Camping with your small dog is a fun way to bond with them while enjoying everything the great outdoors have to offer.
I’ve been camping with my miniature Dachshunds for over 18 years and it’s one of my favorite things to do with them.
They love the sighs and smells of the outdoors and seeing them come alive brings me joy.
In order to have a successful camping trip, you should be prepared with a plan and the right gear.
I have a lot of experience – you could maybe even call me an “expert” – that I want to share with others to help them get outdoors with their small dog.
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My Tips for Camping With a Small Dog
Research an appropriate camp site
Before heading out on your camping adventure, you’ll need to find a campground for you and your pup.
Not all campsites are dog-friendly, so it’s important that you do a bit of research first.
Once you arrive at your destination, you will need to choose a spot to set up camp.
Characteristics of a great site for camping with your dog include:
Researching campgrounds ahead of time online can help you pick the best campsite if you are unable to visit in person.
- Away from other crowded campsites if you can (many established campgrounds are completely full on weekends so this may not be possible)
- Surrounded by as many trees and bushes as possible to provide privacy and shade
- Away from the bathrooms or parking spaces – both heavily trafficked areas
- Away from trails and walking paths where people could disturb you and your dog
In many cases, campgrounds will have photos or details about the site online when you make reservations.
Oftentimes, you’ll also have access to reviews and photos from other campers.
If you haven’t been able to personally scout the campground before you make your reservation, this information can be really helpful when selecting a campsite.
Review all campground and trail rules
While researching the best campground, be sure to review all of the rules and fine print.
First and foremost you’ll need to be sure that dogs are allowed. Believe it or not, there are campgrounds and trails that do not allow our furry friends.
It’s also important to verify that dogs are welcome on surrounding trails.
There will almost always be clear signs posted on at trail or campground entrances but who wants to find out this information after they arrive with their dog? It can totally run a vacation.
Note: this is most common with National Parks – dogs are allowed in campgrounds but not surrounding trails. If you want to visit anyway, check out my tips for visiting National Parks with a Dog.
If you have multiple small dogs, check to see if there is a dog limit. Some campgrounds may only allow two or three dogs per campsite.
Make sure you bring the essentials
There are a handful of necessities that you’ll need to pack for every camping with your small dog:
- Collar, leash and harness with updated ID tags (LED or light-up collars are great for nighttime)
- Water and food dishes (collapsible bowls are excellent for camping)
- Dog waste bags
- A dog jacket for cooler weather (consider one with reflective piping so your dog will be easily visible in low light conditions)
- Microfiber towel for drying your pup if they get wet or dirty
- Dog first aid kit
- Your dog’s favorite bed or blanket
- Dog sleeping bag or blanket
- Some way to secure your dog at the campsite (a kennel or our favorite playpen or dog hitching system)
- Any necessary medication for your pup
- Plenty of food, water, and treats
- Your dog’s favorite toy or treat puzzle
The list above is a great place to start but you may find that you need to bring other items for your dog’s specific needs.
It helps to make a list and double check it before you head out.
Then you can add things to the list as you think of them when you are out camping so you remember to bring them next time.
Decide where your small dog will sleep
Most people sleep with their small dog in the tent or bed with them.
Your pup will be safest and most comfortable if you allow them to sleep snuggled up next to your warmth.
Small dogs can sometimes even fit in a sleeping bag with you! This is especially helpful (for both of you) if you’re camping in cold weather.
If you don’t have space for your dog in your sleeping bag, or have other reasons you don’t like them sleeping next to you, make a cozy space next to you with their favorite bed and blankets.
However, whether your dog is sleeping right next to you or on their own bed, it’s safest to have them in the tent with you all night instead of outside unattended.
There are too many risks involved, including the possibility of wandering wildlife that could pose a serious threat.
Keeping your dog in your tent is the safest option when possible.
Some dogs may have difficulty sleeping in a new place at night, and you may find that your dog is restless in the tent when it’s time for bed.
To help avoid that, make sure that your dog is getting plenty of exercise during the day.
We do recommend giving tent sleeping with your dog a trial run at home if you’ve never done it before.
That way your dog can get used to the tent, and they will be familiar with it when you set it up at a campground.
Be a good neighbor
There is specific etiquette for camping with dogs that you will want to make note of, especially since camping is intended to be a relaxing, non-stressful activity.
- Minimize barking as to not disturb the peace
- Do not allow your dog to wander into neighboring campsites
- Pick up all of your pet’s waste
- Do not leave your dog unattended
Before you go camping with your dog, make sure that they have solid basic obedience skills, such as “sit”, “stay. “Leave it”, and “come” commands.
Camping will be much more enjoyable and safer if your dog listens to you – for both you and others in the campground.
Be prepared for emergencies
You should be prepared for emergencies any time you leave the house with your dog. However, it’s especially important while camping since you’re typically further away from a veterinarian.
Before your camping trip, find out where the nearest emergency vet is to your campsite. This way if there does happen to be a medical emergency, you already know where to go.
Always bring your dog’s first aid kit with you while camping or hiking, so you can take care of minor problems if they occur. A first aid kit can also be a lifesaver when making your way to the vet.
Protect your dog against insect bites
Encountering a slew of bugs while camping with your dog is inevitable, but keeping your furry friend protected is easy!
Help make your dog comfortable at camp by keeping the bugs away.
Different ways you can keep the bugs away from your dog include:
- Using a topical treatment (our favorites are Vectra 3D or K9 Advantix II) that repel fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other pests
- Dog-friendly/natural bug spray (like Wondercide)
- Dog clothing that is already treated with bug repellent
- DIY bug repellent bandana
- Using a screened-in playpen for relaxing at the campsite
Campfires also help keep bugs away from humans and our canine counterparts.
Just remember to completely douse the fire before leaving, and follow all burn restriction laws.
Be mindful of wildlife
Of course, wildlife can always be around when you go camping. You may not always see it but it is almost always there, especially at night.
After all, the land you’re on is their natural habitat. It’s crucial to respect all wildlife and their space when camping and hiking, and you’ll want your dog to do the same.
Keeping your dog on a leash when exploring will ensure that your dog and local wildlife stays safe.
If you’re in an off-leash area, only allow your dog to wander if they have a solid recall command.
You’ll most likely see many critters during your outdoor adventure, and it can be a recipe for disaster if your dog is always interested in a good chase.
Related: Use these tips to keep your dog from running away while camping.
There’s also the possibility that you may encounter large animals who view your small dog as a delicious meal.
In this article you will learn what to do if you come face to face with a threatening animal in the wild.
Camping with a small dog can be an incredibly fun and memorable experience, and it will be even more enjoyable if you are prepared. Happy camping!