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10 Things That Make Campgrounds Truly Pet Friendly

10 Things that Make Campgrounds Truly Pet FriendlyIf you like camping, there’s really nothing better than including your pets in the fun! Last week we took a look at the differences between staying in an RV park or campground, and really getting away from it all by boondocking at a free campsite. While we’ve thoroughly enjoyed our boondocking experiences, it’s not always a convenient solution when you evaluate the options at your chosen destination. So, if you’ve decided on an RV park or campground, how do you find one that your pet is sure to love? It’s easy – just look for parks that providing these pet friendly services:

1. Welcome pets of all sizes. Some campgrounds impose weight restrictions, which can start at as little as 20 pounds! In my experience, a dog’s size has little to do with the quality of his manners, and therefore doesn’t preclude him from being a lovely camping guest. Of course, as dog owners, it’s important that we train our pups to behave politely in public so this misperception of big dogs being unruly doesn’t persist.

2. No breed discrimination. There are some campgrounds that don’t welcome pets of any kind, and I’m fine with that. Different parks for different folks. However, it’s unacceptable to allow some dogs and not others based on their breed. Our Buster is a German Shepherd – one of the breeds that’s often discriminated against – and to meet Buster is to love Buster. Knowing that he’s being judged by an unfair prejudice against his breed infuriates me! A dog of any breed can behave badly, and if they do campground managers should ask their owners to take them and leave – but don’t set breed specific policies that perpetuate discrimination and misinformation.

3. Clearly communicate the rules. Every campground sets its own rules when it comes to pets. Some allow you to leave pets unattended in your RV, and some do not. Some allow you to set up a pen or use a tie-out for your pets in your campsite, others don’t. Some have areas where pets are not allowed (like the pool), while others have no restrictions. Clear communication of the rules regarding pets on the campground website, and providing them again at check-in, makes it easy for pet owners to comply.

4. Provide a place to go. Designated dog walk areas with waste disposal bags and trash cans are perfect for encouraging dog owners to use a specific area to relieve their pups and clean up the waste. Some dogs will only go on grass, so an area with a couple of different surfaces will ensure all the canine guests are comfortable.

5. Off-leash area. After a day in the motorhome, the words “We have an off-leash area for the dogs” are music to my ears. But nothing is more disappointing than whisking Ty and Buster over only to find a fenced space barely big enough to turn around. If you have a chihuahua-size dog park, be sure to indicate that it’s only appropriate for small dogs on your website and in your marketing materials.

6. Keep the park well-maintained – including the off-leash area. For pet travelers, the safety and health of our pets is always our primary concern. Finding abandoned pet waste, broken glass, and trash in our campsite raises immediate concerns for our pet’s well-being. Dog waste or broken agility equipment in the off-leash area are also disconcerting. We understand that pet owners are responsible for picking up after their furry family members, but when they don’t, the park staff need to ensure it’s removed for future campers.

7. Help keep barking to a minimum. Dogs tend to bark at other dogs, and when one pup gets started a “sing along” often ensues. Campground managers can help reduce the amount of barking by spacing out the campers with dogs, rather than packing them all together in one corner of the park.

8. Warn of hazards in the area. Pet owners appreciate being made aware that there are bears or coyotes in the area, or that pets have gotten sick from swimming in a nearby pond, so they can take proper precautions with their pets.

9. Provide information on local resources. Dog friendly hiking trails, pet supply stores, the closest 24-hour animal hospital – these are all pieces of information that pet owners would love to receive when checking into a campground.

10. Designate camping cabins as pet friendly. Many campgrounds have camping cabins that can be rented by people traveling without their own camper or RV. These camping cabins are pretty basic with wood floors and minimal furniture and would make a wonderful alternative to a hotel for pet travelers – yet only a few places have any rentals designated as pet friendly. Campgrounds could charge a reasonable pet fee and it would be a win-win for everyone.

Can you think of other things campgrounds could do to be more pet friendly?

