Prepare Your Dog For An Amazing RV Trip
Most dogs absolutely love coming along on RV road trips with us. While it may be tempting to load them into the RV (or towing vehicle if you are towing) for their first road trip, you’ll want to get properly prepared first. A little pre-planning and preparation goes a long way to ensure a successful first road trip with your dog. Here are 20 of our best tips for RVing with dogs to help you and your dog enjoy the journey together.
1. Get Your Dog Used to The RV Before You Leave Home
Our dogs feel safest when they are in a familiar environment. You can make your RV a familiar environment for your dog by “Camping” in the RV with them at home.
2. Take Your Dog on Short Car Rides
Taking your dog on short jaunts around town or to the dog park will help them get used to riding in a vehicle before you embark on a real road trip. Most dogs love car rides, but if yours is one of the few that suffer from motion sickness when they get into a vehicle, you’ll want to teach them to associate riding in a vehicle with good things before you leave on your trip. Below is a fantastic video on how to get your dog over their motion sickness.
3. Get Help for Behavior Problems Before You Leave Home
If your dog gets anxious when left alone at home, they will also become anxious when left alone in the RV. And when a dog barks incessantly at passersby from the living room window, he will also bark at passersby from your campsite. If you want your road trip to be stress-free for you and your dog, get help for problem behaviors before you leave. The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers website is a great place to find a qualified dog trainer near you.
4. Get Your Dog an ID Tag
Dogs can accidentally get separated from us when we travel. Your dog should have an ID tag on his collar or harness with his name and your phone number on it. Even if your dog already has a microchip, an ID tag is an easy, low-tech, and fast way for him to be reunited with you. When you get to the campsite, it’s a great idea to add a small luggage tag with your campsite number on it too.
5. Keep Emergency Contact Information in Your RV or Wallet
Having a card or tag with you that has your pet’s emergency caregiver’s contact information will give emergency responders a way to help make sure they get looked after in the event of an accident or health crisis.
6. Keep Your Dog Safe When You Travel
Having your dog confined with a seatbelt harness or travel-approved crate will help keep you both safe. Dogs can create a driving distraction when they move around in a vehicle. In the event of an accident, a seatbelt or crate can save your dog from injury or from running away in panic when first responders arrive. Not all crates and seatbelt harnesses are created equal. Be sure to choose a model that has been tested for crash safety.
7. Even When RVing With Dogs Keep Their Regular Routine
Your dog thrives on his regular routine. If you are taking a multi-day RV road trip, do your best to approximate their regular routine by doing everything in the same order that it usually happens. For example, if your dog’s typical day unfolds like this: walk, breakfast, snooze, play, walk, dinner, play, walk. Keeping that routine approximately the same on your road trip will help your dog feel safe and secure when you travel.
8. Take Frequent Breaks for Walks and Sniffing Excursions
One of the things we love about having our dogs on road trips is that they are eager to explore new environments with us. Stopping to take sniffing breaks or “mini-walks” about every 1-2 hours will give your dog a chance to stretch their legs while keeping you alert at the wheel
9. Bring Plenty of Their Familiar Food
Bring more dog food than you think you’ll need. If you have a mechanical breakdown or get stuck somewhere, having the food your dog is used to will prevent them from having an upset digestive tract while dealing with the breakdown.
10. Pack a Clothesline Style Dog Run or Exercise Pen Fencing
Having a clothesline-style run or exercise pen fencing will allow them to have some freedom of movement while keeping them safe. Clothesline-style dog run kits like Ruffwear’s Knot A Hitch dog tethering system are fast, lightweight, and easy to set up between two trees. It’s also easy to link a few folding dog exercise pens to form a large, fenced, doggy play space in your campsite. Exercise pens can be an excellent dog containment option if you’ll be camped for a few days or more. Be sure that the RV park you are staying at allows pens to be set up, and a standard campground rule is to never leave your dog unattended while tied out or in a pen.
11. Pack 2 Dog Beds
Camping with dogs can bring more than the usual amount of sand and dirt into the camper. Having a dog bed for outside and another dog bed that stays inside the camper will help to minimize the amount of dirt coming into the RV.
12. Pack Lots of Dog Treats When RVing With Dogs
Dogs love good food when they are camping too! Dog treats can be used as rewards for good behavior in training sessions or while RVing with dogs. Chewable treats like bully sticks help dogs relax and be happy when camping.
13. Be Prepared for Emergencies
It’s a good idea to bring along a first aid kit for your dog when you travel. Including a product like “Skunk-off” spray in case of an unexpected encounter with a skunk will help to prevent your dog from becoming the stinkiest passenger ever. If you travel where there are venomous snakes, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of a dog snakebite and note the closest veterinary hospitals to your camping location in the event a bite occurs.
14. Pack a Food-Dispensing Toy or Two
Dogs like using their noses to find food. Putting one of their meals into a food-dispensing toy like a Kong Wobbler or a snuffle mat will help to keep your dog happy when they are at camp or waiting for you to return to the RV if you have to run errands.
15. Bring Some Familiar Toys
Your dog will appreciate having some favorite, familiar toys to play with. If they love their ball, bring a few of them along. Balls tend to go missing on camping trips, so having a few on hand will ensure that they can always play a quick game of fetch.
16. Use an RV Temperature Monitor System
Every summer, dogs die in hot vehicles, including RVs. If you intend to leave your dog in the RV with the air conditioner on, having a temperature monitoring system will give you peace of mind. A temperature monitor will relay changes in the temperature inside your RV to your smartphone if the air conditioner stops working. The Waggle RV temperature monitor system is highly rated by many RVers, but there are many others on the market too.
17. Don’t Leave Your Dog in A Hot Vehicle
Leaving your dog inside your vehicle when it’s hot out is a recipe for disaster. Hot temperatures in an enclosed environment can cause heat exhaustion and heatstroke in dogs within minutes. It’s also a good idea to invest in some Breezeguard window screens to safely leave the windows open while you are away for a very short period.
18. Bring Water and A Spill-Proof Bowl
When we travel, we never know for sure where there will be safe drinking water for our dogs. It’s a good idea to pack along more water than you think your dog will drink on your trip. A spill-proof water dish will help reduce the mess in the RV.
19. Plan a Dog-Friendly Road Trip
RVing with dogs has never been better. Many campgrounds welcome dogs and don’t charge extra fees for them. Some even have fenced dog parks where you can play and have fun with your dog. You’ll find hundreds of destinations for RVing with dogs on RV LIFE Trip Wizard.
20. Don’t Take Your Dog Off-Leash in Any Strange Area
Every dog owner’s nightmare would be to lose their dog on a road trip. Even if your dog is friendly and usually listens, a strange environment can cause them to get into trouble or even disappear within seconds. A squirrel, rabbit, or other wild creature can capture any dog’s attention and quickly lead them astray. Don’t take that chance. Always leash your dog at the campsite and in unfamiliar environments.
With a little preparation and planning, RVing with dogs can be an amazing adventure for dogs and humans. Looking for more dog-related RVing tips? Check out the best travel trailers and motorhomes for RVing with dogs.
Lynne Fedorick is a freelance writer with 35 years of RVing experience. She specializes in topics such as fulltime RV life, great destinations for RVers, RV organization, RV News, RV tech, and dog behavior/training.