A golden retriever dog pokes its head into the entrance of a yellow tent

How Do You Dog Proof A Tent? {A DIY Guide}

Without properly preparing in advance of a camping trip with a four legged friend, the best case scenario might be that everyone in the tent (including the dog), has a sleepless night. The worst case is that the tent has been damaged to a point where you’re left exposed to the elements 

The good news is that you don’t need to toss out your existing tent and head to the camping store to pick up a new place to sleep. 

Instead we can fairly easily retrofit an existing tent to a point where you won’t have to worry about your living arrangements being a low point of your trip to the great outdoors.

To fully dog proof a tent we need to address: 

  • Reinforcing tent materials 
  • Establishing sleeping arrangements that work for all
  • The creation of a ‘clean-up’ zone
  • Piecing together an essential tent repair kit  

And we’ll also dip into what features a tent should have if you were buying a new model with the express purpose of inviting your dog along for the adventure. 

How to dog proof a tent infographic

Protect your tent floor from paws and claws

The base of your tent is often exposed to abrasive surfaces or sharps present on the forest floor.

For this reason and to prevent moisture wicking up from the ground into the living quarters a groundsheet is often laid to create a barrier between the tent and the earth.

When a dog is invited inside a tent there is a real risk that their claws could accidentally tear or puncture the tent’s floor and thus invite the rain and cold into your previously cosy sleeping zone

The solution? Double the protection with an additional groundsheet laid inside the tent

This will help create a further physical barrier as well as add an extra layer of insulation to keep a little more warmth inside the sleeping area. 

Whether you use a hard wearing groundsheet to serve this role, make a groundsheet out of Polycro, or use a low cost pair of shower curtains doesn’t really matter.

As long as they are lightweight and easy to wipe clean should your four legged friend drag in any muck by accident.

The REDCAMP groundsheet is a good option because it comes with eyelets so can be tied into position against each of the tent poles,

If you’re using something a little simpler, remember to bring some fabric tape to attach it to the inner walls of the tent so as to prevent it from bunching up or sliding out from beneath your feet.

Plan sleeping arrangements with the dog before night falls

For a decent night’s sleep be prepared to give up some tent real estate to let your sleeping dog lie. 

Even if you don’t have a large dog it’s worth counting their presence as another human when selecting an appropriately sized tent. So for a couple + 1 dog, a 3 person berth tent would be perfect. 

It might sound romantic sleeping side by side with your buddy, and in cold weather this might even be a practical move. However with space inside a tent space being a luxury, sharing the same sleeping bag will soon become uncomfortable. 

We move constantly in our sleep, on average 13 times per hour which means your movements will quickly be restricted if a dog’s body is in the way. And visa-versa too. I know our dog when sleeping is prone to throwing out leg at high speed without any warning whatsoever.

A dedicated sleeping zone or bed for the dog is a must if you want to avoid having a terrible night’s sleep. 

If you’re camping in cold weather an elevated bed is a great solution to keep your dog off the freezing floor, but with a large frame it’s not ideal to lug around if you’re hiking long distances.

A trade off might be a packable dog bed such as the Outrav dog sleeping bag.

Ventilation during night time is also a factor to consider, because let’s face it, dogs can create some pretty terrible smells!

The best place for your dog to sleep is as close to the door as possible.

Make tent mesh more visible to dogs

One useful piece of advice that will prolong the life of your tent when camping with a dog is to make the flyscreen mesh more visible. 

When the outer door is unzipped, either to improve ventilation or appreciate the scenery, it’s often the case that the flyscreen will remain as a barrier between you and swarms of biting insects. 

If something interesting darts into view, say another person or a rabbit, a dog new to camping can be forgiven for forgetting that the screen is there and crash through the thin layer of mesh when responding to a natural urge to chase.

Add either a strip of tape, or hi-visibility stickers onto the mesh to make the fly screen stand out. 

The same principle applies to any dark colored guy ropes that hold the tent fast and upright. By highlighting ropes with hi-viz markers and making them more visible it’s likely you’ll also save yourself from a few slips, trips and falls.

Establish a cleaning station 

If your tent has a vestibule where you kick off your shoes before entering this will prove a perfect place to be your dog cleaning station to wipe down dirty paws and do a once over for ticks or twigs that are caught up in your dog’s coat. 

If the tent you have is a little simpler in design, that’s no problem too. You’ll simply just have to create some sort of reminder to yourself to do a ‘stop and check’ before unzipping the door and allowing the animals to jump inside. 

You will need (I) at least one designated dog towel,  (II) tick tweezers and, (III) a brush to equip your doggy cleaning station.

Stock a ‘tent repair kit’ when camping with dogs

Exposure to the elements along with general wear and tear will eventually cause a tent to begin to deteriorate over time.

Running repairs are nothing new in the outdoor world, however camping with your dog will make it more likely you’ll be called into action to provide tent first aid.

Some crucial pieces of tent repair kit that you really shouldn’t leave home without are:

  • An easy tear waterproof fabric tape to repair rips in the outer shell or groundsheet
  • Spare patches of mesh (available as part of a general tent repair kit sold in almost all outdoor shops) as well as a needle and thread to sew them into place

Buying a tent fit for a canine companion

If you have yet to make a choice over which tent might be best to double up as both a human and dog abode, allow us to point out a few things to look for. A few features to check for include:

Check It Is Made From Rugged Material – If you’re hiking, the properties of Nylon above all others will fit your needs. It’s lighter than other traditional tent materials of polyester, canvas or polycotton yet highly durable. 

Choose A Model That Has A Vestibule – Pick a tent with a screen room that is larger than a simple storage space for boots. This porch area can be the dog’s cleaning zone before entering into the main sleeping area, or if the hound is especially wet or dirty this can be their own dedicated sleeping area for the night.

The Coleman Steel Creek Fast Pitch Tent is a neat little tent that has such an enclosed vestibule area, is made from durable polyguard fabric and has enough floor space to set up 2 x queen sized beds. 

The downside of the Steel Creek however is at 2ft x 1ft x 1ft when all packed up, it’s a little too bulky for lugging around on multi-day hikes. 

 

Do a test run in advance of the trip to the wilderness

Dogproofing a tent should also include a nod towards dog behaviour. 

Our Wirehaired Vizsla is easily scared and required a little bit of reassurance the first time she spent a night under the stars.

The rustle of the tent fabric in the middle of the night prompted a few low growls that had us humans urging hush. 

Point being, it’s difficult to know how your four legged friend will react to sleeping in a tent without giving it a go.

So throw up the tent in the yard and spend a night planning your adventures together.

Closing notes

Camping is a great way to get back in touch with nature and enjoy the wonders of the outdoors.

However, it can also be tough on your tent when you have an excited pup that wants to explore all of their new surroundings.