The acronym RV stands for Recreational Vehicle. Yet, many Americans use them for business purposes. Marketers, entertainers, and political candidates use them as they tour the country. You’ll also find that many Best in Show Champions in dog show competitions have relied on RV’s since their first local competition. We review the best travel trailers and motorhomes for show dogs.
We’ll show you how expansive the show dog world has become, why the dog show community loves RVs so much, and some great examples currently on the market. If you’re new to the community, or a veteran looking to upgrade, you’ll be fascinated with what today’s coaches have to offer.
What Are Dog Shows?
If you’ve never seen one or need a dog showing for beginners explanation, we’ll give you a brief rundown. In the late 19th century, breeders and dog enthusiasts were concerned with dog breed standards. For example, French Bulldogs originally came with either straight bat-like ears or rose ears that folded back at that time. Eventually, the breed standard called for the bat-ear.
Much like we need to determine the best travel trailers or motorhome for, the judge needs to find the best dog. When a judge examines a dog at a dog show event, they compare the dog to their interpretation of the written breed standard in physical appearance, temperament, and other qualifying factors. The dog that conforms the best to the standard wins that particular event (i.e., Best in Breed, Best in Show, etc.) There is a point system in place that the judge uses.
The results of the show determine the value of the dog’s future bloodlines. Today’s purebred dogs that compete in these shows can trace their ancestry to past winners of the Westminster Kennel Club (WKC), American Kennel Club (AKC), or National Kennel Club (NKC) champions. If you think your dog has what it takes, you can read more about the various steps you need to take on the AKC website.
Each circuit has evolved to host many other events besides the conformation dog show. The other events focus on the many skills various breeds have.
● Search and Rescue
● Agility Course
● Dock Diving
One event gained extra attention at one point. Andrew “Roo” Yori competed in the flying disc tournament with his white Pit Bull Wallace. Not known for their jumping ability, Wallace and Roo worked hard to become national champions. Not only was Wallace a non-purebred, but he also found Roo in a dog shelter. You can read their story in the biography written by Jim Gorant.
Why Travel in an RV for a Dog Show?
If you’ve ever walked through the prep area of a dog show, you’ll see exhibitors with bags of equipment working diligently to finish those final touches on their dog. Fixing a stray hair, brushing out last-minute dead fur, or trying to get that Poodle joint hair shaped correctly.
The parking lot will have enough of the best travel trailers and motorhomes to hold an RV show. What do the veteran dog show handlers and owners know that others don’t?
Almost half of the dog show community travel in RVs for many reasons. The first of which is having the ability to bring everything with you. The convenience of keeping all of the grooming supplies, products, and show attire in one place is priceless. They never have to worry about packing and unpacking; everything is ready and waiting in one spot.
Another advantage has to do with their definition of an RV. The coach has a shower or a sink that works as a washing station. The table or counters are perfect for the first stage of grooming. At the end of each day’s event, the exhibitor’s bed is a few feet away. If they’re hungry, they have a full kitchen available. Human contestants can even put together that secret recipe that makes their champion shine in the arena.
Finally, if the competing dog starts to get overwhelmed, the RV becomes their mobile home territory. By the time dogs compete in the national competitions, they should be comfortable with the chaos backstage. Beginners at local shows may need to cool out so they can give their best performance. During hot summer days, having an air-conditioned place to keep your dog before their category is the best way to keep them healthy. Finding the best travel trailer or motorhome for you and your dog’s needs is important to create the “at home” space and feeling.
Traveling With Your Champion
As you prepared for the dog show life, we’re sure you picked up many tips along the way, so we’re not going to reiterate all of them. We do want to mention those that crossover into the RV world.
● Becoming Comfortable With the Moving House: Not every dog likes traveling. When they’re away from their home territory, dogs can become anxious. Getting your dog comfortable with the RV is a multi-stage process. Put fabric toys, couch pillows, and other home-scented items inside.
Walk them around the RV. Let them walk inside. Once they’ve smelled everything and found their spot, take them on a trip around the block. The process will take a few weeks. You’ll know they’re ready when they beat you to the front door of the coach.
● Paperwork and Photos: One of the requirements of every event is presenting updated veterinary documentation that proves your champion is current on all of their shots. You’ll want to keep this paperwork handy with their license paperwork, a certificate of health from your vet, and recent photos.
