Tips and Tricks for Tent Camping with Dogs
Are you looking for the perfect camping companion? If you’re a dog parent, you don’t have to look far! Bringing your pup along on your outdoor adventures is a great way to bond with your dog. But, if you’re new to tent camping with dogs, there are a few important factors that you need to consider for a successful trip. In this guide, we’re going to look at how to camp with your dog, what risks you should be aware of, and the dog camping essentials you need for your next adventure.
This post contains affiliate links which means if you click and buy, we will make a commission (at no cost to you). See my full disclosure policy for more details.
Can You Sleep in a Tent with a Dog?
If you’re bringing your dog along on your next camping adventure, we highly recommend allowing your dog to join you in the tent at night. This is the best way to keep him safe from wildlife in the area and protect him from the elements.
When sleeping in a tent with a dog, there are a few things that you will need to consider.
First, you will want to be sure that you have a tent large enough for both you and your dog. If your dog is a toy breed, this may not sound like a big deal. But it can make a significant difference for those camping with large or giant breed dogs.
You will also need to consider where your dog prefers to sleep at night. If he sleeps in bed with you, there will be less room needed than a dog that needs to have his own crate or dog bed in the tent.
Keep your dog’s nails trimmed before heading on your next trip. This will protect the tent floor from your dog, preventing punctures that could compromise the water-tight performance of your tent in wet weather conditions.
While there is no such thing as a dog-proof air mattress, you can add an extra layer of protection from your dog’s claws by covering the air mattress with a thick blanket.
Can a Dog Be Left in a Tent?
There are occasionally times when tent camping with dogs that you may need to consider keeping your dog safely contained without you. This is often a concern when setting up the campsite, needing to use the bathroom on solo trips, or when adventuring out off the site.
But, leaving your dog in a tent for any length of time unsupervised isn’t a good idea.
Your tent may be strong enough to stand up to the elements, but it’s probably no match for your dog’s claws and teeth if he tries to break free.
Even if you keep your dog contained in the tent with a kennel, there are other factors to consider. This includes whether he’s going to bark in your absence, disturbing nearby campers.
Or, more importantly, the question about the temperature in your tent over time. As any tent camper can tell you, they can heat up quickly on a hot day. This can put your dog at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
For short bathroom visits on a solo trip, consider letting your dog stay in your air-conditioned car or come with you if the campground allows for it.
Outside of that, stick to activities that are dog-friendly to avoid being in a situation where your dog must be left behind. If you are really set on doing something that your dog can’t do, investigate doggy daycares and dog sitters in the area.
How Do You Keep a Dog in a Tent?
The biggest question we are asked regarding sleeping in a tent with a dog is how you keep him from leaving the tent at night. This will depend largely on your dog’s level of training.
If you have a dog that is a known flight risk, doesn’t have good recall, or you are unsure about how he will react, you will need to take extra precautions. This could include keeping your dog safely contained in a crate at night or even sleeping with a leash on that is tethered to your cot, your wrist, or something heavy inside the tent.
You can allow your dog to roam in the tent freely if you trust that he is going to behave while you are asleep. But you may still want to take some steps to prevent an escape.
When zipping up your tent, ensure that the zippers meet at the top of the tent door. This will put the zipper pulls out of your dog’s reach. You can also go a step further if desired, and attach a small carabiner to both zipper pulls to prevent them from being separated if your dog does access them.
Taking Your Dog Camping for the First Time
Your first trip camping with your dog can be an exciting time, but it’s also a time that can leave many dog parents feeling stressed out.
From worrying about how your dog may behave in certain new situations to double-checking that you have all the gear that you may need, there is a lot to think about. After all, you want to make sure that the trip is enjoyable for both you and your pup.
Before we get into any details, let’s start by pointing out that most dog parents overthink this.
Your trip doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be enjoyable. In fact, you should go into this first adventure with the expectation that something likely can and will ‘go wrong’ along the way.
Rather than seeing this in a negative light or allowing it to ruin your experience, try to be patient and go with the flow. Your dog isn’t going to care if you’re feeding him out of a plastic Tupperware container because you forgot to pack his dog dish. Things like this happen, and that’s okay!
Instead, focus on creating fun memories with your dog, and everything else will fall in place.
Create a Checklist
One of the best pieces of advice that I have for newer campers or those that are bringing their dog along for the first time is to create a checklist of the gear that you will need well in advance of packing. This will give you time to add to the list if something comes up.
