your hand when walking your beloved dog.

Our Chika loves a leash-free walk nearly as much as she loves food; nearly. Sadly for Chika, a leash-free walk is not always possible and our choice for her is a standard 2m long lead. She is also a dog with excellent recall and can walk with us off lead if directed to do so. So for her, retractable or hands-free options are not required. 

Dog Camping Bed

There is a wide range of dog beds available on the market. For most dogs, taking their current bed camping is a suitable option and often the best because it is familiar. Familiarity often helps a dog to settle more quickly in new places.

Every so often, however, your dog’s bed is impractical to take camping. Our Chika’s dog bed before we hit the road was a bean bag. A large, smelly bean bag covered in dog hair. She genuinely loved it but was in no way suitable to take on a road trip.

Choosing the best travel bed for your beloved dog in my experience typically has to meet two requirements:

  • your dog must like and be willing to use the bed; and
  • be practical to pack up and to transport in your car or caravan.

The best type of dog camping bed we found, after trialing multiple, is a pillow dog bed with a washable cover. These beds are comfortable for your dog to sleep on and are easy to store or transport by having your dog lie on it in your vehicle.

Initially, when we started our travels around Australia, Chika slept on her bed outside and to transport her bed we would put it in with her in the car. There she would lie on top of it while we drove.

These days, since we are in areas where wild dogs are prevalent Chika, has been sleeping inside our caravan. More recently, we altered a single seat in our caravan and made it into a raised dog bed. Now her bed is up out of the way rather than taking up valuable space on the floor and can remain in the caravan for transporting.

Dog Food and Water Bowls

Pet food and water bowls are obvious items to take camping for your dog. There are a few things to consider when deciding which type is best to take. 

When it invariably comes to choosing which type of dog bowls to pack, there are a few things to think about: 

  • Travel bowls are great. Made from waterproof fabric, foldable, these are super easy to store and transport. They can be carried in your pocket or bag for days out or long walks and used to give your dog water while out. On the other hand, the waterproof material does not last forever, and leaking can become a problem. They are also often small and not suitable for large dogs. 
  • Portable, collapsible and lightweight bowls made from melamine or silicone are also great for travelling dogs. Originally, we had lightweight bowls for Chika but, they were too effortless for her tip over. That was a concern when we were in high temperatures and constant access to drinking water was necessary.
  • Solid stainless or ceramic dog dishes are the types of bowl you would think is best avoided when camping. The benefit of them, if you have the space to store and transport them, is that they are sturdy and robust. 

For Chika, an active, robust furkid, our preferred pet dish is sturdy and difficult to knock over. Mostly this is because we want to be confident, she is unlikely to know over her water. Food is not an issue as she will happily eat that off the ground if she must. 

Dog Nail Clippers

Undoubtedly Chika’s least favourite dog grooming task is getting her nails clipped. I cannot disagree with her; doing it is my least favourite. That has not changed since we started travelling full-time.

Clipping a dog’s nails is part of keeping their paws healthy, along with regularly checking their pads for injuries or foreign bodies such as seeds or prickles.

Cutting a dog’s claws is a daunting task. The quick, a blood vessel and nerve in the nail can bleed and cause pain if cut during nail cutting. When this happens, we feel terrible.

When travelling, it is still an option to take your beloved dog to a professional groomer. Mobile groomers may even come to where you. Planning is key, if this is your preference, with groomers in most areas around Australia taking phone or online bookings.

Then there are those like us that prefer, particularly when travelling, the convenience of being able to trim our dog’s toenails. Broadly, there are two main ways to give your dog a pedicure. The first option is by using cutting tools, and the second option is to use a nail grinder.

At present, I use pet nail clippers with stainless steel blades, suitable for dogs Chika size. It is important to be confident (or fake it). If I am nervous, Chika also gets nervous, and it becomes an anxious experience for both of us.

My main criticism of nail clippers is that they leave her nails feeling rough and very sharp. Fear of severing the quick means I generally do not cut her nails as short as they need to be. Thankfully, a solution is available – a cutter with technology for detecting the quick.

Alternatively, there are dog nail grinders. Reportedly easy to use, grinders are a grooming tool that are painless and simple to use. Features and quality can vary between brands. Most grinders have detachable grinding stones or replaceable heads, various speeds, are quiet and are usually battery or cordless.

To get the best results move the grinder around the nail, sanding and incrementally removing small amounts at a time. Be careful not to use it in one spot for too long, as friction and heat can cause discomfort. The added benefit of grinders is the sharps edge can be smoothed that cutting tools tend to leave.

Whichever option to care for your dog’s nails while on a road trip chose, make it the one that you are confident using.