If your dog becomes lost, you’ll need the photos to show others. Authorities will look for a microchip, want to see the pictures to prove the dog is yours, and all of their paperwork to prove they are okay to release. If you are handling the dog for someone else, make sure you have your contract available too.
● Kennels: As much as we want to give dogs the freedom to roam around, taking a dog in an RV requires keeping them safe. Travel kennels bolted to sidewalls or furniture is the best way to travel. Give them something soft to lay on that absorbs the road vibrations. The right size allows them to stand, sit, or lay down.
● Travel Methodology: Veteran RVers use the 2-2-2 method. They travel two hours at a time, travel 200 miles in a day, and spend two nights at the end of each leg. The extra night gives the driver a day off to rest up and refresh themselves. Some modify the method by traveling 300 miles instead of 200.
The best way to use this methodology is pre-planning. Apps like RV Trip Wizard allow you to plan your route, find pet-friendly campgrounds or dry camping sites, and other points of interest along the way. The companion tool, Campground Reviews, lets you read up on campground ratings so that you can find quality locations.
● Make Camping Fun: Even though your dog has passed the Good Citizen training course, you will want to read through the campground’s rules in case there’s an uncommon rule you need to know. Some campgrounds have agility equipment in their dog parks. It’s not a professional course, but it’s an excellent way for your dog to run off some of that travel energy and make some new friends.
For more tips on camping with your dog, check out 20 Must-Haves When RVing With Your Dog on RV Life.
Best Travel Trailers and Motorhomes for Dog Shows
The RVs below have floorplans and features ideal for those traveling with competing dogs. Exhibitors and handlers will find wash stations and grooming surfaces that are easy to use. Electric outlets, both 110v and USB ports, are located conveniently for all of your grooming tools.
We feature towable and drivable RVs that cater to almost every budget. The popularity of these RV models have kept them on the market for several years. If you think one of them is right for you, but you’re worried about your competition budget, check out the used RV market for the same model on RV Trader or RVT that can save you thousands.
The Best Travel Trailers
● Length: 29.7 Feet
● Dry Weight: 6,245 Pounds
● GVWR: 7,740 Pounds
● Tanks: F- 60 gal, G- 30 gal, B- 30 gal
● Sleeps 6
Keystone is known as the lightweight RV brand. They specialize in some of the best travel trailers and fifth wheels with innovative features that are affordable to many American budgets. The manufacturer uses strong, state-of-the-art construction materials that minimize the effect of fuel-efficiency when towing. Their Outback series offers a pet-friendly feature, unlike any others.
The Outback series is an RV with a dog kennel built-in under the master bed. Toy and small breed dogs fit well in the space-saving feature. The pass-through bathroom has a large shower with plenty of room to maneuver when you’re washing the road off of your competitor.
When you swing open the entertainment center, you’ll find a large pantry area for your equipment and own personal supplies. The rear sofa expands back on a rear slideout, giving you more floor space to set up your grooming table. Otherwise, the U-shaped dinette table makes an excellent surface to conduct your grooming regimen. When you’re ready, you can throw all of your laundry items down the chute in the bedroom, which collects in a basket down in the external bay.
● Length: 27.2 Feet
● Dry Weight: 5,328 Pounds
● GVWR: 7,570 Pounds
● Tanks: F- 49 gal, G- 70 gal, B- 35 gal
● Sleeps 2
The Cherokee Alpha Wolf series is one of Forest River’s best travel trailers. Their attention to quality and the needs of those living the RV lifestyle makes them a leader in the industry. The Alpha Wolf was the first travel trailer to come with a leash hookup safety feature. The Leash-Latch pet technology gives RV owners a secure connection for their dog’s leash that’s anchored to the coach’s chassis. Other versions connect to the RV’s frame.
The 22SW-L is a lightweight travel trailer that’s SUV-friendly. The full closet-sized primary pantry is perfect for show equipment and other supplies you need. The full-width rear bathroom gives you an oversized shower for washing and grooming purposes. The secondary pantry next to the refrigerator is large enough for your own food needs.
With the right leash, you can connect Hamlet, your Great Dane, to the leash-latch. While you and your best buddy relax outside after the best preliminary round you’ve had, you can enjoy your favorite beverage while he laps up that chilled bottle of water you saved for him. Even if he sees or smells that “evil squirrel” that’s been driving all the dogs nuts, you can rest easy knowing that Hamlet can’t pull the latch loose.
