Camping with dogs can make a trip in the great outdoors an amazing experience. Getting outside in nature, away from home, provides space and time together to explore and make new memories.
“I think that most dogs can love camping, as long as their owner makes it an enjoyable experience for them! Some dogs might be weirded out by sleeping outdoors,” says Jen Sotolongo, pet lifestyle blogger of Long Haul Trekkers, and author of The Essential Guide to Hiking with Dogs. “Camping exposes them to new experiences that they might not get in their urban life, which can help build their confidence and provide mental stimulation.”
Camping can also be an amazing opportunity to spend fully present time with your pup, while also participating in fun activities like hiking, swimming, fishing, or boating.
“Veterinarians generally recommend 30 minutes to two hours of physical activity each day to maintain a dog’s health and happiness,” says Lily Velez, pet wellness expert and head of special reports for One Vet. “Hiking also provides excellent mental stimulation for dogs, due to the wide array of new sights, smells, and sounds all around them.”
Whether you’re taking a road trip or going to a local campsite, if you’ve never gone camping with your pup in tow, you may feel overwhelmed. But to help you prepare, we asked pet experts for their best tips for camping with dogs, including the best dog camping gear and dog camping tents for a smooth and comfy trip.
Dog Camping Gear: What to Bring and Pack
In the current days of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel (especially with pets) has become much more difficult, which is why camping is such a great option. All you need to do is pack up the car and drive to your destination. Plus, rather than spending time around crowds, camping will get you into wide open spaces where you and your pup can feel safe without worry.
So what exactly do you need to bring along to enjoy and explore the great outdoors with your dog? “Make a gear checklist so you don’t forget any essential items, like their bed, food, water, bowl, etc.,” says Sotolongo. “The list may change depending on the sort of activities you’ll be doing where you’re camping.”
As you’re packing, keep the weather in mind. “Cold snaps, heat waves, and downpours can be commonplace depending on [where you’re camping],” says Velez. “Always prepare for weather extremes by keeping your dog outfitted in appropriate protective gear such as hiking boots (which can protect paws from rough, hot, or cold terrain), coats (great for short-haired dogs in colder climates), reflective jackets, collars, leashes (especially important in the dark), and cooling collars (which can fend off the heat).”
Specifically, you can also invest in some protective safety gear. “Other safety gear to have on hand include safety lights, ice packs, a brush or comb to remove any plant materials or burrs from your dog’s coat, and post-hike remedies like soothing balm for your dog’s paws,” says Velez.
Velez also suggests acclimating your dog to any new gear, such as boots or coats, a few weeks before your camping trip begins, so that your pet becomes accustomed to wearing them.
If this is your dog’s first camping trip, it may be helpful to expose her to your camping gear as well beforehand. “This includes your tent, their camping bed, etc.,” says Sotolongo. “You can put the tent together in your home or backyard so they can associate that with camping. You can even camp in your yard to see how they do sleeping outside before you go out for the first time.”
Best Tents for Camping with Dogs
There are tons of tents on the market, so it may feel overwhelming to pick the best one for camping with a dog. But according to Sotolongo, who has covered this topic extensively, the perfect tent should be “lightweight, durable, weatherproof, designed with high quality materials, and quick to set up.”
Size is also crucial. “Pay attention to the design. Is the tent tapered at one end to save space or is it a rectangular shape to offer more room?” says Sotolongo. Keeping weather in mind, she also suggests a three-season tent, which will “offer more ventilation, but can also provide insulation in cooler weather, including frost or light snow.”
For pet parents looking to buy a new tent, here are some of the best options:
This tent is a favorite of Sotolongo, and is also one of the brand’s best sellers. You can choose a 3- or 4-person design. It also has convenient awning-style vestibules that expand to cover you from rain and sun.
With nearly 8,000 Amazon reviews, this tent has earned a 4.5-star rating. This polyester tent has the brand’s patented WeatherTec system designed to keep the elements out. Plus, you can fit plenty of people, gear, and pups in it.
Sotolongo is a big fan of Nemo tents, and this one is compatible with the brand’s Pawprint accessory that snaps into the tent to protect the tent from your pets claws, while also adding a small amount of insulation.
This specific tent comes recommended by Sotolongo. She notes that the brand “consistently makes durable, reliable, and super high-quality tents.” And this tent specifically kept out strong winds while camping in Patagonia.
Camping With Dogs: 10 Safety and Preparedness Tips
Of course, no one can plan for emergencies. But going on your camping trip with safety and preparedness instilled will help you feel more capable in case anything goes wrong. Here are 10 things to keep in mind when camping with dogs.
Ensure your dog is up to date with vaccinations.
Before you even pack, it’s important to make sure your pet is up to date with her regular wellness check-ups. “Your vet may recommend certain vaccinations, medications, or treatments, such as those that keep fleas and ticks from harming your dog,” Velez says.
While there, you can also make sure your pup has any necessary medications and a copy of their medical records. “Make sure your dog’s ID tag is up to date in case they get lost,” adds Sotolongo. Plus, your vet can do a physical exam to make sure your dog is capable of doing any outdoor activities you have planned.
