Dream of camping with your dog? Of course you do, dogs make ideal travelling companions on an open-air adventure and there’s no excuse for missing out on quality time together!
At Campsited, we’ve got you and your four-legged friend covered with tips and guidance on booking a pooch-perfect camping experience that you’ll never forget.
With dog-friendly campsites opening their gates worldwide, you don’t have to go to the trouble of having your dog looked after, or shed a tear when you leave them on half-board for the holiday (then get the bill for the kennels!).
Whether you’re looking for a seaside, mountain or country holiday, a rustic or luxury retreat, you’re bound to find the right campsite for you – and we’ll hold your hand through the process.
Yes, camping with dogs means some different rules and a fair bit of prep, and it’s good practice to assess your level of readiness, as this could be the difference between a peaceful holiday, or a chaotic alternative.
To make sure that going on holiday with your fur-baby is a pleasure, we’ve put together a guide to successful camping holidays with your dog. How to find a campsite, how to prepare your pet, what to pack to ensure your dog’s comfort and well-being, and what dog etiquette to follow when camping.
Here’s a list of the contents we’ll cover in this article, you can click a title to take you directly to a section of interest. Or, if you’ve time for the full hurrah, grab a brew, put your feet up and scroll through at your own leisure.
1) Benefits to camping with a dog
- 5 reasons (of many) why camping with your pooch is the best
2) Preparing your dog for a camping holiday
- Training and practice-runs
- Adjusting to new surroundings
- Taking familiar belongings
- Vaccinations and treatments
- Dog grooming
- Food and hydration
- Pet insurance
3) Pet First Aid
- Essential items for your first aid kit
4) Dog-friendly destinations
- Deciding on your dream doggy-destination
5) How to find dog-friendly campsites
- Find the best campsite for dogs (and follow the rules)
- Watch out for other animals
- Watch out for other campers
6) Travelling to your campsite with your dog
- By car
- By ferry
- By air
7) Checklist for camping with your dog
1. Benefits to camping with a dog
Take advantage of your open-air adventure and let your pooch’s enthusiasm rub off on you as you observe them in their new environment along with the many discoveries, new smells, sights and sounds that greet them. You’ll have an entertaining stay, reconnecting with the magic of nature from a whole new perspective. Here’s a few (of many) benefits to camping with your dog.
Spending time outdoors
Both you and your dog will get a lot more fresh air and vitamin D than usual. You’ll probably sleep and eat better as a result and gain a much needed well-being recharge (scientists like to call this ‘nature therapy’, something you’ll both reap the benefits from in your everyday life beyond the trip). Just watching your dog enjoying exploring exciting new surroundings will lift your spirits.
Go hiking in the forest! One of the activities that will delight both you and your pet is to go for a hike on nature trails, where you can observe the flora and fauna around you together. Or go for a wild swim together in a lake or the sea… outdoor living is the best!
Getting more exercise
Having your dog with you will naturally encourage you to take more exercise because most dogs love hiking, swimming or playing a wilder game of ‘fetch’ in the great outdoors, encountering new and exciting scenery and scents.
You’ll be surprised by how many more steps you take in a day when walking with a dog, especially on an open-air holiday! What an incentive to keep you active on your vacation.
A great way to meet people
There’s something about owning a dog that encourages complete strangers to strike up conversations, leading to opportunities to make new friends or just have enjoyable one-off chats.
Staying at a pet-friendly campsite gives you the chance to meet other pet owners. By sharing this passion, you can make new friends with other travellers, whilst your dog also reaps the benefits of socialising in the company of other canines (and maybe horses, sheep, cats and other animals nearby).
Camping with dogs can save money
Think about all the money you will save by not having to pay extortionate kennel fees! And how wonderful not to miss your dog, feel guilty about leaving it behind or worry about how they’re behaving for the dog-sitter!
Unlike bringing another human family member on your trip, your four-legged friend won’t cost you much more than usual (if anything) for their accommodation, entrance fees to local excursions or for food and drink. In fact, the minimal costs associated with their low-maintenance camp lifestyle will make you even’ more grateful for their company!
