Girl trains dog in front of an RV

Camping Etiquette With Pets – A Frank Discussion

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Do You, and Your Pets, Observe Good Camping Etiquette?

Before the global pandemic sent us all into hibernation, I was writing a series of posts about RV camping etiquette for the RV LIFE community.  I’ve covered a wide array of topics but have carefully skirted the topic of pet etiquette because it’s such a volatile subject. I’m going to dig into this concern which seems to be one of the more controversial issues for park owners, RVers with pets, and those RVers without them.

I’m certain this subject will bring out an emotional response from RVers and if you want to weigh in on this topic, please leave your comments below.  This is an article that I hope will result in a polite exchange of ideas and experiences.  Let’s look at RV etiquette as it relates to our pets in general, though much of the focus will be on dogs.

Camping Etiquette Advice from RVers with Dogs

Few RVers complain about their neighbor’s cat or parrot or tortoise. Yes, we were in a state park in Oregon when we actually saw another camper walking her black lab and her 50-year-old tortoise. But I digress. In the interest of full disclosure, I want to acknowledge that we are full-time RVers and we travel with 4 Australian Shepherds. 

Right now, you’re probably thinking, “Yikes, that’s a lot of dog for an RV, and remind me never go to a potluck where you provide the salad, because hair is probably a condiment in your motorhome.” 

No worries, we never participate in potlucks for this very reason.  And yes, that is a lot of dog for a motorhome, but they were part of our family before we decided to go full-time and we had no choice but to bring them along.  Whether you are an RVer with traveling pets or a no-pet camper, you probably have strong opinions about RV pets. There are three areas of concern that are generally the most controversial. Those concerns are noise, clean-up, and safety.

A dog and a tortoise attempt to adhere to good camping etiquette.

Noise at the Campground

Whether we’re camping in a state park, a private campground, or boon-docking we don’t want to listen to anyone else’s noise. That includes the neighbor’s radio, or screaming kids, or a barking or whining dog.  There’s probably no irritant in a campground as volatile as a dog that just won’t shut up.  Even those of us who are pet owners, are annoyed by other people’s barking dogs.

If fact, it’s ironic, that while I’m trying to concentrate on writing this post I’m forced to listen to the two German Shepherds staked outside of the RV next to us. Their instinct is to be guard dogs, so they readily bark at every dog or person moving within the park.  I have to say that since they arrived a couple of days ago, with 6 children and 2 dogs it has become much noisier. The whole family seems wonderful, and I thinking it’s great when children get a chance to go camping, but the kids and the dogs have added a lot more noise to everyone else’s camping experience.  To some extent in an RV park or boon-docking campsite, we all need to have a live and let live attitude, but we also need to remember that everyone has their own degrees of tolerance, and the courteous thing for all of us, is to make camping etiquette a top priority.  

Cleaning Up After Your Pet

This is another major concern about pets and may be even more irritating then the noise problem, because it’s more prevalent.  Every park, without exception, has a clean-up after your pet policy, and yet I can’t think of one park I’ve been in, ever, in the past 23 years of camping, that didn’t have piles of pet waste that someone failed to clean-up.  This is clearly one of my biggest irritants.  After all, how hard is it?  If we own a pet, we know they are going to need to relieve themselves, probably at least twice a day. Even if we tie our pet up outside and leave it, we still need to locate and clean up our pet’s waste.  Just because we don’t see it relieve itself doesn’t mean we’re not responsible for the clean-up. And while we’re on this subject… we shouldn’t assume that the edges of the park, or the dog run, or the paths leading to the beach, or ANYWHERE, is a no clean-up area. 

When our dogs relieve themselves, the waste must be picked up and disposed of in a dumpster.  I believe this is as true for boon-dockers, as people staying in designated campgrounds.  The only exception might be in the boon-docker setting, if for some reason we simply can’t pack out the poo, then at least we should be responsible enough to bury it. One final point about pet clean-up.  We need to make it a habit to clean up immediately!  Pet waste attracts flies and many people enjoy cooking and eating outdoors when camping. Keeping our pet waste cleaned up makes the whole environment safer and more sanitary.  As far as other (non-dog) pet waste is concerned, the same principles apply. If you have cats and a cat box or birds in a cage, or a tortoise. The pet waste must be cleaned up, contained in suitable packaging, and put in a dumpster or waste receptacle. 

One final reminder for every camper who drags a dogs on a leash behind them while distractedly talking on a phone, that distraction does not relieve them of the responsibility of watching their pet and for cleaning up after them. The out-of-site out-of-mind mantra NEVER applies to our pet’s waste.  If we think we are responsible enough to own a pet, we need to be responsible enough to clean up after them always, every day, every time they relieve themselves, no exceptions.

Safety – For Pets and Other RVers

The final area of concern about our pets is keeping others safe from our pets and keeping our pets safe from others. The only way to do that is to keep them under control, on a leash, in our rigs, or in an X-pen, AND under our supervision.  The problem with pets is you really don’t know how they will react to other pets or people. 

As an example; on three different occasions, we heard the owner of an approaching off-leash Golden Retriever say. “Don’t worry, there’s no problem, she/he loves everyone.” That was right before each of these three otherwise passive Golden Retrievers attacked our oldest Aussie.  Three times, three different Goldens, three completely shocked pet owners. Clearly, our Aussie projected something to these other dogs that stimulated the attacks.  Peyton was a champion agility dog and through her life she was exposed to thousands of other dogs without a single issue.  But out on a trail, with an approaching off-leash Golden, she must have projects fear or timidity or something else, because in each of these incidents the owners of the Goldens were as shocked as we were. 

