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So, you’re thinking of RVing with dogs? If you’ve never taken your pooch on a road trip, you might be a little stressed out about how to keep your furry friend safe and comfortable on the road and at the campground.
RVer Christina Goebel gets it; she’s been RVing with dogs since 2015.
“When I first began RVing, I was terrified of leaving my dog in the motorhome. Then, I learned it was like living in a house. They still have air conditioning and water, unless you are dry camping. One big difference from a house is not having a backyard with a fence, and most RV parks won’t allow you to leash your dog outside unattended,” she said.
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If you’re embarking on your first RV camping adventure with your dogs, or are a seasoned RVer who’d love to learn some new tips, this post is for you.
We hope you find advice and inspiration from fellow RVing enthusiasts about safely RVing with dogs.
Tip #1: Have a Pet Temperature Monitor
A dog can suffer from heatstroke in less than 30 minutes if the temperature is too hot in an RV. A pet temperature monitor like Waggle allows you to monitor heat and humidity from afar, whether you’re hiking where dogs aren’t allowed or off getting groceries or a meal.
Kelly Beasley, CampAddict.com co-founder, explains why she uses a pet temperature monitor in her RV while out camping. “Even if you are connected to power and have AC, it can fail and you have no way of knowing it. This puts your pet in danger in the summer unless you have a way to track the temperature in your RV.”
The Waggle pet temperature monitor, for example, works on a Verizon 4G cellular network so you don’t have to depend on spotty campground WiFi. You connect the monitor straight to an app on your phone so you can see the temperature in real-time and get alerts if the temperature gets too high or to low. Waggle also alerts you if your RV loses power – and when it gains it back again.
Another RVer and dog owner, Angela DiLoreto with FittinginAdventure.com uses a couple other things along with her pet temperature monitor, “We have a Nest camera and a thermometer as a backup, too.”
Speaking of temperature, your RV should have at least one or two roof fans like the Maxxair or Fantastic Fan to keep air moving throughout your RV.
Tip #2: Get your dog accustomed to the RV before you go
If your dog has never spent time living the RV lifestyle before, it’s a good idea to get Fido used to the rig before you start driving down the highway.
Certified Professional Dog trainer Michelle Stern with Pooch Parenting parks her RV at her house for a couple of days before each trip. “I like spending some time in there with the dog while I am getting myself organized, or we could even go in there for some nap times. It’s also not a bad idea to try spending the night in the RV before you leave just to see if your dog is capable of relaxing.”
Beasley also likes to get her dogs accustomed to the RV life before striking out on a trip. “Acclimate them to their new bed, feed them inside the RV, and spend time with them in there to reduce anxiety while you are on the trip itself,” she said.
Make everything about being inside the RV a positive experience for your dog.
Tip #3 Prepare your dog for a safe and calm road trip
The drive itself might not be the best part about RVing with dogs, but there are ways to make sure your dog is safe and comfortable on your RV adventure.
Pet owner Jacqueline Lambert with WorldWideWalkies.com suggests taking your dog out for a long walk or a game of ball on your travel day. That way, they’ll be good and tired for the trip.
She also recommends feeding your dog at least an hour before you get on the road to prevent motion sickness or nausea.
To prevent any upset stomachs or barfing on the road, veterinary technician Natasha Nanji says make sure to stock up on anti-nausea medication. “Driving for long periods of time might trigger your dog’s stomach, even if they have never been car sick before. Your veterinarian can prescribe this to you, and should be given at least 2 hours before you leave for your trip.”
And don’t forget to keep your pup in a safe place while your RV is in motion. Goebel says she learned this the hard way: “Our Shepherd gets nervous during travel. The first time we set out on the road, she tried to crawl under the accelerator while my husband drove. We were horrified. We solved this problem by always having her leashed during travel so we can move her where she needs to be.”
Julie Chickery of ChickerysTravels.com says get a seatbelt for your dog, and keep your precious pet buckled up. “Many pets are injured each year when their owner stops suddenly and they are projected forward, hitting the back of a seat, or worse, the windshield. Also, if you’re involved in a crash, the restraint helps keep them from running away from the scene.”