Dogs are so adaptable and make the happiest of campers
Unlike the usual stresses associated with looking after a child on holiday, your dog won’t need several outfits changes in the day, help brushing their teeth or take much encouragement to eat their dinner. Nor do they take up too much space in your accommodation (unless of course you’re bringing a Great Dane or St Bernard, then we stand corrected!)
With just a few home comforts, like a much-loved blanket, ball or belly-rub, dogs will generally adapt to their new environment and wag their tales in adoration.
2) Preparing your fog for a camping holiday
Training is key
Campsites are fascinating places for dogs, there are a whole load of new smells and terrains to explore, and… hey, is that a stick, and a tree, and woah, another dog?! That is just a bite size commentary of what is possibly running through your dog’s mind as soon as they jump out of the car.
First of all, you should bear in mind that only a well-trained dog can be taken camping.
An over-excited dog that barks incessantly or tries to eat everything in sight will be everyone’s worst nightmare. It goes without saying that a dog that is violent or aggressive with other animals has no place on a campsite. If your dog is not used to obeying you and is not sufficiently trained, the experience of camping with him will be disastrous. It is best to avoid it.
Training should be a huge priority for anyone with a dog but if you intend to go camping with your fur-baby, it is even more critical for them to be moderately obedient and know the basic commands like ‘stay’, ‘sit’ and ‘stop’ to protect their safety and others around them.
Acknowledging your dog’s character and demeanour in social settings will massively influence the location for your open-air holiday. A dog that is quick to bark will require spacious areas to limit interaction. A dog that is shy in its interactions will also appreciate having space. Finally, a dog that is enthusiastic, energetic and always ready for an adventure will require long walks and hikes.
Practice makes perfect
To ensure a smooth trip with no unpleasant surprises, consider revisiting your basic training before you leave. Take them out on a lead or harness in new environments close to home, check they respond to commands correctly, are able to cope with a walk of more than an hour, do not suffer from too much direct heat and agree to fall asleep in a tent or portable kennel.
And if you’ve decided to go on holiday in a tent, try pitching up for a night or two in the corner of your garden (if you have one) beforehand, so that the doggie gets used to the confined space.
Adjusting to new surroundings
We camp to get away from a busy “always-on” lifestyle. Camping trips are all about forgetting the laptop, tablet and phone, disconnecting and often kicking back with that most archaic instrument called a book.
Dogs do not enjoy books however, nor too much hanging around in one spot. They want to explore their new environment. Making sure they get a good dose of exercise a couple of times a day takes care of the dog’s needs and makes for a calm, relaxed animal.
However, there is a word of caution here too for energetic people who go camping with dogs. Dogs can tire easier than they let on and risk over-exercising (in comparison to their regular dose) which is especially concerning when the weather is warm.
Sorry for stating the obvious, but make sure that there is a lot of water for your pet at your tent and if you’re going on a hike, take water and a bowl with you so your dog can have regular water breaks.
Whether you invest in a portable kennel for your pet, or have a mobile home or family tent with enough room for your dog, make sure you organise your space around their needs to avoid anxiety
Take along some familiar belongings
Consider their sleeping basket, some favourite toys, their usual lead, food, treats and go-to bowl. All these items will help to relax your dog and at ease in their new home.
When you arrive, take the time to walk the dog around a bit to let them discover the new environment and recover from the journey. Let them walk you and follow what interests them – within reason, of course.
Once the humans have settled in, it’s time to settle your doggie in too. Although some campsites offer dogs free reign, it’s likely there’ll be certain restrictions or possible requests to tie your pooch up whilst on camp grounds. Consider setting up a pole with a long leash to give then space for a good sniff around.
Being nearby with some reassuring ‘there’s a good dog’ affirmations and smooches will help settle their initial anxiety and they’ll soon be mirroring your positive vibes.
Check your dog’s vaccinations and treatments are topped-up
Just like us, our canine companions need to take extra precautions when entering a new environment, especially if travelling internationally, as we don’t want them spreading (or catching) any nasties whilst away from home – after all, it’s their holiday too!