Make sure to include the necessities like your dog’s food, fresh water (if it’s not available at the campground), and a pet-friendly first aid kit.
Other items that may help to make your dog more comfortable include his bed or favourite blanket, a folding cot for sleeping outside, some outdoor-friendly dog toys, or exercise pens for creating a safe enclosure.
The amount of gear you bring is going to depend on the space available to bring it and the style of camping you prefer.
For example, we bring much more ‘luxury gear’ when we are car camping than when we are planning a backcountry adventure that requires us to hike in or paddle in to get to our campsite.
How Can I Calm My Dog Down in a Tent?
The best thing that you can do for your dog is to give him the opportunity to get used to the tent at home before you go anywhere. This means setting up the tent in your backyard or even in your living room if space allows.
Give him an opportunity to sniff the tent over and check it out at his own pace.
You can create a positive association with the tent by placing his bed inside, some of his favourite toys, or even sitting inside yourself and rewarding him with treats each time he enters.
Don’t rush this process. Forcing him to adapt to the tent too quickly can add stress to the experience that will carry through to your camping trip. Instead, give your dog the opportunity to dictate how quickly everything progresses.
The next step, when you notice that he is comfortable, is to try sleeping in the tent for a night. While this may seem silly in your living room, it helps your dog to adjust to being enclosed in the tent.
At the campsite, your dog still may feel stressed or anxious. The tent itself is now something that he is familiar with, but the new sounds, smells, and sights at the campground are not. So, try to be patient with him as he settles in.
Bring something familiar with his scent as a source of comfort. The most common items for this include his dog bed from home, a favourite blanket, or a stuffed animal.
When in the tent, praise your dog. Speak with him in a calm and soothing voice and pet him to help calm him. But be careful not to praise him too much when he’s acting out from his anxiety. This can backfire, reinforcing the behaviour that you are trying to help him move past.
Will My Dog Bark While Camping?
When taking your dog camping for the first time, barking is often one of the biggest concerns. After all, no one wants to be ‘that’ camper, driving everyone else nearby crazy.
The good news is that this is something that you can start to work on at home before you travel.
Try taking your dog out to public places that are similar to a campground in your area. Some examples include hiking trails and local parks. This will start to introduce him to the potential sounds and sights that he may encounter.
If possible, find a place to sit and relax with all of this going on around you. This is a great place to do some obedience training. Some obedience commands that can help you when tent camping with a dog include:
- Sit/Down and Stay
- Leave it or Drop it
The more training you do in this setting, the better adjusted your dog will become to ignoring distractions to focus on you.
Alternatively, you can give him the opportunity to settle in with you while relaxing in one of these areas. As soon as you see him lay down beside you and appear calm despite activity happening nearby, praise him and offer one of his favourite treats.
Before, your dog will associate these relaxing times with laying quietly and calmly beside you instead of allowing it to be a time that he is all worked up.
How Do You Camp with Multiple Dogs?
Another common question we get when discussing tent camping with dogs is how we manage to camp with multiple dogs. Especially when you consider the fact that we are outnumbered by our furry friends.
First and foremost, focus on training at home! This makes a big difference in being able to safely handle a larger number of dogs. Often, dogs that aren’t listening will feed off one another, making the situation even more complicated to handle.
Keep everything simple, don’t overcomplicate it.
One of the best changes we made for car camping was to introduce exercise pens in place of tying our dogs out. This eliminated the hassle of untangling their ropes or tethers when they became wrapped around trees or caught up in one another’s ties.
Finally, be realistic with your expectations. We are currently camping with 2 dogs that are seasoned camping dogs and a younger pup that is learning the ropes. With 2 people, that’s completely manageable.
However, if you have multiple dogs that are you introducing to the camping experience, taking all of them at once with you on a solo trip is not setting anyone up for success.
Tips for Camping with a Puppy
If you’ve recently added a new puppy to the family, you may be wondering how you can incorporate him into your travel plans this camping season. The good news is that camping with a puppy isn’t all that different from camping with an adult dog.
One of the most important things that you can do for your puppy is to make sure that he is up to date on any vaccinations.
While vaccinations are an important health concern at all ages, they are especially important at this young vulnerable age. Exposure to potentially life-threatening diseases like parvo can occur when spending time outdoors around wildlife or other dogs.