Dog Brush or Comb

Regular dog grooming of dogs is an essential part of having a dog. That continues to be even when you and your dog travel. 

The outdoor lifestyle of camping and caravanning means there are countless opportunities for dogs to collect all kinds of debris in their fur. Sand, dirt, leaves, prickles and grass are the most common things dogs on the road can have attached to their fur, on any day. Then there is the molting, the tangles and the potential matting. 

A dog’s fur needs to be taken care of and one of the best ways to do this is by regular brushing and or combing. I will confess while travelling Chika rarely gets bathed but, she is regularly brushed or combed.

The potential benefits to regularly brushing or combing your dog’s coat while you are travelling around Australia are:

  • Aids in removing dirt, sand, foliage and all other debris from its coat.
  • Keep their fur free of tangles.
  • Remove loose dead hair and prevents painful mats.
  • A groomed coat makes it far easier to check for fleas, ticks and possible skin lesions or injuries.
  • Stimulate the natural oils giving the coat a healthy shine.
  • Ensure your dog is looking healthy and at its best.
  • Aids in, reducing the amount of loose hair gets into your car, caravan, camper trailer or tent and your clothes.

What you want is a brush or comb that is suitable for your dog’s fur type. Chika is a long-haired border collie who shreds fur like glitter at a four-year-old’s unicorn party. For her, I use a rake comb and a de-shedding comb. 

To groom your dog’s coat, use firm strokes and brush in the direction the fur grows, being careful not to use too much pressure. For some dogs, it can be a relaxing experience. Some dogs! Chika is, at best, tolerant of being groomed. One little bit of hair gets slightly pulled, and she will whine. Regular brushing or combing will reduce the likelihood of tangles and less, pulling and hurting her. 

There is a wide choice of dog brushes and combs available. When selecting which to dog comb or brush to buy brush or comb and take on your camping trip:

  • ensure it is suitable for your dog’s fur type; and
  • it is comfortable for you to use and hold in your hand.

Dog Jacket or Coat

Road tripping a lap around Australia can mean following or chasing the best of the weather. Go south in the summer and north in the winter is the usual chorus of advice. If this is you, your dog may not need a jacket or coat?

Even so, life happens and instead, you find yourself camped up in the south for winter or working in the north for the summer. That is what happened to us. In 2020 we worked in FNQ for the summer months in 40+ daily temperatures. In 2021 went spent the winter months in southern Victoria and South Australia.

A winter dog coat could be a necessity for your furry friend to keep them comfortable while camping. It is best to find one winter jacket for your dog that is of good quality, waterproof as well as warm and cosy. A variety of fabric options are available – oilskin, nylon, polar fleece and wool. The best options are those that are waterproof and warm. Another feature to consider is for the vest to be reflective. A reflective coat means your dog could be more visible at night.

As might be expected, not all dogs need a dog jacket or vest, and some will flatly refuse to wear them regardless of the temperatures. Chika is one such dog. There is no way she will wear one, not without behaving as we had completely broken her heart and endured her to a life of suffering (*insert eye roll*).

Sunscreen for Dogs

Dogs can get sunburn. Same as with humans, sun exposure increases the risk that your dog may get sunburnt.

A dog’s fur protects most dogs from direct sunlight. However, many dogs have thin or wiry hair or areas of skin, most commonly on the nose and ears, that are uncovered and highly susceptible to sunburn.

Chika has an area of pink, unprotected skin on the bridge of her muzzle. It was while we were travelling around Tasmania that Chika sadly suffered one bout of painful sunburn.  The area on her nose formed a scab before it eventually healed.

These days, with so much of our time spent outdoors, we make sure we regularly apply sunscreen to her nose. To ensure the best protection and so she cannot just lick it off, we take a few extra seconds to make sure we rub it in well. Since doing this Chika, has never, thankfully, been sunburn again.

Poop Bags

Fact, dogs poop. It is the responsibility of a dog’s owner to clean up after their dog. That means picking up, bagging and disposing of the poop into a waste bin. There are hefty fines for pet owners that fail to clean up after their dog. And rightly so, no one likes to walk around, dog owner or not, and see or smell dog poo. It is gross and unsightly.

Dog poop bags are a necessity when camping or on a road trip with your dog. There is the option of reusing plastic bags such as bread bags which is very plausible. Alternatively, or in addition, there are eco-friendly, biodegradable and compostable dog poo bags on the market.

We have learned with Chika that we can never have too many poop bags at the ready.

Dog Toys

Travel for dogs provides opportunities for stimulation by being active and spending time with their greatest love – you. Even so, there are reasons and benefits for taking dog toys on the road for your hound.