Many types of worms such as tapeworms, hookworms or trichuris, fleas and ticks hide in the soil, in bushes or in the faeces of other animals and can infect your innocent pet and make them ill.
If you are travelling with a dog that’s used to staying inside your house or other frequently visited surroundings, then a flea, tick and worming treatment should be an absolute priority before you go set off. You can ask your vet for advice on a powerful and effective treatment lasting several weeks.
Travelling abroad provides some added (but resolvable) complexities, for example a rabies vaccination is compulsory in most countries overseas and will need to be indicated on your pet’s passport, along with their identification number and your name and address.
Make sure you have your own vet’s number saved on your phone in case you need to call for emergency advice, and do a bit of research online before you go regarding the closest vet or animal emergency clinic in the area you are camping.
Dog grooming before camping
We all love a pampering session before a holiday and your dog is no exception. Besides the compliments they’ll get for looking like a Crufts ‘best in show’ winner, there’s also practical reasons for pruning your dog before they brave the elements, from a haircut to a paw-manicure.
If you are going somewhere a bit warmer than where you live, a pre-trip haircut is a good way of making sure your dog doesn’t overheat in the hot weather and, if you’re staying at a glamping pod or homestay, a thorough pre-visit shampoo will earn you brownie points with your host as they’ll spend less time trying to neutralise doggy-smells in readiness for their next guests.
Catching a long nail on new terrain is both painful for your pooch and can bring plans to a halt on your open-air adventure, so get their toenails trimmed by a professional, or if you’re confident enough, clip them yourself.
Food and hydration
Try to accustom your dog to eating a variety of foods before setting off because transporting heavy tins of dog food or bulky packets of dog biscuits may not make your holiday any easier.
If you really think your dog will refuse any unfamiliar food no matter how hungry they are, it may be best to check the website of a local supermarket to see if they stock their favourite food.
Keep your dog very well hydrated, especially in warmer months and when walking. Above all, be aware of the symptoms of heat stroke in dogs and what to do about it.
The wonderful thing about our canine companions is that their body language can speak a thousand words. Heavier panting than usual? Give them some water and a rest-stop. Sounds obvious, but could prevent a more serious problem.
For anything more serious, you should utilise the ice-pack from your first-aid kit (we’ll fill you in on this later), but be sure to have your vet’s number to hand if your dog’s temperature still soars.
Make sure your dog is micro-chipped or tattooed
Alongside vaccination evidence, some countries, like France, legally insist on your dog being identifiable via a micro-chip or tattoo. With a far greater risk of your dog getting lost in an entirely new location, we’re hoping you’d insist on doing this regardless.
Nobody wants you returning home from your dog-friendly holiday, minus the dog.
If you are planning to go camping abroad, your pet must have a passport. To create one, you should contact your vet, so that together you can follow the official procedures and ensure all vaccination requirements are documented too. A European passport will cost around €15, but other destinations may require additional travel documents and costs will vary, so do your research. Read more: Discover more about the cost and requirements for pet passports.
Sadly, but very important to note, there are certain breeds banned from entering some countries without a license, like Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Rottweilers and if you own a dog on this type of watch-list, they may be required to bring a muzzle at all times.
Make sure your pet insurance is up to date
From one animal lover to another, if you don’t have it, get it. Pet insurance will be your saviour in covering some or all of the cost of veterinary fees for injuries and illness.
You may need specialist pet insurance if you’re planning a trip abroad to ensure you have access to medical assistance away from home. It goes without saying that a smaller monthly payment could prevent a heftier bill down the line, so check the small print and make sure you’re covered.
3) Pet first-aid kits
While walking in the wilderness, your dog may suffer a few minor injuries or come across a tick in a bush. Keep a close eye on your furry-friend every time you return from a walk, and pack a first aid kit that includes antiseptic lotion, a few compresses, and tweezers to remove parasites from its fur.
