RVing with Dogs: 12 Things to Consider

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When you’re stuck in a cubicle all day, the thought of abandoning everything, buying an RV, and traveling the country with your dog holds quite a bit of appeal.

The reality of it, however, can be a bit more daunting. That’s why it’s important to do plenty of research before hitting the road with your pup.

Below, we’ve assembled some of the most pressing questions to think about before you light out on a cross-country adventure, including safety issues, exercise requirements, and how to decide which one of you gets to stick your head out the window.

1. Starting Off

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You should never just throw your dog in an RV and take off on a multi-month adventure. Instead, start off small, with day trips or excursions that only last a day or two.

This lets your dog get acclimated to the process, while also giving you a trial run to spot any potential glaring problems that you might not have anticipated. After all, it’s much easier to head back home to get the medicine you forgot than it is to drive halfway across the country for it.

While on these short trips, take the time to establish set places for your dog to sleep and eat. This will make it much easier down the line, as you won’t have to try to train your pup when you’re exhausted from a long day driving.

2. Safety

If you’re used to leaving your dog home alone all day, you might think that taking him with you in an RV will naturally be much safer. After all, you’ll be right by his side every step of the way.

However, if you don’t consider every possibility, this false sense of security could lead to disaster.

3. Weather Conditions

RVs are basically giant cars. If you wouldn’t leave your dog cooped up in a hot car all afternoon, then you shouldn’t leave him in an RV, either. You can always leave the windows down, but generally speaking, you’re better off taking him with you or finding a local doggy daycare that can take him in for a few hours.

The cold can be dangerous too, especially if you’re taking a short-haired dog into an unfamiliar environment. While it’s more acceptable to leave a dog inside on a cold day, you should still be certain he has plenty of blankets around to keep him warm and cozy.

That extends to taking your pooch on hikes or other outdoor adventures, too. Make sure he can comfortably handle whatever activities you have planned, and pack any necessary clothing or accessories you might need.

4. Driving

Many dogs absolutely love to go out for a drive, and they can get incredibly excited by all the sights outside their windows. However, if your dog tends to roam around while you drive, he could pose a hazard to you and everyone on the road with you.

You’ll need to either train your dog to limit his wandering to a safe space or find a way to tether him while the RV is in motion.

It’s better to have a way to restrain your dog because you also have to worry about what will happen to him if you’re in an accident. Having him restrained can keep him from flying around and getting injured, or getting loose on the freeway in the aftermath of a crash.

5. Medication and Paperwork

One thing many people don’t think about when taking a dog RVing is the fact that you won’t have a vet you know and trust when you’re in a strange city. If your dog has medication that he has to take every day, getting a refill can be a hassle.

That’s why you’ll need to make sure you’re fully stocked before leaving home, and that you have a secure place to store his meds so that he doesn’t get to them while you’re gone.

You’ll also want to keep all his relevant paperwork, like licensing info and shot records, so that you can quickly get a new vet up-to-speed on his health history.

Likewise, you’ll want all the documentation that proves you actually own him, just in case he gets lost. Having up-to-date pictures is important too, so you can share them if you need someone to help track him down.

6. Motion Sickness

Not every dog enjoys going for a car ride, and if your dog gets carsick, you’ll need to accommodate him as best you can. Ideally, this would mean not taking them on the road at all, but that’s not always possible — and some dogs get carsick only occasionally.

It’s smart to stop as often as you can so your dog can get out and stretch his legs. The fresh air will go a long way towards calming his stomach, and a little food and water can help as well.

Some people swear by essential oils and other homeopathic remedies. There’s little evidence to support the theory that they work, but don’t tell your dog that.

7. Windows

If your dog is going to be alone and has a strong prey drive or aggression issues, you’ll want to limit how many windows your RV has. This is especially true of floor-to-ceiling windows.

Some dogs get so worked up by other animals or strange people that a pane of glass won’t be enough to stop them (and blinds aren’t much help, either). We don’t have to tell you of the catastrophic consequences that can result from a dog launching himself through a glass window.

