Camping & Hiking

How To Keep A Dog Warm While Camping

Taking your dog with you on your camping trip can seem like a great idea for both you and your pooch. You’re not likely to find a more loyal companion.

Having your dog with you can add an extra feeling of security, knowing your trusty pet has your back. And at the same time, your dog will experience the wonders of the great outdoors which will be excellent for his health, so it sounds like a win-win pursuit!

However, the problem of keeping your dog warm will likely have crossed your mind at some point, particularly if you’re camping at a time of year when it tends to be wetter and colder.

This article will cover the best ways you can keep your dog warm when camping, so both you – and your furry friend can enjoy a healthy and comfortable trip.

So how do you keep a dog warm? There are a number of ways to do this, but it mainly comes down to insulation, keeping your immediate environment as dry as possible, and adding warmth directly to your dog through things such as extra layers.

Can Dogs Sleep In Tents?

Before looking at the various ways to keep your dog warm while camping, we need to determine whether dogs can sleep in tents at all.

Thankfully, the answer to this question is “yes”, but there are a few things you’ll need to prepare for before taking your dog camping.

  • Ensure your dog’s nails are trimmed. Doing this will help prevent accidental ripping of your air bed or tent.
  • Take patches, just in case. That way, even if a ripping accident does happen to your tent, you’ll be able to fix it and help retain its heat.
  • Bring a blanket for your dog. He’s likely to sleep better in a new environment if you can make his sleeping space as warm and comfortable as possible.
  • Wear him out. Giving your dog a long walk should make him tired enough to sleep in your tent.

Insulate Your Tent

Now I’ve explained the ways you can make your tent a happy environment for your dog, it’s time to look at ways to keep your dog cozy on your camping trip.

Ensuring good insulation for your tent is an excellent way to keep your dog nice and warm. Here are some ways you can do that effectively:

  • Choose a good place to pitch your tent. Aim for somewhere that’s protected from the elements. So, avoid open areas that can be easily exposed to the wind.
  • Use a smaller tent. Because your body will generate heat inside the tent, a small tent will get warm quicker than one with lots of space to fill, and this will go a long way to ensuring your dog – and you! – warm up quickly, particularly in the colder months.
  • As well as the common practice of using a ground sheet, take a rug with you so that your dog’s body isn’t as exposed to the cold surface. Doing this will have the dual effect of helping trap the heat in the tent and stopping the cold air from the ground moving upwards.
  • Use exterior insulation. Consider covering the outside of your tent with either a blanket or reflective foil. This will help the heat you and your dog generate inside the tent stay there instead of escaping.

keeping your dog dry

Keep Your Environment Dry

If you allow too much moisture to get into your tent, it will be harder to keep it, and your dog warm. Try these tips to keep the inside of your tent as dry as possible:

  • Remove any moist items from your tent. If you allow things such as wet towels or sleeping bags to stay in your tent, these will absorb the heat, decreasing it overall. If your dog has a blanket, try to keep it as dry as possible for the same reason, and avoid placing your dog’s bowl of water in the tent so as to prevent spillage.
  • Keep your dog dry. This might seem difficult if there’s a lot of rain around, but there are still ways to keep your dog as dry as possible, such as keeping your dog inside the tent when it’s raining or, better still, getting him a waterproof dog jacket so that if you do need to venture outside in the wet, he can be more protected and drier when you return to your tent.

Help Your Dog Directly

I touched on this in the previous point, but adding extra heat directly to your dog will help him stay warm while you’re camping, and this can be achieved in a number of ways:

  • When choosing a dog jacket, consider the type you’ll need depending on the environment. Do you need it to be waterproof or will a fleece-lined one be a better option? Also, I recommend taking a spare so that if there are any accidents or the first one gets too wet, you’ll have a back-up for your dog.
  • Use dog boots. Even if you don’t give your dog these while hiking, protecting his feet with some insulated dog boots while in your tent will help him retain his body heat.
  • Take at least one absorbent towel with you. It’s almost inevitable that at some point, your dog will get wet, so having a couple of towels that can quickly dry him is highly recommended.
  • Even with a rug covering the floor, the ground is likely to get cold overnight while you’re camping, so a good idea is to bring along a canine sleeping bag as well as a thick blanket (ideally of wool or fleece) to lay on top of him.
  • Keep your dog close to you. The heat you generate will help your dog stay warm too, so having him in close contact with you while you both sleep will help keep him warm throughout the night.
  • Give him a hot water bottle. Boil up some water, pour it into a Nalgene bottle (or similar), then wrap it in a towel, shirt or sweater and place it near your dog to help keep him warm. Just make sure it’s not too hot before you give it to him.
  • Give him more food than usual. The extra calories your dog consumes will help keep him warmer in colder environments.

Warning Signs To Look Out For

Despite the steps you can take to keep your dog warm when camping, it’s important to be aware of any signs of hypothermia. Symptoms include:

  • Curling up and shivering
  • Breathing slowly
  • Stumbling
  • Whimpering
  • Feeling cold to your touch
  • Dilated pupils

If your dog exhibits the symptoms I’ve listed above, try to keep him warm with blankets, and if there’s no improvement, get him to the nearest vet.

camping with blue heeler

How Cold Is Too Cold For Dog Camping?

Even with all the steps I’ve listed above, there will be times when it’s just too cold to take your dog camping, To determine exactly when this point is, consider the following:

  • Smaller dogs will feel the cold more than bigger ones.
  • Thin-haired dogs are likely to get colder quicker than ones with thick coats.
  • Certain breeds of dog are better equipped to handle cold weather than others. Huskies, Mastiffs and St Bernards are particularly adept at coping with cold weather, for example.
  • The older a dog is, the less likely he is to be active, meaning he’ll get cold more quickly than a younger dog. Take this into account before taking your dog camping.

No-one knows your dog as well as you, so you will have the best idea of what his tolerance is to cold temperatures.

All dogs are different, so if you’re not sure whether your dog can handle a camping trip in the extreme cold, take a look at how he reacts to his walks on cold days. If he shivers a lot and generally seems unhappy to be outside for long, the chances are he’s not going to be comfortable on a camping trip.

Dogs are generally better at coping with cold temperatures than people. However, if the temperature is likely to drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it might be best to put your plan to bring him along with you on hold.

Final Thoughts

We often have a tendency to assume that as dogs are generally pretty hardy pets, with a love of the outdoors and getting wet in all weathers, it follows that learning how to keep a dog warm must be pretty straightforward. However, as I hope this article has demonstrated, that’s not necessarily the case.

Like people, all dogs are different, and their capacity to tolerate the cold can differ greatly depending on a number of factors including size, age, and breed.

Nevertheless, if you follow the steps I’ve outlined in this article, there’s an excellent chance you will be able to keep your dog warm on your camping adventures, meaning you’ll both have a trip that you’ll remember, for all of the right reasons.

Nathan Barker

My wife and I are huge adventure seekers! We've traveled and explored over 40 countries and want to share what we have learned on our journey. We'll be talking about everything from hiking and camping, to guides, reviews and tips that we're sure will help any avid adventurer no matter what walk of life. So relax, grab a cup of coffee and we hope you enjoy the read!
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