Don’t leave home without one. It isn’t a pleasant thought to entertain, but just as a human can get hurt or ill on a trip, so can our beloved pets. You can mitigate a lot of the harm that can come to them by making sure you have a dedicated dog first aid kit packed in the car when you go on trips.
Essential items for your pet first aid kit
This list may be long, but many of the items are one-off purchases that you might already have. If you’re starting from fresh, ready-made kit like one from Charlie the Vet, includes essential items such as:
- Scissors – needed to cut bandages and matted fur…it happens.
- Tweezers – removing splinters, debris or ticks is easier and more hygienic with a tweezer.
- Antiseptic wash/wipes – don’t be tempted to clean a wound with alcohol, it can sting and cause an infection.
- Digital thermometer – ask your vet to educate you on what a dog’s vital signs are.
- Gauze and bandages – these come in all shapes and sizes. Just avoid wrapping the injury too tightly. There’s some great how-to guides on YouTube, worth a watch to check your technique.
- Toenail trimmer – prevent torn toenails. To reduce the chance of this happening, keep your dog’s toenails trimmed as a matter of course.
- Painkillers – your vet will recommend dog friendly painkillers. Don’t use human one’s as they can make your dog ill, and in worst cases be fatal.
- Medical tape – Aim for something ‘micro-porous’ to double-up the strength of bandages.
- Syringe and saline pods – helpful to administer liquids and to flush out eyes
- Latex-free gloves – To protect you and the pup from infection during first-aid.
- Ice-pack – For swelling, inflammation or overheating.
- Foil blanket – If their temperature drops, a foil blanket can warm them up quickly.
- Antibiotic topical ointment – handy for small skin wounds, but do make sure that your dog can’t lick it. We know, easier said than done , but gauzes and bandages help.
If in doubt, add the vet to your speed dial and take the time to research the area you’re staying in for potential risks.
It pays to prepare… and, whilst you couldn’t put a price on the health of your beloved fur-baby, we all know how expensive emergency vet treatments can be. And if we haven’t stressed it enough, pet insurance is an absolute must-have, so check your policy covers any potential risks on your travels.
4) Dog-friendly destinations
We’re loving the rapid emergence of pet-friendly campsites across the world, with more hosts considering your adored doggy as a special guest, worthy of an equally enjoyable stay too.
You’ll have noticed a greater effort from public and private landowners, shop, pub and restaurant owners too, allowing dogs to roam more freely, sometimes offering treats, water and even dog-friendly ice-creams and cupcakes for their wet-nosed VIP’s.
Open-air camping with your dog unlocks endless possibility for your dog to explore mother nature and it’s many bountiful encounters along the way. Long walks in the freshest of air, doggy-paddling in lakes, rivers or on beaches, playing ball in open fields, the sights, the smells – and all with their ‘bestest human’ right beside them, loving life just as much!
That said, there are still some wilderness areas and attractions inaccessible to pets, mainly due to their safety, but some opting for restrictions out of peak tourist seasons to avoid overcrowding or disgruntling visitors less enthused by wet paws and wagging tails. How dare they?!
To aid your campsite decision and avoid ruining your holiday, make sure that any nearby beaches, hiking trails, forests or other tourist places of interest on your bucket list are accessible to both you and your dog.
Want some inspo? Here’s a handful of incredible places you could consider taking your dog on their next camping adventure.
- Brittany or Adèche, France – There are so may wonderful camping locations in France owing to it’s diverse and stunning land, sea and moutainscapes, cultural charm and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Your dog will be spoilt for choice with long-stretching sandy beaches and coast paths awaiting their paw prints. A countryside campsite in Morbihan, Brittany could be a great place to lay your heads before exploring the Breton coast.
Or chose a rural, yet popular campsite in Adèche within close proximity to prehistoric paintings, incredible rock formations, Atlantic coastlines and vast rivers, perfect for swimming with your dog. Learn more about these (and other) beautiful places to take your dog camping in France.
