Congratulations on your new puppy! Taking your puppy camping is a memorable experience that can help set your dog-owner relationship up for long term success.
Puppies are just as cute as they can be difficult and this can lend itself to unique challenges when camping that you won’t have when camping with an adult dog.
Let’s break down these key differences and what they mean for your upcoming puppy camping trip.
Camping with a Puppy Overview:
Can You Take 8 Week Puppy Camping?
If your puppy is old enough to leave its mother, around 8-9 weeks, you can take your puppy camping. However, the younger your puppy is, the more aware, patient, and prepared you will need to be to keep them safe.
Ideally, your puppy will have all its vaccinations, medications, and training completed before you go camping together. Completing these tasks may take months and waiting that long before introducing your dog to camping may put you and your puppy at other disadvantages.
Our Story: Gambit turned 8 weeks old on a Monday. I adopted him that Wednesday and two days later we were off on our first camping trip. I could not be happier that I introduced him to camping early. Just some of the benefits have been having a dog who thinks long car rides and thunder noises are normal and one who couldn’t care less about chasing after a raccoon, skunk, or squirrel.
Vaccinations for Camping
Vaccinations keep your puppy safe from harmful diseases and the great outdoors offers more unpredictability and risk than a dog at home.
If your puppy has not completed its first round vaccinations before your trip, you can still take your puppy camping if you work to keep your puppy away from risky situations. Please be mindful of the diseases an unvaccinated puppy is susceptible to and take extra caution when camping to keep your puppy from risky scenarios.
While it is impossible to predict the great outdoors, the riskiest diseases an unvaccinated dog is susceptible to when camping are canine distemper and rabies because they source from other animals including common campsite visitors like raccoons and skunks.
Talk to your vet about your camping trips and destinations. They may suggest administering the vaccinations in a different order than normal to best protect your dog based on what they are likely to encounter.
Larger breed puppies may be able to get all their vaccinations in one or two vet visits. Smaller puppies may need to spread their vaccinations out to three or four appointments.
Our Story: Gambit was not only too young for most vaccinations when we started camping, he was too small to administer them at the same rate most dogs could get vaccines. That meant an extra 2-4 weeks before Gambit would be fully vaccinated than most dogs. Our vet decided to rely on the herd immunity of the dogs in our neighborhood for common vaccines and prioritized protecting Gambit from more dangerous encounters when camping first.
Typical Vaccination timing is distemper and parovirus vaccines around age 6-8 weeks. Distemper is a fatal disease your puppy may encounter on a camping trip and there is no cure. If possible, get this round of vaccinations before your first camping trip.
10-12 weeks old your dog is up for DHPP and eligible for the letpo vaccination. Lepto is a disease dogs get from contaminated soil and water- things your puppy may be around when camping.
The final round of camping puppy vaccination is at 14 weeks when your puppy becomes eligible for the rabies vaccination. Rabies is a disease that comes from other animals and wild animals are more likely to be rabid than city pets.
There are additional vaccinations available and if your dog will be around other dogs such as at dog parks, boarding, or doggy daycare these added vaccinations may be required.
Read about the benefits of taking your puppy camping.
Flea, Tick, and Heartworm
Heartworm and flea and tick medications may be administered to dogs as young as 8 weeks. Aim to begin your puppy on these monthly medications before taking them camping. No one wants a bug filled puppy.
Heartworm can be fatal for dogs, and mosquito bites are the most common way dogs contract heartworm. Mosquitos are present across the country during camping season. It may be difficult to keep mosquitos away from your puppy so it’s impossible to protect them from heartworm without heartworm treatment.
Please do not spray your dog with bug repellant.
Fleas & Ticks
Fleas and ticks can live year round including in your campsite and hiking paths. Check blogs for any hiking trails you plan on taking your dog on to know if they are infested with ticks. While ticks can be anywhere in the wild, certain hiking trails get a reputation for having them.
Ticks can carry dangerous diseases, like lyme disease, and flea infestations are difficult to get rid of. Protect your puppy, and yourself, from these unwanted bugs with a flea and tick preventative medication.