Pet toys can be as simple as a tennis ball, a stick or a piece of rope with a knot in it. There is also a massive range of toys to buy – balls, frisbees, puzzles, tugs, food dispensing and other animal toys.

Putting together a collection of toys to take camping for your dog does not need to be stressful. Select a few toys that your dog loves and will keep them entertained, enriches both their mind and body and is fun. Not all dogs love all toys, and it can be some trial and error to find which ones your canine enjoys the most.

The best dog toys in Australia are durable, try-hard to be indestructible and non-toxic.

Chika is not a dog that seeks out toys naturally. She is not ball obsessed. Playing fetch with her looks more like her chasing a ball and then trying to find places to hide it. Still, we have a small bag of toys for her with balls of various sizes (she loves a game of soccer), a food dispensing ball toy and a frisbee. It would be fair to say we have more toys, especially balls than needed. Some days she will be into a particular toy and the next another, so we choose to carry a variety. Select for your furry friend as many or as few as you know they will like and use while you camp.

From experience, I will advise against toys with beads inside for dogs who see every toy as a challenge to destroy. There is not much that is more tedious than trying to clean up plastic beads off the ground that has come flying out of a toy, like confetti that your dog has triumphantly masticated.

Take the time every day or every few days to play with your dog with their toys. Travel is fantastic for keeping dogs entertained and stimulated. Like us, they still like to do day-to-day activities, such as play. Play is a normal part of a dog’s day and life, so play with them.

Doggy Carry Bags, Backpacks and Strollers

Why would you want a bag, a backpack or a stroller for your dog for camping or caravanning? It is a question that would perplex those who have a healthy dog that is more active than they are. That is not true for everyone. Many owners having dogs that are elderly, injured or disabled. These options have also increased in popularity over recent years amongst owners with a toy or small breed. 

For owners with an elderly, injured or disabled dog, a carry bag, backpack or stroller means they can still do days out, hike and attend events. Further, their dog continues to be stimulated by the outdoors and included in what they do. The other added benefit is containing a pet while out and about.

Most carry bags, backpacks and strollers have convenient compartments or sections for holding water, food and items. Anything needs to have multiple purposes when camping or caravanning!

When selecting a dog carry bag or dog backpack, look for one that is comfortable for you and your dog. Ideally, you want it to have good ventilation, be sturdy, have wide padded shoulder straps, have compartments and look great.

Strollers for dogs are for owners who do not want to carry their dogs and those who have larger dogs. As a traveler or camper, select a pet stroller that is sturdy, easy to fold up and transport. One that has multiple purposes such as it is also an in-car carrier. 

Vehicle Cargo Barrier

Do you have an excitable and loving dog that wants your attention all the time? Do they want to climb onto your lap while in the car rather than stay in their designated spot? Or do they do things like lick or nudge you to get your attention, distracting you while driving?

A vehicle barrier may be the solution. Car pet barriers create a physical boundary for your dog, confining and limiting their mobility.

Note that unless a barrier is custom made from powder-coated steel and anchored securely with bolts, a cargo barrier will not resist the force or stop a dog in an accident. A dog restraint still must be used.

Made from mesh or powder-coated steel off the shelf car barricades are easy to install and remove. Universal barriers are adjustable and expandable and do not impede the driver’s vision.

Dog Car Ramp

Elderly, sick or injured dogs can struggle to get in and out of vehicles. If this is your dog and you are worried about how they will fair having to get in and out of your car and caravan (if you have one) repeatedly, then a vehicle ramp could be the solution.

Dog car ramps are helpful by having a gradual incline. The gradual incline makes it easier and safer for dogs with health issues such as muscle weakness, arthritis, hip or joint pain. Small dogs also often find it a challenge to get in and out of high vehicles like a 4WD. Perhaps the better solution is to pick up a small dog to assist them. 

If a dog vehicle ramp could benefit your dog as you travel, there are some features to consider. These include:

  • the ramp is compact, lightweight, portable, foldable or telescopic so that it is easy to use, transport and store in your vehicle,
  • the ramp is anti-skid or anti-slip,
  • the weight limit of the ramp is sufficient for your dog’s size. 

Other Road Trip Tips for Dogs

Dog Food

I am not here to tell you what dog food to feed your dog on a road trip. Instead, from experience, there are a few things worth considering when deciding what type of dog food to give your dog.

There is an expansive range of dog foods available in pet stores and supermarkets. Try to find one you are happy to feed to your dog that is readily available at most supermarkets or pet stores. The potential otherwise is that you will be regularly changing your dog’s food. Some dogs cope well with diet changes and others do not.

