Camping with Dogs & Cats – Do’s and Don’ts of Pet Etiquette

Does your dog love to go camping? Or, does you cat beg you to take her RVing in your camper? If so, this is definitely a must read for pet owners who are wanting to go camping with dogs and cats. Whether you’re camping at a state park, private campground or even wild camping, it’s important to follow a few pet etiquette rules to help keep your pet and you safe. But to also allow other campers the same reciprocity of camping enjoyment.

Camping with Dogs and Cats - Camping Pet Rules - Pet Etiquette - Always On Liberty

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Since the mass uptick of camping due to the pandemic, there’s been an unscrupulous lack of camping etiquette; including those camping with dogs and cats.

Sadly, there has been an unprecedented lack of respect from pet owners who think they don’t have to follow the rules of camping.

These pet etiquette violators are causing much rift amongst fellow campers and campground staffs across the Nation. These actions are affecting the enjoyment of camping and those who have to deal with irresponsible pet owners.

And, seeing and experiencing it myself, it’s not hard to notice the unsurmountable disdain towards irresponsible people who camp with dogs in particular.

But also, this is wearing thin on campground owners, staff and volunteers due to the massive list of complaints.

Just a handful of the most reported complaints of people camping with dogs and cats:

      • Dog owners not cleaning up after their dog
      • Cat owners allowing their cats to run feral
      • Unleashed dogs running loose
      • Loud and excessive dog barking
      • Fibbing about dog breeds
      • Faking Service Animals.

Not only are campground staff members getting fed up with the lack of proper camping pet etiquette, but other campers are complaining loudly.

In fact, almost every day, several are complaining on social media about the lack of respect by dog owners .

To be quite honest, it doesn’t surprise me to find campground owners finally rolling up the welcome mat and telling camping pet owners, ‘no room at the inn’.

Can we really blame them?

Between countless lawsuits and constant complaints, the lack of pet etiquette at campgrounds is becoming way too much to even deal with. It’s all because a lot of dog owners (and cat owners too!) think they’re above the rules of camping.

When campground owners decide they’ve had enough, it’s going to severely impact not only their business but also, those responsible pet owners who follow the rules.

As pet owners, it’s our responsibility to practice simple camping pet etiquette to not allow our dogs and cats to become a nuisance to other campers. Most importantly, to not make other campers feel unsafe in their own campsite.

So, let’s get down and dirty to see how we can keep the privilege of camping with dogs and cats without becoming a liability or annoyance to our camping neighbors or campground staff.

Camping with Dogs & Cats Do’s & Don’ts

Campground Pet Etiquette –  Camping Rules for Dogs and Cats

Tent Camping with Dog - Pet Etiquette while Camping - Always On Liberty
Photo source: Canva

DO follow the campground rules!

Anytime we check into a campground, we’re handed a big sheet of paper with a list of campground rules a mile long. And most of those rules seemingly apply to pet owners who bring their dogs camping.

Be it known though, it’s not necessarily the campground owners conjuring up those campground rules pertaining to pet guests.

Actually in part, it’s the campground’s insurance providers who are making the rules due to excessive liability claims from dog bites and attacks.

The other part is local municipalities have legislated ordinances that are banning certain dog breeds in their jurisdictions due to high volume dog attacks or dog bites.

All that said, how can we, as pet owners not be given the stink eye each time we want to take our dogs camping?

It’s simple! Just follow these simple pet etiquette guidelines or shall we say camping rules for pets.

DO have proper pet identification and current health information!

Camping with Dogs and Cats - Dog Tags ID
Photo source: Canva

Before hooking up your RV and hauling off to your favorite campground or camping spot, it’s a good idea to ensure your pet has proper identification on his or her collar along with a current phone number.

Equally important, they should also have a current rabies tag attached as well. Your pets’ immunizations should always be current; especially their rabies vaccine and distemper and Parvo immunizations.

And if they’ve not been already, it’s wise to get each of your camping pets microchips.

Should your dog escape or cat decide to go on a journey of their own, you can be rest assured that you will find your way back to each other.

