It’s one of those questions that we often don’t stop to think about as experienced campers. However, for first-time campers, this is a valid concern. When camping with a dog, where does he sleep? Is there gear that you are going to need to keep your dog both safe and comfortable at night? To help you prepare for your trip, we’ve put together this article discussing the most common sleeping accommodations for dogs including the pros and cons of each. Where do dogs sleep when camping? Let’s find out!
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Where Should Dogs Sleep While Camping?
There are many questions surrounding where your dog should sleep at night. The good news is that there is no single ‘right’ answer. Instead, it’s about finding the best situation for you and your dog, prioritizing everyone’s safety and comfort.
There are 3 main locations that come up when we ask this question in the outdoor travel community – in the tent, outside, or in the car. To help you narrow down these options, we’re going to look at each of them in detail. This includes sharing our experiences and the gear that we have used for each of our pups. And for those that are worried that their situation may not fit ‘in the box’, we want to point out that we have 3 dogs and 3 different sleeping arrangements.
Should My Dog Sleep in My Tent?
When asking tent campers for their answer to the question “where do dogs sleep when camping”, the most common answer we received is that they keep their canine companions in the tent at night. But even that answer involves a variety of different sleeping arrangements. As we mentioned, our 3 dogs all have different preferences, but all 3 are in our tent. Here are a few different ways your dog can get comfortable and enjoy a good night’s sleep on your next camping trip.
In Bed with You
For some dog owners, a good night’s sleep means curling up with your dog in bed. This is Lucifer’s chosen sleeping arrangement regardless of the weather. He’s a snuggle bug and just wants to be close to his people all night long.
When deciding if your bed is the right space, there are a few questions to ask yourself. Is there enough space in your bed for your dog? If you only have a single cot and an XL dog, this may not be a feasible arrangement. You may also look at the weather forecast. When asked why dogs like to sleep with you, many campers answered for body heat in the cooler temperatures. But, what about on a hot summer night? It could be that this is the right answer for some trips and not for others.
Confession: All 3 of our dogs will sleep in our bed at one time or another. Especially during the colder months!
In Their Own Bed
Another popular option is to set up a separate bed for your dog in the tent. There are many ways that you can do this depending on your dog’s size and sleeping preferences. Our girl Daviana is getting a little up in age at 14 years old and sleeps best when she has her orthopedic bed. Especially after a day of hiking. So, we make sure that we always have room to bring that along on front country camping trips. Meanwhile, Indy prefers to sleep on a cot-style dog camping bed.
If you’re camping in the late fall or winter months, you may be concerned about how your dog is going to stay warm and cozy. There are a couple of easy solutions to this problem. First, you can purchase a self-warming crate pad and place it on your dog’s bed. These work by capturing your dog’s body heat and reflecting it back to him without the need for any electricity.
If your dog prefers to burrow in during the colder weather, you may want to add some extra bedding to your dog’s bed. Some options include a warm, cozy blanket or even a sleeping bag. Daviana loves when we place one of our older winter weather sleeping bags on the bed for her to snuggle into and get comfortable (and we love seeing her that content).
In A Crate
Should dogs sleep in a crate? This is going to depend on your dog, the way he has been trained, and how comfortable he is in the tent. If your dog is a flight risk and the question ‘where do dogs sleep when camping’ instantly gives you anxiety, a crate may be your saving grace! It’s also a great choice for dogs that are crate trained at home and therefore see the crate as their ‘safe space’. This can help to relieve stress for dogs during their first camping trip or simply calm excitable dogs down after a day of hiking and dog beach adventures.
What About Backcountry Camping?
If you’re planning a trip out to the backcountry, then you know that large orthopedic dog beds and heavy cot-style beds are off the table. On these trips, you are a little more limited in your options. But we still recommend bringing your dog into the tent at night. There are some great portable dog bed and dog sleeping bag options available that pack up small to throw in your pack. You can bring along one of these options and place it beside you in the tent or welcome your dog to sleep on your air mattress or sleeping pad with you for the night.
Where Should a Puppy Sleep?
If you are camping with a puppy, there may be a few extra factors to consider at night. Most importantly, how to keep your young puppy safely contained. While an adult dog may thrive with gear like a dog sleeping tent or portable dog bed, a young puppy may see these items as a giant chew toys. Especially if they are still in the teething stage.
Last summer, we welcomed Lucifer into our pack. On our first camping trip with the little man, he was only 4 months old. To keep him safe as well as to allow us to continue focusing on his crate training, we brought along the wire crate that we were using at home. At night, he slept safely in the crate next to our bed where we didn’t have to worry about him breaking out of the tent and getting loose. We use a double-door crate, making it easy to fit it into the tent in any available space without worrying about the location of a door.
As he got older, we did venture into letting him stay loose in the tent with us at night, but we took a few precautions in the beginning. We kept a leash on him with the other end attached to our cot and the zippers on the tent door were zipped to the top and held closed with a mini carabiner. Eventually, we reached the time when we could let go of the leash and enjoy having our dog sleeping in the tent with us comfortably.
Can My Dog Sleep Outside When Camping?
Some campers prefer to allow their dog to sleep outside at night. But this is not a choice that we recommend. While it may seem like an easy solution, there are some safety concerns. If like us, you tend to camp in an area known for larger predators (like bears), you are leaving your dog in a vulnerable state. Very few hard-sided or wire crates aren’t going to stop a bear when they are determined to get in.
You may also be leaving your dog exposed to the elements. Even if you set up a structure or cover of some form, you won’t be able to see if that cover is failing.
Of course, if you have a senior dog or a young puppy, they may need to take a nap during the day. This is a safe time to set your dog up outdoors with you. For these nap periods, there are a few options to help create a comfortable place for your dog to sleep. A covered crate is a great way to keep a young puppy contained while also cutting down on the visual stimuli during the day. This will make it easier to get him to settle and fall asleep. There are also dog-specific tents and pet playpens if you trust your dog isn’t going to just rip his way out.
But at night, there are too many factors beyond our control. For us, our dogs are part of the family. Part of our ‘pack’. We always make space in the tent for the pups to come in where they are safe and comfortable.
Can My Dog Sleep in the Car Camping?
One option that some dog owners may prefer is to let their dogs sleep in the car at night. This can be a great option in the right circumstances, but it can also be incredibly dangerous for your dog. Before deciding your dog will sleep in your car, take a moment to consider the season that you are heading out. While this option is suitable in many areas during the spring and fall seasons, it should be avoided during the heat of summer and cold of winter.
During the hot summer weather, the temperature inside your vehicle will rise quickly. If the temperature outdoors is around 20 degrees Celsius, the temperature inside a vehicle will reach approximately 46 degrees Celsius in less than an hour. This gets even worse as the outdoor temperature climbs. Leaving a dog in the vehicle in these conditions will put him at a high risk of heat stroke and, in many cases, will be a fatal mistake.
On the other hand, the cold of winter can also be dangerous for your pet. Just like people, your pet is at risk of hypothermia in freezing temperatures. When the outside temperatures drop, your vehicle will turn into the equivalent of a rolling refrigerator. This can be just as fatal as being left in a vehicle in the summer sun.
When the temperatures are right, allowing your dog to sleep in your vehicle is a great way to keep him safe from local predators. Especially if he’s not comfortable sleeping in your tent. It’s also a great choice during less than desirable weather. If you’re concerned about a big storm that’s rolling in, you may want to sleep in your vehicle with your dog! Put down the seats, set up your bed, and you’re well protected.
Now we invite you to answer the question for your pack – Where do dogs sleep when camping? Do you snuggle your dog in the tent, or is he happier in his own space?