On another occasion, in a campground on the Oregon Coast, a group of older people were walking with their dog on a leash. When they walked past another small dog that was staked out on a leash outside of a fifth wheel, that dog lunged so hard at the passing Shiatsu that it pulled the stake out of the ground and it charged right up to the Shiatsu and attacked it.  In this case, after the people were able to separate the dogs, there were going to be vet bills, and possible lawsuits.  The owner of the dog that was staked out, (that attacked the Shiatsu) was as shocked as everyone else. He certainly didn’t expect that behavior from his pet, but there was some chemistry between the two combatants that, as humans, we don’t understand.  Here’s the problem. When we think our pet “would never do that” then we tend to be cavalier about keeping them under control and in our carelessness, our dog might run up to greet another dog but there’s some unseen chemistry between them and suddenly the fur is flying.

Proper camping etiquette, and pet etiquette in particular, is never assuming that a pet won’t be aggressive.

Happy dog on a outdoor deck
Photo – Author, Peggy Dent

Is Your Pet Really Harmless?

I also want to point out, when a pet owner assumes their pet is harmless, they become careless about keeping it on a leash and under control, and that may be a dangerous mindset.  It’s true, someone’s pet might be completely harmless but if it’s not on a leash and under control, it could approach another pet (that is on a leash) and the leashed pet could still start the fight.  Assuming your pet, or any other, is the worst kind of camping etiquette, as it pertains to pets.

We have seen this happen repeatedly. The pet on leash might have leash aggression, be afraid of other dogs, or the approaching pet might be perceived as a threat by the dog to the pet’s owner, or there is just some bad chemistry.  Whatever invisible interaction is going on between the two pets could result in a dog fight and possible injury to the pet or people. This is completely avoidable.  This cavalier attitude that my pet is friendly, so I don’t need to control it, is why many RVers and campers don’t feel safe taking their dogs for a walk, even on a leash.  It is a selfish behavior to leave your pet unleashed and uncontrolled.

Why do some people insist on leaving their dogs outside of their RV but not on a leash or in an Xpen or some other kind of dog fence?  EVERY park has pet rules that specify pets must be confined and under supervision at all times.  Why is that such a hard rule to follow? That is not a rhetorical question. If you have an answer, please post it in the comments below.  We are personally frustrated by this because we’d like to take our dogs for a walk but we’re not 100% sure all of our dogs will get along with every other dog that might approach them. After seeing three different Golden Retrievers attack our quiet passive Aussie (that wouldn’t hurt anyone) we’re just not sure.

Three dogs off-leash in the woods, often a no-no with camping etiquette.
Photo – Author, Peggy Dent

Safety & Camping Etiquette for Boon-Dockers

Safety concerns are even more applicable to boon dockers.  We may be tempted to think one of the benefits of boon-docking is the opportunity to let our dogs run free and just be dogs. To let them explore, sniff, eat, dig, chase, roll, swim, or do whatever dogs like to do. But the probability is that we’re not really all that far from the next boon-docker and even if we are in a very remote location with no one else around, we will eventually leave our campsite and when we do, someone else will probably occupy that space.  They won’t want to walk in or have their dogs and kids playing in the dog poo we didn’t think needed to be clean-up just because we’re boon-docking. 

But cleaning up after our pets while boon docking is only one concern. There are some unique hazards to our pets when we’re boon-docking. Since trapping is still legal in most states, (it probably shouldn’t be, but that’s a discussion for another time) the scent of the bait, meant to draw in the desired animal will also be an attractant to our pets.  The trap doesn’t care if it’s your dog’s leg or the leg of a fox. When the bait is disturbed the trigger is tripped and the trap will ensnare whatever animal disturbed the bait.  

Another hazard for boon-docking dogs, that we may not have considered is that our dog’s inquisitive nature may inadvertently cause them to disrupt a hornet or yellow jacket’s nest, or locate a porcupine, or skunk, and before they even know they’re in trouble they’re under attack by a swarm of bees, or running from a shower of barbed quills, or an aerosol attack from a skunk. Most dog will run as far and as fast as necessary to escape an attack. If you love your pets, like we do, the thought of them running deeper into the woods and getting lost, while avoiding an attack is undoubtedly a terrifying thought.

Conclusion

In conclusion, pets in the RVing community are ubiquitous, but they are also one of the most contentious elements in the RVing adventure and one of the biggest threats to the peace and harmony in our RV communities.  It’s our responsibility, as pet owners, to keep them quiet, confined and under supervision, and to clean-up after them EVERY TIME.  Proper camping etiquette with pets is our responsibility. If this is too much hassle or responsibility, then maybe we should consider not traveling with pets.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome. Please let me know what you think about RV pets in the comment section below.   

76 thoughts on “Camping Etiquette With Pets – A Frank Discussion”

  1. Thank you for that. We have a 2-year-old Rottweiler who has been camping with us since she was 8 weeks old (before that we had an older Rottweiler). I purchased a nylon rope rated for 200lbs that we string between 2 trees by our site, or otherwise secure on both sides, with a clasp that hooks to her leash. Even so, we NEVER leave her outside by herself, unless we just get a drink or a book. She is NEVER off-leash unless we are in a fence dog area. We have “poop bags” (plastic shopping bags) in the bay, inside the RV, and just about anywhere you can stash a bag. It irks me when I see people walk their dog and just keep walking after the dog relieves itself. When we leave for a bike ride or dinner, our dog is in her zipped-up pin inside the RV with the shades closed, so she does not bark. Be mindful of your neighbors. It is not rocket science and it is not that hard once it becomes a habit.