- South West England Coastal Counties – If you’ve never stepped foot on the South West Coast path, you’re missing out! These way-marked walking trails overlook some of the most breathtaking beaches and countryside in the UK (if not, the world!) and are the perfect playground for your dog! Consider joining the path or setting up camp amongst popular trails like the Tarka Trail in North Devon, or famous Camel Trail in North Cornwall. Discover more of the South-West’s popular camping destinations here.
- Snowdonia, North Wales – Lush valleys, calm lakes, epic mountain ranges. Could this be your dog’s wildest adventure yet? Ok we’re not suggesting they climb Mount Snowdon with you (unless they’re up for it?), but with hundreds of acres of open grassland, hills and places to paddle, North Wales will give you and your dog a sense of freedom and connection to nature that you both deserve. Check out some great places to camp in North Wales.
- National Forest Land in the Midlands – Swap your usual dog walking route for incredible, bio-diverse forestry, rapid reservoirs, stately home estates and pet-friendly footpaths, covering over 200 square miles of central England. Whilst the National Forest proudly offers visitors walking (and camping) locations across the whole of the UK, there’s something very special about the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire countryside, with it’s rich ango-history and unmatched beauty.
- The Scottish Highlands – An open-air holiday with your dog in the majestic Scottish highlands would be anything but ‘wee’, as you both gaze in awe and fully immerse yourselves in rugged landscapes, deep-blue lochs and cultural landmarks. Visit the Iron Age Fort, Craig Phadrig in Inverness, spot Beavers at the Knapdale Nature Reserve in Argyll or introduce your pooch to Nessie on the famous South Loch Ness Walking trail. Check out our top-tips for camping in Scotland.
These are just a few of so many incredible camping destinations for you and your dog. We’ve got guides to more pet-friendly camping grounds throughout France, Italy and beyond on our website. Select ‘inspire me’ on our homepage to discover new places.
5) How to find dog-friendly campsites
Find the best campsite for dogs (and follow the rules)
At Campsited, we’re here to help you find the perfect dog friendly campsite to suit your budget and camping style, ensuring your camping adventure will be an inclusive as well as enjoyable experience.
We can also help you with suggestions and advice to get your holiday finalised and booked with ease.
You can filter ‘pet-friendly’ campsites when booking with us to find the best spot for your tent, or campervan and, once you’ve found the dream destination, you’re welcome to contact your hosts by phone or e-mail before booking.
Read More: Check out our top tips for campervan holidaying with your dog.
Some campsites only allow dogs on bare pitches, or will refuse category 1 dogs. They may also have certain rules that you should be aware of (wearing a leash, muzzle for certain dogs, etc.). The campsite will also be able to give you valuable information, such as whether your canine companion is welcome on the local beaches, and whether there are nice walking areas nearby. Some campsites even have dog parks!
Don’t forget to read some of the many reviews from verified guests to get tips and ideas about the local area and what to expect at your chosen campsite.
Watch out for other animals
If you are staying at a pet-friendly campsite, this means that other holidaymakers will also be there with their pets. Your dog may also encounter other types of animals residing on (or near) the land, like cats, horses and sheep.
Despite the rules of living together on your campsite and the good behaviour of your dog, there’s no guaranteed that the other animals present will be as disciplined or used to a community experience. It will therefore be essential to follow the camping ground’s rules and regulations, keep your pet in sight, or on a lead nearby.
In most cases, it makes sense to keep your dog on a lead anyway, just for your own peace of mind, but there may be additional requests such as muzzling and controlled barking to maintain a peaceful playground for all campmates.
Checking out all the rules will help you select the site or sites that suit you and your pet best, then you’ll be ready to book and start looking forward to your holiday together!
Watch out for other campers
We spoke about brushing up on your basic obedience training before venturing onto a pet-friendly campsite, well now’s the time to put it into action!
Along with showing caution for other animals, consider the feelings of other campers who may not feel as comfortable around your dog as others. We can’t assume that by choosing a dog-friendly campsite that they are dog lovers, and that they won’t mind being disturbed by barks, begs for food and belly rubs!
Yes, your Bernese Mountain Dog is absolutely adorable and wouldn’t hurt a fly, but your neighbour will see his sixty kilos, bear paws and dinosaur teeth first! Not everyone is used to dogs, and the friendliness of a camping holiday comes at a price: peaceful coexistence.
