Camping 101

Camping with Pets: Everything You Need to Know

Last Updated on January 7, 2021 by Jody

Camping is a great family activity, and if you have a dog or cat at home, then your pet is also part of the family.

Camping with pets can be tricky, but leaving your furry friend at home or in a kennel can feel like you’ve left a family member behind. That’s why we’re bringing you all the tips you need to know so you can start camping with your family pet.

Dog and Tent near Leadville Colorado
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Why Do I Need to Take My Dog Camping?

Your reasons may vary, but for many, the dog is a part of the family. Some of the best family memories are made while camping, and without the dog, it just feels like something is missing.

Not to mention, camping goes hand in hand with lots of dog-friendly activities like hiking, canoeing, and fishing. 

Do Dogs Enjoy Camping?

This will vary greatly by the kind of dog you have. And that doesn’t mean what breed of dog, but rather the temperament of your dog. The best way to figure out if bringing your dog on a camping trip is a good idea is to try it first at home or at a nearby campground where you can easily return home with your pet.

What Do You Do With Your Dog While Camping?

Most camping trips involve a lot of outdoor activity, whether that’s scoping out nearby hiking trails, swimming and fishing, or other active adventure.

Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog, so the more tired your dog is at the end of the day, the better the camper they will be. 

Can Dogs Sleep in Tents?

If you plan to go tent camping, start by setting up a tent in your living room and letting your pet go in and out, sniffing around. Then move it out to the back yard and plan to spend the night. Is your dog up all night, barking at the slightest sounds? Or do they sleep soundly? 

Dog Sleeping in Tent

RV Camping with Dogs

Even though an RV is a bit more insulated than a tent, you should still test out how well your dog or cat does in an RV.

The good news is that an RV feels like home so if you use a kennel at home use a kennel in the RV. Keep feeding potty times on schedule when possible.

If you must leave your dog in the RV while you venture out be sure the vehicle won't be too hot and that your dog has plenty of water. If the air conditioning unit isn't running consider turning on the fan for background noise. A few favorite toys can help alleviate boredom.

How Can You Camp With Pets?

As long as you can find pet-friendly campsites, camping with pets is pretty easy. Of course, you’ll need to pack some special items for your pet just as you would any other member of the family. 

Here’s a quick packing list for camping with dogs:

  • Dog food (and water if you are dry camping)
  • Water bowl and food bowl
  • Food storage container if you are tent camping, especially if you are in bear country
  • A sleeping pad and/or blanket for your pet to sleep on
  • Biodegradable poop bags (Rule #1 of being a good camping neighbor is to pick up after your dog!)
  • ID tags in case your dog escapes your campsite
  • First Aid kit for dogs that includes tweezers and fur-friendly bandaging.
    Learn more about Camping Safety
  • Treatment for fleas and ticks (usually applied once a month)
  • A dog tie-out or tether so they can explore your campsite or sleep in the shade under picnic tables (check the campground rules on how long the tether can be; usually it’s six feet)

Read our article on Campground Etiquette!

Where Does Your Dog Sleep When Camping?

This isn’t all that different from where your dog sleeps at home. If they sleep in bed with you, they’ll want to sleep near you in a tent or RV as well. If your dog has their own bed, it’s easy enough to throw the bed in your tent or RV so they will feel more at ease with a familiar bed.

Dog sleeping near tent in Colorado backcountry

Leaving Your Dog While Camping

This is one of the most challenging parts of camping with pets, especially if you are camping in hot summer weather. Even the most dog-friendly campgrounds don’t usually allow pets inside any buildings, including the bathroom, laundry room or shower house. 

If you’re in an RV, you can get away with leaving your pet inside for a short time. There are even temperature monitors you can install that will alert you if your RV is getting too hot.

If you are tent camping with pets, it’s a bit trickier. A dog or cat can easily chew or claw their way out of a tent if they want to, so it’s best to take turns with your camping partners if you need to leave the pet behind. 

If you are camping with a pet in US National Parks, be aware that most National Parks do not allow dogs on any hiking trails. There are a few exceptions, but if you are planning some lengthy hikes, you will have to decide where to leave your pet while you are hiking. Some National Parks, like the Grand Canyon and Mammoth Caves, offer on-site kennels where your dog can stay for the day.

If you plan to camp at a State Park, these are usually more pet-friendly, however, check the rules and regulations before you make your camping reservation!

Dog and Tent at Monument Valley, Arizona

Can You Bring a Cat Camping?

Yes! You can bring a cat camping! Of course, it depends on the cat, but it’s been done. If you have an outdoor cat that is used to wandering your neighborhood at night, consider any safety issues that might arise in the area where you are camping.

Do Cats Like Tents?

Just like dogs, this will vary from cat to cat. Cats are notorious escape artists, so you do have to be very careful about tent camping with cats, as they will likely dart out quickly as soon as that tent flap is unzipped.

Many of the tips we’ve provided for camping with dogs will also apply to camping with cats. Try it out at home, bring a bed from home so they feel more comfortable, and have a way to tether them to your campsite.

The biggest thing to remember about camping with pets is that it is supposed to be fun! If you have a nervous dog that doesn’t like change, then it won’t be fun for them to tag along. If your style of camping is parking at an RV park and spending the day at the nearby mall or amusement park, then your pet won’t really be included in the camping activities.

However, if your dog (or cat) loves outdoor adventures, and travels well, then there’s no reason not to try camping with your pets!

Have you already tried camping with your dog or cat? Tell us how it went in the comments!

Dog and tent near Monument Valley, Arizona
dog at tent campsite

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