  2. When I was about 7, our own dog bit me on the leg. Me and my sister were chased by a dog walking home from school. A lady strolling with her baby shoed the dog away. Just the other day a man was chasing a dog and it came in our yard 3 times. Part of the yard is gated and its a good thing because me and my nieces little dog were safe. I agree with all that you have stated above.

  3. Thanks for the article. I camp with my two German shepherds. I always have poop bags with me and keep a coffee container lined with a grocery bag to put the full poop bags until they can be disposed. Other dogs barking for a while is annoying to both humans and other dogs. It can set my dogs barking a few times. Then I feel like the inconsiderate dog person even though I get them quiet within a few barks.
    The dogs on retractable leashes are when I have an issue. The other dog can approach without their human paying attention. It’s usually little dogs that approach and act like little jerks.
    I appreciate the info about traps. I plan to boondock occasionally and traps hadn’t occurred to me. I was only concerned about poisonous snakes.

  4. I can’t agree more with the “clean up after your pet” advice. No matter how elaborate or simple the park, dog [poop] is ever-present. Nothing I like better than finding out that 10 minutes after I have returned to my coach, I find that I have have picked up a giant clump of [poop] is now all over my carpet, foot peddles, linoleum, throw rugs and everything else on the floor. Boy do I enjoy spending a half hour or more cleaning up what some lazy moron could have avoided had they spent literally 10 seconds to pick up to begin with.

  5. You are spot on with Pet etiquette. Even at home pet etiquette should be a priority, as we have two dogs we keep them under control at all times however our neighbor has a dog that will often howl all night long and is very annoying when the neighbors are trying to sleep.

  6. We travel with a 31/2 year old 8# female shih tzu who is absolutely harmless (unless her anxiety kicks in and she licks you to death) and she has never met a stranger or a animal , dog or otherwise that she doesn’t think she should say hi to. For those reasons we always leash her and never allow her or another dog to get to close without talking to the owners first . My wife and I are both retired and constant barking can ruin a trip quicker than anything. People with all animals assume responsibility when they take them out in public, people with larger animals and/or aggressive animals assume even more responsibility. I sometimes just don’t understand them not knowing what loud aggressive behavior does to their neighbors camping experience

  7. Camping situations are no different than at home: leash, pick up and quiet. But then, no different with kids, control space, stop leaving diapers where you park and control the screaming…. Same issues, same parents. We traveled with 4 Bedlingtons…..camping at certain areas became fearful because of loose dogs. I share your concerns!

  8. Anne - road warrior for life

    Excellent article. We always travel with our two dogs in a travel trailer; sometimes I travel in my small vintage camper with one dog. Sometimes we boon-dock but more frequently in RV designated areas, be it private campgrounds, state parks, or national parks. At 70 years of age and a camper all my life, you are so correct, dogs & camping are both a fabulous experience and a frustration. Although picking up after our pets is a relatively “new” experience from my youth where tent camping and canoeing with our family dogs was a hike in/hike out week long adventure every year, for the past twenty years, it’s become essential to pick up since so many people camp. I have not had any bad problems with dog safety as you described but I appreciate your suggestions now that it has been brought to my attention. Noise is my biggest grievance…especially people who leave their dogs in the RVs for long hours to go out to meals or whatever. And the poor animal is howling non-stop.

  9. Lianne Ballantyne

    We are impressed that in our RV experience 99 percent of people clean up the dog poop. Having said that… don’t assume that when you take your dog for a walk that it is okay for it to pee on my site. Let it pee on your own space.

  10. EVERY dog is harmless – — – just listen to the owners after it mauls someone or kills a kid. They always say it always has been. Many dog owners do not seem to hear their dogs barking, and I wish I had a thousand dollars for the times I’ve stepped out of my RV in the mornings into dog poop. (Yeah, I finally learned to look first. ). I can only imagine what a M/H with 4 dogs smells like

  11. I couldn’t agree more with your points! We are full time RVers and travel with our labradoodle, Bella. Our biggest pet peeve (pun intended) is pet owners who ignore these three rules of etiquette particularly those who fail to clean up after their pets.
    In speaking with the RV park manager at a place we stayed recently in Florida I learned about something new that may become more common. Pets will be DNA tested upon check-in at the cost of the pet owners. Doggy doo that isn’t cleaned up will be tested by the staff and compared with the on file DNA records. The ‘human’ culprits will be warned, fined or expelled depending upon the situation.
    Some pet owners will say ‘there is no way I’ll stay in a park like that!’ But after having to clean poop off a site I just checked into, I find myself more than willing to pay $25 for a DNA test for our Bella so that we can be assured that doesn’t happen.
    I think it is incredibly sad that irresponsible pet owners have brought us to this point.