Families with children can be especially nervous around new dogs and, whilst kiddies are full of intrigue, they may innocently mis-handle your dog or overestimate its strength or enthusiasm. Keeping your dog on a lead until everyone in the vicinity is comfortable and aware of it’s demeanour is a sure-fire way to stay in your fellow camper’s good books.
And we couldn’t end this section without mentioning Poop. There’s no other way to put this – pick it up! Not everyone is madly in love with dogs and dog poop lying around does little to improve their feelings. Bring doggy poop bags with you when you camp or go exploring, and use them. End of.
6) Travelling with your dog
Travelling by car
If you are travelling by car, plan a route that includes plenty of stops on the way, to allow your dog to stretch their legs. Pack their water bowl and a big bottle of water inside the car, easily accessible, so that you can offer your dog a drink of water each time you stop.
Make sure your dog is used to the car before you embark on a camping trip. Most dogs find their ‘car legs’ quickly but that comes with repeated exposure to the vehicle and if their first real experience of the road is a 450 kilometre journey, you may well have some regrets.
In warmer months, the car can feel like an oven to a dog (especially if your air-con isn’t the greatest), so keep checking for any signs of over-heating and dehydration and make sure water is in plentiful supply.
Travelling by ferry
Think carefully about ferries – the shorter the crossing the better. Look at your ferry company’s website to see what their rules are when it comes to bringing animals on board.
If you are travelling by car, the ferry company might let you leave your dog in your vehicle or even bring it to your cabin, but most ferry companies insist that dogs are transported in a crate, and that the crate is stowed away in a designated place for the duration of the crossing. Double-checking before booking is the best advice!
If you have to leave your dog in the car, make sure there’s adequate ventilation, plenty of water and, if needed, enough food to sustain the journey. It may cause them some anxiety if you have to part ways for a short while, so leave something familiar like a favourite toy or blanket. Those comforting smells and feels of home will help to relax them.
Travelling by air
Again, regulations vary according to the airline you choose. Check each one carefully before booking. Some carriers allow small dogs (in crates) into the cabin while others ask that dogs (always in crates) are stowed in the luggage hold.
They say the temperature and pressure in the hold is similar to the cabin, so this shouldn’t be a concern, but your dog should be accustomed to spending time in the crate, if not, spend the weeks (if not months) prior to your trip preparing them for this level of enclosure for a long period of time. Bedtime is great for experimenting with a crate and assessing their temperament and suitability.
Do your research on rules and restrictions for doggy passengers at airports both ends, whilst putting your dog’s wellbeing at the heart of each travel decision, especially if they’re likely to be travelling unattended for more than a few hours.
7) Checklist for camping with your dog
This list provides a good basis that you can adapt to your needs. Some things are obvious for keeping your four-legged bestie warm, fed, dry, relaxed and entertained. Others essential for their safety and the safety of others around camp.
Try and keep dog accessories and toys to a minimum to save your efforts with packing and unpacking. After all, this is a wild adventure, so your dog carrier handbag or selection of printed neckerchiefs could stay at home.
No-one knows your dog better than you, so you’ll decide whether you need everything on our checklist, maybe more? But here’s something to get you started.
- Pet first aid kit (scroll up for our tips on must-haves for your kit)
- Collar & lead
- Lighted collar or high-visibility strip to put on their collar at night-time
- Waterproof coat – for colder climates
- Ground stake, to tie them to your pitch
- Health / medical history booklet
- Food and water bowls
- Food and treats in an airtight box (otherwise beware of moisture and insects!)
- Floor mat, basket or crate with bedding
- Toys (or their favourite thing to chew)
- Poop bags
- One or two absorbent towels
In this article, we’ve also covered some considerations for camping abroad with your dog, like vaccination records, a passport and a crate. Feel-free to scroll back up and triple check.
We hope you found this guide useful and are ready to find your next pet-friendly campsite. Book your open-air holiday with the whole family today.