Tent camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. When I went camping, I was never sure if we should leave our dogs all alone. So I did some research to find out if it’s a good or bad idea.
Should I be leaving a dog in a tent while camping? The decision comes down to three things: your dog, the weather, and the individual situation you find yourself in. Do not leave your dog alone if:
- Your dog suffers from anxiety separation;
- Your dog does not like thunder and lightning;
- You are going to be away from your tent for long.
Every dog, human, and their campaign situation is different. While this article can’t cover every case, it will explore the main reasons why it’s not a good idea to leave your dog alone in a tent when camping.
Campground managers usually hand out a copy of their rules when you check-in.
Some forbid leaving pets unattended.
Others may warn you about letting an unattended pet disturb other campers.
Most rules against pets in campgrounds and other public places exist because there’s been a problem in the past. One dog creating a disturbance results in a ban against all dogs. You won’t know until you ask how much leeway a particular campground will grant to a well-behaved dog.
If the rules are strict, and the manager is adamant about enforcement, then you’ll have to find someone to standby if you have to leave your dog alone in the tent.
Who could help you out? A pet-loving friend, family member, or neighboring camper. One possibility is trading pet-sitting duties with other campers.
If you are asking yourself the question “Should I be leaving a dog in a tent while camping?” then you can answer “yes” if you can organize for someone at the site to keep your dog company while you are gone.
You probably checked the weather before you decided to go camping.
But the weather is changeable. You may be presented with an unexpected deluge, freeze, or hot spell.
In typical weather, you could leave your dog alone, but unusual weather can make leaving your dog in a tent a lousy idea.
Tents don’t have climate control. If the weather changes while you’re out, your dog could get cold, wet, or overheated. None of which is good.
Is your dog afraid of thunder? If so, it could be in real trouble if a storm blows in and you’re not there.
How weather-proof is your tent?
Can a sudden gust of wind blow your tent away?
Will your tent leak if the rain comes bucketing down?
Is your tent ventilated so your dog won’t overheat if the weather turns hotter than you expected?
Whether leaving your dog alone in a tent is a good or bad idea is influenced by conditions around where you’re camping.
If you’re in a primitive area, wildlife is a big concern. All food needs to be in tightly-sealed containers so that the smell of a free meal won’t attract predators. Some critters, depending on their size and hunger, could attempt an attack.
Your pet might or might not be able to defend itself adequately and, it could be seriously injured or killed within seconds.
Snakes are another concern. You need to ensure that none can slither into your tent and bite your dog. Talk to your vet before you leave home, and have your dog vaccinated against rattlesnake or other vermin bites.
If you are in a developed campground, there are other campers and their pets to consider.
You keep your dog under control, but what if someone else’s pet runs amok?
Is your dog safe in your tent if another dog tries to enter?
A significant potential hazard is other campers, especially their children.
Children who are playing don’t always honor boundaries.
They might throw a ball or other object against your tent and frighten your dog.
Tents are not soundproof. Your dog is going to hear every single noise that happens outside the tent. Some of those noises are likely to be scary. This is because your dog can’t determine the source of the sound.
You can courteously explain to neighboring campers that you have a pet in your tent and request that they avoid startling it.
Other adult humans
Unfortunately, human predators also hang around campgrounds.
If your dog is valuable for other than the love and affection it gives you, it could become a target.
The same is true if you have left an adorable and cute little dog alone.
Ensure your dog is microchipped. Carry current pictures of it with you.
If there was a chance that my dogs could go missing because I left them alone, the answer to the question “Should I be leaving a dog in a tent while camping?” would be an absolute “no.”
How Long Will The Dog Be Alone?
Your dog, like many dogs, knows when it’s time for dinner or other favorite activities. It’s as if they look at a clock to tell time. That does not mean, however, that they have a real sense of time.
When you’re gone, five minutes is no different from five hours to your dog. If your dog is like mine, even if you’ve been gone for a couple of minutes, they greet your return with unbounded enthusiasm!! That could mean that leaving your dog in your tent while camping is not such a good idea.
If it gets lonesome or scared, your dog may start whimpering, howling, or crying. Aside from your pet’s misery, that potentially disturbs fellow campers.
If you’re going to return within minutes, the situation will probably be okay. But if you’re going to be gone longer, a distressed dog that disturbs other campers becomes a problem for you.
A dog that has separation anxiety can chew or bite itself.
You may need to practice leaving your dog home alone BEFORE planning a camping trip.
Start with leaving it for a few minutes and slowly increase your time away.
Give your dog special well-loved toys to play with during solo time. Avoid letting it have those toys when you’re with your dog.