Once the daily events have concluded, since you have a travel trailer with an outdoor kitchen, invite your friends over to relax and share a meal. The deluxe features include a freezer, refrigerator, two-burner stove, and sink. You have everything you need to shake off that judge’s criticism and frustrations. Like any other sport, you work hard; now it’s time to relax hard.
● Length: 35.3 Feet
● Dry Weight: 10,710 Pounds
● GVWR: 13,250 Pounds
● Tanks: F- 85 gal, G- 97 gal, B- 40 gal
● Sleeps 6
According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), over 60% of all RVers travel with a pet. Over 90% of those pet lovers have dogs. One RV manufacturer took this statistic to heart and created pet-friendly floor plans. Highland Ridge, a subsidiary of Jayco (now owned by Thor Industries), uses residential vinyl flooring for easy cleaning and places their furnace registers on the wall avoiding claws from getting caught.
The 314RLS floorplan in the Open Range pet-friendly fifth-wheel gives you everything you need to prepare for the big show. The kitchen island has an off-center single basin sink with plenty of counter space for grooming. If you’re entering multiple dogs, the freestanding kitchen table gives you plenty of surface space to work around.
After all of your work, the dedicated washer/dryer closet can hold a stackable unit to wash the towels and your prep clothes. The expansive closet against the front cap allows you to keep many different pieces to keep your show attire fresh, so you don’t have to wear the same uniform.
The Best Motorhomes for Show Dogs
● Length: 20 Feet
● Gas Chassis and Engine: RAM Promaster, 3.6L Pentastar V6- 280 hp @ 260 lb./ft.
● Tanks: F- 27 gal, G- 13 gal, B- 13 gal
● Sleeps 2
Participating in the American Kennel Club, The National Dog Show, or Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Circuit requires a lot of travel. The local events aren’t that bad, but some dog fanciers travel virtually every weekend to attend a competition. For these dedicated exhibitors, judges, or other participants, a fuel-efficient motorhome may be the best solution.
The Thor Sequence 20K is a rear bathroom Class B campervan ideal for your toy, small, or medium-sized competitor. The rear wet bath is accessible from the inside and out. When you open the rear doors, the shower floor is at the perfect level for preparing your show contender. You can work your magic without straining your back. The full-size wardrobe next to the wet bath gives you easy access to all of your equipment, hair care products, and other tools of the trade.
“Condition your dog with positive reinforcement to love your camper van”Russell Hartstein, CEO of Fun Paw Care – American Kennel Club
Unlike most rear bathroom floorplans, you’ll have a lot more space with the mid-coach jackknife sofa instead of the rear twin beds that other brands install. Your dog’s travel kennel will fit nicely in front of the refrigerator or below the mid-coach LED TV. Most importantly, when it’s time to pull over and get some rest, you and your spouse will have plenty of room to sleep together when you fold out the sofa for the night.
● Length: 29.6 Feet
● Ford Specs: Ford F-350 Chassis, 7.3L Godzilla V8, 430 hp @ 475 lb./ft.
● Chevrolet Specs: Chevrolet Silverado 4500 Chassis, 6.2L Vortec V8, 420 hp @ 460 lb/ft.
● Tanks: F- 40 gal, G- 31 gal, B- 31 gal
● Sleeps 8
It’s surprising how much room you can find in a Class C motorhome. The RV industry targets families for this motorhome category, but their versatility spans many different audiences. People choose Class C RVs to balance ease of drivability, overall space, and more prominent features.
The Coachmen Freelander 27QB is a spacious floorplan for a non-slideout RV. Exhibitors will love the split bathroom since they can wash their contestants without contorting between the vanity and the commode. The loft above the driver’s area is excellent for storage if you don’t need it for sleeping space.
In an article from RVLife, you can read about how one exhibitor uses a Class C to show her Siberian Huskies. With a creative customization, her dogs travel safely, and she has a great time doing it. From her perspective, you’ll be amazed at how many people in the show dog circuit world live the RV lifestyle.
● Length: 39.11 Feet
● Gas Chassis and Engine: Ford F-53 Chassis, 7.3L Godzilla V8- 430 hp @ 475 lb./ft.
● Front End Diesel (FRED) Chassis and Engine: Freightliner MC Chassis, 6.7L Cummins B Inline V6- 340 hp @ 700 lb./ft.
● Tanks: F- 75 gal, G- 60 gal, B- 40 gal
● Sleeps 8
The 10-foot long by 8-foot wide garage in the Newmar Canyon Star 3927 might seem like a lot of space. If you’re preparing your Collie for competition, you may need every square inch. Having an isolated area that’s waterproof, easy to clean, a dual post table, and comes with all of the utility connections you need makes this pet-friendly motorhome a mobile grooming station. You’ll find electrical outlets for all of your grooming tools and a water line in the washer/dryer prep.
While you’re preparing your champion in the garage, the LED TV and multimedia system can play in the background so you can listen to the live updates and other events that are happening. The cabinet above is big enough to hold many of your grooming tools, so everything is close.
When you start the grooming process for Lady Miss Loki Ordinary Dynamo (her AKC registered name), you can connect a sprayer hose to the washer/dryer port and hang it from the overhead bunk above you. The step into the living area prevents water from getting into the master bedroom. Don’t worry about running out of hot water because the 3927 is the only model with a standard tankless water heater.
After you’ve shaved, cut, and made up Miss Loki’s (her real name) coat, you can detach the vacuum that you’ve mounted on the sidewall tie-down track to clean everything up. Using a wet/dry vacuum can take care of the water and the hair trimmings. Emptying the wet/dry into your grey or black tank keeps you on the right side of the law and lets you focus on performing your best (as long as Miss Loki doesn’t live up to her name).
How to Find the Best Travel Trailers and Motorhomes
Trying the RV Experience for the First Time
If you’re interested in trying the RV experience, you can find pet-friendly RV rentals at RVezy. A peer-to-peer RV rental company like this lets you search for RVs in your local area owned by real people. The owner will give you a walkthrough of the coach, so you know how to operate everything.
We recommend you start slow with the local dog shows, so you’re close to home. That way, if you forgot anything, it’s easily correctable. Some owners offer additional services like dropping off the RV, set up, and picking it up for you to ease some of the tension. During the rental process, you’ll be able to communicate with the owner to make sure the rental experience goes smoothly.
After your first experience, if you decide it’s worth it, we recommend you rent a few more times to help you determine the best travel trailers or motorhome for your need. Try out different categories, brands, and floorplans. Before you buy your RV, this is the time to gain firsthand knowledge of what suits your needs. Meanwhile, continue to research on Camper Smarts to learn what the RV market has to offer. When you’re ready to buy, you’ll be able to save time, money, and a lot of effort with what you learned and experienced.
After you drive off the RV dealership lot, make sure you continue with Camper Smarts and stay on top of the newest trends and best camping tips. The best way to fix a problem is to know how to avoid it. By staying on top of your RV maintenance, you can focus on that blue ribbon.
Enjoying the Time in Between
As you travel from one dog show to the next, don’t forget to take some time to rejuvenate. Not only are you apart of the dog show community, but you’ve also joined the RV community. Don’t be afraid to join your fellow campers at their campfires. You’ll find that the campfire has a long tradition of being that sign of welcome to neighboring campers. With all of your dog show stories, you’ll find an avid audience and a willingness for them to share their RV wisdom.
Each year, RVs become more residential in their interior space. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself falling asleep in the massage theater seat or drifting off on the sofa. When it’s time to come home, you may find that your four-legged traveling companion is staging a sit-in protest because they love the RV lifestyle so much.
As you travel around, definitely keep your phone handy. You never know when you’ll find something photo-worthy for your dog’s social media fan page. It’s those moments that remind you why you love the sport so much or what makes your dog so special.
Your Beagle could fall in love with a tree branch that’s too big for him, but he’s trying to figure out how to grab it. Your Min Pin thinks he can stare down a cow. Then there’s that moment where three days ago you spent six hours working on your Great Pyranese’s coat, but today she had her first experience with a mud hole. It’s a good thing you chose the RV with the external shower.
About the Author
Although he’s from Motown, Brian Newman is a legacy RVer that grew up on I-75. He, his wife, and three working-class fur-babies have enjoyed the full-time RV lifestyle since 2017. Like John Madden, he hasn’t “worked” in years because he gets to write about his passion. When he’s not working, he supports his daughter’s dog rescue efforts and disability causes.