Take your dog for a potty break and walk every now and then, too. Dogs like to stretch their legs just like people on a long road trip.
Tip #4: Research the campground rules and park before you go
Campgrounds, RV parks, national parks and state parks all have different rules when it comes to RVing with dogs. Read the fine print carefully before you make that reservation.
For example, some campgrounds restrict the types of dogs that are allowed to stay there. “We travel with a German Shepherd. Some parks do not allow this breed, though most do. Some breeds are even more restricted, such as Rottweilers, Dobermans, and Pitbulls. Other campgrounds do not allow dogs over a certain weight and others allow no dogs. So, always consult the website or call ahead,” says Goebel.
There might also be rules about where you can walk your dog (some campgrounds even have dog parks!) and most campgrounds don’t let you leave your pup tied up unattended. And always, make sure you pick up after your pet.
Be aware that many national parks don’t let you bring your dog on hiking trails or boardwalks. They have to stay on designated paths, which can be quite limited. That means you’ll need to leave your pup alone a lot of the time while you hike and explore. Yet another reason why a pet temperature monitor is so important! (Click here to get 40% off a Waggle pet temperature monitor made specifically for RVing with dogs).
You can also get a pet sitter for those days you’re roaming around in national parks without your pet. “Start your search for a dog sitter with the campground office,” says Christina Pate with TravelswithTed.com. “The front desk staff will likely know locals who offer pet sitting services, and we’ve even had some campground staff offer to take the job themselves. If the campground staff does not have a recommendation, use the Rover app to find highly reviewed local dog sitters.”
Tip #5 Keep your dog safe (and quiet) at the campground or RV park
A campground is a new and exciting place for your pup. There are so many sights, smells and other dogs and people walking past your campsite. This could make your dog bark, which is both embarrassing and rude to fellow campers.
“Start teaching them that the appearance of neighbors = treats. Scolding or ignoring your dog is likely to make it worse,” says dog behavior consultant Kayla Fratt.
Certified dog trainer Michelle Stern has another tip to quell barking: “You can try a white noise machine in the camper to help to dull any external noises that might upset the dog.”
Also be careful about other dogs in an RV resort. “Some people won’t leash their dogs and are not even aware their dog is aggressive. I have seen dogs approach mine happily and then suddenly lunge in attack,” says Goebel. “I always keep my dogs on a leash so I can get them away from other dogs.”
If you have small dogs, Kelly Beasley recommends keeping them on a harness. “In the event you are attacked by other loose dogs, you can easily pull them up by the harness and quickly get them out of harm’s way.”
While hanging out around your campsite at the RV campground, you’ll need a way to keep your dog restrained. That can either be a collapsible pen you set up outside your RV or a long cable you attach to your RV. Make it something your dog can’t chew through.
“Of course it goes without saying that you should never leave your dog outside alone for a variety of reasons including predators and being respectful of your neighbors,” says Stern.
Also, don’t let your dog run up to someone without a leash either in a campground or on a hiking trail. That person might be afraid of dogs and not appreciate your pup’s advances.
Tip #6 Make your dog at home inside your RV
If you’re just getting started RVing with dogs, your camper will feel really foreign to your pet.
Bring a few of your dog’s favorite toys on your RV camping trip. These will not only be comforting for your dog, but will give him or her something to do. Just be wary of where those toys end up.
“One day, my husband was preparing to walk the dog, and a dog toy was on the stairs. He slipped and slammed his shoulder against the door jamb, hurting himself badly. Check your stairs before exiting if your dog has toys,” says Goebel.
Another thing you can do is to keep the same routine you had at home. That sense of routine helps the dog stay calm and obedient. “Try to feed your dog, take daily walks, perform obedience drills, and pet your dog to bed at around the same time every day. This will provide some structure to their life,” says Caughil.
