You’re packed for your camping trip, with you and your dog both bursting to hit the road. As you roll up your sleeping bag, a thought hits you: hang on, where is Rufus sleeping? Does my dog need a sleeping bag too?
There are a few considerations you should take into account when planning where your dog will sleep on your next camping trip. While they may have their own personal preferences, whether that be a crate or bunking in with you, it’s ultimately up to you to ensure your dog is properly accommodated while out in the wild.
Why Would My Dog Need A Sleeping Bag?
While the answer may seem obvious (because they might get cold, right?), it can be a little bit more nuanced than that. Cold weather isn’t the only defining factor in whether or not your dog will need a sleeping bag for your upcoming trip.
Sleeping bags can offer your dog a variety of comforts and there are hundreds of options on the market. These range from lightweight bags that provide your pooch with a comfortable place to cuddle up during balmier nights, to weather-resistant bags designed for surviving extreme winter conditions.
Whether your dog needs a bag will depend on the type of trip you have planned, their ability to withstand the cold, and a few other deciding factors.
So, what exactly should you be looking at when planning your sleeping arrangements? Let’s dive in!
Determining If Your Dog Needs A Sleeping Bag
Since you love your best friend enough to bring them along on all of your adventures, it goes without saying that you want them to be comfortable!
Any owner knows that each dog has their own needs and preferences. While I would always suggest having at least a basic sleeping bag on hand, the needs of your dog may call for something a little more heavy-duty.
To determine if your dog will need a sleeping bag on your next trip, consider some of the following:
Heading to a beautiful, tropical paradise with an average temperature of 81°F? It’s pretty unlikely that your four-legged friend is going to be shivering overnight – but they may still be looking for a safe and secure spot of their own to curl up in.
Even in a warmer location, a lightweight sleeping bag can provide your dog with comfort. Otherwise, you may find them trying to cuddle up with you! And while we all love puppy cuddles, all of that fur can get temperatures rising pretty quickly in the confined environment of a tent.
If you’re taking a trip through the mountains during winter, on the other hand, a weather-resistant sleeping bag is a must. Even if your dog was bred for cold environments, the option of having a warm retreat is still crucial.
Sleeping bags provide better insulation than a simple blanket, as they wrap around the entire body. They place a thick barrier between your pup and the bottom of the tent, which is important as the cold will seep in through the ground. In wet or snowy conditions, they also prevent exposure to damp surfaces.
If you were hoping to make the most of each other’s body heat, you can still place both sleeping bags side by side.
Breed influences many aspects of your dog’s physical makeup: their size, coat type, weight, and even some of their behaviors.
While dogs are certainly not limited to the traditional traits of their breed, it is still a great starting point in determining to which degree your dog will be able to cope with cooler conditions.
Smaller breeds, like Chihuahuas and Jack Russells, are at a natural disadvantage when it comes to cold climates. Simply put, they are just not able to retain as much body heat due to their size. Large dogs immediately have a better jumping-off point when it comes to cold weather, and will likely cope better in such climates.
A thin coat also increases the likelihood that your dog will struggle with weather events like cold blasts and snowstorms. While these dogs will thrive in hotter climates, their long-haired and thick-furred counterparts take the trophy when it comes to wild weather events.
However, not all snow dogs are fit for the sled team, if you know what we mean. Remember that breed standards are a guideline and not a rule.
To take that last point a bit further – you will need to look at your dog’s conditioning.
If your beautiful Alaskan Malamute was raised in Florida, low temperatures are going to be quite the shock to their system, despite their dense double coats and natural ability to tolerate the cold. They may actually be more in need of a sleeping bag than a Greyhound who has lived through harsh winter climates.
Sending a dog into the elements unprepared is setting your trip up for failure and can potentially end in disaster. To keep everyone happy and healthy, it’s better to underestimate a dog’s ability to handle the cold than it is to overestimate it.