It’s best to just avoid the issue entirely, and limit how much access your pup has to the outside world.

8. Exercise

Just because he’s on the road doesn’t mean your mutt doesn’t need regular exercise. That means regular long walks and as much playtime as you can muster.

However, being on the road means you’ll need to give him more frequent opportunities to stretch his legs, too. Expect to take him on a brief stroll every time you stop and let him sniff around a bit to keep his mind occupied.

Playtime is a little more complicated, as you’ll often find yourself in areas filled with strange people, lots of traffic, and possibly other off-leash pets. As a result, you may want to keep your dog close to you, so letting him run around unrestrained might not be a good idea.

In that case, investing in a few toys that can sap his energy is probably smart. In addition to the old standbys like tug toys and balls to chase, remember that puzzles can tax him mentally, which will leave him just as spent at the end of the day.

9. Gear

If you’ve never taken your dog with you on an RV trip, you may be shocked at how much gear you need to pack, so be sure to leave room for all of Fido’s stuff, too.

You’ll need a leash, waste bags, food and treats, a crate, bedding, water bowls, grooming equipment, toys, and a whole lot more. Granted, most of this stuff can be picked up in any decently-sized city if you forget it, but constantly buying new stuff gets expensive quickly.

Think about where and how you’ll store it, too. You don’t want it in your way, but you’ll need to be able to easily access it, too. You may also need to find a place where your dog can’t access, so you won’t come back one night to find a torn-open bag of kibble and a puppy in a food coma.

Older pups may need a ramp or other special considerations to get in and out of the RV as well. It’s unlikely that something like that would require an extensive installation process, but that’s something you should figure out before you get on the road.

10. Well-Made Plans

These are important even if you only have human passengers, but they’re even more valuable if you have a dog in tow. Knowing what’s available — and what’s not — in the areas you’ll be visiting can help you avoid disaster if the unexpected happens.

That means finding emergency vets before they’re needed, figuring out accommodations for your dog if you need to board him for a day or two, finding out which attractions they won’t be welcome to visit, and more.

Traveling by the seat of your pants takes less work upfront, but it can create enormous hassles down the line. That’s especially true in emergency situations, so any time spent planning is incredibly valuable.

11. Keeping Clean

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If you’re not careful, traveling with a dog in your RV can soon make it look like you’re traveling with a dog in your RV. That is to say, animals are seldom conscientious about staying neat and tidy.

Thinking about this should start when you buy your vehicle. Remember that carpet is hard to keep clean, so limit the amount in your RV if you can.

You’ll also need to find a trustworthy vacuum that’s capable of keeping the dog hair under control, as well as all the puppy pads, carpet cleaner, and paper towels you could possibly need.

12. Being a Good Neighbor

The RV lifestyle will necessarily keep you in close contact with strangers, especially if you’re staying at public campgrounds. It’s important to be a polite pet owner in these situations, and that requires some planning ahead.

Picking up after your dog uses the bathroom is as essential as it is in your neighborhood, and having a way to deal with problem barking is important, too. Being the owner of the dog that kept the whole campground up all night is a great way to find yourself in a fistfight the next morning.

Keep your dog on a leash in public areas, and be sure to have signs up alerting others that there’s a dog in your rig. This prevents anyone from accidentally coming in contact with a scared pup and getting bitten or letting them loose, and it also doubles as a handy deterrent to thieves.

Are You Ready to Go RVing with Your Dog?

Taking your dog with you on an RV trip can be a magical experience, as it lets you experience brand-new sights and sounds with your best friend by your side. It’s not a decision to be made lightly, though, and failing to plan ahead could lead to disaster.

Hopefully, this checklist will make it easier for you to enjoy a successful trip with your pup, so you can both get to know this great big world a little better.

However, the most important thing we can say is that, regardless of what your dog tells you, you should never, ever let him drive.

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