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The Complete Guide to Camping with Your Dog in the UK [2021] with checklist

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2021 is going to be the year of the Great British Campout.  With so many people getting dogs during the coronavirus pandemic, they will be coming on holiday with you too for the first time. Whether that’s pitching up in a tent on a dog-friendly campsite or taking a trip in your campervan this guide will help. Many caravan parks also welcome dogs in the UK, so I thought it would be a good idea to put together a comprehensive guide for new campers, as well as some tips for seasoned travellers.

Camping with your dog in the UK

Many campsites within the UK will happily allow families with their dogs. You can travel down together in your camper van, your caravan or with your tent and set yourselves up for a relaxing and enjoyable break. 

However, it is still essential that you understand how best to go camping with your dog, especially if it’s the first time. You don’t want to do anything that puts your dog at risk or that makes you unpopular with campsite owners and fellow residents. 

Choosing your destination

Let’s start from the very beginning with the preparations. You need to figure out the most suitable location for your family trip, which will mean finding a dog-friendly campsite. The term dog-friendly can vary from campsite to campsite.

~ Some campsites simply permit pets but may have other rules in place that could restrict your activities. 

~ Others will be more open with appropriate facilities for dog waste and places to get clean water. 

~ some campsites go even further with dog treats and more specific dog-friendly services. 

When choosing your campsite, it helps to know just how far you need to travel. On the one hand, it might be worthwhile travelling a few more miles for a better site. On the other, you don’t want your dog to suffer on the journey if they don’t travel well. 

Pick the most suitable site at an appropriate distance. Then call to make your booking and ask as many questions as you need to before committing. Find out just how accommodating they really are and what is in the local area for you and your dog to enjoy

Questions to ask the campsite owner:

  1. Is there a dog waste facility?
  2. Do you have a dog exercise area for off-lead play?
  3. What dog-friendly walks are there?
  4. If there’s a beach, are dogs permitted?
  5. What dog-friendly pubs and cafes are nearby?
  6. What rules do you have for dogs on-site?

The Caravan and Camping Club have over 100 dog-friendly campsites available some with really good facilities at great prices.

How much does camping with your dog cost?

We used Pitchup.com to find out the costs of some popular camping spots across the UK that allow dogs. The average price for 3 nights camping in May 2021 is £62.00.

Bylaugh Country Park, Dereham£57
Breydon Water Holiday Park, Great Yarmouth£75
Tower Park Camping, Cornwall£42
Torvor Campsite, Cumbria£75
Ninham Country Holidays, Isle of Wight£62
Prices for 2 adults on a three night stay with their dog. Sourced : 15/02/2021 Pitchup.com

Preparing for your trip with a practice run

It helps to ensure that your dog is familiar with camping as much as possible before you go. Your dog may struggle to sleep in a strange new tent that smells weird and makes strange noises in the night.  To help them get used to camping, spend some time setting up your tent in your garden exactly as you would on the campsite and let your dog explore. 

Keep your tent up for a while, letting your dog come and go as they please. Make it as inviting as possible during this practice run. Put some of your dog’s bedding in the place where you want them to sleep. 

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Tent repairs in the garden a good time for Dolly to get used to a tent.

The same is true if you plan to take a caravan or camper van. Let them spend time in there before you go away and add some familiar smells and features.  We take our campervan on picnics throughout the year and even camp in our own field (making sure the cattle are not in there!).

Next, go and see your vet for a check-up and any necessary vaccinations. Your dog may be fit and healthy, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure nothing is going on that might affect your trip. You can talk to your vet about your plans and where you are going to stay. This information can allow them to recommend any necessary treatments or vaccinations. 

Then, you need to take your time to make a comprehensive list of everything that you need to take with you. The more you write down now, the easier it will be to get everything together in time. It is better to be overprepared than underprepared. Also, take the list with you so that you can be sure to pack everything back up and not leave something important behind. 

What to pack: your doggy camping checklist.

Your checklist of items for your dog’s camping trip will depend a lot on their personality and personal needs. You may also think of something we have forgotten. This is a great starting point for providing all their essential care over the course of the trip. 

