Your choice of travel companion can make or break a trip. From honeymoon holidays with your soul mate to never-ending overland nightmares with your flatulent, selfie-snapping brother-in-law, chances are you've experienced both ends of the spectrum. And just like people, every dog is different.
It's good to get your dog trained up and accustomed to camp-life from a young age. An over-excited, hard to handle ball of energy can cause plenty of frustration while you're trying to unload and set up, so the first thing you need to consider is whether or not your furry friend is suited to camping. Can you control them? Are they good with strangers? Are they comfortable in new environments? If they pass muster, it's time to plan that trip.
Before loading the roof-rack with Scoobie snacks, be sure to check that dogs are allowed in all of the areas you'll be visiting. National parks and beaches are generally off-limits, you should observe these restrictions at all times, even when you think nobody will notice. With efforts to eradicate invasive species in national parks that include the spreading of lethally poisoned ground baits, these rules are as much in place to keep your dog safe as for the local ecosystems.
While there are thousands of pet-friendly camping areas scattered around Australia, seasonal restrictions and size limits can complicate matters. It's wise to ring ahead and double-check so you're not turned away upon arrival. Remember that your site neighbours will be living in close-proximity, so if your pooch is prone to barking through the night then they may be better left at home.
Environments that are harmless to you and your family may not be for your dog. Make sure your pup's vaccinations are up-to-date (required jabs will vary depending on where you're headed) and check that you've given them appropriate treatments to defend against ticks – especially in parts where paralysis ticks lurk in the undergrowth.
Unfamiliar surroundings, urges to chase after the local critters, other dogs, wafting barbecue aromas and wide open spaces make it easy for holidaying dogs to wander off. You may need to keep them tied up at certain times, which could mean bringing along a stake and long tether, or pop them in a dog crate from time to time. If they still manage to stray, it'll pay to ensure all the information on tags and microchips is up to date. Be mindful that you may not have mobile reception the whole time, so consider adding other information such as an email or local point of contact.
Camp-fires, discarded fishing tackle, poisonous plants and stagnant water are just a few of the other potential hazards to be wary of. A muzzle can help prevent unwanted ingestion, but there's no substitute for knowing which areas to steer clear of. Be sure to do plenty of research, as every area will present its own unique mixture of doggy-dangers.
As if packing lists aren't long enough, you'll need to remember to pack a few extras for your four-legged friend. There are the obvious items such as food and poop-bags, as well as creature comforts like a dog bed from home, which will help your pooch to relax in a strange environment – with the added bonus of giving them somewhere to lay their muddy chops that isn't your sleeping bag. Extra blankets and doggy jackets come in handy in various climates as well, while a set of booties may be needed to protect tender paws from freezing cold or scalding hot earth. You can pick up a pet-friendly first aid kit on the off chance that things don't go to plan, you should familiarise yourself with its contents and know how to use everything, so you're not caught out in a panicked moment. And, of course, plenty of shade and drinking water are a must.
With all the preparation and planning taken care of there will be plenty of time for you and your best bud to enjoy the trip. Stay sharp, keep an eye on your pal and, most importantly, have fun.
Check out HEMA's Bush Camping With Dogs for Australia's best K-9 friendly camping spots