How to Keep Your Dog Safe While Camping in Bear Country

Although dogs are great camping companions, you should take specific precautions to keep your canine family safe when camping in bear country.

Conflicts between humans and bears are frequently made far more dangerous than they need to be by out-of-control dogs. Follow these simple advice if you’re camping or hiking with your dog in bear country to help ensure the safety of both you and your cherished pet.

General Guidelines for Camping With Dogs

Above all, it is your obligation as a dog owner to ensure that you are following all of the laws and regulations about bringing your dog to a campsite. Before you depart, always verify the park’s pet rules.

Most provincial, national, and state parks allow dogs, although with restrictions. Certain parks in Ontario, for example, offer “dog-free” designated sections for campers who do not have pets and do not want to listen to barking dogs all day. (After all, not everyone loves dogs.)

Dogs are usually accepted on most campsites, however they are not permitted on public beaches, picnic spots, or even on certain footpaths. Before taking your dog to a campsite, always check to see what their pet policy is. If you don’t prepare ahead of time, you can wind yourself staying behind to keep your dog company and missing out on the trip. This brings me to my second point:

Never leave your dog alone at a campground. Most campsites have regulations in place to prevent this from happening. Not only is leaving your dog tied up outdoors in the sun all day terrible to them, but they may also whine and bark the whole while you’re gone exploring. This may pique the interest of bears and other animals. (Leaving a barking dog behind is also a definite way to irritate your neighboring campers.)

If your dog wakes up and barks often throughout the night, try placing a muzzle on them before going to bed. If they’ve never worn one before, try putting one on them a few of times before your vacation to assist them get accustomed and comfortable with it. They may dislike it, but it may help keep you secure at night. If a bear wanders into your campground during the night, he may get agitated and frightened if your dog begins barking at him. This might irritate the bear, who may have departed on his own if he couldn’t locate any food. The flimsy nylon of your tent will do nothing to protect you or your dog from a bear’s claws.

Tips for Storing Your Dog’s Food

It is usually assumed that bears have the best developed sense of smell on the planet. They have the ability to smell better than any other animal on the globe. A bear’s sense of smell is 2,100 times stronger than that of a human.

This is why, while camping in bear territory, you should always store your food and other aromatic products (such as shampoo, soap, and even toothpaste) in bear-proof canisters or put them all in the trunk of your vehicle when not in use. This guideline also applies to your dog’s food (since bears are omnivores, they will eat everything) and any equipment and dishes used to serve and prepare your dog’s meal.

Don’t bring the bag of dog food, keep it in a container.

Many airtight, vacuum-sealed containers are available for storing your dog’s food. However, if you’re staying at a drive-up campground, you won’t need to go out and buy vacuum-sealed containers. I purchased some huge plastic containers from my local dollar shop and used them to hold my dog’s food (see photo above). However, this is only recommended if you have a vehicle or RV in which you can keep these containers sealed. I stored the dog’s food, along with the rest of my food, in the trunk of my vehicle.

If you’re camping in the bush or don’t have a vehicle to keep your food in (some people paddle or boat to their campsites), a normal dollar store canister won’t do, and you’ll need to invest in a bear-proof dog food canister. More information regarding bringing a dog into the wilderness may be found below.

Don’t leave your dog’s food dishes out.

Maintain their usual feeding schedule as much as possible, but when they’ve finished eating, rinse their bowls with warm water and soap and store them with your other cooking equipment and dishes.

Prepare your dog to go without food until their next feeding time.

If your dog is a grazer and is used to having a full food dish available at all times of the day, you must prepare them to go without food until their next meal time. On a recent camping trip, I brought a dog that preferred to eat from his dish throughout the day rather than eating his breakfast or supper all at once. When it came time to leave the campground for the day, I had to urge him to eat as much of his meals as I could at once so that I could put his bowls away.

I was able to do this by sitting behind his food dish and keeping him company throughout meal times. I fed him by hand when there was just a little amount of food left in the bowl. I wanted to make sure he had enough food in him to last the rest of the day until his next meal. Because he thought he was receiving goodies when he was fed by hand, he was more eager to consume his whole meal in one sitting. You might attempt to provide a little reward in their dish to encourage them to consume more food at once.

Clean the area around your dog’s food dishes after you put the bowl’s away.

After they’ve finished eating, most dogs I know will leave some kibble about their dish. Pick up any dog food that has fallen on the ground. Your objective should be to leave as few food items and scraps as possible left to keep bears from venturing into your campsite. To make this process simpler, set your dog’s food bowls on a mat to catch any food that falls out of their bowl. I used a placemat I got from the dollar shop.