Some risks are also magnified with puppies. For example, when tent camping with dogs, extreme temperatures can lead to serious health problems. This is an even bigger concern when spending time outdoors with your young puppy.
Consider bringing items to keep your pup cool in the summer heat like cooling pads or bandanas. Most importantly, make sure there is always plenty of cool, fresh water available.
On the other end of the spectrum, winter camping can also lead to problems. When the temperatures drop, you’ll need to decide whether it’s too cold for your dog to be outdoors for an extended time. This will differ from breed to breed. Warm, cozy sleeping bags and winter coats can help to keep your puppy feeling comfortable.
How to Keep Your Dog Safe While Camping
There are many different hazards that your dog may encounter while camping outdoors. This includes everything from interactions with local wildlife to the risk of your dog becoming lost in the wilderness if he gets spooked and runs off.
The most important thing that you can do when considering how to keep your dog safe while camping is to make sure that he has a properly fitting and reliable collar with up-to-date identification.
Not only will the collar allow you to tether or leash your dog, when necessary, but that identification could mean the difference between getting your dog back safely or not during an emergency. Double-check that the information included is current and that the tag is still easy to read.
In addition to their rabies tags, dog licenses, and identification tags, we also add a temporary tag to the collar of each of our dogs when camping.
This tag includes our campsite number for that trip and the dates of our travels so that anyone who may find them knows where to find us. This is especially helpful when camping at a location where the cell service is spotty or non-existent, preventing people from getting through when calling you.
Other precautions that you can take include:
- Make sure you have a fully stocked pet-friendly first aid kit
- Keep your dog leashed or tethered on hikes, especially in bear territory
- Pay careful attention to the expected temperature and prepare accordingly
- Focus on training leading up to your trip
- Never leave your dog unsupervised on your campsite
- Visit the veterinarian before any big trips to make sure that your dog is in good health and up for the trip
How Do I Keep Ticks Off My Dog While Camping?
One of the big concerns that many dog parents have when camping is the growing presence of ticks in many regions, including our own.
While these little pets may not look like much, a tick bite may expose your dog to some serious infections or diseases. Some examples include Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or Canine Bartonellosis.
The best approach for reducing the risk of tick-borne illness is to make sure your dog is on an effective tick preventative.
Dog Camping Essentials
If you’re gathering up your gear and getting ready to head out on your next tent camping adventure, there are always a few items you just can’t be without. For us, that list of must-have gear includes some specific items for our pups.
It wouldn’t be hard to make a long list of items that we love. But that would quickly get out of hand. Instead, we’re going to share a few items that we consider to be dog camping essentials.
MidWest Foldable Metal Dog Exercise Pen
As we already mentioned, we have traded in our traditional dog tethers for a pen setup when car camping. We love the stability offered by the MidWest Foldable Metal Dog Exercise Pen as well as how easy they are to link together. By combining multiple pens, you can create a space as large as you would like for your dogs, extending out and around picnic tables, fire pits, and more.
Carlson Pet Products Portable Pup Travel Pet Bed
Not only is the Carlson Pet Products Portable Pup Travel Pet Bed comfortable for our dogs, but it also packs up conveniently for travel. The raised bed design is also a great choice for warmer weather by allowing for airflow underneath your dog while they are sleeping.
Earth Rated Dog Poop Bags
No one wants to arrive at a campsite to find that the previous camper left behind some ‘presents’ from their dog. Be responsible and clean up after your dogs. To do this, you will need to pack poop bags. We prefer to use Earth Rated Dog Poop Bags because they are reliable and leak-proof, keeping our hands clean.
Kurgo Core Cooling Vest for Dogs
If you’re camping during the hot summer weather, the Kurgo Core Cooling Vest for Dogs is one of the best options we have found for cooling your pup down. To use it, simply wet the vest and put it on your dog. As the water evaporates, it takes heat from the surface of your dog’s body with it.
Do you have any advice for tent camping with dogs that we missed? We invite you to share your tips and tricks in the comments to help other outdoor-loving dog parents.
Great post. I used to go camping with Baby RIP and she loved it and so did I as it was a time to enjoy nature and just kick back and relax. We went to the Mono Springs and so many more places in the Yosemite area.
I have not camped with Layla and really sorry I have not been able to
It’s such a beautiful way to bond with your dog, isn’t it?