Puppies and older dogs are at a greater risk of hypothermia than your average adolescent, as they lose their body heat much faster. Hypothermia is an extreme threat to your dog’s health and cannot be taken lightly.
Dogs with pre-existing health conditions such as arthritis will benefit greatly from the warmth of a sleeping bag. The cushioning will make it easier for them to rest on the floor of the tent, and the insulating aspect will help to prevent further flare-ups.
How to Choose the Best Sleeping Bag for Your Dog
With thousands of dog-approved sleeping bags on the market, each with its own pros and cons, how are you ever supposed to choose just one?
Here is exactly what you should be looking out for when trying to choose the best sleeping bag for your dog.
Is there a two-way zip, or just a sole zipper?
Two-way zips are often more comfortable for dogs, allowing for increased airflow and preventing them from feeling ‘trapped’ by only having access to one opening.
In some cases, a two-way zip will allow you to completely remove the top of the sleeping bag, splitting the halves into blankets. This provides more versatility and will give you some more bang for your buck.
If the bag has only a sole zipper, how wide is the opening?
If you’re looking to accommodate a larger breed of dog, you will need to make sure that any single zipper openings like on this one, are large enough for them to enter and exit comfortably without assistance.
Is the sleeping bag water-resistant?
A wet dog is a cold dog, and no amount of blankets will make up for the type of chill that being damp brings. A water-resistant sleeping bag will provide your dog with extra protection from the elements and is absolutely a priority when camping.
Durability is crucial if you’re hoping to get your money’s worth out of a sleeping bag. A sleeping bag is something your dog will use every night, meaning it’s going to be a heavily utilized piece of equipment. Then pair this high level of usage with dog claws, fur, and prolonged exposure to the elements.
Prioritize well-crafted zippers and hardware, as this is where sleeping bags are most likely to encounter issues.
We also recommend purchasing a bag that comes with a high-quality protective sleeve. Moving your equipment from site to site with a high level of protection and care will help to increase its lifespan immensely.
Size and Weight
The size and weight of the sleeping bag you choose will come down to your personal circumstances.
The more well-fitted your dog’s sleeping bag is, the easier it will be for them to retain heat. Too much unoccupied space can open up room for drafts and other discomforts. You also want to account for their sleeping habits. If you have a dog that prefers to sprawl out to sleep, you’ll need to either accommodate for this with a larger bag or risk your dog turning its nose up at your new purchase.
The size of your dog will of course have a direct impact on the size and weight of the bag you need. Naturally, larger dogs will require larger bags, while a smaller dog will be able to get away with a smaller and lighter sleeping bag. When shopping for a smaller dog especially, consider how heavy the material of the bag will be. You don’t want your pooch to feel weighed down or trapped.
Consider your camping style as well. If you and your dog enjoy hiking from spot to spot, one of you is now going to need to carry the extra weight of the new sleeping bag. In this case, you may want to prioritize lightweight materials over heavy-duty equipment.
As much as we love them, our four-legged friends don’t always smell the best. Looking after their equipment can be hard work and any dog-friendly sleeping bag will need a thorough cleaning after each use. To save yourself some time and effort, we recommend purchasing a bag that is machine washable.
Training Your Dog to Use A Sleeping Bag
Now, it’s time to introduce your dog to their new bedding before your trip. Sleeping bags can be a big adjustment for pets that normally sleep on an open style of bedding, so you will want to iron out any kinks before your adventure.
The easiest way to introduce your dog to a sleeping bag is to integrate it into their normal bedtime routine. Encourage your dog to sleep in the bag rather than on their usual dog bed. If they seem unwilling, start with short stints inside throughout the day. Even simply laying on top of the bag or being willing to approach it should be rewarded. To do this, you can utilize treats and verbal praise, or even introduce a special toy that only comes out when the sleeping bag is being used in some way.
Once the smell and feel of the bag become familiar to your pet, they should be quite eager to clamber inside. Particularly with the enticement of escaping a chilly night!