You can put your flea and tick, and heartworm medications on autoship from Chewy.com. Flea and tick medication is also available from Amazon where new dog owners can save up to 30% on their first subscribe and save of pet supplies.
Insider Tip: Put your dog’s poop bags and food on autoship, too. Such a time saver! Both Chewy and Amazon have flea/ tick, dog food and poo bag autoship.
Deet and other human bug and mosquito repellants, including essential oils, are not dog-friendly. Do not use them on your puppy.
It’s All About Puppy Right Now, Not You
The relationship between man and his best friend is undeniable, but your puppy isn’t there yet. The world is still new and exciting to them. Every experience is a first and your puppy will dive right in when camping.
Your puppy will be curious and likely get into dirt and interesting situations. You will always need to keep a close watch on them, and this may put a damper on your relaxing trip if you are not mentally ready.
Like life at home right now, your puppy is going to run the show when camping. You may not get to sleep when you want, or hike at the speed you’re used to. You may find yourself tending to the puppy often.
If you are prepared, you can use your puppy’s camping curiosity to your benefit. Introduce your puppy to new smells, sounds, and interesting things. Watch how they react.
Bring training treats and continue their routine and training cue words when you are camping so that camping and the outdoors are just as familiar and safe as home.
These training introductions will take up more of your initial camping trip together than you may like. Try to live each experience through the eyes of your puppy and enjoy this phase. Once they grow out of it, there may be parts you’ll miss.
Puppy Energy Comes in Spurts, Not When You Want It
Puppies are known to fall asleep in the middle of playing and it’s adorable, but these sudden waves of sleepiness may come at a bad time during your camping trip. For example, 1 mile into your 5 mile hike.
Puppies sleep most of the day, usually around 16 hours a day, with spurts of energy in between according to Purina. These spurts of energy often last less than an hour, and may be as short as 15-20 minutes long.
If you enjoy hiking or physical activities when camping, your puppy may get exhausted along the way and decide to suddenly take a nap. If so, you’ll find yourself hiking with a puppy in your backpack or arms.
Check out gear to help carry your pup
Our Story: Gambit loves hiking. From running through the grass, dragging sticks along the trail, or climbing up rocks as fast as he can he is in heaven. When he was a puppy, however, this exuberant joy would last about half a mile. Sometimes he could wearily make it to 2/3rds of a mile, but we were definitely carrying him the remainder of the walk. We had a sling backpack that allowed him to sleep like he was in a hammock with his head popped out that worked well for his dachshund shaped body. We used that backpack till he was nearly a year old.
Puppies Struggle to Keep Up
In addition to having unpredictable energy waves, puppies have shorter legs than adult dogs. Shorter legs may interfere with climbing stairs, rocky paths, and hills. They make it more difficult for puppies to enter and exit vehicles and RVs, too.
Shorter legs also require puppies to exert more energy as they take 2-3 times as many steps to keep up. Knowing your puppy is already likely to fall asleep during a hike or long activity, any elevation heights in your activities will further impact how likely your puppy is to fall asleep mid activity.
Check out gear to help carry your pup
Puppies Aren’t Well Trained
Puppies are distracted by new and exciting things and everything in the outdoors is new and exciting!
Puppies are not well versed in recall training, not to bark, or even trained in responding to their name.
Their untethered curiosity will require you keep a closer eye on your puppy as the outdoors are more dangerous than your home.
From eating things they shouldn’t, to running after wildlife and pulling on the leash, your puppy’s lack of training will require you to step in and take action often to keep them safe when you are camping.
Recall is a strong training skill that is important when camping with a dog. Without the ability to recall your puppy, you may need to interject yourself to remove your dog from a dangerous situation.
Common wildlife like skunks, porcupines, and snakes that may naturally find their way onto your campsite may not be kind to a curious puppy. These animals can put your puppy at risk of being sprayed or getting hurt in a way that may require a vet visit.