  12. Thanks for the very good piece! I’d like to add that leaving a pet unattended either outside or inside an RV is both bad for the pet and bad for the other campers. Recently was near a trailer where a very old dog was left tethered outside while the owners spent the day sightseeing in another town. Of course the dog immediately wound itself up and was stuck all day. The owner had come over the evening before and informed us what they were going to leave their dog alone all day, but to not interfere. Really bad. Last summer we did a 6 week trip and prearranged to have our dog in daycare at each area we wanted to visit without her. Yeah, OK, it wasn’t cheap or convenient, but after so many years hearing crying dogs abandoned inside a MH/trailer, we feel strongly about either paying to have your pet(s) watched or simply do things with them. Thanks again for your piece!

  13. Excellent article! We camped with our beloved Westie for 14 years and saw ALL of the situations mentioned (including our camp neighbors’ leashed dog requiring emergency vet care due to such injuries by two other unleashed dogs.

    And we recently learned how crafty and dexterous raccoons can be. We had a special purpose dog food container we stored outside our trailer. It weighed about 20 lbs and had a screw cap. I failed to tighten it sufficiently and it was quite a mess – the raccoons took to our neighbors camp to work on it. Store food indoors OR use a proper container (and firmly tighten it). Add raccoon repellent around the trailer. Even then they will carry the container 50 feet away to work on it. We learned these lessons the hard way!

  14. And, dog safety….I’m speaking about the safety of your dog on the steps entering the RV. We have two small dogs, a very athletic 13 pound Schnoodle (Stella) and an older 18 pound Cock-a-poo (Katie). Yesterday, both dogs slipped and fell on the steps going into the RV. Little Stella slipped and flipped off the step landing on her back, unhurt. Later, Katie slipped and her back legs went forward through the steps and fell backwards into my hands. At least I was ready to catch her as she could have been injured. The lesson learned is: help your pets up the steps, or better yet, lift them up and in.

    Doug Sharp

  15. I am a dog owner and I completely Agree. Dogs must be under control. I am frustrated with folks that let their dogs run off leash and claim they are friendly. You can never predict how two dogs will get along. In addition, if you love your pet why would you chance them getting lost in the woods because they decided to chase a deer. I think it’s reckless. I can’t tell you how many times I find someone else’s pet waste on my trips. Great article! Thanks!

  16. Thanks for this great article. I have to admit that we are normally boon- dockers and so clean up of my dogs was never really on my mind. “ What has don’t see…” I do have to confess that we have somewhat of a cavalier attitude about how I “think” my dogs will act. I really appreciate this point of view and will definitely make changes so that I can make other dog owners feel safer around my site. Thanks!

  17. 100% agree on everything you wrote!!!
    We are full time with a small dachshund.
    Although as you said we don’t believe she would hurt a flee, she is an animal. As you stated we never really know how she will react.
    We see countless campers letting their dogs roam free. We wish the campgrounds would do a better job of enforcing these rules. Someone is going to get hurt and it will be 100 percent the owners fault, but the campgrounds need to take control BEFORE it happens.
    Unfortunately the people that need to read your article don’t care enough about etiquette to read it.

  18. I have a passive French bulldog and just finished a 5 week long trip from Washington to California and Arizona. I never left him unsupervised and kept him in on a leash at every walk. He’s a type of dog who wants to greet everyone and I wouldn’t let him, unless the other person said it was ok or asked to greet him. I never let him greet dogs and I cleaned up after him immediately. It’s appalling to me how many people do not pay attention to their pets, who don’t respect others. I would leave him alone in the trailer, however, he’s been crate trained and doesn’t suffer from separation anxiety. I close the windows/blinds and leave on white noise. No barking and super happy when I get home (I.e nothing torn apart, he’s a chewer).
    Thank you for posting this.

  19. Well written! You covered all of the problems that I’ve seen/been a part of in my years of camping. We have German Shepherds and they are always leashed. When asked if they would bite, our answer is always “they never have yet.”

  20. No choice but? I’ll reserve judgement on that. There are always choices.
    Choices that favor self, choices that favor others, and other choices.

  21. So…….. keep your pet from making noise that bothers other campers
    Pick up after your pet
    Keep your pet under control to protect the pet and others

    Ant pet owner who does not already follow these simple rules should not have a pet. IMHO

  22. Love this! I consider everything you say to be common sense. I think exactly the same way. Never believe it can’t happen with your dog, no matter how attached you are. My husband on the other hand does not believe rules apply to his precious Havanese. She is a tiny b-word. She will constantly cause a commotion and he acts like it is the very first time. He drives me nuts!

  23. Well said. But there’s more. For people with dogs and children, a fight between two dogs can prompt a child to try to “save” their pet from harm, and become a victim of the fray. Most children and even adults do not safely know how to break up a fight between dogs that are going at it. Being at a remote campsite and having either or both your pet and children injured and beyond immediate medical attention could be tragic. Controlling your pet is something every pet owner must commit to do, every time.

  24. We have Rottie, we know what he is capable of, and he gets along with people as long as we are with him. I also know that he is an “Alfa” dog, and tries to dominate others, including people. We do camp with him, but we have a large Pen, and he is never (I Repeat Never) is left outside without one of use with him. We don’t walk him because of Other’s “off leash” Good dogs. He is by nature protective (Particularly my wife) and may go after anyone (or thing) he perceives as a threat. His, pen area is connected to our Motorhome. He does not bark unless he sees or smells something he perceived as a threat. We have never had anyone complain about him, because we have planned for him to go with us.