One RVer, Ruthie Staalsen, created a little hideaway for her small dog. “My husband cut a hole in the side of the bed for her to enter and we placed her dog bed there. It’s wonderful because we can still store things underneath the bed but she feels like she has a place and won’t get stepped on in the middle of the night.”
Tip #7 Prepare for the possibility that your dog could get lost
Every pet-owners nightmare while RV camping with dogs is that their dog could run away and get lost.
This is a very real possibility, so it’s good to prepare beforehand.
Julie Chickery uses the PetHub digital identification tag, which provides a QR code that can be scanned with smartphones in case your dog escapes the RV. “However, it is much more than a tag. The thing we really like about it is that we can store all our dog’s medical records in the pet hub and access them anywhere digitally. If you have a dog that has medical conditions, you can make that public with the QR scan as well. So if your dog gets loose and has diabetes, whoever finds him or her will know.”
Another thing to consider is a GPS collar. “A high-quality GPS collar with a reliable connection could be a life saver,” says Daniel Caughill with The Dog Tale. “There are many to choose from, but our favorite is the Fi Dog Collar.”
Take a picture of your pup and have it available on your phone in case your dog escapes and you need to show other campers what he or she looks like.
Tip #8 Make sure you’re ready if your dog gets hurt
Another horrible thought to ponder is your dog getting hurt at some point during your RV trip. This could be an injury, allergic reaction or snake bite.
Bring a first aid kit stocked with the basics to treat your dog on scene. “These should be stocked with the appropriate supplies to treat and bandage cuts, brace injuries, and relieve pain,” says Caughill. “It’s also good to keep 3% hydrogen peroxide on hand to induce vomiting, should your dog consume something poisonous, and activated charcoal to help clear out their digestive system afterwards.”
You should also bring your dog’s vet records and have a list of vet clinics close to your campground should the need arise. “Always have your vet print out a hard copy of your dog’s latest records. Keep all pet records in a folder in your RV or two vehicle, so they are easily accessible when required for campground stays,” says Pate.
Emergency antihistamines are another good item to keep stocked while RVing with dogs. “These can actually be purchased over the counter in the human form (such as Benedryl) so long as you ask your vet for a dog specific dose,” says Nanji. “This is great to have on hand for any bee stings or allergic reactions your dog may experience along the way.”
Tip #9: Be wary of wild animals
When bringing your pop on an RV camping trip, you’re sure to run into wild animals sooner or later.
“One day, we opened our door at the Caprock Canyons State Park campground in Texas, and a bison was 50 feet away. We kept our dog inside until the bison left. Train your dog to wait for your okay to exit,” says Goebel.
Other wild animals you could encounter while camping are squirrels, deer, coyotes and raccoons. That’s why it’s important to keep your dog on a leash or in a pen while at the campsite; you don’t want the dog chasing a wild animal or engaging in a dangerous encounter.
Plus, don’t let your dog harass, bark at or chase wildlife while camping or out on a hike.
Remember to have fun!
RVing with dogs has a lot of advantages for both you and your pet. You get to explore amazing natural places while also having your beloved companion along for the ride. There’s no need to add stress to your dog’s life by putting them at a doggie daycare or hiring a petsitter when you go on vacation.
While bringing dogs to national parks can be more challenging, there are plenty of national forests, Bureau of Land Management recreation areas, and other parks and natural areas that are more than accommodating to dogs.
Goebel is really happy she started RVing with her dogs six years ago. “Your dog can enjoy America too. Our Shepherds have visited beach dog parks in Florida, walked on Pike’s Peak (Colorado), Cadillac Mountain (Maine), and Mount Washington (New Hampshire), and have eaten snow at Sandia Peak in New Mexico, walked alongside the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, and visited Niagara Falls. Read ahead at location websites to see what is possible. We hope your Road Dog has many happy travels!!
If you’re interested in a pet temperature monitor to keep your dog safe inside your RV, The Wayward Home has teamed up with Waggle to give you 50% of a Waggle Pet Temperature Monitor!
And enjoy RVing with dogs!