Before I decided to purchase an RV, I scoured the internet for information on RV travel with dogs. At the time, I had my 12-year-old cocker spaniel, Chloe, who was a bit neurotic with a pinch of separation anxiety. Okay, that’s a lie. She was the most neurotic little dog I had ever met. Despite never actually being abandoned, she had major separation anxiety. She was also older and had some health issues, so I struggled with whether subjecting her to travel would be selfish of me. I could have waited until she crossed the rainbow, but for all I knew, she might have had a couple solid years left in her. OR, I go ahead and travel, bring her with me, and trust that everything would work out. I went with B.
Chloe passed away while I was in Colorado, shortly after I hit the road. As devastating as that was, I could not have imagined not having that silly little dog with me in her final days. I made it less than two weeks before driving into Denver and adopting my current four-legged pal, Lola. And frankly, I cannot imagine traveling without a dog. I read quite a few posts and articles warning people against RV-ing with pets, mostly pointing out the hassles and how traveling with an animal can be limiting. I won’t argue with that – there are some limitations, but no show stoppers. With a little bit of planning, there is no reason you cannot travel with your pups. I’ve compiled a list of things to consider and suggestions for making RV travel with your dog as awesome as possible.
- There are vets all over the country. One of the things I was most neurotic about was being able to get care for my dog while on the road. Turns out (get this!) people all over the United States have dogs! This means you’re unlikely to ever be too far from a vet (unless you’re going for serious wild camping). I had Lola vaccinated in Colorado, spayed in Moab, and she’s had check-ups in Arizona and Florida.
- Carry your pup’s health/vaccination records. When I took Lola in for her final set of boosters and rabies vaccination, the vet in Colorado gave me a simple record book that I could keep with me and have filled out each time she received a vaccination. I recommend something like this, especially if you travel full time and will need to use different vets. It’s much easier to walk into a vet with your dog’s vaccination records in hand than it is to hassle with getting records faxed. Similarly, I keep a little folder that has a printout of Lola’s checkups or health reports any time she goes to a vet. Keeping hard copies of your dog’s health records with you will make it a lot easier in the event he or she needs care.
- Let your pup enjoy the adventure. This! Don’t bring your dog on the road with you and then relegate him or her to the RV or their crate while you go out and have fun. Find things that your dog can do with you and let them explore the great outdoors as much as possible. Check out trail reviews to find dog friendly hiking trails. Many areas of the U.S., especially out west, are extremely dog friendly. Often, I’d chat with my camp neighbors who were traveling with dogs to see if they’d been on local trails with their pups. If you have a dog that’s afraid of water, you won’t want to take him or her on a trail that has a lot of water crossings, and no matter how agile your pooch is, trails that require sections of hand-over-hand climbing are probably a bad idea. Make sure the activities you plan with your dog are within his or her physical capabilities.
- Temperature considerations. Temperature is something you’ll want to be cognizant of, especially if you’re off-grid. Overheating is dangerous for dogs, so never, ever leave your dog inside your RV when it’s warm outside and you don’t have hookups for AC. If you wouldn’t want to be stuck in there, don’t do it to your pup.
- Driving with dogs. When you’re driving with a dog, be sure to give him or her plenty of opportunities to get out, use the bathroom, and stretch. Without a dog, I would travel for a full tank and only stop to refuel, but with a dog, I try to stop every 100 to 150 miles. This is actually nice because it forces me to stop and smell the flowers a little more – after all, what’s the rush? Be sure to give your pup plenty of water when you stop, especially when you’re traveling through dry climates. I also think it’s a great idea to use a dog seat belt. Not only does this keep your dog from roaming freely throughout your moving vehicle, but it will prevent them from flying if you have to stop quickly. I use a harness and this simple belt with Lola – it clips directly into the buckle and the length can be adjusted to accommodate both small and large dogs.
- Leaving dogs unattended. While I think it’s best to bring your dog along with you as much as possible, I also know there are some times when you’ll need to leave them unattended in your RV. If your pup has anxiety, get a foldable crate that you can place them in while you’re gone, and stow away when you’re not using them. Crates often help dogs feel safe and will prevent destructive behaviors when you’re not around.
- Fences and cables. On the road, I’ve noticed a lot of RV-ers with small dogs set up little temporary fences to let their dogs run around at camp. This seems to be a great option for toy breeds, but for medium and large dogs, get a long cable that you can secure to something. Cables are pretty much chew proof and are a great way for letting your dog enjoy some time outside while you’re at camp. I attach mine to the steps of my RV and have not had a problem. Be sure the cable you purchase is appropriate for the size of your dog.
- Watchful socialization. Naturally, most dogs will want to approach and socialize with other dogs while camping. I’m a big proponent of socializing your dog, but always be watchful of dogs you do not know. Not everyone socializes their dogs to be friendly and well-behaved, so trust your instincts on this one.
- Wild animals. Remember, there are wild animals in the great outdoors. Be aware of bears, moose, wolves, mountain lions, snakes, and even coyotes. When you’re hiking, keeping your dog on a leash (I know a lot of folks let their dogs run on trails, but always do this with caution, and never do it if you and your dog don’t know the trail very well).
- Food and medication. If your dog needs special food or medication, always be sure to carry plenty of it with you. Ask your vet to write additional prescriptions that you can have on hand so you can resupply on the road, if necessary.
- Always carry poop bags (and use them). Finally, carry poop bags with you and always pick up after your dog, especially at camp or on trails. It’s courteous, and you don’t want to be known as the person whose dog shits all over the place 😉
With a little planning, there’s no reason you can’t bring your dog with you in your RV and have an awesome time! Happy t[r]ails!