Show extra affection when you return, and offer praise for good behavior.
Most dogs will eventually understand that you aren’t gone forever. Your dog may still greet you as if it had been abandoned, but the harmful nervous habits should gradually decrease.
Continue the training when you go camping.
Practice leaving the tent briefly.
You can bring special well-loved home-alone toys to remind your pet that you always will return.
Your dog may get over its anxiety at home, but may never overcome it enough to be safely left alone in your tent.
No matter how familiar you try to make the surroundings, your dog will remain too anxious without you.
Personality Of Your Dog
Some dogs can handle any situation.
Others fall apart at the canine equivalent of a hangnail.
Most are in between.
If you’ve had your dog for a long time, you may have an accurate idea of how it will cope with being alone in a tent.
If your dog is new to you, you and it may have what could be a steep learning curve when it comes to tent camping.
Some dogs are skittish, and anything unexpected alarms them. If yours responds by barking, you will be in trouble with neighbors and campground management.
Some dogs panic instead. That can lead to injuring themselves trying to escape whatever they think is going to harm them. If your dog panics and gets out, you’re in real trouble. In short, leaving a nervous dog alone in a tent is not a good idea.
If you think that your dog will be okay left alone, exactly how are you going to leave it?
Will your dog be loose within the confines of the tent? If so, what’s to keep it from escaping?
If your dog is an escape artist or just can’t be trusted to stay inside the tent, how do you plan to restrain it? Tether it? Or is it crate-trained?
If it is tethered or crated, how will it free itself if an invader threatens it or something happens to the tent? Granted, the likelihood of an emergency might be low, but the possibility of one occurring means that leaving your dog alone in your tent for an extended time is not a good idea.
Do you leave the tent flap open so your dog can see what’s going on? If so, you must be extra vigilant regarding the surrounding conditions. Children often find pets irresistible. They may approach your dog or touch it. Do you know how it will react if that happens?
Some dogs are destructive when they’re frustrated. Being without you and confined to a tent can raise frustration levels to new levels. Your dog will need to be restrained if you want to return to an intact tent. If you have more than one dog, you may need to keep them separated. Their frustration can lead dogs that usually get along to fight each other.
Your dog can become hyper due to the stimulation of being in different surroundings. The strange noises and smells can make even calm dogs nervous.
Leaving your dog alone in your tent can be traumatic, especially if it’s already anxious.
If you know you have to be away for more than a few minutes, try to work in some strenuous exercise or play with your dog before you leave. It is better to leave an exhausted dog alone than a dog full of energy.
Take A Practice Trip First
Practice makes perfect
If your dog is new to you or new to camping, try to take a short practice trip first.
Experiment with different ways of making your dog think it’s alone in the tent and evaluate its reaction.
You may need a friend to help with the testing and evaluations.
Depending on how fast and well your dog learns, you may be able to teach good tent behavior with just a few practice excursions.
Then you and your dog can enjoy camping together even when the dog has to spend some time alone in the tent.
Continue regular routines when camping
You probably have established routines at home.
These can include feeding time, playtime, or bedtime.
There is a place and time for your dog to relieve itself.
Certain behaviors earn rewards.
Try to follow the same routines and rituals as closely as you can when you’re camping.
Your dog has certain expectations as to what will happen and when it will happen. The more you meet those expectations when you are campaign (like when you are at home), the more comfortable and less nervous your dog will be.
A relaxed dog reduces potential problems if you have to leave it alone in the tent.
Should you leave your dog in your tent while camping?
Dogs are companion animals. Yours is happiest when it is with you.
Not every place in the world is dog-friendly and, not every activity can include dogs, which means that sometimes your dog has to spend time without you. Some places and situations, like your home, are safe. Other places and situations are not.
In general, a campground is not the right place to leave your dog alone. Only in very special, and very brief, circumstances should you leave your dog in your tent without you.
So to answer the burning question of “Should I be leaving a dog in a tent while camping?”, the answer I’d give is “no.”
What do I need to bring when tent camping with my dog?
Does my dog sleep with me when I’m camping?
You have a couple of options available for where your dog sleeps when you’re camping.
Where To From Here?
We’ve created these very detailed and epically helpful guide to dog-friendly places to hike, backpack and camp throughout the U.S.A. For each location, they provide details like the distance and elevation of the hike, places of interest, nearest dog-friendly campgrounds.
Why don’t you check them out when you are planning your next adventure with your pooch?
- Hiking with dogs in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Utah, Maine, and Virginia
- Dog fun trails near Grand Lake Colorado
- Go off-leash on trails in Colorado
- Visit the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.