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Whether you are vacationing in your RV or plan to live in it full-time, you don’t want to leave your furbaby at home!
When Mike and I started dreaming of living in our RV (and before that when we used our RV just for occasional travel), we worried about our dogs. We have three dogs – all around seventy pounds – how would we make it work?
There was no way that I was going to rehome my babies, but what if they didn’t travel well?
Through research and trial and error, we found that not only could we take our furry children with us in the RV, but they loved it!
Before you hit the road with Fido, however, you want to ensure that you are prepared for safe travel with dogs.
Here are our top 10 tips for RV travel with dogs:
RV Travel With Dogs
- Have the Right Gear
Of course, you’ll need all of the basics (bowls, leash, etc.) but you’ll need a few other items that you may not have thought of. Being prepared will ensure that you have everything you need – whether for a routine day at the park or in the event that Barney gets sprayed by a skunk!
Here’s our must-have list of gear for RV travel with dogs: (see below for a printable copy)
- Food and water bowls
This is an obvious one, but one that we’ve forgotten on our first trip out with the pups. We keep an extra set in the RV now so we don’t forget.
- Collapsible bowls
Collapsible bowls are great to throw in a backpack or tote bag to take with you when you take your pup to a dog park, hiking or just a day out. They pop right open so you can give your furbaby water wherever you are. When done, just snap back into place and you are on your way. These are the ones that we really like.
Ok, so another no brainer here, but very important. Our dogs were rarely on a leash when we were at home – only to go to the vet. When you walk your pup at a campground, you’ll need to keep them on a leash, so don’t forget to pack the leash!
- Dog Seat Belt or Harness (more on this below)
We’ll share more below about the importance of a dog seat belt and harness, but to ensure your pet is safe in the event you have a crash, you will need to secure them with a dog seat belt and harness. We have large dogs and really like these.
Yep, this is another obvious one, but large bags of dog food don’t store easily in an RV, so be sure to find a container that seals tight and fits in your RV cabinet. With two large dogs, we go through a lot of food and find that this container holds quite a bit and stores easily. The top is great for treats, too! (we took the wheels off)
Everyone loves dessert! Reward your pup for good behavior by remembering to pack their favorite treats.
If your dog isn’t used to traveling, having their favorite toys on hand will help ease any anxiety. Familiar items make them feel more comfortable. Even if your dog is a pro at RV travel, who doesn’t love to play fetch?
- Toy Bin
You don’t want balls and other toys rolling around when you travel! Having a place to store toys when the dogs aren’t playing is always a good idea. This one is narrow enough to slide next to the couch but holds quite a bit of toys.
- Grooming Tools
Regular grooming is important to your dogs health (and beauty!). Be sure to pack nail clippers and a brush to keep them looking and feeling great. Long nails make it harder for your pup to walk and can damage your RV furniture (if you are suckers and allow your dogs on the couches, like we do!). If you have long-haired dogs, you’ll also want a full fur grooming kit.
- Pet Medications
Be sure to pack any heartworm, flea and tick and any prescribed medications for your furbaby!
- Dog Bed
Yes, we are softies and the dogs often sleep with us, but, they are bed hogs and providing their own bed encourages them to stay off the bed and cozy up in their own little nest. This one is great because it is super soft and washable – just in case. You can also fold it to store when you are traveling.
- Lint Roller
If you have dogs, chances are you have dog hair – everywhere! Keep a lint roller handy so you can remove pet hair from furniture and your clothes, easily.
- Waste Bags
When camping, part of being a good neighbor is picking up after your dog. Stepping in dog poo is never fun. Be sure to pick up after Fido. Keeping the bag container clipped to the leash guarantees that you won’t forget to bring waste bags along when you take your pup for a walk.
- Old Towels
Keeping a few extra towels on hand for drying off your dog if he gets wet in the rain or goes swimming is a good idea. You can use your own bath towels, of course, but if your furbaby gets sprayed with a skunk you may not want to use those towels again. 🙂
- Pet First Aid Kit
Dogs can get sick or injured on a camping trip, too. It’s a great idea to keep a pet first aid kit on hand in case you need to treat a tick bite, minor cut or other injury. This one is small enough to store, yet includes everything you need to treat minor injuries and illnesses. It also includes a book on dog first aid to help navigate you through treatment if you are unsure what to do.
- Vet and Vaccination Records
In the event that your dog gets into a scuffle with another dog, bites someone or needs to see a local vet for any reason, you’ll want to have his vet and vaccination records on hand. This will save you time and money. Having their complete records for the vet to review will avoid unnecessary treatments and shots and will give the local vet a good picture of your dog’s medical history to better treat him.
- Photos of Your Dog
I know you love taking photos of your sweet pup, anyway, but you’ll want to have a few recent photos on hand in the event that your dog gets out and lost.
