In a few months my fiance and I will be joining two friends camping. My friends chocolate labrador will be joining us for the weekend. My fiance and I, whilst both dog lovers, have no experience camping with a dog.

We have a decent four man tent with a large living area, which you can easily stand upright in and a bucket ground sheet. So there should be plenty of room for the four of us and the dog.

The dog is well trained but as a chocolate lab is rather excitable at times and has a tendency to want to play with wild animals (especially squirrels!).

What would be a good way to:

  1. Keep her entertained in the tent whilst we are not hiking?

  2. Keep her free to move at night but not allow her to escape and run amok?

Edit: Just to say this is regular camping (not wild) but would likely be on farmland in North Wales.

Second edit: Also predominantly on the first night we won't have hiked at all and we would have driven for a few hours so she will likely be excitable then, as stated by both answers and comments I understand she will be knackered after our main days hiking.

Just an addition as I made some assumptions which lead to some confusion (I'll know better next time I ask a question), firstly that it would be understood a bucket groundsheet is separated from the main tent - this assumption is due to the bi-annual tent show we go to never having a connected groundsheet for 4 man or larger tents so my apologies there! And also for the confusion about where the dog would have to sleep as leaving her outside the tent in the UK is not an option (despite the high chance for rain, we wouldn't want a kind soul calling the RSPCA on us for neglect, or risk her running off, or the slim chance she would be stolen...) so apologies for that confusion also.

UPDATE: From advice from some family friends we're staging a trial run in a few weekends to see how the dog gets on with our tent (and allow us to prep it) thanks again for all the wonderful answers / advice here.

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    If it's your friends dog, let him worry about it. Hopefully you'll do a lot of hiking, which will get the doggies tired and they'll just pass out for the night after the sun goes down. It works for our dogs. Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 18:07
  • I know it is her dog but since it is our tent and not hers there is some responsibility I feel for us as well. Plus we are planning to get our own dogs eventually so it's partly forward planning. We did a 4 hour walk through the Bucks countryside recently and she didn't tire much at all... plus as I said we don't want her pulling a houdini and running amock overnight.
    – Aravona
    Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 18:16
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    related: outdoors.stackexchange.com/q/4606/2169
    – user2169
    Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 18:35
  • 2
    You need a pup tent. Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 12:10
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    Not really worth an answer, but don't underestimate the inconvenience of a dog tying a long lead around tent pegs, poles, guy ropes, chairs, stationary children... And make sure that lead can't easily catch your cooking station and pull everything over while the gas is lit. Figuring out where and how to attach the dog is one of the biggest issues for camping with canines! On a similar subject, also don't keep a water bowl on the groundsheeted area.
    – Graham
    Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 9:25

5 Answers 5


I regularly backpack overnight with two dogs (one is a great dane / lab mix) in the US.

  1. A tired dog is a good dog. I have an advantage of several miles of hiking in, but you can still tire the dog out when you get there. A frisbee (flying disc) and swimming works well for my big guy (the lab mix), my smaller girl is tired from the hike itself. Whatever works for the dog, it's well worth bringing along.
  2. Don't leave the dog alone in the tent. At all. Not even for a minute It's a great way to have a torn up tent.
  3. Staking the dog on a long lead may work well in farmland in North Wales. I backpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains (bear and mountain lion country), so my dogs are not tied up ever when we pack. We do a patrol of the campsite before bed (I use a flashlight), and then my dogs spend the night in the tent with me. Most nocturnal animals stay far from the tent because they smell the dogs, and our food never comes near the tent site, so that doesn't attract anything.

I'll echo the advice on a bed for the dog. I tried to skimp on a mattress for them because I didn't want to pack it in. Guess what -- two dogs totaling over 75 kg can easily shove you off your pad during the night, and the ground is very hard and cold. Now I always pack that dog mattress and we all sleep better. :)


There's a decent thread discussing this issue over at BPL. Based on that and similar discussions, my suggestions would be as follows:

  1. Cover the floor of the tent with a tarp or similar material. While the flooring will probably be fine, this will provide additional protection (and simplify cleanup if there's mud involved). (When wild camping you can probably skip this.)

