7 Tips for a Successful RV Trip with your Dog
There is nothing like traveling in an RV. RVs give travelers a place to unpack all of their belongings and transport their vacation home on wheels, complete with a fully-stocked kitchen, accessible bathroom, and comfy bed, to their destination of choice. Because of this, many love the freedom and benefits that come along with vacationing in an RV. One such benefit is the ability to bring the whole family along on trips, including the family dogs.
The idea of bringing your beloved dog along on an RV camping trip may seem daunting. After all, traveling in an RV is most likely entirely new for most dogs, and owners may not know what to expect. Consider the following tips for the successful planning of an RV trip that the entire family can enjoy. Also make sure to read our best RV pet hacks for even more tips.
1. Designate a place for your dog to travel.
When you are moving your RV from one place to another, you will need to choose a location for your dog to ride. If you are towing a fifth wheel or travel trailer, your dog will need to ride in your truck with you, as it is never safe for anyone to ride in the trailer while towing. Many dogs prefer to stretch out on the back seat, but some dogs may need to be crated due to travel anxiety. Since most dogs tend to enjoy riding in the car, this shouldn’t be too much different from any other time you take your pup for a rude.
If your RV is a motorhome, your dog may initially be nervous. After all, the feeling of being inside a moving motorhome is fairly different from being inside a moving car. Your dog may need some time to adjust. Consider laying his bed somewhere near where you will be riding or encouraging him to rest on the couch. This will ensure he is relaxed and less anxious during travel.
No matter where you choose for your dog to ride, be sure that he is comfortable when driving long hours, and plan to stop every few hours for bathroom breaks and water.
2. Decide where your dog(s) will sleep.
Your dog may not be accustomed to sleeping outside of your house. In this case, be sure to emulate a similar scenario to his sleeping situation at home. If he typically sleeps in your bed, allow the same in the RV. If he has his own dog bed, be sure to bring it along for your trip. This will ensure that your dog is comfortable and receives a good night’s sleep, which will also allow you and the rest of your family to rest as well. Find out more about dogs sleeping habits here.
3. Bring along plenty of food, toys, and water.
This is fairly basic, but it’s also important. Plan to bring along extra food for your dog, in case the worst should happen and you break down or are away longer than you initially expected. Keep his water bowl clean and accessible at all times, and bring plenty of fresh water along. Pack your dog’s favorite toys to ensure he has something to occupy himself when you are relaxing in the RV. Even your four-legged friend loves a good camping treat–but before you give your pup a perfectly golden roasted marshmallow find out here if that is a safe option.
4. Provide exercise and mental stimulation.
Your dog may be accustomed to frequent exercise in his backyard. If you are staying in a campground or at a Harvest Host location, you likely will not have a fenced in area for him to play. Some RV parks and campgrounds have fenced-in, off-leash areas for traveling pups. If this is not the case, you could find a local off-leash dog park, or take your pup for a nice long walk or jog to wear him out.
Whatever you do, try to provide your pup with the same amount of exercise that you typically do at home. After all, your dog doesn’t know that he is on vacation and will likely expect the same amount of mental stimulation as usual.
5. Decide where to leave your pup when engaging in activities that are not dog-friendly.
This tends to be one of the biggest factors when bringing your dog along on an RV trip. Perhaps you want to check out a local restaurant without a dog-friendly patio, or maybe you want to take a hike in a national park that does not allow dogs. This may require you to leave your dog alone for a few hours at a time.
RVs tend to have ample space for your dog to wander, and most dogs should be fine with being left behind for a little while. After all, most dog owners leave their dog alone at home whenever they are working or running errands, so this is something your dog should be accustomed to. Draw the blinds and play some soothing music to block out extra light and sound. This will encourage your dog to spend more time snoozing and less time barking while you are away.
If you are truly uncomfortable with leaving your dog alone for a few hours, try to plan only dog-friendly activities. If this is not possible, seek out a local pet-sitter or dog-walker to spend time with your dog while you are away.
6. Have a plan in case an emergency situation should arise.
Emergencies are unlikely, but it is always good to be prepared. Have the number for a local veterinarian handy just in case the worst should happen. Be careful not to let your dog out when coming and going from your RV, and keep an ID tag on his collar at all times. This will ensure that someone can find you if your dog were to escape.
7. Go slow.
Remember that RV travel is likely brand new for your dog. He may adjust immediately, but he may also need some time to become fully comfortable in the RV. If you plan to bring your dog along for a long trip, consider practicing with a few shorter trips first. Perhaps you can plan to spend a few hours in the RV while it is parked in your driveway so that your dog can familiarize himself with the new environment. You could even plan to spend a night in the RV ahead of time, so that your dog knows what to expect.
