Thinking of bringing your pet camping? Read this first

Most American campgrounds welcome pets. Most often there is no additional charge beyond the regular campsite fee, but many commercial RV parks charge an extra dollar or two a night per pet.

While there are few formal rules about camping with pets, most campgrounds do require that pets remain on a leash or be otherwise contained. Many campers bring along a portable pet fence that can be easily opened up at a campsite to allow a pet some freedom and fresh air without being leashed.

Most RV parks that allow pets set aside a plot of ground or grass for use as a “pet potty.” RVers are asked to clean up after their pets. Most roadside rest areas also provide such pet areas, which most often double as an off-leash area where a pet can run and sniff to its heart’s content.

Pets are frequent traveling companions, especially for RVers. Perhaps a third of them bring along a pet or two, most often a dog, but also cats and even caged birds. We have seen a few bunnies, including one being walked on a leash at an Idaho rest area.

The biggest complaint from campers without pets about those with them is about uncontrolled dog barking. Some owners leave their campsites to sightsee, hike, fish or shop, and leave their dogs alone inside their RV or tied up outside for hours on end. Fellow campers are often forced to endure barking and howling until the owners return – a frustrating and even maddening experience for those who must endure the noise.

Even though many campgrounds accept dogs, sometimes they do not welcome all dogs. Jack and Julee Meltzer, authors of “Camping and RVing with Dogs,” believe the best advice for RVers with pets is to always call a campground before showing up with their furry friend. It may state in a campground directory that a place is dog-friendly, but that may not necessarily be true, said Julee. It’s not unusual for an RVer to arrive with a large animal only to be told, “Oh, we only accept dogs less than 25 pounds.”

Pet owners should also use caution in leaving their pets outside overnight. Rangers at Death Valley National Park keep a tally of such animals that end up as a tasty midnight snack for a hungry coyote.