  • Dog Food + Extra
  • Collapsible bowls
  • Lots of toys
  • Treats
  • Bed and blankets
  • Clothing
  • Collar, leash, ID tag
  • Dog first aid kit
  • Towels
  • Poop Bags
  • Paw Balm
  • Sunshade or pup tent
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1) Dog food. Your dog needs to eat plenty of nutritious meals over the holiday and can’t depend on cooked scraps from your meals. Take a good supply of their normal dog food so you don’t run the risk of upsetting their stomach with something new. If you are a raw-feeder, then you can take pouches of raw food from brands such as Nature’s Menu which are excellent for trips as they don’t need to be kept cold.

2) Collapsible water and dog bowls. When giving your dog food and water, do so in a collapsible bowl. These are easy to wash out and brilliant for saving on space while packing. Use the bowls at home before you go so that your dog is not surprised by the sudden change in feeding equipment. 

3) Dog toys. Your pet is away from home and away from many things that bring them joy and comfort. A few beloved dog toys will make them feel at home in the tent and give them something to curl up with if they struggle on the first night. Avoid anything with squeakers if you are close to other campers. 

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4) Dog treats. Don’t underestimate how many dog treats you will need on this trip so stock up on some small and tasty treats like these Little Liver Treats from Barker and Barker. Your dog has to be a very good girl/boy during this adventure and deserves praise for handling all the new experiences.

5) Dog bed. If you take their dog bed with you, instead of trying to fashion one out of clothes in the tent, they have their familiar place to sleep. This should allow for quieter and calmer nights. It is also a great place for them to snooze after a long hike. Camping can get cold on the ground, so you could invest in a raised dog bed to keep your dog from getting damp.

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Dolly likes to sleep with us, in our sleeping bags. She does snore a lot though….

6) Dog clothing. The need for dog clothing will depend on where you go and at what time of year. Small dogs that struggle to regulate their temperature may benefit from some extra layers at night. You may also want to bring a life vest if you plan on going swimming with your dog.

7) Extra towels. It is one thing to have enough towels for all the tent’s human inhabitants, but what about your dog. You may need to dry them off a lot if they go swimming or get muddy in the countryside. Also, the more towels you take, the fewer you need to wash during your stay. We like these micro fibre towels as they pack small, absorb well and dry really quickly!

8) Dog first aid kit. You will learn more about the importance of a dog first aid kit below. It helps to be prepared for the worst when it comes to bites, stings, and cuts. So, make sure to have dog-friendly antiseptic treatments, protection from bugs, bandages, and anything else that may prove useful. This first aid kit is also a great place to house any essential medication your dog needs during the holiday.

A tick remover is a handy addition to your first aid kit whilst camping.

9) Dog collar, ID tag and leash. Just because you are out in the wild during your trip back to nature, that doesn’t mean you don’t need a collar and leash anymore. A leash is doubly important to protect nature from your overenthusiastic dog and to stop them from wandering off.  Buy an LED for their collar too so you can see them in the dark.

Walking your dog on a leash each morning is also good etiquette around other campers. You’ll also appreciate a long line leash ( not a flexilead) which you can use to give your dog some extra freedom whilst you are on your pitch.  

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A long line leash gives your dog freedom to move about more.

Tie a long piece of rope ( we take some paracord with us) between two trees as a run and attach the leash. That way, they walk around and explore a bit without being off leash.

 An ID tag on the collar is mandatory in the UK as well as microchipping to help reunite you with your dog if they get lost. We have a little bell on a small carabiner to clip on Dolly’s harness so we can hear where she is, even if we can’t see her.

10) Poop bags. Again, just because you are back to nature, that doesn’t mean you can allow your dog to go wherever they please. There are other campers to consider. Take enough eco-friendly biodegradable poo bags so you can dispose of the waste in a dog waste bin on-site. Don’t be one of those strange people who bag the poop and hang it at face height from a tree branch. 

