Fresh air, stunning natural scenery, and toasting marshmallows over a campfire. There’s nothing better than a camping vacation — unless, of course, it’s a dog-friendly camping vacation.
But if you’re thinking of going tent camping with a dog, there are lots of important issues to consider first. Where will you go? What will you do when you get there? Where in the tent will your dog sleep? How will you make the entire journey as comfortable and enjoyable as possible for your fur-baby?
To help set yourself up for success, remember these 10 simple tips for tent camping with dogs.
Have a trial run
If your first taste of camping with dogs is a 2-week family vacation, you could be in for some nasty surprises. When it comes to camping, like plenty of other things in life, you’re bound to get a lot wrong the first time you give it a try.
Slowly introduce your pup to the world of camping by taking them on a couple of shorter trips first. Start with a destination that’s reasonably close to home so you won’t be far from help if the trip turns out to be a disaster.
You can also use these first trips to work out what you do (and don’t) need to pack for your pup, work out your dog’s sleeping arrangements, and generally tackle any first-time jitters. Finally, be sure to brush up on the key training skills your pup could need while camping, such as coming when called and walking calmly on a leash.
Where to go
If you've never been camping with a dog, you may need to reassess your idea of the ideal destination. Unfortunately, not all backcountry campsites and national parks welcome dogs, nor do all campgrounds. Some destinations are also more dog-friendly than others, offering a wider range of outdoor (and sometimes indoor) activities you can share with your pup.
That’s why it’s a good idea to choose your destination based on what you like doing with your dog. You can also consider your pup’s “pawsonality” to help narrow down your choices. If they’re energetic and adventurous, maybe they’d like somewhere with lots of great hikes. If they’re more of a couch potato, they might prefer sitting around the campfire listening to ghost stories.
Once you have a rough idea where you’d like to go, start searching for dog-friendly campgrounds where you and your pup can pitch a tent — there’s nothing worse than turning up to a campground only to find out that dogs aren’t allowed!
What to pack for canine campers
If you’re searching for handy travel tips for dogs, there’s a lot you can learn from experienced campers about what to pack for your fur-baby. Let’s start with the obvious items — your pup will obviously need food and treats, a leash, toys, and food and water dishes. Bedding is also a must, so bring along something your dog is familiar with to help them feel right at home.
After that, items start to get more specific based on where you’re going and your dog’s unique needs. You may want to pack:
A doggy life jacket
A dog hiking backpack or harness
A special sleeping bag for your pup
A reflective or illuminated collar so you can see your dog at night
A stake and longer lead so they can wander around your campsite
A crate for your pup to sleep in
Finally, make sure you’ve got a pet first aid kit to help take care of any minor mishaps on the road.
Pre-trip health check
Many campgrounds and RV parks will request proof of your pup’s rabies vaccinations before letting you stay. So if you’re going tent camping with dogs, it’s a good idea to check with your vet that all their vaccinations are up-to-date.
While you’re there, check with your vet if it’s okay for your dog to go camping with you. If they suffer from any underlying health conditions, a road trip followed by lots of outdoor adventures simply might not be suitable.
Finally, make sure whether your pup has enough medication (if they’re currently taking any) to see them through until the end of the trip. And if you’re heading to a tick-prone area, check if your dog is protected against those nasty parasites.
Know the campground rules
Not all campgrounds are created equal — some are much more pet-friendly than others, and they all have different policies regarding four-legged campers. For example, most campgrounds require dogs to be supervised at all times, respectful of noise restrictions, and kept on a leash of a certain length (usually a maximum of 6 feet).
Many campgrounds limit the number of dogs allowed per campsite, while others will restrict or even ban specific dog breeds. Even if dogs are welcome, there are certain areas of the campground where they won’t be allowed. Some RV parks allow pups to stay for free, others require you to pay a nightly fee per dog.
That’s why it’s important to check the campground’s pet policies before you go camping with a dog. That way, you can ensure that you and your pup are perfect guests and will be welcomed back to the same camping spot anytime.
Respect your neighbors
While we’re on the subject of campground rules and regulations, there are plenty of simple things you can do to ensure that you’re the “pawfect” neighbor.
For the most part, this just means sticking to the pet camping policies, but some of it is also just plain good manners. Make sure you:
Always keep your pup leashed (except when in designated off-leash areas)
Clean up after your dog at all times
Don’t leave your dog unattended
Don’t let your dog roam throughout the campground
Stop any nuisance barking — giving your pup lots of exercise will help tire them out
Remember these simple travel tips for dogs and you’ll be doing your bit to boost the reputation of canine campers across the country.
Making space for your pup
Next, think about where your pooch is going to sleep in the tent. Not only will you need to make sure there’s enough space for your dog, but you’ll also need to set up a comfortable place for them to rest their head.
When the weather’s warmer, you might be able to set up a space for your pup in the tent’s vestibule or in their own special area. On colder nights, maybe they’d like nothing better than snuggling up next to you.
Just make sure that your pup has somewhere comfortable, safe, and secure to retreat when they’re ready for a nap. As everyone knows, a good night’s sleep can make a world of difference.
Research local hazards
No matter where you’re traveling with a dog, it’s always important to familiarize yourself with the dangers they may face at your camping destination.
In other areas, it might be the wildlife you’ve got to watch out for. From ticks and fleas to snakes and bears, there are creatures of all shapes and sizes that could potentially cause your pooch harm.
And then there’s the plant life to worry about, such as if your pup eats toxic greenery or comes into contact with poison ivy.
Once you know what hazards await, you’ll be able to know what to look out for when you get there. It’ll also help when it comes to preparing your pet's first aid kit before going camping with dogs.
What to do when you’re doing something that’s not dog-friendly
In a perfect world, you’d be able to keep your dog by your side every second of every day. But what happens when you need to go somewhere dogs aren’t welcome — for example, let’s say there’s a spectacular waterfall you want to hike to in a nearby national park but dogs aren’t welcome on the trail?
You should never leave your dog unattended in a tent. Not only could your pup potentially overheat or maybe bark to beat the boredom, but there’s also the risk that your dog tries to escape and damages your home away from home.
If you’re going to be away for an extended period of time, you could always book a dog walker or even an overnight dog boarding stay with a Wag! pet caregiver. That way, you know your pup will be in safe hands — maybe even having more fun than you! — while you’re off enjoying your own adventure.
Have a “pawsome” time!
A little preparation goes a long way toward making tent camping with dogs safe, relaxing, and a whole lot of fun! And with that in mind, don’t forget to just sit back and enjoy yourself.
Camping is a wonderful and affordable way to get back to nature, see some beautiful sights, and just enjoy getting away from it all. Plus, when you can do it with your fur-baby by your side, you’ll create memories to cherish forever.