  25. Thank you for this article. We are very aware of our 2 small dogs and other peoples’ camping experience. We’ve been in many campgrounds where peoples children and or the adults were WAY noisier than peoples pets. People blasting their music should be the next article you wrote but back to dogs… I 100% agree with pet waste point. And here’s something I’ll never understand, some people collect the waste and leave it on the ground! As if they were good dog owners!!
    We have also been parked up against people with never ending barking dogs which has totally changed our pleasant trip into a horrible one. Some people are responsive if you ask to quiet the dogs some will but most have no clue how to train a dog. Outs don’t bark they are both true service dogs. They make no noise and they don’t know they are dogs! They are very small so people expect yipping but not ours! They are complemented all the time.

    Some dogs are not camping types. We have been charged by a pitbull, my worst nightmare because one of my dogs is 5 lbs . Now I like pitts but I’m also afraid of them. I grabbed my dogs held them high off the ground while screaming commands for the attacker to stop. The dog did hesitate I think I surprised him in that I was mad not scared. I got scared later!!!
    The owner ran saying. “ I don’t know how that happened “!
    Luckily we were just shook up no one hurt. The camps states no pittbulls but I didn’t report her.
    How do you teach ignorant or self centered people to follow camp rules? Many camps don’t enforce the rules either.

  26. Pam Ray full-time rv’er.

    Our sweet lab -something dog has been attacked by Yorkies twice within s short period of time leaving her very aggressive on leash to any dog that runs up to her no matter what size , but especially small dogs. We’ve had to take her to training because of her aggression, she’s better but she’s not the same sweet girl she was before the attacks.

  27. I have a dog that travels with me and I always am concerned about my fellow campers. He’s quiet, is always on a leash, and even carries his own bags in his back pack. Barking dogs are annoying, and leaving feces, and or not keeping dogs on a leash even when on your own campsite is rude to others.

  28. Amen! And might I add the same holds true for neighborhoods. We have some neighbors that allow their dogs to poo in our yard or in our driveway and don’t feel the need to clean it up. Very annoying. I keep telling my husband some day I am going to pick it up and throw it in their yard but he keeps a cooler head than I do.

  29. Boondocking in Gran Teton, 2 dogs looking like wolves jumped at me; I just had time to hop in my camper… when appeared a few minutes later a young woman jogging.
    My heart pounding, I shouted that her dogs almost gave me a heart attack thinking they were wolves and that she should keep them on leashes. She gave me a finger (the third one). How do you counteract idiots?

  30. Thank you for the frank and honest discussion. You said what needs to be said, thank you

  31. Hello! I loved your thoughts on this topic. We camp with a wonderful, well-trained, well-behaved 85lb fixed, female bernidoodle. I’m so glad that even though she would be very trustworthy off a leash when we camp, we had one experience that taught me to always have her next to us and leashed. As we were walking one evening around the campground, we met a woman with 3 large male, un-fixed (we found out later), german shepherds, that she was “dog-sitting” while camping (go figure). Two of the three males suddenly lunged at our sweet girl and because of her training she suddenly stopped and became the beta dog and we were able to pull her to safety quickly while the other woman fought all three of the male dogs in what seemed like a losing battle to me. I was so glad that we were in control of our girl and could move quickly away from the crazy. Thanks again for your wise perspective! I hope all camping dog owners, and their sitters (again, go figure) heed your counsel.

  32. It is very annoying that people think their dog wouldn’t attack another dog..Famous last words before my retained German Shepherd’s got attacked by 4 different off leash pit bulls…I will protect my dogs & myself at all cost…She about died on the first attack !!!!
    And for people that don’t pick up after their pet they are everywhere…Lazy dog owners!!

  33. We do not have pets. Nearly every time we camp the peace and tranquility we seek while camping is interrupted by barking dogs or children that can’t do anything quiet. It is the pet owner and parents responsibility to ensure that their pet/child does not encroach on the rights of others. That being said, we’ve also come in contact with pets and kids that were a true joy to be around. Like many other things in life, camping is a privilege. Please respect the rights of others.

  34. Your comments are right on point IMHO! I have experienced all of this many times in my 76 years, and I still am befuddled by the large numbers of disrespectful dog owners in the RV community. What do their yards, or their neighbors’, at home look like?

    I volunteer periodically with NPS, FWS, USFS and COE from time to time in my retirement. Since the beginning of this COVID deal, I have given up on Camp Hosting as I can’t tolerate all this anymore. I do the Visitor Center and guide thing now.

    I gave up trying to explain how dog waste adversely affects wildlife and is disrespectful of others. For these people it is ALL about them and the he!! with anyone else.

    Good article, but I am sorry to say it will fall on blind eyes!

  35. I agree with the fact that if you have a pet you need to clean up after that pet. I just came back from a trip and was upset by the fact that other people did not clean up after there dogs in the dog park. This area is so you can let your dog off leash to relieve themselves. If it is not kept clean campgrounds will stop providing them. CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR PET. Make us all happy campers.