- Dog Identification
This one is more important than you may realize. Although your dog may be with you most of the time, if he gets out or, if you are in an accident and he runs off, having current identification on him (including contact info) will help reunite the two of you.
- Paper Towels
No explanation needed here! Dogs can be messy (and have accidents). You’ll need plenty of paper towels on hand, just in case.
- Carpet stain and odor solution
I’m sure your dog doesn’t mean to poop on the carpet, but, sometimes it will happen. There are tons of commercial products that help remove stains and odor, but we love this DIY one.
2. Look for Dog Friendly Parks and Campgrounds
Most campgrounds allow pets, but a choice few cater to them. While it isn’t necessary that every park you stay at has a dog park or run, it’s certainly helpful.
Almost every campground has pet policies in place and not following them will result in you being asked to leave, be fined or worse. Policies may include keeping your dog on a leash at all times and, of course, picking up after he has “done his business”.
Campground websites usually post their pet policies, but if you aren’t sure, don’t assume and take a few extra minutes to call ahead and ask about their pet policies.
KOA Campgrounds are known for being pet-friendly and most offer KampK9 with a fenced area for free running and cleanup stations.
3. Safety First
Few people put their dogs in seatbelts, but they need to buckle up, just as much as people do. When you have your seatbelt on and have to slam on the brakes, you’ll stay in place, but your dog may go flying, fall off the seat and break a leg (or worse). If you are in a crash and your dog is not secure, he could receive serious or fatal injuries. Dog seatbelts and harnesses don’t cost all that much and could make the difference between an enjoyable trip and one filled with high vet bills or even mourning.
The one listed above is the one that is recommended by vets and highly rated by dog owners.
4. Tag ’em
In the event that your dog gets away (Our Cruz is terrified of thunder and will run if he is out and hears it) or gets lost, having proper tags on him that show his name, who is owner is and contact info is critical. This way, if someone comes across your pup, they will know how to reach you and you can be reunited.
5. Plan Frequent Potty Breaks
Ya know that feeling when you are traveling and you really have to go to the bathroom? It almost hurts and you just can’t find a comfortable position? Well, your dog gets that same feeling, although he may not be able to “hold it”.
Stop frequently to let your dog out to go potty and stretch his legs. It’s easy for us as I drink a ton of coffee and have to stop way more than is convenient, but a general rule of thumb is to stop every two to three hours.
6. Watch the weather
I have three separate weather apps on my phone (ok, maybe that’s overkill), but it’s important to keep an eye on the weather and prepare for it while traveling, especially for your dogs. If you have a dog that is afraid of thunder, like we do, you may want to try to avoid storms. When you can’t, be prepared by having a THUNDER JACKET or prescription Sileo on hand. Sileo is a prescription for dogs that helps calm them during “noise events”. It has been a lifesaver for our Cruz.
You also want to keep an eye on the weather when RV traveling with dogs in case you may lose power. If you lose power at a campground and, therefore, lose air conditioning in the summer months, it’s awful, but probably just inconvenient for you. For your dog, however, it can be downright dangerous. Consider keeping a generator on hand for such occasions.
7. Be a Good Neighbor
Not everyone is a dog lover (I know – shocking!). So when RV traveling with your dog, be considerate of other campers by:
- Cleaning up after your pet
- Keeping barking to a minimum
- Not allowing your dog to enter anyone’s campsite without permission
- Keeping him on a leash
8. In Record Time
You never know when your dog will become sick or get injured on the road. Be sure to keep a folder with all vet records, including vaccinations, with you while you travel. This way, if your dog does need medical attention, the vet will have all the info on their past medical history, vaccinations and prescriptions in one place, making treatment safer and less expensive.
9. Exercise is Key
We have already mentioned how important it is to take frequent potty breaks, but take the time to allow Fido to stretch his legs and get some exercise. Dogs, especially those getting up in age, need to keep their joints moving. If you stop every two to three hours for a bathroom break, let him walk around a bit and sniff all of the new smells. It’s healthy for him (and you!).
10. Maintain the same schedule
When enjoying RV travel with your dog, don’t let the carefree lifestyle affect your dog’s schedule. Be sure to get up around the same time, feed him at the same time, walk and exercise the same time and give meds at the same time as you would at home.
Keeping the same schedule will lower any anxiety your dog may feel about traveling or transitioning to life in an RV instead of the home that he is used to.
11. Go for a Practice Run
If you are preparing for full-time RV living and aren’t sure how your dog will acclimate, go for a practice run. Before we went on the road full-time, we took each of our dogs, separately and together, on a camping trip. The ride in the truck and the daily living in the RV, for just a few days or a week, gave us a good idea of what accommodations we needed to make and what gear we needed. It also allowed us to see how Dakota and Cruz would do in our new home.
Finally, whether you are RV traveling with your dog or just taking him along for a ride, never, ever leave your pet in a hot RV or car. Temperatures rise quickly and a seventy degree day can feel like over one hundred to your pet.