Tips and Tricks for Camping with Multiple Dogs

It’s arguably one of the most common questions that we get when people see us out camping and hiking with our dogs – how do you manage camping with multiple dogs? Especially when they see one of us alone with our pack of three.

If you have a pack of incredible canine adventure companions that you want to start travelling with, today’s post is for you. We’re going to share our tips and tricks for successfully camping with multiple dogs including our tent setup, how we pack all the gear necessary, our go-to solutions for containing multiple dogs at the campsite, and more!

Let’s get started…

three dogs side by side outdoors | Tips and Tricks for Camping with Multiple Dogs
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Training is Key to Successfully Camping with Multiple Dogs

Before we get into any tips, tricks, or hacks for camping with two dogs (or more), we need to take a moment to discuss the most important factor. A successful trip with multiple dogs starts with training at home.

One dog that lacks leash manners or insists on barking at every person that passes the campsite can be a handful to deal with. Now multiply that with multiple dogs…

Before heading out to the campsite, you want to make sure that basic obedience is sold for every one of your dogs. This includes having proper leash manners, a solid recall, and commands to keep your dog safe like “leave it” or “drop it”.

Training multiple dogs together can be a challenge, especially in the beginning. Start by training your dogs separately, allowing you to give each dog the focus that they need to be successful. You can then bring them together to further reinforce their ability to listen with other distractions (including each other).

In addition to obedience training, we also recommend taking the time to introduce your dogs to the tent (or RV, trailer, etc.) before heading out camping as a pack.

Every dog responds differently to the unique experience of being in a tent. Some dogs are very excitable and energetic, others become highly anxious and nervous, and, then there are those that instantly relax. An anxious or overly excited dog can be a handful – but multiple anxious or overly excited dogs can feel impossible to manage!  

By introducing your dogs and teaching them how to behave while camping, you are setting the stage for a relaxing experience tenting or RVing with multiple dogs.

Packing for a Camping Trip with Multiple Dogs

If you have any experience camping with dogs, then you know that like a human camping partner, your pup will have his or her own gear to bring along. But how do you handle all the gear necessary for camping with multiple dogs?

Here are a few of our tips from tent camping with 3 dogs and 2 cats while travelling with everyone in an SUV (yes, it can be done):  

  • Search for portable travel-friendly items. Our girl is older and prefers to sleep on an elevated bed, so we found a portable camp bed for our travels.
  • Consider which items need to be brought in multiples, and which can be shared. For example, if your dogs are comfortable curling up together, a single folding bed that is larger in size may fold up and take up less space than two smaller beds folded up.
  • Don’t over-pack. Even if you like juggling multiple different leashes at home for walking, swimming, or hanging out, you can probably pair it down to one leash per dog to save on space.
  • Be honest about what gear is actually needed and what isn’t going to be used. We have 3 dogs but only bring beds in our tent for two. Why? Lucifer always sleeps in bed cuddling me both at home and at camp, regardless of the weather. So, we can save space by not packing a bed for him that is going to sit unused the entire trip.

Of course, when bringing a larger group of campers, you are going to need to bring more gear. To allow us to bring the entire pack we have started using a rooftop cargo carrier and a hitch cargo carrier to extend the space that we have available in our SUV.

How Do You Tie Up Two Dogs When Camping?

When we first started camping with two dogs, we would spend much of our time untangling their tie-outs. Especially when they decided it was time to play together, creating a tangled mess that could be incredibly frustrating.

A few years ago, we were introduced to the idea of using foldable wire exercise pens when travelling, and we’ll never go back!

These pens are convenient because you can combine as many as necessary to create the space needed for your dogs. We currently travel with 3 and extend them from our enclosed dining shelter for extra space.

Of course, if you’re camping with large dogs, you will need to take the time to teach your dogs to respect the boundaries of the pens. If ours really wanted to jump over or barrel their way through, these pens wouldn’t hold them back. But they know that they are expected to stay within the designated area, and they don’t challenge it.

For those that are concerned this may not work for them or campers that simply prefer the traditional tie-out, consider locations where you can tie your dogs so that they can reach one another, but don’t overlap significantly. This will help to reduce tangling.

a man and three dogs hiking over a rock | Tips and Tricks for Camping with Multiple Dogs
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Will Two Dogs Tire Each Other Out?

Yes! This is one of our favourite parts about camping with multiple dogs. While we enjoy hiking, swimming, and exploring, we also enjoy some downtime sitting by the first or kicking back in the hammock with a good book.

Daviana and Indiana, being older, are generally game to settle in whenever we want to. But then we adopted our little spitfire Lucifer with his never-ending energy.  

Between the two older dogs, there is always at least one ready for a play session when he starts to get antsy. It’s 2 on 1 and he’s still the one going to bed with energy leftover. However, during the day, they do a great job of entertaining and tiring one another out.