Learn about camping gear that can help keep your puppy safe
Our story: The recall command has saved Gambit’s life. During a hike in some thick brush my hiking partner stopped unexpectedly, so I stopped to make sure he was ok. Suddenly, a series of ATVs could be heard fast approaching the crossroad I knew was ahead but could not see. That was when I realized Gambit was no longer in sight. He must have kept walking when we stopped and was now likely at the crossroad these ATVs were about to speed through. We called his name and nothing, so I desperately yell the recall command. Gambit came running up to me like the good boy he is safe from the raging ATVs.
Puppies Are Not Housebroken
Dogs instinctually will not want to pee in their home, but puppies aren’t house broken yet. Puppies also don’t see your tent as their second home.
With this being their first introduction to your tent, the puppy won’t see a tent or your sleeping bag as a place not to relieve themselves. You may find your tent or camping gear has some unexpected puddles during your camping trip.
Try to retain your puppy’s home routine and schedule when camping to best predict when they may need to use the restroom and save your camping gear. If you are crate training your puppy at home, bring the crate camping with you until your puppy is familiar with the tent.
Our Story: Of course Gambit peed in the tent his first day camping! He was new to me, too, so I didn’t yet know the signs he showed when he was about to go. Thankfully, I had a heavy duty tarp down inside the tent, so after he relieved himself, clean up was easy and I avoided having a urine smelling tent in the long term. That was the only time Gambit’s peed in the tent. He knows the tent is like his second home now.
While most wildlife encounters are generally harmless, puppies have an additional predator humans and adult dogs don’t have to worry about: birds.
Birds carry off smaller wildlife, like foxes and fish, by attacking from the sky. Unfortunately, they pick up small dogs and puppies by accident from time to time.
Dogs of all ages, 15lbs or under, are at risk of looking like a bird meal and dog owners should be mindful when taking their puppies camping. There are a few large birds that can carry animals up to 20lbs.
Since most puppies are under these size limit at some point, it is important to note that additional predators when camping with your puppy until they are of a safe size and weight. Be mindful of moments when your puppy may be exposed to open skies or large birds and keep them tethered on a tie out line.
Our Story: While camping in a national forest, a large bird swooped down to consider Gambit for a snack. The bird stopped on a branch to reconsider and realized Gambit was a tad too large, thank goodness. A fellow family member was not so lucky when his yorkie was carried off by a bird near Yellowstone. Heartbreaking, but true.
Learn about keeping dogs safe when camping by checking our my article on dog camping safety.
Save on Puppy Camping Gear
I overpacked and over-shopped my first few times camping with Gambit. I brought the crate, and the pet gate, and a tarp for him to lie on outside- and. that was just the big items. I packed even more than that!
All those things were useless when camping. It’s not practical to pack these items for every camping trip now or when they are an adult.
Check out the dog camping gear essentials list for the gear you will need for your dog now and when they are an adult. But other than lots of patience and a backpack for your puppy, you don’t need any special gear for the puppy phase that is different than the gear you need for dogs of all ages.
Insider Tip: If you’re looking for a keepsake for your first camping trips together, consider a road trip journal to record those precious little moments of your adventures. I have this one by Axel and Ash.
While you don’t need extra gear, there are features and functions that can be beneficial to have during the puppy phase.
First, your puppy will continue to grow. Depending on your camping schedule, the gear you buy your puppy may not fit after one or two camping trips.
Look for gear that is adjustable, or purchase the adult size. A puppy can use an adult dog bed, but an adult dog cannot use a puppy bed.
The second item to remember is waterproof. Your puppy may chew on your gear or pee on it.
I recommend even a waterproof leash for the puppy phase since you and your dog are getting used to their sniff and circle routine. Trying to navigate leash placement while your dog does their investigation dance, may cause your leash to end up in an unfortunate position that get’s it peed or pooped on. I know this one from experience.
Closing and Resources
Your puppy will be excited to explore the outdoors with you. So many adventure, smells, and stories await you both. Just remember that your new puppy needs some extra time and love to grow into the best friend you want them to be.
The benefits of introducing your puppy to camping early are sure to pay off well over your time and bring you both a lifetime of amazing memories.
Happy camping, and sniffing, to you both!
Here’s your complete guide to camping with your dog.