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How To: Our Top Tips for Taking Your Dog RVing!

Video: RV Tips: Traveling with a Dog

Absolutely, one of our favorite things about RVing is that our pets can travel with us! We don't have to worry about paying for boarding or asking a neighbor to take care of them while we are out of town. We just load them up in the RV and off we go to share adventures. We travel with two pets: our cat (Lilo) and our dog (Star). RVing with cats is a completely different conversation that we will share in the future. In this post, we share our top tips for RVing with a dog. So let's jump right into this adventure of camping with canines!
Help Your Dog Feel at Home in Your RV
We have traveled with two different pups. When we began RVing, our dog Sally was an older dog. To help her get used to being in the RV, we carried some familiar items for her: her favorite blanket and towel (she loved a good pallet) and her favorite stuffed animal. Star's favorite items are her bed and a few toys, so we make sure to carry them with us on every RV trip. These familiar items help her feel at home in the RV and help her to maintain some of her routine. Speaking of routine, we also try to stay on schedule for her mealtimes when we travel. And she eats the same food and amount of that food as she does at home. We carry her food in a portable pet "lunchbox" that keeps the food sealed and serves as a food bowl when it's time to eat. We protect it from ants and critters by keeping it in the RV. As for water, we carry a stainless steel water bowl with a rubber bottom. We find it to be very durable, stable, easy to clean, and it doesn't slide around. Here's one similar to what we have: Durapet Rubber-Bonded Stainless Steel Dog Bowl. We always put her water bowl inside the RV when we leave the campsite to keep birds and wildlife out of it.
Check Park Pet Restrictions
Some RV parks and campgrounds have pet restrictions. Be sure to call ahead so that you are sure that your pets will meet any requirements. Some parks will limit the number of pets per camper. Others will only allow certain breeds or sizes of dogs. And there are a few parks that do not allow pets at all. It's best to know before you go, so you don't arrive after a day of driving only to be turned away.
Carry Current Medical Records For Your Dog
Although we have never personally been asked to provide documentation of our dog's vaccinations, it is best practice to always carry a copy of your pet's updated medical records in your RV. Some parks may require this documentation and it is very helpful to have with you in case of an emergency. It's also good to be sure that they are current on all of their vaccinations as well as heartworm, flea and tick treatments when you will be camping near other dogs or in natural settings. Even with Star being current on these treatments, we still check her every night for ticks or other little critters that might latch on. And this nightly "tick check" has paid off several times. You don't want those nasty things on your pets, on you or in your RV!
Tom and Star

Tom and Star

Stacie and Sally

Stacie and Sally in 2014

Minimize Your Dog's Access in Your RV
If you will be leaving your dog in your RV while you go somewhere, of course you want to be sure that the RV will be cool and comfortable for your pets, but it might also be a good idea to limit how much of the living space your dog has access to while you are gone. This is especially helpful as your pet becomes adjusted to being in the RV, but it's also a good way to separate multiple pets and give each a little space to themselves or to limit what curious pets might get into while you are gone. We typically close off our bedroom door, giving Lilo access to the bedroom and Star access to the living area.
Do Not Leave Your Dog Unattended Outside
Most, if not all, parks will have restrictions about leaving your dog outside alone. Please remember, this is a strange environment for your dog. They might be overly excited, nervous or even scared without you. They could come into contact with wild animals, insects or other dogs that could be dangerous to them. And children or some adults may wander up to them without realizing how your dog could react to them. It is always best practice to bring your dog inside the RV with you. And if you are going to leave the campsite, even for what you expect to be a short period of time, it's best for your dog to be inside while you are gone. You might get delayed and sometimes the unexpected can happen very quickly.
Protect Those Paws!
Star LOVES to go walking and hiking just like we do. But we always try to be mindful of her paws. Hot surfaces can burn a dog's pads and rough, rocky terrain can bruise or cut their feet. Always pay attention to the surface you are walking on. Watch for sharp items like thorns, sharp rocks or disgarded glass, and try to walk your dog on cool, smooth surfaces. We also check Star's paws from time to time to make sure they're okay.
Always Be Prepared to Pick Up After Your Pet
In a strange environment away from home, a dog's system can work a little differently. It usually takes Star a day or two to acclimate to her surroundings and her digestive system might get off schedule. We have learned to always carry bags with us while we are camping so we are prepared to pick up after her whenever nature calls.
Don't Forget to Hydrate Your Dog
You always hear about the importance of carrying water and staying hydrated while you are out hiking. The same holds true for your dog. Remember, they are walking just as far as you are, but with shorter legs and covered in fur! We carry an extra water bottle for Star. There are several options to help her drink. She prefers to just drink out of our hands. But, our dog Sally preferred to drink from an adaptor we put on the end of a disposable water bottle. You could also carry a collapsible water bowl similar to this one: Bonza Collapsible Dog Bowl.
Use a Tie-Out or "Lead" to Keep Your Dog in Your Campsite
Most parks have a leash length requirement of 6 feet or less. But what do you do when you are relaxing in your campsite? You don't want to be holding on to your dog's leash all of the time. We use a cable tie-out to give Star some freedom to move around while still keeping her within our campsite. You can connect the cable to anything that cannot be moved (a picnic table for example) or you can connect it to a spiral anchor screwed into the ground. Here is a cable tie-out similar to the one we use: BV Pet Reflective Tie Out Cable and here is an anchor like ours: Camco Spiral Anchor. The key here is to make sure that this lead is not too long. You want your pup confined to well within your campsite so there is no risk of them entering the path of cars or folks and other dogs walking by.
Please Be Respectful of Others
Not everyone in the park is going to be a dog lover. Some folks will be afraid of dogs. But even dog lovers don't want to hear constant barking. If your dog is super excitable and loves to talk, come up some ways to calm him/her down or distract them when they start to bark. All dogs can be expected to bark a bit, you just don't want it to be more often than not. Good dog etiquette at home is the same as good dog etiquette on the road.
BONUS TIP! Watch for Sticker Burrs
Like we mentioned above, you always want to pay attention to what is on the ground. But this is true, not just when you are hiking, but also in your campsite. Some areas can be home to the dreaded sticker burrs. We know immediately if Star has stepped on one because she will hold her paw up until we pull the sticker out. These little thorny burrs can be very painful if stepped on, but they can also stick to your dog's belly, side, back... anywhere that touches the ground. Always check your dog (and your shoes, sock and pants) for sticker burrs before you go into your RV. Otherwise, they could end up on your floor for you to step on in your bare feet!

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Safe Travels and Happy Camping!