6 Steps to Tent Camping with a Dog

Your family dog is everyone’s favorite companion. The kids are begging you to include your beloved pet on a family camping trip. Family fun is your mission, but camping with unprepared and untested dog could not only ruin your fun, but be a serious risk to the safety of your pet as well.

The good news is that it is possible to include your pooch on a tent camping trip and many campgrounds are pet friendly. So, if your dog turns out to have the right temperament and is gradually introduced to tent camping, you can make it happen!

Step #1: Gain Confidence as a Family

It may be best for your family to experience a few camping trips before your pup joins in on the fun. It is helpful if your kids are comfortable with tent camping before you add the family pet. Confident human campers are better camping pals and will help keep your dog at ease.

Step #2: Local Hikes

Once your family has some experience with tent camping, you want to prepare your dog to experience nature. Take your pooch into the woods on some local family hikes. The more your dog is exposed to nature and what it looks, smells, and sounds like, the easier it will be for him to sleep outdoors. Remember to protect your pet against fleas and ticks before venturing outdoors. Leashing your dog is a common courtesy to other hikers, keeps your dog safe and is required in most parks. We carried our puppy in a dog backpack when he was little to help him socialize to his new world.

Step #3: Backyard Camping

Next up, practice! Just as you likely did with your kids, you need to ease your dog into the outdoor lifestyle. Test this change in routine while camping close to home in case the experience turns out to be too much. Practice sleeping in a tent with your dog in your backyard. The kids will absolutely go gaga over this! If you don’t have that option, find a car camping site in a local campground. Start with one night. If that goes well, try two nights. It is always safest for your dog to sleep inside the tent with you.

Step #4: Set Up Your Dog for Success

Once you have practiced and determined that your dog is ready to camp, you can start planning your trip. Dogs are creatures of habit; it is important to make sticking to their routine a priority while camping. Keep feeding times, play time and rest time as close to their normal routine as possible. This will help your dog feel at ease in an unfamiliar setting. Just as important as schedules, familiar comforts and smells from home such their bed, a favorite toy or blanket will help your pup adjust.

With a few minor additions to your regular camping checklist, you can be ready to spend time with your canine companion in the great outdoors. Your pet checklist should include:

  • Food and water bowls (collapsible bowls are a good option for long hikes)
  • Enough food and water plus a some extra for the duration of your trip. Don’t forget to include favorite treats!
  • Poop bags for proper clean up etiquette
  • Paw wax or booties for any rough trail hiking
  • First aid kit
  • Current photo and vaccine records
  • Pet bed / pet sleeping bag
  • Tie Down
  • Leash and collar or harness (reflective or LED types are strongly recommended for night safety)
  • Favorite toy and blanket from home
  • A jacket for cool weather
  • A brush to remove any unwanted debris after outdoor play

Pet safety is big a consideration when bringing your best friend on a camping trip. A first-aid kit for your dog should be included with your first-aid supplies. We found this helpful guide from the nonprofit ASPCA with great information on pet first-aid care, including a handy pdf you can save or print.

Temperature regulation strategies are important when spending extended time outdoors. In the warm summer months, you will need to provide plenty of water and shade. In cooler winter months, prepare ways to provide warmth with blankets, a dog sleeping bag, or a jacket. There are plenty of options on the market for outdoor dog beds you can consider depending on your camping needs. Elevated outdoor dog beds keep your pet off the cold hard ground in cooler temperatures. You can always use a dog bed from home with an elevated bed for extra comfort. Some outdoor dog beds are even covered to provide shade in the warmer months. Here is a handy list of outdoor dog beds.

Step #5: Research Camp and Trail Pet Policies

When considering bringing your dog to a public campground, check the campground website or call before you reserve your campsite to confirm if pets are allowed. You will also need to review the pet guidelines ahead of time so you can prepare your family. You should plan to have a tie down at your campsite to give your pup some room to roam safely while remaining on leash. Your pet should never be left unsupervised. Plan on keeping your dog with you always for the duration of your trip.

Step #6: Have Fun!

With a little preparation, your whole family, including your beloved dog can get out there and enjoy family camping adventures!

John Olsen

John Olsen is a seasoned adventurer with 20 years of writing, public speaking, team leadership, analytics and project management experience.

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