  36. My wfe and I have been camping together for 40 years. When we started pets were not very common in the campgrounds. When people started to bring pets, there seemed to be view point of campgrounds were a place to let there pets run free, and keeping them quite was optional. Now pets are so common in campgrounds, that camping supply stores provide pet specific supplies. I don’t mind pets in campgrounds, I do believe pet owners have a responsibility to be considerate of there fellow campers. Most RV’s are not made to be sound proof. So a pet left alone, either inside or contained outside, the barking becomes frustrating in a short amount of time. Because pets are social animals, isolating them is a direct cause of there acting out the way they do. So the poor pet gets the bad rap, when it is really the owmers behavior causing the situation. My wife has a real fear of medium to large dogs. So even if a pet is just being friendly, she will be in a heightened state of panic when approached be a pet off leash. This is a very uncomfortable situation, because pet owners seem to be completely unaware that people can be frightened by the friendly pet. As to cleaning up behind your pet. I wish it wasn’t necessary to instruct pet owners that it would be common courtesy to pick up after their pets. But all to often we have to be vigilant in watching out for missteps when pets are present. Pet owners. Your pet is cute, cuddly, and adorable. But it istill requires maintenance. Just like your RV, it can’t be ignored if you want to enjoy it.

  37. Thank you, this is a very calm, and informative article for both dog owners and non owners.
    I also travel with 4 or 5 dogs. Current and retired sport dogs that are well traveled as they attend weekend competitions and have traveled with me full time in many different states.
    I am very conscious of pickup, clean up and supervision. We use a X Pen and would rarely if ever leave the dogs outside unsupervised.
    I too am frustrated by the lack of responsibility of dog owners as I am frustrated by that same lack of responsibility of some parents with their children.
    May I add to your wonderful article.
    First, please don’t assume that because I travel with dogs I will be not be a good neighbor.
    Secondly, my dogs are with me because I enjoy the company, training them and competing in dog sports. I do my best to make sure they are well behaved. However, my dogs are not in my site for you or your children’ entertainment. Please don’t run up to the xpen to pet them, please don’t send your children over to play with the dogs. Can I pet them? Sounds innocent enough but what happens if there is a negative reaction, something I would never expect to happen. For me a possible lawsuit. I don’t mean to be anti social when I say no to petting. I am just looking out for your well fare and mine.
    When I am in my RV at a dog trial, we look normal, but at a campground we attract a bit more attention!

  38. Fantastic article ~ SPOT ON! Should be mandatory reading for every RV pet owner (as a RVing dog owner myself). There is NOTHING more terrifying than taking my dog for a leashed walk in a campground and suddenly encountering a loose dog that runs up to us. Regardless of whether that dog is “friendly” or not – the fear of what is to come makes what should be a relaxing walk into a stress filled chore (that no doubt is transferred energy into my own pet).

  39. I am an early riser and while sitting inside repeatedly seen campers open their doors and let dog out to do their business.

  40. One rule that I see constantly broken by pet owners is that most parks have a “dog must be on no more than a 6 foot leash” and yet folks will walk about the park with the dog 20 ft in front of them on their retractable leash. This does nothing for the safety of other people or their pets.

  41. Ive read the whole thing and have to add my comment.
    Most dog owners are so used to their dogs barking that they no longer hear them. It is such a sole searing experience to have found a nice place to enjoy camping and then curse the same location because of having to listen to someone else’s dog barking.
    Having a respectful talk with the owner often does nothing. I have even been told I should try ear plugs.

  42. Thank you so much for such a well written article on pets! This is the first time I’ve actually read something that made sense and acurately represents our dogs. We have a 3 year old GSD and always leash him becasue of everything you mentioned. It’s always good to remember “they are dogs and dogs sometimes bite” it’s our job to not put them in situations of complete failure. And as you stated never ever is it a good idea to let roam free in a public setting. Thank you for your honesty. I only hope that many many dog owners read this and follow your important advice.

  43. Linda Klein Swartz

    We just returned from 6 days in Charleston, SC. staying at Oak Plantation. Wonderful place ! Some of the best campsites, amenities, excellent dog run, places to walk dogs away from campers, we’ve enjoyed: yet, we watched the tootsie roll droppers break all of the rules. Owners who don’t clean up from their toy size dogs are just as much a problem as those who don’t clean up after mid-larger breeds. The area was green but not receiving rain. Every other camper had one/two dogs. No sprinkler systems or watering of campsites to wash in urine, topical feces cause quite an odor from the “out our door to yours” poopers or water dispensers! Not too mention the adults we watched wipe out their frying pans over the green belts… sorry to say, one just can’t fix stupid. After horse camping for 30 yrs. we thought we had seen it all. Nope! Keep on preaching to the choir, folks, I don’t think the abusers look for articles on etiquette.

  44. If we fail to honor the rules and etiquette of owning a pet. We will find rules changing and the eventual “no dogs allowed” signs.

  45. Could not agree more! I like animals but we do not own pets as we travel a lot and have other interests.. but all too often we experience: 1. aggressive dogs whose owners ALL say “don’t worry he/she is friendly” 2. dogs barking continuously for hours; 3 dogs off leash in leash-only parks; 4.dog poop left where it fell. I am now convinced that 98% of dog owners make no effort to train themselves in dog behaviour, nor their animals in how to respond. Sign me “a frustrated camper!”

  46. We have only been campers about 10 years, but in that time we have done 4 trips from North Florida to upstate New York, plus many local RV parks. We have always taken our little Pomeranian with us. I just don’t see why people have such a hard time cleaning up after their pets. It’s the proper thing to do. Even when I’m in our home neighborhood, I pick up after the dog. Especially there, people know where I live. Ha Ha! It didn’t take long for us to realize that having our dog on a leash is as much for her protection as it is for others. What I don’t get is why parks seem so reluctant to enforce their rules. Most parks say dogs must be on a 6 foot leash, but all the time I see these retractable leashes, (which I hate) with the dog 30 feet away. The dog is not under control, and if it is attacked by another animal, it’s pretty much on it’s own. A lot can happen in 10 seconds.
    Thank you for the very well written article.

