For the avid camper, camping with a puppy for the first time is one of the best parts of adopting a new friend. Their curious natures, adventurous spirits, and eager minds set them up as the ideal companion.
However, these endearing qualities can also provide unique challenges, which can make an exciting time seem daunting. To put your mind at ease, we’ve gathered our handiest hints for taking a puppy camping with you.
How Old Should A Puppy Be To Go Camping?
Your new puppy should be joining your home when they are around 8 – 10 weeks old. While we know it’s incredibly exciting to have a new member of the family, it’s still worth waiting a little longer before taking your first trip.
Being exposed to other dogs and populated campgrounds can pose strong risks to an unvaccinated young dog. The risks range from mild illnesses to more serious outcomes, like rabies which can be deadly. Taking an eight-week-old puppy camping is not advised for these reasons.
Instead, vets recommend that you wait until roughly the sixteen-week mark. At this point, your puppy should be fully vaccinated and able to venture out safely.
If you’re still feeling unsure, don’t hesitate to discuss your concerns with your vet. They’ll have plenty of experience with this and may even be able to offer some advice more specific to your dog or location.
Camping With A Puppy: Essentials
Puppies often require some special accommodations that an older dog might not. This makes the list of puppy camping gear essentials slightly different from your standard items.
Safe Play Spaces
While a more mature dog may be happy to simply lay at your side while you set up a tent, a puppy will likely require containing in some way.
Our favorite items to pack to create a safe space include a dog run or playpen. Both of these options are quick and easy to set up. They provide a great safe space for your puppy and act as a training environment.
You can choose to DIY your camping dog run by attaching a piece of rope between two well-spaced trees.
Tie the cord securely around both trunks, and clip your puppy’s lead in the middle. The lead should slide easily up and down the rope, allowing your puppy to run along its length. Be sure not to tie the rope too high off of the ground.
If you’re in a sparse area or prefer something that relies less on your ability to tie a secure knot, a playpen is also a great option.
Stakes are another way to provide your puppy with some independence and free up your hands. Securing your dog to a stake outside your tent will allow them to safely participate in campfire nights and mealtimes while still having their own space to explore.
Where will your puppy be sleeping? It’s essential to plan and pack accordingly.
Your new friend may not have begun crate training depending on their age yet. Don’t let this discourage you from setting off – there are still plenty of comfortable sleeping arrangements.
A familiar bed or blanket
Bringing along a familiar comfort from home will help ease your puppy into their new environment. If possible, pack their usual bed or blanket and set it up alongside your sleeping bag.
Nobody likes that brief moment of panic at 1 am, when you’re all alone and can’t identify your surroundings. Puppies included. Keeping them close by and using familiar items will help calm any late-night anxieties.
A larger tent
While some older dogs may enjoy sleeping under the stars, we don’t recommend this for puppies. Younger dogs are more likely to fret when separated from their families, which will be stressful for you and your dog. If keeping your dog inside while camping isn’t the norm for you, you may need to consider packing a bigger tent than usual.
If this is your first time camping with a puppy, don’t worry! We have you covered. You can find our comprehensive dog-friendly packing list here.
In need of more specific puppy camping gear recommendations? We’ve also gathered the best dog camping gear of 2023.
Choosing Your Campground
When taking your puppy camping for the first time, we highly recommend staying in an on-leash-only campground.
At a few months old, your puppy is still only just learning to socialize with other dogs. Choosing to stay at an on-leash-only campground means you will have complete control over which dogs you approach and which can safely approach you.
Figuring out their place in the pack can be tricky for young dogs, and they can sometimes be offensive in their approach toward older dogs. Both dogs being on the lead can help to ease these stressful introductions.
Since your puppy is unlikely to have sufficient recall skills at such a young age, relying on commands such as “stay” and “come” in an off-leash area can be unwise. You also don’t want your pup to be the only one on a lead, as this can make them a target. A blanket on-leash rule for all dogs removes this tension and makes for a great first trip.
Research the local wildlife.
Carefully consider and research any local wildlife that may pop up, as well as any risks they can pose to a curious pup. Interactions with animals like raccoons can be a nasty encounter for any dog, with puppies particularly likely to be curious about their new campmates.
Consider site types when taking a puppy camping.
Camping with a puppy can be similar to camping with a newborn baby. To ensure your comfort and the comfort of those around you, read reviews and analyze site maps before booking a campground.
Avoid high-traffic areas in the campground.
Setting up camp in a high-traffic walkway or too close to the amenities will have your dog on constant alert. At a few months old, your pup is likely to be overly excitable and quick to bark, even without the excitement of new smells and surroundings. A more private site will remove any temptations and help keep the peace.
Don’t camp too close to neighbors.
Puppies aren’t known to be the best sleepers. For both your comfort and that of those around you, we recommend avoiding campsites where you’ll be packed in tightly with your neighbors. You don’t want to spend this precious time with your new puppy, constantly worrying about your noise levels.
Introduce Your Puppy To A Tent At Home
How exciting! Your trip is all planned, and it’s time to start putting things in motion.
Before heading off, take your tent for a test run in the backyard. Even if you don’t sleep in it overnight, this is a great way to introduce your dog to the setup process and show them what they can expect on your trip.
Set up and arrival can be incredibly exciting for a new puppy, and you want them to be as calm as possible when it’s time to embark on your adventure.
Explore The Campsite
It’s tempting to arrive at your campsite and set up straight away. With a new puppy in tow, however, you might be best postponing your setup and prioritizing a walk around the grounds.
Your furry friend is going to be a bundle of excitement and curiosity when they arrive at the campgrounds for the first time. With so many new smells, other dogs, and groups of people hanging around, it’s an exciting time!
To create a positive association with camping, you want to reward your dog for this curiosity. So take the time to let them explore their new surroundings safely.
A quick adventure on arrival will also give your puppy a chance to stretch their restless legs and burn off some energy. For you, this means a nice and peaceful setup later on while they rest.
While camping with a new puppy can be difficult, try to enjoy both the ups and the downs. As they say, practice makes perfect, and the problematic parts won’t last forever!
Camping with your new puppy is a fantastic way to bond. Before you know it, you won’t be able to imagine an adventure without them.