Keeping Bears Out of Your Dog’s Food in the Back Country

Most provincial, national, and state campsites do not allow dogs in their backcountry regions. Before you depart, make sure it is safe and that you are permitted to carry your dog into the wilderness. Links are given below to assist you in determining if your dog is authorized at a certain backcountry campground.

If you’re going camping in the woods with your dog, you’ll need to put pet food in a bear-proof container (similar to the kind you would keep your own food in).

A bear’s sense of smell is seven times stronger than that of a bloodhound. They will be able to smell it even if you merely store it in a Ziploc container or plastic bag in your pack back. Consider utilizing a product like the OPSAK Odor-Proof Barrier Bag if you’re traveling and don’t have space in your bag for a big dog food canister. It’s tiny enough to fit inside a backpack and has been bear-tested. They’re also perfect for taking your dog on day treks if you wish to carry some dog treats or food with you.

Check the regulations of your intended camp location to discover whether these bags are approved bear canister substitutions. Some paths and campgrounds will only allow the use of metal or plastic bear canisters in their back country.

The majority of bear-human encounters are caused by canines over whom owners do not have complete control. If an unattended dog discovers a bear, it may explore deeper and begin pursuing it. Unless a bear has learnt to identify people with food, most bears will avoid a potential fight (especially black bears). If your dog is not on a leash, he may provoke a bear into a fight. Most dogs will yelp and pursue the bear, but when the bear turns to meet it, he will rush back to his owners, bringing an angry bear right up to you. As shown by the video below, which was uploaded to YouTube by user Frank Ritcey. When hiking in bear territory, always keep your dog on a leash.

Hiking With Your Dog in Bear Country

Here are some more suggestions for individuals considering traveling into bear area with their canine companions.

Don’t let your dog off leash when venturing out on hiking trails.

Most provincial, national, and state parks have laws requiring all canine visitors to keep their dogs on leashes when in public areas of the park, including hiking trails. Hopefully, you’re already following this policy. It is there not just to protect other canines and campers, but also to safeguard your pets.

Even if your dog is excellent off leash, it is never a good idea to let your dog run free on a stroll in the woods. Even the best-trained dog may get enthralled by something they see in the woods and track it down. You wouldn’t want your dog to run away and come across a bear. If the dog flees, the bear may pursue him, and your dog may inadvertently bring a bear right to you. You and your dog are now in a potentially perilous scenario.

Consider putting a “bear bell” on your dog’s collar.

This will make more noise, alerting any bears in the vicinity to your presence and giving them time to flee before you arrive. Bears dislike surprises. It will also keep your dog safe in case he manages to get off his leash and surprise a bear (or a raccoon, or any other animal you don’t want your dog messing with). It will also make them simpler to locate if they go too far away. Just keep an ear out for the jingling.

Leave no trace behind.

I’m sure we’ve all heard that expression. Picking up after ourselves is one of the greatest ways to guarantee that our provincial, national, and state parks remain lovely for future generations.

As responsible campers, it is our responsibility to clean up any waste we generate while camping (either by burning it if it is safe to do so or disposing of it in the appropriately supplied receptacles) to help preserve the health of our parks and guarantee their longevity for future generations to enjoy. This is also true for your dog’s feces!

Don’t be the person that scatters excrement bombs across your campsite or on public hiking paths. (We know you’re out there!) It’s not only rude to other campers (and filthy… and irresponsible… if you want to keep a dog, you have to be prepared to deal with feces), but it also attracts wildlife and bears. Dog feces may, in fact, attract bears to your campsite. Bears smell everything, even undigested food fragments in your dog’s excrement. Pick it up and throw it in the trash, flush it down the toilet if your campsite has one, or put it in the outhouse (but only if you’re using biodegradable canine poop bags).

Closing Thoughts

Let’s face it: no one likes to acknowledge that their dog isn’t properly trained. We believe it reflects poorly on us and gives the impression that we are horrible “pet parents.” Some dogs just do not listen well to verbal orders, others are runners who will bolt the moment you let them off their leash, and still others are not nice with other animals. It’s fine. Nobody is perfect, even dogs.

It is up to you, especially if you are camping in bear territory, to be honest with yourself and evaluate whether or not it is safe to have your dog with you. If you don’t think your dog will be able to behave during a camping vacation, leave them at home (with a dog sitter, of course).

If You’re Searching for a Dog-Friendly Campground

  • Check out Ontarioparks for camp sites in Ontario. Simply choose the park you want to visit from their helpful park finder for additional information, including how to rent a lot and their dog restrictions.
  • Visit Parks Canada for information on any of Canada’s national parks.
  • The United States National Park Service has information about camp sites in the United States.

To the best of the author’s knowledge, this article is accurate and truthful. It is not intended to replace a veterinary medical professional’s diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and customized advise. Animals displaying distress signals should be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

If you have any questions, ask them in a remark on the website . We will respond as soon as we can.

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