  47. You are right on target on the safety topic. I have seen the same aggresive behavior from otherwise gentle dogs.

  48. We put dog poo in plastic bag and the bag goes to the dumpster but I some times put the poo in the camp fire lol. My dogs have been attacked twice, both times by Mastiffs that were not on leash. I now carry pepper spray that shoots a stream for aggressive unleashed dogs. I have had to use several times and the owners got real pissed every time. My dogs are not allowed to bark very long because we stop it. The dogs always attack my friendly Jack Russel female and then my German Shepherd jumps in. Pleas folks Keep your dogs leashed.

  49. I agree with every comment and point you made. My golden retriever, generally barky but friendly, got out of a dog park with an insecure gate, just as a guy let his dog loose out of a truck. The dog ran right at my retriever. The man was to busy kicking my retriever in the ribs to get his own dog. I was very upset at my dog’s unexpected behavior.
    He had never been left unleashed, the ease of the gate opening was a wake up call to me. No more dog parks for my dog!! But the number of unleashed dogs in my travels now terrifies me.

  50. I agree fully with you. It is very annoying to listen to a dog bark all night long. Cleaning up after your pet is part of having a pet regardless of where you are. I too have had my dog attacked out of the blue by other dogs. My dogs are always leashed for their safety and others. We don’t know what will cause them to shift from easy going to killer, just because it has never happened doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t…the point is we don’t have a crystal ball.

  51. Good article but have 2 things to add…
    1) when people tell us their dog(s) don’t bite my husband ALWAYS responds “they do have teeth, don’t they?!)
    2) now don’t get me started on the people who think they need to bring their dogs into every business they enter, building supply stores, discount stores, grocery stores (my goodness) and the worst of all, RESTAURANTS! And the business owners are not allowed to ask if it’s a service dog! Give me a break. The same problems are encountered as in campgrounds. I’ve seen 2 dogs go at it in a big box store and stepped in their waste in the doorway of a grocery store.

  52. Also, don’t assume everyone is a pet lover because I for one am not and I do not wish to pet your pet or get acquainted with him or her, nor do I want them in my space. I’m not a mean person, just not a fan of pets.

  53. My biggest problem was when the private RV Park, which was actually the yard of the owners ( didn’t know this when we booked) , has a least policy for everyone except themselves so when you were walking your dog on a leash their dog was all over your dog. I complained to the owner about “ I thought all dogs were to be on leashes” , the reply was he doesn’t bother anyone. They should have had their own fenced back yard for their dog, or maybe a dog park area for the guests to use, but neither existed and although it is an area we like to go we will not book there again!

  54. As a camp hosts for 2 1/2 years in Georgia State parks and owner of 2 small dogs I think I have seen everything. People complaining about barking dogs, as their dogs are tied out and able to reach the road and bark continuously at people walking by. People not picking up after their dogs around the camp sites and playground area. I think the worst was tying them out as they went hiking or to the store, in a campground with many black bears in the area. If they don’t know how to care for their pets, then leave them at a kennel or with relatives.

  55. I’m sure this will go over like a lead balloon but how about people leaving their pets at home. We leave our lab at home even though he is harmless. We just don’t trust other peoples dogs/owners. Remember your dog in most special to you…not other people.

  56. First, thank you for the article. We are planning our first RV trip with our Jack Russell. Your points are important for first time traveling with a pet. I would add that have a first aid kit for the pet(s) is a good idea. Cut paws, embedded thorns, ticks, fleas, and heat can ruin a pet’s trip and yours.

  57. I agree wholeheartedly you are spot on. My biggest problem is when other dog owners assume that their dog has to meet your dog. I do not want my dog in contact with other dogs we keep them away and just say hello. As you say all dogs are different and ours we travel with 3, two border collies and a corgi are/can be unpredictable. The attitude that it won’t happen with my dog is the problem. Everyone needs to remember they are dogs not humans.
    Keep your pet within your space and care for him or her.
    Great article now if everyone would read it!!!

  58. Thank you for your article. As a full time RVer and owner of two large mixed breed rescue dogs (125 lbs. & 75 lbs.) there is nothing that irritates me more than people not keeping their pets on a leash (yes, that means cats too). My dogs are not aggressive but will defend themselves and me when other dogs come charging at them. We have encountered numerous RV parks that have discriminated against large animals all because some pet owners are not responsible. PLEASE be a responsible pet owner (and parent for that matter).

  59. For the barking, I highly recommend a small inexpensive product called Pet Corrector. It is simple and safe. We have a miniature American Eskimo and a minpen mix dog. Both can be barkers. My sister recommended this product to control barking. It works great. The can has pressurized air. When you press the button it emits a hissing sound that indicates a potential predator. You only need a short blast and the dogs shut up (and so do those of your neighbors. After less than a week, all I had to do was reach for the can and they would shut up. Just don’t point it at the dog. I generally just let off a short hiss from behind my back — the few times I still have to remind them. They now pretty much listen to me when I command “quiet”. I have no proprietary interest in this product nor does my sister.

