Your guide to camping with dogs 

Written by Grant Ellis on 27th August 2021

Adventures are always more enjoyable if no one has to miss out on the fun. It explains why so many dog owners love camping and caravanning: it’s one of the few holiday options where getting away from it all doesn’t have to mean leaving your furry friend behind. 

So what do you need for a safe, dog-friendly trip? Take a look at our essential advice for campers, caravanners and motorhome owners.

Should you bring your dog camping? 

If they’re generally good-natured and if you think your buddy would enjoy it, then absolutely! 

You should find no shortage of sites that not only allow camping with dogs but actively seek to provide lots of doggy benefits to make your stay as safe and easy as possible. These range from fenced off exercise areas and handy poo bins right through to dog playgrounds and even on-site agility classes. 

That said, you obviously need to check the pet policy of any site before you finalise your plans. Even if the listing says ‘dogs allowed’, if you look a little closer, there may be breed restrictions or limits on the number of dogs per pitch. 

Tip: to widen your search for dog-friendly campsites, the UK DogFriendly website is definitely worth a look. 

Before you leave: your dog’s essentials

For a happy canine camper, don’t forget to bring the following for your dog: 

  • Dog food and treats (sticking to your dog’s usual diet helps to avoid tummy trouble)
  • Water for the journey. A dog-friendly water bottle is also a good idea if you are planning long walks 
  • Food and water bowls
  • Poo bags 
  • Favourite toys
  • Leads: a short one for areas where you need to keep the dog under close control (including the campsite), and a longer, extendable one to give them greater scope to explore safely
  • Tie out stake: this allows you to get on with putting on the bbq and other stuff, while securely leaving your dog outside the tent or caravan. 
  • Collar light: this alerts other people to your dog’s presence after dusk, including motorists on-site. 
  • Plenty of towels 
  • Dog brushes 
  • Sleeping gear (see below)
  • Any prescribed medication 
  • Canine first aid kit 

Beginning the trip: how to keep dogs safe in the car 

The Highway Code says that dogs must be “suitably restrained” when travelling in a vehicle, which essentially means either a pet seatbelt or a carrier. For your camping holiday, assuming that your dog is familiar with car travel, stick to whichever method your dog is used to.

If this is going to be the dog’s first trip in your new motorhome, it’s a good idea to introduce them to it in advance of your trip. Let them sit in it and explore, and try a short trip so they’re used to it. Try to make it as positive as possible (with a treat at the end!). 

A comfortable, relaxed dog is less likely to come to harm during a long journey. If they are prone to car sickness, give them time to digest their meal before you set off, or feed them on arrival. Take a break mid-journey to let them stretch their legs, keep an eye on their temperature, turning up the air con if they seem hot and bothered. And of course, don’t leave your dog in the car if you need to make a pit stop. 

Setting up your tent: where do dogs sleep while camping?  

If your dog is used to sleeping in a kennel, they’ll most likely be happiest settling down to sleep in the porch of your tent, caravan or motorhome on a staked leash, or else in their own separate dog camping tent. If your buddy isn’t a kennel sleeper, they’ll probably prefer sleeping next to you. 

If you’re in a tent, make sure you trim your dog’s nails before the trip to minimise the risk of a canvas tear and introduce the tent to your dog at home so they’re used to it before you embark on your holiday.

Even for camping in the summer months, you should invest in a waterproof, breathable, well-insulated dog camping bed. For colder conditions, consider making the bed extra cosy by adding a dog sleeping bag. 

In the day: what to do with your dog while camping? 

The answer’s simple really: have fun! It could be a 10-mile hike, a quick rummage along the riverbank, a game of frisbee, an afternoon in a dog-friendly beer garden – or all of the above. It’s always worth doing your research on dog-friendly beaches and other locations to avoid any wasted trips. However, the beauty of camping is that you’ve got a whole new environment to keep your dog stimulated. At the end of a busy day, they should sleep contentedly, too.  

How to keep your dog safe whilst on site

On-site, with cars reversing in and out of pitches, make sure your dog is secured on your tie-out stake. 

Your dog should, of course, be microchipped. However, in case your buddy does somehow manage to wander off, an ID tag on the collar containing your mobile number and site pitch number should help to ensure they’re quickly reunited with you. 

To clean any cuts to paws and legs, make sure your first aid kit contains hydrogen peroxide. Just in case of a more serious mishap, research the location of the closest veterinary clinic prior to arrival at the site. 

FAQs

What to do if your dog gets muddy? 

It’s the reason why we recommended plenty of towels in our kit list. Make sure you have one towel for muddy paws before they get into the car or tent. 

How do I get my dog to sleep in a tent? 

Let them get used to it first of all by setting up your tent at home a week or so before the trip. Put some familiar blankets and other items in there. You might even want to feed your dog in there in the holiday run-up. By the time you get away, it should hopefully be an environment they are familiar with and happy to bed down for the night.

Can I leave my dog in the car overnight? 

No. You should never leave your dog to sleep in a car. Even in mild temperatures, there’s a risk of them overheating. And if it turns slightly chilly, there’s the risk of hypothermia. 

What temperature is too cold for dogs camping? 

As a very broad rule, once the outside temperature drops below 5 degrees Celsius, you should think twice about a camping trip with your dog. However, much depends on breed, age and any health issues. If in doubt, ask your vet. 

How do I help my dog with camping anxiety? 

Firstly, make sure your dog is acclimated to your tent or van before you go. Hang out there with them, and introduce some of their favourite toys to create positive vibes. 

It’s worth remembering, however, that dogs don’t really understand the concept of ‘holidays’. All they know is that they are suddenly in a completely unfamiliar environment. Some can’t wait to explore. Others will look to you for security and reassurance. Our top tip is to act normal. Stay calm and patient with them and they are much more likely to realise that there’s nothing to worry about. 

If your dog gets in a pickle on holiday, it’s possible to give them the care they need, without the worry of hefty vet bills. To find out more, take a look at Shield Pet Insurance. To safeguard your holiday for both you and your family, explore our camping insurance.

Contact our Shield Total Insurance expert helpline today at 0800 393 966 for all your questions and queries, or connect with us online to find out more about our insurance quotes.

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