Know your dog’s limits.
If you plan to hike during your camping trip, but your dog typically only takes walks around the block, it can be easy to overdo it. Consider starting a training regimen well in advance so you can slowly build up your dog’s activity levels over time. “Start taking your dog on smaller walks and then gradually work your way up to longer stints, always monitoring your dog’s energy level along the way to make any adjustments as needed,” says Velez. “Never push your dog beyond their stamina, as this can lead to injury or exhaustion.”
Practice some training commands before you go.
New places and unfamiliar environments can often be overstimulating for dogs, given the large volume of new sights and sounds surrounding them. There are bound to be other dogs at the campsite and along the trails, and you’ll want to make sure your pet exhibits good manners when interacting with others. For this reason, it’s essential that a dog is able to obey basic training cues, such as heel, sit, stay, and come.
“Heel” is especially important for scenarios where you’ll need to keep your dog controlled on a leash. “Come” or a recall command using your dog’s name is also essential during certain situations you might face while camping, such as encountering wildlife or dangerous terrain. Other important commands to master include “leave it’ (helpful for curious dogs that may try to put inappropriate items in their mouth), “off” (to prevent pets from jumping on other people they come across), and “wait” (for times when your dog is walking ahead of you and you need them to stop so you don’t become separated).
Prepare for hazards and emergencies.
In the event of an accident or medical emergency while camping with dogs, pet parents should be prepared to administer first aid to their pet, as access to veterinary care will naturally be limited in remote areas. This includes packing first aid materials.
“Some items worth packing in a homemade first aid kit include: gauze, adhesive tape, a styptic pencil (to stop bleeding), an old credit card (to remove bee stingers), anti-inflammatory agents, antihistamines, antibiotic ointments, paw salve, a
thermometer and hydrogen peroxide,” says Velez. “Dog owners should prepare for all possible scenarios in order to keep their pet safe. A pet-oriented first-aid guidebook is a helpful tool to have on hand to appropriately navigate any issues that arise.”
Consider taking a pet first aid course.
You should also consider registering for a pet first aid course. Many are available online that will help you to learn the basic procedures for emergencies like poisoning, fractures, bleeding, burns, choking, heat stroke, and more.
“Such classes can also help you learn the warning signs of discomfort in a dog. For instance, if your dog is limping or breathing heavily, they may be overexerting themselves and will need ample rest in addition to being checked for any injuries,” says Velez. “If a pet is gravitating toward shady spots or is engaged in excessive panting or drooling, they may be overheating, and will need cool, wet cloths applied to their body (neck, armpits, and between hind legs) and given cool water to drink after being moved to a shaded area.”
Be alert in the great outdoors.
Camping gives you and your dog a chance to explore exciting terrains. However, there are also potential dangers that require dog owners to always be on the alert when it comes to ensuring their pet’s safety.
“For instance, wildlife can be territorial. Never let your dog roam off-leash on trails, as predators can see an excited dog as a threat and lash out,” says Velez. “It’s equally important to watch where your dog is stepping to avoid dangers, such as snake bites or other trail-related injuries.”
Make sure you have plenty of water and fuel.
When packing food and water for your pup, it’s wise to portion out more than your dog usually eats and drinks per day, especially if you will be hiking or participating in other outdoor activities. Ask your veterinarian for advice on how much extra food makes sense for your dog and her body weight.
“Generally, dogs should drink 1 ounce of water per pound per day (although they’ll likely drink more when exerting more energy). Dog owners can pack collapsible water bowls that easily fit in hiking backpacks for ease of use on the trails,” says Velez. “Since a dog will be burning more calories than usual when hiking, food high in protein is also a great option to keep them energized throughout the day.”
When camping with dogs, you should also never let your dog drink water you didn’t bring, such as stagnant puddles or from streams and rivers, because of the risk of waterborne pathogens. “Dogs should only drink from the water supply you’ve packed for them, as park water can potentially contain parasites or bacteria like Leptospirosis,” says Velez.
Educate yourself on poisonous plants.
“Pet owners should make it a point to be able to identify poisonous plants that can cause dogs harm such as foxglove, bluebells, daffodils, ivy, and elderberry,” says Velez. “These days, you can easily download special apps that help you identify whether a plant species is toxic to dogs.”
Know trail regulations.
“Not every park or hiking trail is pet-friendly. Each has its own pet policy, so it’s important to research trail regulations thoroughly to avoid any unexpected upsets,” says Velez. “A site like AllTrails can be an incredible resource for dog owners, as it provides detailed trail maps and extensive information for dog-friendly hikes all across the United States.”
Follow B.A.R.K. principles
Specifically at your campsite, keep in mind the B.A.R.K. principles. “For campsites that allow dogs, always abide by the National Park Service‘s B.A.R.K. principles,” says Velez. Those include:
- Bag your pet’s waste
- Always leash your pet
- Respect wildlife
- Know where you can go
With the right dog camping gear, proper travel preparations, and general safety awareness, your outdoor adventures with your pup are sure to be a success.