  60. For 11yrs i travel with a 20# cat that is leash trained. He loves to go outside and most dogs. My problem is the other cat lovers? That let theirs roam. Jumping On my truck urinating on my camper and this irritates my cat. Ive seen folks leave with out the cat cause they couldn’t find it. How sad and cruel

  61. Spot on. I totally agree. Unfortunately, those who need to read this, won’t. My big pet peeve is dogs off leash & I see that a lot. Our 30 lb. senior dog was attacked by a large, off leash pit bull. She was ok but it could have been a lot worse and we still had $250 in vet bills. They had 2 other dogs running loose also but the owners claimed they slipped out accidently. Hogwash. I saw all 3 running loose the next day. And I saw other dogs being walked off leash also. I complained to the CG office. It was a city owned CG so I stoped by the police office but they had closed early for the Thanksgiving weekend. I later wrote a letter to the city but never got a reply.

  62. There is a strange dynamic that occurs when one dog is on a leash and one is not. I’ve traveled and competed with various breeds of dogs, large and small for more than 40 years and found this to be true. So, when in public keep your dog on a leash for everyone’s comfort and safety. IMHO there is no valid reason not to. There is also no valid reason to not clean up whatever your pet leaves behind. We currently travel with 2 mini-golden doodles that are therapy dogs. Yes, they are always on a leash except when they are in their own yard or in an off leash dog park. It’s the concept of good fences make good neighbors.

  63. Interesting that
    1) almost all dog owners continue to express “not my well behaved dog – would never do that” – still in denial !!
    2) All dog owners think when they “pick up the poop” that all is clean… obviously it’s not .. particles of your dogs poop is still there . still draws the insects to your neighbors site… .. think about it…if you think this is incorrect, why not train your dogs to only poop in your RV… so you can pick it all up right there… right off the carpet or maybe even on the tile floor so it’s more visible. Many / most are just plain disrespectful !

  64. Not sure why this would be controversial, it’s all common sense. We have 2 Pitts we travel with, in fact we got the RV so they can travel with us. Many sites won’t allow Pitts, but will allow retrievers who can be just as dangerous ( because you would never believe a fluff ball would attack, but they do) Thanks if you got one person to leash up or clean up you have done us all a great service

  65. We just got back from a week long trip in a dry camping state park so the campsites were spread out. First thing I noticed in our campsite were the 5 brightly colored and full poop bags. I picked them up and walked them to a dumpster. That night there was a lot of barking throughout the campground.
    It seemed like one dog started and all the other dogs chimed in. It took awhile before the barking stopped. The next day two large dogs across from us in neighboring campsites got into a huge fight (both were off-leash). One of the dogs was a bloody mess. It was scary. We went on a popular hike and again, full poop bags tossed everywhere. I’m not saying all dog owners are bad & irresponsible, but we sure seem to run into a lot of them.

  66. I always find it interesting that whenever this and the somewhat related topic of kids come up, pretty much NO ONE in comments defends the bad behavior. I want to know WHY people think it’s OK to not pick up dog waste, not control their dogs/kids, not keep their noise level down. Some nice neighbors of ours in an RV park were in a 5th wheel, staying in the area for a job. They had a couple of nice motorcycles covered under the 5th wheel, which was well inside their spot. If you walked by you could smell urine strongly. They had to buy new covers, because people actually let their dogs go into the site and lift their legs on the motorcycles repeatedly enough to ruin them! It’s not just the poop, people, letting your dogs pee in people’s sites is also offensive as heck. And yep, I’ve camped in a lot of places in tents and rvs with my dog(s). It’s definitely possible to keep dogs from excessive barking, to keep them out of others’ sites, to pick up their poo, to keep them on leash and away from other people/dogs, etc. Same with not letting kids run through others’ sites or scream constantly. I want to hear from people who think all those behaviors are just fine and that people shouldn’t be annoyed about them.

  67. We have been RV’ing for about 30 years with the pets we have had over those years. And think I am responsible for my family pets even in a boondocking situation. I still shake my head at the entitled pet owners who are too special to clean up after their pets. I have been vocal about requesting RV neighbor’s pick up after their pets and have been flipped off, called a bitch, and told to mind my own business. And it’s not just pet cleanup that is the issue. I watched a RV dump it’s tanks in a park in the Yukon right in the campsite. There is entitled people everywhere.

  68. Nancy Walters

    Great article. Agree 100% and more. What about “fraudulent ” service animals that owners think they can pass off as safe. Also how many times dog owners bag the poop then let it stack up on the picnic table. Ugh!

  69. Please leave the barking, yapping, pooping dogs at home. Have just a little respect and consideration for your fellow RVers. I’m not trying to be spiteful or hateful with these comments just trying to enjoy a dog free, hair free, poop free, camping experience.

  70. Richard parker

    Excellent article, very fair I think. Having been a boondocks and rv camp rat I can truly say, so many campers are pigs it boggles the mind. In az several boondocks areas have been shut down due to campers leaving trash dumping black tanks etc. A handful will ruin it for everyone. Don’t be one of those pigs pick up after yourselves and your animals, it is a very easy thing to do

  71. We have 2 small dogs, one is a Spaniel mix and the other is an ancient blind, toothless chihuahua. The Spaniel mix loves nice kids and the ancient one loves the arms of her family. We are responsible and respectful pet owners who are well equipped with poo poo bags, leashes and an X-pen for containment of our pets. Plus a hard shell kennel for a “safety zone” for the dogs choosing. Dogs in an unfamiliar area will be on the defensive side and on high alert. It’s only right to keep them and those around you safe.

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