If someone finds them, they’ll know who to call. If you’re a full-time RVer or camper, make sure you keep your pets’ health record with you throughout your travels.

Camping with Dogs and Cats - Temporary Campground Pet ID Tag for Camping
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Speaking of pet identification, a little pet camping tip to offer is to attach a disposable write-on tag with your name and campsite number to your dog or cat’s collar or harness.

DO make your dog wear a harness

Camping with Dogs and Cats - Dog Harness
Photo source: Amazon

While dog and cat collars may be cute and fashionable, pet collars are easy to slip out of or break apart.

Even worse, they can become a choking hazard should they get their collar caught on something or pull excessively on their leash.

So, a properly fitted dog harness or cat harness will allow better control of your pet. And they will be much more comfortable too!

✰ READ MORE   Cool Camping Gear for Dogs and Cats

DO always leash your pets!

Camping with Dogs Pet Etiquette - Dog with leash sleeping on ground
Photo source: Canva

Another rule for camping with dogs and cats is to keep your pet on a leash at all times. But, that doesn’t mean you just put it on and let them roam around while dragging it behind them.

As the saying goes, ‘crap happens’ (nice way of saying it). While your pet may react to your voice command or you think your dog or cat will stay with you at all times, there’s a lot of unfamiliar distractions that can make your dog or cat react.

Campgrounds and RV parks require pet owners to keep their dogs and cats on a maximum 6′ leash for good reasons.

As mentioned earlier, it’s because of insurance requirements. But also, local leash laws apply even on private property.

So, to prevent dog attacks, dog bites, and  charging other pets or campers, or entering others’ campsites, you should keep your pets on a 6′ leash at all times while they’re outside.

One thing to take into consideration is not everyone loves dogs (or cats). And that certainly includes not everyone may like YOUR dog or cat.

Camping with Dogs and Cats Pet Etiquette - Cat on on leash on RV Mat - Always On Liberty
Photo by Always On Liberty©

A great tip for those camping with dogs and cats is to skip using those retractable pet leashes! While your dog or cat may want to explore beyond 6′ from you, keeping your pet closer to you will lessen problems down the road.

Short and sturdy leashes are for your pet’s own safety and for better control of your dog or cat; especially where other people, pets and even wildlife are prevalent.

One thing many pet owners overlook is there may be hidden or even obvious dangers that could hurt your dog or cat such as snakes, toxic lizards and frogs, cactus, poisonous plants and flowers, contaminated water, etc.

You’ve heard the phrase, ‘curiousity killed the cat’? Well, that applies to dogs too.

If you allow your dog or cat too much of a lead, they may poke their nose in, paw at, eat or play with something that may hurt or even kill them.

And in a lot of instances of those occurrences, they may not show immediate injury. Then, you won’t have seen what he’s eaten, stepped on, or been attacked by. Thus, you won’t be able to tell the Veterinarian so they can treat your pet properly.

So, be a respectful pet owner by keeping your dogs and cats on a short leash as specified in the campground rules for your pet’s safety as well as other campers’ safety.

Leash For Dogs

Leash For Cats

✰ READ MORE Why You Should Leash Your Dog Outdoors – Safety Concerns

DON’T leave your pets outside unattended!

Cat with Harness and Leash Camping - Always On Liberty
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Another campground rule often broken is pet owners leaving their dogs and cats unattended outside.

Even leaving your dog in an enclosed play yard or small pet play pen or kitty in a zippered cat screen tent is unwise and unsafe.

Even leaving them tethered to a tree, picnic table or your RV, it’s unsafe for them to be left alone outside at your campsite.

Not only can they break free and set out on their own nomadic way but also, wildlife or other loose pets can attack them while you’re not looking.

✰ READ MORE  Outdoor Cat Tents & Portable Play Yards for Cats

DON’T allow your dog to bark or yap unnecessarily!

Campground Pet Etiquette - Barking Dog - Always On Liberty
Photo source: Canva

Another biggie on the camping list of complaints is loud barking dogs as well as dog owners who allow their dogs to yap, yap, yap!

