There’s no doubt about it—we’re a nation of dog lovers. Almost two-thirds of households in the U.S. own a pet, dogs being the companion of choice for nearly half of that total. Limitless adoration, judgment-free companionship, slobbery kisses—what’s not to love? Experts tout numerous health benefits of pet ownership, like lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, increasing physical activity, and decreasing feelings of loneliness. Cuddling with your pup is medicine we can all live with.
This is great news for RVers, who’ve been driving, hiking, boating, and camping with their four-legged friends for decades. In fact, RVing is one of the best ways to vacation with your pets, especially with a little pre-trip preparation and a few canine-specific travel strategies to ensure success. Keep your family and your dog happy and safe with this refresher in pet etiquette on the road.
1. Before You Leave Home
Lay the groundwork for a smooth trip by making sure your dog’s shots are up to date and printing a copy of vaccination records to stash in the RV. Pack a supply of your pup’s meds that will last the length of the trip, including outdoor essentials like flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. Store canine first aid necessities like tweezers, ice pack, antiseptic spray, gauze, antihistamines, and paw salve like Musher’s Secret. Research emergency vet clinics near your destination and scout out doggie daycares nearby if you’re planning to leave your RV for extended periods and can’t take your dog with you.
2. Create a Dog-Friendly Space
Coexisting with your pup in the reduced space of an RV can be a challenge. Minimize the stress by thinking through your daily routine and creating room where you need it. RV manufacturers are designing models with your dog in mind by including wider doors, mudroom entryways, built-in food and water stations, and Class A motorhomes with floor-level windows for dogs that like to travel with a view. If your dog is crate-trained, pick a spot to set up a roomy crate that can be stored away when you return. If you don’t want to share your bed, make sure a door or gate bars the way into your bedroom. Consider installing a remote temperature monitoring system to keep tabs on your heat and AC when your pets have to be left alone.
3. Set Expectations
Dogs are most calm and secure when they have a place to call their own. Dedicate space in your RV for their meals and naps, making the rules clear and consistent from day one. If you’re training a puppy or adopting an older rescue, take short trips to make the adjustment easier. Set boundaries outside your rig as well with a portable play yard or tether no longer than six feet long. Store supplies like leashes, scoop bags, and a towel near your entry. Never leave your dog outside unattended.
4. Visit Pet-Friendly Destinations
Eliminate unpleasant surprises by booking campsites at dog-friendly campgrounds and parks. KOA is one of your best options. All KOAs have fenced, off-leash Kamp K9 play areas just for pups. Play fetch or relax in the shade while your dog makes new friends. Some Kamp K9 locations ramp up the fun with agility obstacles like seesaws, jumps, and weave poles.
Check state and national park regulations for restrictions on trail use with dogs. Many national parks allow dogs in campgrounds but restrict trail access due to wildlife activity. Beach access can also be an issue, so research shoreline rules not only in the park but in nearby municipalities, to find spots you can take your pup for a stroll or swim on the beach. Recently, some parks have adopted restrictions on specific breeds and breed mixes, so comb through park rules carefully to make sure you won’t be turned away at check-in.
5. Play Safe
Camping is all about enjoying the outdoors. Maximize your fun by researching your destination’s wildlife and terrain ahead of time. If there are bears, snakes, and other potentially threatening wildlife in the area, stay alert on the trail and in the water. Though it’s tempting to let your dog run free, even the best-behaved pup might be tempted to chase squirrels, deer, and other critters you meet along the way. A six-foot leash keeps your dog and the native fauna safe. Outfit your dog with a sturdy collar, current rabies vaccination tag, and ID tag with your name, your dog’s name, your cell number and address, and microchip information as a safety precaution.
Check the weather conditions and adjust your activities accordingly based on your dog’s age and physical condition. Summer trail running in 98 percent humidity with a fur coat on wouldn’t be fun for anyone. And a 10-mile hike that you and your pup did a few years ago may not be such a good fit once your dog becomes a senior citizen. Back at the RV, check for ticks, burrs, and other hitchhikers that may have jumped on board while you were out. At the end of a long day on the trail, a thorough brushing and paw check make for a cleaner RV and a happy dog.
Written by Ann Gibson for RootsRated Media in partnership with Kampgrounds of America.