Planning a pet friendly trip of your own? We’ll make it easy:
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  • River Haven Resort in Ontario, Canada has a “dog swimming area” with a beach where you can swim with your dogs, no breed redtrictions or size ones, our cottages are pet friendly too!

  • Hi, I stumbled across your blog at According to Gus, and I’m so glad I found you. You’ve got some wonderful information here.

    Regarding this post–yes! Yes and yes! I camp a lot with my golden and lab in New England (we tent rather than RV, though), and I’ve encountered a lot of the restrictions that you’ve listed here–more so at privately-owned (ie: “family”–whatever) campgrounds than the ones maintained by the National Forest Services, but even those don’t have adequate off-leash areas. Love your point regarding weight restrictions. In my experience as both a groomer and a pet owner, the little they are, they noisier they tend to be!

    To the poster above, I recommend looking at campgrounds that are maintained by the National Parks and National Forest Services. In my experience, they tend to be cheaper than privately-owned campgrounds, and they have fewer restrictions when it comes to four-legged companions–at least in New England!

    ~Vicky

    • Hi Vicky, and welcome to the blog! I’m glad you found it too. :-)

      I also find that some places won’t allow pets in the tents! Again, it more common in the privately-owned campgrounds, so perhaps you’ve not dealt with that.

      It’s my hope that in the next few months we can add the pet friendly national forest & state park campgrounds to the website. Perhaps I need an intern! LOL!

  • Melspetpals says:

    Really great advice. It never occurred to me that campgrounds would say No to dogs or that they would restrict certain breeds. What a shame. Also have to agree with the off-leash area. I have seen dog parks that could be described as postage stamps and are poorly maintained. I’ve never understood this. Makes me think it was put together by people who don’t own dogs.

    • Yep – there is breed discrimination every where we go, Mel. And about 1/3 of campgrounds don’t allow pets at all! That’s alright – we’ll go to the places that want us, and now that the GoPetFriendly site is here, those places will be easy to find.

      The dog park thing really confuses me. The very small dogs that would find these “parks” acceptable really don’t need a place to run and play – they can get plenty of exercise inside. The bigger dogs with more energy that need a place to romp after a day in the RV find these areas completely insufficient.

      And then there are some places, like the campground we’re at now, that have an open field and will give you permission to use it when there are not a lot of guests. Buster and I went out for 3 games of Chuck-It today – he’s in heaven! :-)

  • People tend to prepare themselves for the worst when they see 6 Siberian Huskies come out of the RV and be hooked up on the drop line, but then they realize that I always sit within sight of them when they are on the line (never left alone). Within no time, we end up making friends with everyone within view of the campsite (and plenty of others who walk over). We now have parks we go to where the rangers look forward to our visits.

    We also recognize that there will be areas in a campground where dogs should not go. We don’t let them harass wildlife, for example.

    We see this as a two-way street. We make sure that our dogs are well behaved enough to be welcomed back AND we simply don’t stay anywhere that does not truly want us there.

    P.S. – Charging pet fees – especially on a per pet basis – for me to camp in my own RV – absolute guarantee that I will not be staying at your campground because I am assuming you are telling me that you don’t really want pets there.

  • Thanks for this! We just started researching campgrounds last night for our six-week national park trip this summer and were wondering how to choose one when there are so many options. And as a Maltese owner, I will confirm the fact that yes, the smaller the dog, the yappier. There’s a reason we’ve now been through two puppy training programs–to rid her of that and make her a more travel-friendly pooch!

    • Good for you for getting a head start on your training! As far as deciding which campgrounds to stay in, we’ve written reviews on the GoPetFriendly website of most of the campgrounds we’ve stayed in – and all of our users are welcome to do the same for all the places they visit! The more reviews we get, the easier it will be to choose where to stay. Good luck with your trip planning – it sounds like great fun.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the shoutout — and the great list! Frankie likes nature only during the day, preferring to sleep in a place with solid walls and indoor plumbing after dark, but he has many friends who are more generally outdoorsy so appreciates the information.

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