  2. If the dog has a bed, bringing it along will give her a familiar place to sleep and hopefully keep her off expensive and delicate sleeping bags. (For those who regularly wild-camp, training her on a section of foam sleeping pad at home will give you a lighter option for the road.)

  3. Don't leave the dog alone in the tent. Other than items in the tent, the most vulnerable part of the tent will probably be mesh netting, as the dog can see through it and might try to go through it.

  4. Keep the dog on a short leash or tied to a tree when cooking; you don't want an excited or hungry dog knocking over the stove.

  5. Have a clean-up plan for when the dog finds water or mud.

  6. Regularly trimming the dog's nails is recommended, but keep in mind the edges will be sharpest just after a trim. So, either trim them well in advance of a trip or do a very thorough job of filing them.

  • Some really good points here thank you! However it doesn't address the issue of keeping her in the tent overnight, she will not be in the sleeping compartment of the tent, but we cannot afford a seperate dog tent. So do you have any recommendations for the best way to keep her from escaping overnight?
    – Aravona
    Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 20:07
  • Err, close the outer tent door? (Again, the full door, not just a mesh one.) I think your best options are per Kathy's answer: tire her out the first night, and give her something familiar to sleep on. If all the people are in the tent with her she's probably not going to tear apart the tent to get out, although she may try to get into the sleeping room. It will also depend on the dog: country or city, indoor or outdoor, and so forth.
    – requiem
    Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 21:47
  • Hi requiem. She is a country dog, but the issue is being that the non sleeping area of the tent has a seperate ground sheet and we have had plenty of animals get in through the gap before, so they can easily get out as well. I think Kathys option of staking her in will be out best bet.
    – Aravona
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 5:07
  • No worries, for the tent you have that does sound best.
    – requiem
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 17:00

I regularly take my two medium-sized dogs car camping and keep them inside the tent with me. I initially took them on a practice trip to a nearby park and let them sleep in the tent with me. The dogs tore holes in the mesh because they kept trying to go after animals. We learned two lessons:

  1. Dogs that can see out want to get out. We put the rain fly on and they lost interest in leaving. They move around but don't scratch at the mesh (..as much). However, when it's warm out this can be miserable.
  2. Find a nice soft-sided kennel and put it inside the tent. It doesn't need to be very large, just big enough for the dog to stand up and sleep comfortably. The one we found folds up like a standard camping chair and has thick mesh and canvas sides that hold up to pawing and scratching. We've used it dozens of times and the dogs will often whine to get into it at night. This also works well when we don't use the fly.

I definitely wouldn't recommend carrying the kennel while backpacking, but it's essential when we're car camping.

Unfortunately, I can't find the specific kennel I bought but it's similar to these soft-sided kennels.


I camp regularly with my black Labrador in the UK. I have an old sleeping bag I use for her, it has her smell and she can curl up in it if it gets cold. She sleeps in the sleeping compartment. I tend to find there isn't an issue when she is in the tent, as others have said if you walk a few miles and tire them out then they don't tend to misbehave in the tent (as long as they can't see out).

The only issue I have now and again is she has a habit of digging, this can be expensive in terms of built-in groundsheets, so I used cheaper tents to get her used to camping so she didn't ruin a £500 backpacking tent at the start.

The only issue I have left is if she isn't on a leash or staked down she runs off if she sees people and animals. She is a Labrador and I don't think I will ever stop that!


You could think through some of the possible problems based on your knowledge of the area: roads with fast traffic; cattle that could hurt the dog; livestock such as chickens that the dog could kill; other dogs that live there and would be defending their territory. If none of these seems like a real issue, then I would just let the dog roam freely around the campsite. She might go chasing after a squirrel, but unfortunately for her, squirrels know how to climb trees.

If these other issues do seem to make it a no-go to let her roam freely, then I would keep her tied to a tree, not penned up in the tent. I would think that keeping a dog inside a tent would be a disaster.

this is regular camping (not wild) but would likely be on farmland in North Wales.

Can you translate this into USian for me? Here in the US, most people who talk about going camping mean car camping in a campground where you pay for a small spot alongside other groups in other spots. In contradistinction to that we would have backcountry camping, where you hike in with backpacks and camp in the wilderness.


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