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Always bag your poop and dispose of it properly

11)  Be seen. A hi-viz hunting vest is a good investment, along with a bell and a beacon light. These can be kept on your dog in the evenings until they go to sleep so you can keep track of them on your pitch.

12) Doormats. We love dirt trapping door mats. Put one outside of the tent door and one next to your camping chair outside to stop your dog from picking up dirt and tracking it inside.

13) Paw wax or boots. Depending on whether you are camping in the summer when the ground is hot, or winter when it’s cold and wet, paw wax will protect your dog’s paws, and boots might be a good investment for winter hiking.

14) Shade. You may have an awning that can provide some shade for your dog, or like us, you can take a pop-up shade to give your dog some respite from the summer sunshine.

Travelling to the campsite.

With all this in place, it is time to make that trip to the campsite. This might not be the easiest journey if your destination is a long way away. But, you can make things as fun, comfortable, and safe as possible for all concerned. An important starting point is to understand the Highway Code on restraining dogs appropriately. Your dog can’t be free to move around when travelling on a motorway so get the right seatbelt or dog car seat. 

Also, make time to stop for snacks, exercise, and toilet breaks. You wouldn’t expect your kids to go for 5 hours in the car without stretching their legs, getting food, and finding a bathroom. Offer the same opportunities to your dog.

Stop offs will also help if you have a dog that can get a little anxious or stressed in the car. Regular breaks give them a breather and time to have a bit of fun and a fuss. 

Here’s my top tips on how to keep your dog calm when travelling.

Keeping up with the usual routine at the campsite.

When you get to the campsite and start your holiday, it is important to maintain as much of a normal routine with your dog as possible. This means 

a) sticking with the same schedule for feeding

b) walking them regularly

c) keeping up with their sleep schedule as much as possible.

Give them their food at the same time in that collapsible bowl mentioned before. Take them for a good walk in the morning if you don’t plan on venturing far from the tent.

Make sure to regularly take your dog to the bathroom in a safe spot and dispose of the waste in the bins provided. The more that your dog maintains their regular pattern, the easier it will be for them to relax and enjoy this new adventure.

New sights and sounds during the day are fun, but they still need that comfort of their own bed and routine at the end of the day. 

Campsite activities and entertainment for your dog.

When you aren’t cooking, eating, bathing, or sleeping, there is lots of time for fun, games, and adventures. An excellent activity for your pet is a nature hike. As you will see below, there are some potential risks involved in nature hikes. But, your dog will love the chance to explore with you. Just make sure to do so responsibly and put them on a lead near livestock or nature reserves. 

Those trips into the beautiful countryside may also allow for some time to play in the water. Depending on your dog’s breed and their proficiency in water, this could be a big threat. If you know there is a pond or lake near the campsite, take some floating fetch toys and have fun. 

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Games of fetch are also a great way to kill some time at the campsite when parents need to do boring tasks. Find a spot a safe distance from other campers and throw a ball or frisbee around for a while. Don’t be tempted to throw sticks that you find on-site. These can be hazardous with their splinters and sharp edges. 

Games of fetch and other activities on the campsite may also lead to time spent playing with other dogs in dog-friendly campsites. Dog-friendly campsites could be full of like-minded people with their own energetic pooch. This is a great way for the dogs to have fun while you meet new people. You may even form friendships for further dog-related travels in the future. 

How to be respectful of other campers in the area.

It is important to remember that not all people at your campsite will be dog lovers. Some might not appreciate having one next door. The best place to start is to talk to your closest neighbours to make them aware that there is a dog with you. They can voice any concerns and you can reassure them that you are responsible and they can pet your friendly dog if they see him outside. 

With this in mind, make sure your dog stays within your plot and doesn’t disturb other people. A friendly dog may enjoy meeting all kinds of new people and seeing what games they can play. Only allow them to venture away from the tent if invited and call them back if they became a nuisance. If you can’t supervise them, keep them within the tent/camper or temporarily tethered via a leash to a stake. 