Fresh, raw or home-cooked dog food is often the preferred dog food by dog owners. It was our preference for Chika when we lived in a house. We had a fridge and freezer big enough to bulk store Chika’s fresh food. Camping and caravan fridges are a lot smaller with room in them considered prime real estate. Importantly, think about how much precious fridge space you want to give to dog food.

Alternatively, if giving your dog fresh food remains your preference or is necessary for dietary reasons, it can be doable. More so in areas where supplies are readily available. In remote areas, be mindful that availability could be much less or cost a lot more. 

Our experience is dog food that does not require refrigeration is best – dry or tin. Chika has dry food. We also add some fresh meat and bones to her diet from time to time, so she has some variety. We buy in quantities she will eat it all in 1-2 days and never in bulk.

Chika has a very good appetite. An active outdoor lifestyle will do that! We are happy her diet of dry dog food, topped up with some occasional fresh meat, means her nutritional needs are being met. She is healthy and happy.

Space for Your Dog to Sleep

A comfortable suitable dog camping bed is a must. Further, so is a space for the bed and sleeping. Your dog needs somewhere out of the weather, well ventilated, secure, out of reach of predators or dangers, warm in winter and cool in summer. 

Everyone’s camping setup and dog are different. Some options are:

  • Let your dog sleep in with you. If you have a large tent, a camper trailer or caravan, or a small dog, this could be possible. If you have a small tent, swag or a campervan or a large dog, the lack of space is likely to make for a poor night’s sleep. 
  • Give your dog their own space. That could be a tent of their own, a portable pen or a cage. Perhaps the area of the car they travel in could double as their sleeping space. 

There is no right or wrong choice and where your dog sleeps may change depending on where you are and the weather.

Chika sleeps in our caravan. Her bed used to be on the floor but, after tripping over her one too many time, we removed a seat we never used and made it a space for her bed and her water bowl. 

There are times we camp without our caravan like, when did Cape York. Our tent is a small dome tent with just enough room for us to sleep so, Chika sleeps in the car, in her car hammock with her bed. She is out of the weather and safe.

In the caravan or car, we do not have worry about Chika being exposed to dangers such as snakes or wild dogs.

Taking Your Dog to the Vet

Dogs enviably need to be seen by vets for the same reasons while on a road trip as they would if you were at home. Annual health check-ups, vaccinations, dental checks, health issues and injuries are still needed and still occur as you travel. Looking after your pet’s health is essential to happy travelling for everyone because an unwell or injured furbaby does not travel well.

There are also the added health requirements for dogs in some areas you may want to travel. An example is all dogs, as a condition of entry into Tasmania, must be treated for Hydatid Tape Worm. Also, boarding kennels and dog sitters oblige your dog must be fully and up to date with vaccinations, all administered by a vet annually. 

Taking your dog to the vet while on a road trip has its challenges. We faced a few with Chika when we were trying to address her allergies and subsequent skin infections. One of the biggest challenges was not always seeing the same vet to address the one issue and being confident enough to catch each new vet up with how treatment plans had progressed. 

It took over a year of suggested elimination diets, different medications and other treatments until we took her to a vet, who on, hearing everything that had been done and tried, said “enough!” She went on to say Chika was suffering, so were we. It no longer mattered what was causing the allergy. Whatever the allergen was, it was everywhere in the environment so, avoiding it as a means of treatment was unlikely. She then proceeded to put Chika on the only medication that would help her. 

Chika is now on an immune suppressant prescription medication. The unfortunate side effect of the medication is she is more susceptible to illnesses. Over two years now on the meds, Chika is a different dog. She is happier. The constant scratching has ceased, no more skin infections and she remains healthy. 

Our tips when it comes to taking dogs to vets while road tripping is:

  • When you phone to make an appointment, be honest. Mention that you are travelling and state clearly what you need from the vet.
  • If your dog is on prescription medication, tell them when you ring and ask if they will provide an updated prescription. We had the experience of one vet refusing and when I pushed wanting to charge an exorbitant amount to write the prescription. 
  • If the vet starts treatment or suggests, follow up. If you will not return, to the same vet, get them to write a letter to pass onto the next vet. Most will do this and will be happy for the next vet to call them if needed.
  • Trust your gut. If the vet examining your pet is not listening to your concerns or what you need from them, do not be afraid to walk out and find another vet. The longest we have had to wait for an appointment is three days over a weekend. It is worth the wait to see a competent vet who will listen to you. You are your dog’s voice, after all. 

Overall, veterinarians are incredibly caring, helpful and want to do their best for your dog and you. 

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