Our tips for camping with pets

Mischief and Mayhem, before the leeches attacked

Camping with pets

A few years ago, my husband and I thought it would be a great idea to take our two dogs with us on a quick camping trip. We packed our little dome tent, chucked the dogs in the car, drove to the Watagans after a week of heavy rain, and parked ourselves in the ever popular ‘Basin’ camping ground.

And by popular, I don’t mean with people. I mean with the Single. Most. Terrifying. Creature. In. Existence. That awful, carnivorous, blood sucking, disgusting, slimy, sluglike beast…

The leech.


Just typing the word ‘leech’ makes me shudder. Did you know the largest leech ever found was 18 inches long? EIGHTEEN INCHES! Yuck!

Normally, I like to consider myself a fairly courageous sort of gal. I have jumped off sky scrapers.  I have abseiled from a free hanging rope over 100 metres down into a black, bat filled cave. I have sung in front of a crowd of thousands. I even asked Ash Grunwald on a date once. But put me near a leech and I turn into a quivering, screaming, squealing, scaredy cat. So I’m lucky that I have a very brave husband that will jump in and save me from the slimy clasp of a leeches grip whenever I happen to find one between my toes or in my shoe. Yuuuuuuck.

Anyway, I digress. On this particular weekend, because of all the rain we’d had, the leeches were out in force. And apparently they were hungry. It wasn’t long before we considered that perhaps we had chosen the wrong weekend to go camping. While setting up the tent in the driest spot we could find, I discovered our dog’s bellies, paws, and other unmentionable areas were absolutely covered in them.

And then I looked down at my own feet.

There were dozens of them. On each sneaker. And even more all up my legs. THE HORROR!

Being the valiant and gutsy lass that I am, I immediately screeched at the top of my lungs and ran away (as if the slippery little suckers would magically fall off on the way). ‘Leeches! LEECHES! Heeeeelp!’ I started crying and yelling and stripped down to just my undies in an attempt to find every little beast that was invading my personal space. My dogs, still covered in them, excitedly jumped all over me, thinking that I was playing. Which of course, made the whole situation worse. My husband laughed like a drain as he chucked salt all over me and tried to pull the big ones off before I, you know, really started freaking out.

 Thank goodness we were the only people in the camp ground, as we must have been a sight to behold. It took a good twenty minutes for my husband to get rid of every last one of them. And a lot longer than that for me to calm down.

We, I mean my husband, tried in vain to get the leeches off the dogs, but it was a futile exercise. As soon as one was pulled off, there was another in its place. Their bed looked like a murder scene by the end of the night. It was truly disgusting. In fact, it was so awful, that the very next morning, after being rudely awakened by a bunch of trail bike riders (we found out later that they LOVE the Watagans too), we packed up and left early.

So this memorable trip got me thinking. As great as it is to be spontaneous, perhaps it’s better to do some research before attempting to camp with animals again.

These are my top tips for camping with pets.

  • Check the weather forecast. If you know that there is plenty of rain to come, or if there has been plenty of rain before you go, reconsider. There ain’t nothing fun about 2 x 25kg worth of wet animal, covered in aforementioned creepy crawlies, bounding toward you for a cuddle!
  • Make sure that when you know that a site is pet friendly, it really IS pet friendly.
  • And speaking of pet friendly, is your pet, friendly? And well behaved? It really is best if your pets can follow simple commands such as sit, stay, no, down etc, and can happily get along with other furry friends on their travels. It is a general rule to keep your pets on a leash and/or under appropriate control at all times.
  • It is illegal to camp in National parks with domestic animals.
  • Ensure your pets medications, vaccinations, flea and tick treatments are up to date before you go (and give them a once over each night to check for ticks)
  • Keep some yummy, healthy treats for your pets (after all, they’re on holiday too!) and avoid feeding them your typical, char grilled camp food, it’s not good for their tummies.
  • Attach a glow stick to your pets collar at night, so you can always see them if they happen to wander off
  • Don’t forget your poo bags! Dog faeces carry disease, and can add nutrients to the soil, thereby increasing the spread of weeds.
  • Have fun! Your pet will love the great outdoors. All the new sights and smells will be very stimulating for your pets.
  • Check out our list of dog friendly beaches and campsites!








https://www.weejasperreserves.com.au/ (Officially in NSW but near the ACT)















What are your top tips for camping with pets? We’d love to know!
Words by Katie James

How useful was this post?

Average rating / 5. Vote count: