Most RV owners tend to have a love of the outdoors, which goes hand in hand with being a dog owner. Since dogs are natural companions to take on adventures, most of them can easily adapt to the RV lifestyle. This guide is for dog owners who are ready to start RVing with pets to help you prepare to hit the road for the first time with your canine best friend..
The RV lifestyle is a pet paradise on earth! Dogs are social creatures and have been ever since dogs and wolves started to become friends approximately 20,000 years ago. Not only do dogs and humans get to experience life together while RVing, but they also share the health benefits of being outside.
Dogs and humans experience health benefits – both physical and mental -when they spend time together. Science has proved that both humans and dogs experience an increase in the "love hormone" oxytocin when we spend time together. Increased oxytocin reduces stress and promotes better sleep, which both lead to an improvement in overall health. Some studies have even shown that oxytocin reduces pain and helps wounds heal more quickly.
Dogs want to be where their humans are, and that time together is even better when spent outside. Researchers found that spending time in nature increases serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine, all of which are associated with improved mental and physical health. The combination of spending time together and doing things outside together is a win-win combination for dogs and humans.
The RV lifestyle is ideal for people who love to spend time outside and want modern comforts like kitchens, bathrooms, a climate-controlled place to sleep in a real bed, and shelter when the weather is not cooperative.
When it comes to leisure time while RVing, most dogs are happy to go on long walks, hikes, or hang out in outdoor living areas. After all, the outside is where they really, genuinely get to be dogs.
Dogs experience the world mainly through scent, and the outdoors offers up a continual array of new smells. Smelling new scents is a great way to provide mental stimulation for your dog as well as health benefits.
Two French scientists found that the activity of sniffing their environment lowers a dog's pulse rate. Lower pulse rates are usually associated with better heart health.
Behaviorists also claim that sniffing makes a dog feel less stressed and more connected to its world. When dogs live the RV lifestyle, they can sniff new things regularly, which is what their noses were made to do.
Merely outside having health benefits all on its own. Fresh air is good for blood pressure, heart rate, lungs, immune system, and more. The same holds for your dog.
"According to Animal Wellness Magazine, being outdoors "Is vital to your dog's happiness and well-being" and helps with weight control, reduces boredom, anxiety, and depression, and may even be rejuvenated as they connect with the earth's electromagnetic field.''
Although dogs love to go and explore with their humans, they are also creatures of habit when it comes to daily things like sleeping, eating, and going to the bathroom. RVs provide a familiar home on wheels for your dog no matter where your journey takes you.
When you travel with your dog in an RV instead of staying at hotels, motels, or vacation rentals, you can keep the same habits no matter where you go. Dogs learn through repetition, so having consistency in how you do things for them is helpful, reassuring, and reduces their stress level. Although your dog loves to sniff a new trail on a walk, they want their dinner at the same time in the same place.
Most dog owners know that their dogs can pinpoint the exact time to be fed or taken to their daily potty-breaks. Many dogs can also recognize their humans' gestures and movements that lead up to a meal or trip outside. When you travel via RV, you can maintain those same procedures, so your dog does not have to relearn the process every time. Your leashes can be stored in the same place, and you can enter and return through the same door. Their meal can take place in the same location.
Your RV is your home on wheels, and it is entirely your space. As a dog owner, this eliminates the worry that your dog will have a potty accident or chew something in a hotel room out of nervousness. You also eliminate the concern of housekeeping staff entering your room and having an encounter with your dog or risk someone accidentally letting them out.
RVs are a much safer option when traveling a long distance than an airplane. Large dogs must travel in a plane's cargo area, which is unpleasant, lonely, and potentially hazardous. Dogs have died from long, unexpected layovers or have been sent to the wrong destination.
One dog was even mistakenly sent from Oregon to Japan instead of Kansas because of an airline error. Most responsible breeders will no longer allow their puppies to travel to their new owners via airplane because of the hazards involved.
There are several key features to look for when purchasing an RV or camper to share with your dogs. Although these are not must-haves, they will make life more comfortable for both humans and canines.
1. Space for crates or kennels
When you introduce dogs to crates in the right way, they view the crate as a Safe haven or a place for naps and quiet time. Crates also offer protection for dogs when you must run an errand so that they do not get into trouble by chewing something they should not or breaking out and becoming lost.
2. Dog-friendly flooring
Having fun outdoors usually comes along with plenty of mud and dirt. Dog-friendly flooring allows for easier cleanup from dirty paws as well as occasional vomiting or potty accidents.
3. A dog-friendly floor plan
Since RVs come in various shapes, sizes, and floorplans, look for one that has enough space for your dog to find a spot to nap when all the humans are inside. Slide-outs can help increase the available space as well as furniture that is removable.
4. Outdoor shower
Dogs may be our best friends, but they are still dogs, and dogs love dirty, stinky things. An outdoor shower will be your favorite feature when your dog needs a bath.
5. Storage for dog supplies
When shopping for your RV, make sure you have space to store your puppy's food, leashes, crate, bed, outdoor fencing, and everything else you need to live life with a dog in an RV.
In addition to your regular RVing supplies, some must-have items will make life easier when camping with your dog.
1. Travel bowls
Although collapsible bowls are smaller to store, stainless steel bowls are easier to clean and sanitize between trips.
2. Food storage container
Pests like ants and mice are frequent problems when staying in a camper. An air-tight food storage container will help keep pests out of your pet's food.
3. Toys and chews
Your dog will feel more at home with their favorite toys and chews and have something to do during any downtime when humans want to relax. A Kong stuffed with a banana and some peanut butter placed in the freezer is a good distraction for an energetic dog.
4. Waggle Pet Monitor
A temperature monitor is a must-have device if you need to leave your dog in your RV camper to run errands, grab dinner at a restaurant, or go on an excursion that does not allow pets. Waggle's Pet Monitor 4G sends you periodic updates so that you know if your camper is at a safe temperature while your dog is alone.
5. Dog bed or blanket
A dog bed or blanket will give your dog a spot of their own for bedtime when you just want to relax.
Treats are a great way to reward good behavior and help your dog associate time in the RV with good things. You can even treat your dog when they do everyday things like resting calmly in the camp when you are cooking or reading. Giving a treat and telling them "good dog" will reinforce that their calm behavior is something you view positively.
7. Waste bags
Picking up after your dog is a must whether you are in a populated campground or Boondocking in the wilderness. Because of the ingredients in modern pet food, pet waste contains phosphorus and nitrogen, leading to bacteria and algae in natural water sources.
8. Pet Activity Monitor
Traveling outdoors doesn't mean that your dog's fitness routine has to stop. A Pet Fitness & Activity Monitor, like Furbit, can help you monitor your pet's activity and ensure he gets sufficient amounts of exercise to be fit and healthy. It also comes in handy whenever you lose sight of your escape artist.
If your dog is new to staying in a camper or RV, it is essential to take the time to introduce him or her to their new environment before you leave your driveway.
Whether you park your RV in your own driveway or take your dog to where you store your unit, we suggest you take your dog on a pre-trip tour of the camp. Let them enter at their own pace and allow them to sniff this new world for as long as they want. You can bring a few of their toys, their water bowl, and even hang out together for a brief period just to let them get used to the idea.
Bring plenty of treats, and when they react positively, give them treats and praise them so that they understand this is a fun and safe place to hang out with you.
After the initial introduction to your RV unit, plan on a short overnight trip to a local campground. This will give both of you a practice run so your dog can see what it is like to stay in the camp. You can also use this time to make a list of things you would like to purchase and modifications you would like to make to make life more comfortable for both you and your dog.
The more fun you make your first camping trip, the better, so plan on taking a hike or long walk with your dog.
Not only will your dog associate camping by doing fun things, but it will wear him out so that you can both sleep better in an unfamiliar place.
Although every dog should go through at least one obedience class as a puppy or after they are rescued as an adult, there are some training commands that you can brush up on before traveling with your pet. These are important for your dog's safety and to be a good neighbor to your fellow campers.
This command is crucial for dogs to know so that they do not bolt out of the RV's open door, especially if you are not able to create a small fenced area outside your unit. It is also important to walk on a narrow path and step to the side to let other dogs and humans pass by.
A rock-solid recall is essential all the time, but particularly when you are traveling to strange places. This could be lifesaving if your pet darts out from an open car or camper door. Even slips out of their collar or harness while outside of your camper.
When living in a small space like an RV unit, your dog needs to know the off or leave-it command. This is useful if you drop something like an item of food or a medication that could be hazardous to your pet if eaten.
In close quarters like a camper, your dog can get to the medications much more quickly than if you were at home in a larger kitchen or bathroom.
Although nobody likes to think about something terrible happening while traveling with their pet, there are some precautions you can take so that you can prepare for worst-case scenarios.
Before leaving home, it is important to create a folder or binder that contains information that you need if your pet were to be lost or injured.
We suggest making copies of the following information
to include in your emergency kit:
Vaccination records or titer test results
Medication name, dosage amounts, and instructions
Most recent annual or bi-annual checkup report,
including heartworm test and fecal results
Information on all chronic or recurring issues
Your dog's allergies
Your veterinarian's contact information
Your emergency contacts
Recent photos of your dog
Pet insurance plan information
Your pet first aid kit should minimally include the following:
Canine first aid manual
Bandages and medical tape
Cotton balls and cotton swabs
For additional information on creating a pet first aid kit and other steps to take to plan for emergencies when on a road trip with your dog, check out our guide, Preparing for Veterinary Emergencies While RVing.
The most common methods for restraining your pet while traveling in a moving vehicle are the travel crate and the pet seat belt.
Travel crates can fit in a variety of vehicles. If you are pulling your RV with an SUV or a pickup truck with an extended cab, you may have enough room for a travel crate. You can use Travel crates also in Class A or Class C Motorhomes.
A travel crate can be a comfortable option for your dog and offer some protection during an accident. However, there is still potential for your dog to bounce around within the crate during a crash. And it could result in injuries.
Pet Seat Belts
Several manufacturers offer pet seat belts that have been crash-tested for safety. These seat belts work with the regular seat belt system of your vehicle. It is vital to secure a dog to a seat belt using an approved, appropriately sized harness and never by their collar.
Regardless of whether you use a travel crate, a pet seat belt or choose not to use either, it would be best if you did not transport your dog in the bed of a pickup, a travel trailer, or a fifth wheel. Or even any sort of camper towed behind a vehicle, even if they are in a travel crate. If you camp in a travel trailer or fifth wheel, make sure you leave room for your dog in your towing vehicle.
Although dogs love to experience new things and go on adventures with you, they are creatures of habit for their food, bathroom breaks, and sleep schedule. Your dog will be more relaxed if you keep as close to its regular schedule as possible. When traveling to your destination, make sure to stop for plenty of potty breaks to ensure that they ride along with you in comfort.
Even though the RV lifestyle is too dog-friendly, it is still a good idea to research your destination to review all the rules regarding pets before you arrive. Many campgrounds have breed-specific laws and regulations regarding fencing, tie-outs, designated potty areas, and more. Even if you have made a reservation, we suggest having at least one or two back-up options nearby if the campground makes a booking error.
We also suggest researching local parks and hiking trails to confirm that dogs are allowed on the trails. Although hiking at a particular national park may be on your must-do list, learning that your dog is not allowed to hit the course with you will be an unwelcome surprise.
Check out All Trails for a substantial list of dog-friendly parks and hiking trails around the United States. The National Park Service also has a website with suggestions on enjoying different national parks with your dog. BringFido is an excellent resource for finding pet-friendly events all over the country. Check out their Events page and search for events near your campground.
Most dog owners know that their dogs can pinpoint the exact time they are fed or taken to their daily potty-breaks. Many dogs can also recognize their humans' gestures and movements that lead up to a meal or trip outside. When you travel via RV, you can maintain those same procedures, so your dog does not have to relearn the process every time. Your leashes can be stored in the same place, and you can enter and return through the same door. Their meal can take place in the same location.
Doing extensive research, planning, and preparation will help your road trip with your dog to be an excellent experience for both of you. Sometimes, the best parts of a vacation are the things you do not plan on doing. As long as your dog is safe and not showing signs of distress, it is ok to try new things and take advantage of spur-of-the-moment opportunities. The most important thing is that you and your dog are together and enjoying time outdoors together.
Whether you are a full-time RVer or just a casual weekend camper, share your moments with the pet parent community. A cool pic or a quick video from your trip is both a fun and a rewarding experience. It also helps other pet parents to learn and plan road trips in the future with their furry kids.