Also, try and keep the noise down. Your dog might not be prone to barking, and it’s a good idea not to camp with dogs that might bark through the night. But, they may still bark at strange things around their tent, such as local wildlife or other campers walking by. Also, make sure not to play any loud games with your dog too early in the day or late at night.

Finally, deal with smells and waste appropriately. If your dog goes to the bathroom outside your tent – which is a lot more preferable than inside – you need to clean it up ASAP. Your neighbours don’t want to have to see or smell that, especially if it is close to the tent. The same is true for any waste food that might have a distinctive odour. 

Keeping your dog safe whilst camping

Tent safety is an important place to start when keeping your dog safe. Dogs that are used to the tent can make their home in one of the little enclosed spaces or vestibules with ease. But, make sure that this is secure and they can’t escape at night. When they are outside the tent watching you wash, cook, or do other chores, consider a tether and stake to stop them from getting in the way or running off. 

There are similar considerations for RV safety, although it is much harder for dogs to escape from this accommodation. Ensure they have their own space in a safe part of the camper where there are no hazards to deal with. Also, make sure that the temperature doesn’t get too high.

Dogs die in hot cars. They can also die in hot campers without suitable ventilation or climate control. 

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Nothing like a cuppa and a cuddle on a rainy camping day. Yes, my socks were wet.

Then there is the issue of fire safety. This is something that all members of the family need to be aware of during a camping trip. But, it is also important for your dogs so they don’t get into danger. Barbecues and grills are an issue on unsteady ground when you have a dog running around. Pay attention to the rules of the campsite and play it safe when making food. 

Next, you need to consider the potential hazards that are found in nature. The natural world is full of plants, insects, and animals to discover – some of which aren’t that friendly. Your dog could eat something hazardous if unsupervised, or get on the wrong end of a defensive insect. Most creatures will just run a safe distance, but it pays to be prepared for any bites or stings. 

Finally, it helps to know how to apply first aid as necessary. We covered some of the basic necessities above. But, it helps to familiarise yourself with them so you can use them correctly if your dog gets a sting or cuts themself. 

Camping with Dogs FAQS

Can I leave my dog alone in the tent?

You should never leave a dog in a tent even if they are crated. If they start barking or crying you could be asked to leave the campsite. 

Where does the dog sleep when camping?

Older dogs prefer to sleep with their humans when camping for warmth, comfort and security.  Puppies prefer the safety of a crate to prevent them wandering off in the night.

How to prevent your dog from puncturing an airbed?

Trim your dog’s nails before you go camping. Do not allow your dog to get onto the sleeping pad without the bedding on top to prevent their claws making holes. Do not play rough inside the tent as teeth can also puncture airbeds.

What size tent should I use when I camp with my dog?

Choose a tent that has enough space to accommodate your family plus on extra member to calculate the space needed. This will give you enough room to dedicate an area to your dogs bed and belongings.

Will my dog get cold at night when camping?

In the UK even the summer nights can get very cold and damp. Short haired dogs are more likely to feel the cold and would benefit from a fleece coat overnight. Unless they are tucked in your sleeping bag where they will stay toasty next to you.

How do I pack my dog’s food for camping?

Measure out the food for the days you need and take an extra day’s worth just incase of emergency. Pack kibble in an airtight and animal proof container, like a tin. 

Do I need poop bags in the countryside when camping?

Stick and flick is the preferred method for disposing of dog poop whilst out in the countryside. Aim for the ditches and under the hedgerows so the poop is removed from the path and away from areas where it can be trodden in. 

How do I keep my dog contained at camp?

Use a dog leash that attaches round your waist to keep your hands free whilst you are setting up your camp, making dinner or  walking over uneven ground.  A travel crate will provide a containment area for your dog, but is not secure so should not be left unattended.

Prepare yourself for camping with a dog in the UK and you will have a lot of fun. 

In short, while there is a lot to consider and to prep for, it is worth the effort for the best possible experience. You will have a better trip if you know that your pet will be content and safe with everything they need. Plan in advance, help your pet adjust to the new location and make sure to have a lot of fun together. 

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