How to Set Up Tents for Camping with Dogs

Anyone that has experience living with multiple dogs knows that they need space… with 3 dogs joining us on our camping trips, that means setting up our tent to accommodate their needs.

In one of our recent YouTube videos, we shared our tent set up for camping with 3 dogs and 2 cats.

To start, you will need a tent that is large enough to accommodate everyone. Sure, there are only two people on our camping trips. But a 2-person tent would be very difficult to find space for everyone to sleep comfortably.

When we’re car camping, we currently use a 6-person tent. For backpacking trips, we size down to a 4-person, but we also have less extravagant sleeping gear taking up space (like our cots and larger dog beds).

To begin, make a list of where each member of your pack will sleep and what sleeping gear is needed. For example, for our pack, the list looks like this:

  • Britt and Jano, queen-sized air mattress
  • Daviana, raised dog bed
  • Indiana, standard dog bed
  • Lucifer, N/A (sleeps in our bed)
  • Pippen and Jinx, cat playpen

Any tent that we choose will need to be large enough to accommodate all the gear on that list plus space for our luggage.

You will also need to consider where your pets like to sleep both in relation to you as well as to each other. As I already pointed out, Lucifer sleeps in our bed, curled up with me. Indiana sleeps on his own bed, but he likes to sleep close to his daddy. So, we have to make sure that there is space to place Indy’s dog bed on his side of our bed.

It can feel a little bit like a camp-themed version of Tetris.

If you’re taking a new tent for the first time or adding a new member to your pack, consider setting up your tent in the backyard to make sure that everything you have will fit. Alternatively, you can tape off the floor space of your tent indoors and set up everything within that taped-off area.

This will give you a chance to make sure that a) everyone will fit in your current tent and b) you have the best gear to fit that space while also providing for the needs of everyone involved.

Tips for Hiking or Walking Multiple Dogs

Use a Treat or Training Bag to Free Your Hands

Not only do you need your hands to hold your dogs’ leashes, but you may need to navigate difficult-to-scale areas of the trail that requires a little extra help. The best way that we have found to free our hands while still making sure that we have everything that we need close at hand is to use a treat bag or training bag that offers additional pockets.

The bag we currently use can be worn as a cross-body or around the waist. It has a treat pouch with magnetic closure so that you don’t have to fight to open it when a reward is warranted. Additionally, it has pockets for your phone, poop bags (where they are quick to access), car keys, and more.

While it doesn’t have a water bottle pouch, many dog-friendly water bottles have attached carabiners to clip on the side or you can use the Spleash (a product we recently discovered and love).

Leave the Headphones at Home

If you enjoy hiking or walking with music, you may want to reconsider that when taking several dogs out. There is a lot going on and your attention is already divided 2, 3, or more ways. To ensure that you and your dogs are safe, you need to be alert and aware of what’s happening. This isn’t possible if you’re wearing headphones and restricting your ability to hear trouble coming.

dog drinking water out of leash handle | Tips and Tricks for Camping with Multiple Dogs
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Consider Different Leash Options

One of the important considerations you will need to make is whether you are using the right leash(es) to make the experience comfortable, easy, and safe for everyone involved. We have tried multiple different options and found many we love. But hiking and walking with multiple dogs will mean finding a way to safely hold everyone.

One way that you can do this is with the use of a leash coupler. Also known as a double leash, this is a tool that allows you to turn a standard leash into one that can hold two dogs with a single handle. They can be purchased with a handle as a complete leash set-up, or as an attachment that your current leash will clip onto.

Another solution, and one that we use often, is to wear one of your dogs. This can be done by using a cross-body leash or a waist leash, freeing your hands to focus on your other dog(s).  

This past summer we discovered The Buddy System and have been using it frequently with great results. It’s a simple waist leash set-up with the ability to use add-ons like a second leash, a double-buddy leash coupler, or a bungee leash for those that enjoy running with their dog.

Consider What to Do with Dog Poop

This may not be the most pleasant part of the planning, but you will need to put some thought into what to do with dog poop while hiking. After all, your hands are likely already occupied with your dogs. Luckily, there are many great dog poop bag holders on the market. They aren’t fancy or elaborate, but they make a world of difference when you’re out and someone decides that it’s time to go!

The Case for Planning Solo Camping Trips

While we absolutely love heading out and exploring the great outdoors with our full pack, we also make a point of scheduling some solo camping trips for each of us to enjoy some one-on-one time with our dogs.

We are firm believers in the importance of building a strong bond with your dog(s).

By planning short weekends away one-on-one with each of the pups, we create the perfect opportunity to build and strengthen that bond. It’s also a great opportunity to work on some obedience training, allowing you to give your dog 110% of your attention.

And yes, we continue to work on training with all our dogs, even Daviana at 14 years old.

Do you have experience camping with multiple dogs? If so, what tips and tricks do you have to share with those considering giving it a try?

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