While dog owners can seemingly tune it out (because they’re used to it?), other campers find it totally irritating and annoying.

We all have to remember, not all of us are just enjoying the essence of camping.

There are families who need to concentrate on homeschooling or the baby is down for a nap. Or a night-shift traveling nurse may be trying to sleep next door.

With the ability to work remotely becoming common and on the rise, it’s difficult to conduct a Zoom meeting with a dog barking loudly right outside your camper’s window.

On another note, it’s  poor pet etiquette to allow your dog to bark constantly or yap every time a camper or dog walker strolls passed your site.

So, train your dog(s) to only bark in the event of danger or discomfort. If they bark uncontrollably or just to bark, put them inside your RV or take them home.

If you insist that you bring your dog camping, might I recommend either professional dog training and/or bark deterrents.

There are several different bark deterrent training aids. You may have to try a few different ones to find the one that you and your dog can agree on.

Ultra Sonic Dog Training Aid

BlueTooth Dog Barking Trainer

Citronella Bark Deterrent Collar

In other words, don’t subject others to the unpleasantry of having to listen to your dog’s constant barking.

Camping is supposed to be a quieter venue and a place to enjoy nature; no-one likes being parked next to a dog pound full of disgruntled dogs.

DON’T leave your boisterous pet alone inside your RV!

Another thing to take into consideration is leaving your anxious pet inside your camper while you go explore.

If you know your dog experiences undue stress that causes him to react negatively, bark, rip apart your sofa or chew his paws, please don’t leave him for others to listen to while you’re out enjoying whatever you’re enjoying.

There are ways you can help your dog deal with anxiety during your absence.

If you’re unaware or bringing your pup for the first time, kindly ask your camping neighbor(s) if your pup (or cat!) was vocal, loud or mischievous.

Consider either getting a pet sitter or boarding him for the day instead of leaving him in the camper alone.

✰ READ MORE   Leaving Your Dog Alone in Your RV? Dog Separation Anxiety Tips!

DON’T lie about your dogs!

Camping Pet Etiquette - Dog Breed Ban - Always On Liberty
Photo source: Canva

When making a reservation, the campground staff typically asks if you will be bringing any pets. Be honest about your dog’s breed, size and how many pets will be camping with you.

As mentioned earlier in this article, campgrounds and RV parks are banning dog breeds due to strict insurance policies that dictate which breeds may not be covered in case of liability.

If you lie about your dog’s breed and they injure or kill a guest or injury another camper’s pet you will be held liable. 

Further, you may be prosecuted in the court of law if you lie about your dog’s breed that is banned in certain municipalities.

Most RV parks and campgrounds also have a pet quantity limit. So, be honest in reporting how many pets you are camping with; even your inside-only pets.

Should you fib about the number of pets you have reported during your reservations or check-in can result in eviction. Also, if there’s an emergency in your RV, the fire department may not look for all of your pets if you did not report their presence at check in.

✰ READ MORE   Why Restricted Dog Breeds are Banned in Campgrounds

DON’T misrepresent your dog as a Service Animal

Camping Pet Etiquette - Service Dog - Always On Liberty
Photo source: Canva

Sadly, there are a few who misrepresent their dog as a Service Dog just so they can be granted access to buildings that disallow pets.

Or, they will mask their banned breed by stating their dog is a Service Dog.

Faking a Service Animal is not only unethical and exhibits poor pet etiquette. More importantly, it’s illegal on all counts federally and on a state and local level. Falsifying a dog (or other animal) as a Service Animal is a finable offense.

Service Animals are not pets.

Service Dogs are real working animals with a purpose to aid in the health of their handler and owner. The work or task of a properly trained Service Dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

A few examples of Service Dog duties include:

    • Guiding persons who are blind or deaf
    • Assisting or pulling a wheelchair
    • Protecting persons who are having a seizure
    • Alerting low blood sugar in a person with diabetes
    • Calming a person with PTSD during an anxiety attack

Some state and local laws also define service animals more broadly than the ADA does. Information about such laws can be obtained from the relevant State attorney general’s office.

The penalties for violating these particular ADA laws vary. 

As of 2021, 33 states have termed true bans on the fraudulent representation of pets as service animals.

States without these laws may have laws that prohibit the fraudulent representation of assistance animals in housing, but those laws can be found here.

In all states, violation of these laws are misdemeanor offenses or civil infractions and some states require community service with an organization that serves the disabled as part of sentencing upon conviction.

Most importantly, claiming your untrained dog as a Service Dog puts certified ADA Service Dogs and the persons needing their assistance at immeasurable risk.

Lastly, ESA pets whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support. ESA or Emotional Support Animals DO NOT QUALIFY as Service Animals under the ADA.

For more information regarding Service Animals, check the American Disabilities Act website.

✰ READ MORE  7 Reasons Why Dogs are Banned from Beaches

Do pick up & pack the poop!

Camping with Dogs Camping Pet Etiquette - Picking Up Dog Poop - Always on Liberty
Photo source: Canva

People not cleaning up after their pets is the most violated rule of RV parks and campgrounds nationwide! And, it seems it’s getting worse by the day.

While dog owners may think ‘oh, it’s just a little turd’, they aren’t understanding or caring about what implications their dog’s poop presents.

First, your pet could be harboring parasites that could be potentially life-threatening to other dogs, cats and even humans.

But also, domestic dog’s poop that’s left behind poses a risk to the environment and wildlife just the same.

On a more obvious note, not cleaning up after your dog is just plain nasty, unsanitary and highly offensive. Having cleaned up dog crap from my own shoes is not only unpleasant but poses a health risk to myself.

If you think your fellow campers don’t notice, think again. Don’t purposely ignore what your pet is doing by looking on your phone or trying to attempt to look distracted.

This is yet, another reason why short leashes are necessary when camping; so you can see what you’re dog is doing.

Also, don’t use the excuse ‘I forgot a poop bag, I’ll come back to pick it up’. Because 9 times out of 10, that never happens. And then some unknowing child runs through it or another dog eats it.

I highly suggest attaching a pooch poop bag dispenser with eco-friendly biodegradable poop bags to your dog’s leash to avoid that excuse.

Be a responsible pet owner with the rule, if you use it, replace it. Meaning, the first thing you should do when returning to your campsite is restocking your pocket with poop bags.

So please, for the sake of wildlife, other campers and their pets, pick it up and bag it!

Leave no trace means taking what your pet leaves behind too! Don’t just leave it on the ground for others to pick up; even in a bag.

✰ READ MORE  7 Leave No Trace Principles – Outdoor Ethics & Etiquette

Leave No Trace Principles - Info Banner - Always On Liberty

Wrapping up

Camping Cat - Kandi in Camp Chair - Always On Liberty
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Camping with dogs and cats is a lot of fun, but it’s your responsibility to make them mind their manners. 

These pet etiquette guidelines should help you understand how your pet’s behavior can affect others. They are a simple reminder of how not to allow your pets do whatever they want while camping.

If you are found violating any of these pet related campground rules, the owners and management are within their right to evict you with no refund.

Remember, campgrounds, RV parks and even public lands are for everyone. And that includes well-behaved pets.

By following pet etiquette and campground rules, camping with dogs and cats will be a positive experience; including Fido and Fluffy!

Save My Pet Decal on Amazon

 CAMPING WITH DOGS & CATS PRO TIP  For your pet’s safety, adhere a save-my-pet(s) decal on your RV door(s) with number of pets you travel with.  In case of fire, gas leak or other emergency, first responders will know immediately how many dogs and cats they need to rescue.

More from our camping with dogs and cats library!

Why You Should Leash Your Dog Outdoors – Safety Concerns

Want to RV with Your Dog? RV Travel Tips for Dogs

Why Restricted Dog Breeds are Banned in Campgrounds

Campgrounds Banning Dogs! Why? Is It Legal?

How a Pet Stroller Can Save Their Life (Yours too!)

How to Survive RVing with Cats

Keeping Your Pets Cool in Your RV in the Summer

Cool Camping Gear for Dogs and Cats


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