Every dog is different, and some may adjust more quickly than others. You know your dog best and can develop a plan of action that works best for you.
RVing with your dog may seem like a hassle, but most dog owners can agree that it is more fun to bring your dog on vacation than it is to leave him at home. In addition, you will forgo the cost of a pet sitter by bringing your dog along. Most dogs are fairly adventurous and enjoy experiencing new things with their owners. With some prior research and thoughtful considerations, you can surely plan a trip that both you and your dog will enjoy together.
Have you ever taken an RV trip with your dog? Do you have any tips to add? Feel free to comment below, and be sure to read our article on RVing with cats!
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Awesome! We really love to bring our dogs along with us one trip. I think Horse camping seems really nice! I better saddle up and prepare the horse camper trailer I got from https://ropingsupply.com/store/trailers/horse-trailers/ for our family trip with our horses!
HaVe you or anyone you know purchased one of those crates that have multi-panels for expansion (For instance, you could make it like a fenced in yard around or in front of your RV) for extended stays while rv-ing? And if so, any recommendations? I have a 20lb mini-dachshund (Yes, she’s a tub!) and a 40lb Pitt/hound mix. We plan to travel for the winter to warmer spots and would like to golf so are looking for options for the pups.
Hey Erica! I have never used one of those, as my dogs are big and could just easily hop the fence. Lol. However, if you scroll through the other comments, there are several other people here who mentioned that they use the portable fences and enjoy using them. 🙂
We set up panels each time we set up camp. We have the 4 foot tall ones since we have 5 large dogs that travel everywhere with us. Works great!
We are new to the rv life and have two large dogs. You have five…what kind of rv to you have? Ours is a fifth wheel. How do the dogs travel to the site with you?
Looking for suggestions on how to safely get our long legged Labrador Retriever in and out of our Tiffin Open Road 32SA motorhome. We have a Weather Tech ramp that has a step connecting 2 ramps. The ramp up the stairs is pretty steep. Our dog tends to run up and down the ramp fairly fast. Her long legs sometimes miss the ramp and she risks falling off the side of the ramp. We just started working with her but don’t want her to have a bad experience and not want to scale the ramp again.
Thanks for any tips.
A suggestion: put a cell phone number you can be reached on your pets tags.
Excellent tip! ID tags are a must!
We are just back from an 8000 mile “maiden voyage” in a class B camper van that my husband converted (a Ford Transit 350 extended). He built dog crates into the van during the conversion so we could keep the dogs extra safe while driving, and they did fantastic! They loved their crates, and slept through the night in them. Every day we planned some sort of hike to do with them, so we all got exercise. They were never off leash when out of the van.
If you are interested in seeing the built in crates, someone in Florida did a YouTube video of our van conversion. You may not feel like watching the whole thing just to see the crates, but I will post the link in case you are interested and/or doing a build yourself.
Wow, that’s an awesome van build and a great idea on the built-in crates! I am working on a built-in crate for one of my dogs, so it was great to see your tips and ideas. Thanks or sharing!
Great article, with good info.
Our dog was fine traveling all over the US for 5 years in our SUV in a soft carrier with top and side zipper access from the front seat.
Our issue was always finding a clean, safe, dog friendly hotel. That was of the reasons for getting a Class B. Freedom to just stop wherever.
Before using the RV we fed him his favorite food in the RV when parked in our driveway. Set up the bed and just laid there with him. His “crate” was a refuge place for him.
The same carrier in our SUV is fastened securely to the rear child seat fasteners. In the RV it also is ALWAYS secured. We have read stories of dogs being lost after a car crash.
My wife prepared a folder of our dogs info with Vet info., all legal documents, even current COLOR printout pictures with lost dog info, (hopefully never needed). available for instant handing out to Police, Fire Mail Carrier, etc.
Our dog is ALWAYS on a leash, even in the carrier. We have traveled where there are rattlesnakes and other potential risks. Dogs are nosey and that’s what causes a risk. Our sister in law has a Vet practice in Florida and treated many dogs with snake bites.
I always walk with a 5′ rod/staff and use it to tap bushes and the path in front of us while keeping him short leashed. The staff could serve me in an emergency if I had a ankle injury while isolated. Stray dogs pose risks NEVER assume all dogs are friendly. My dog was attacked while walking with me within a mile of our home. It came from behind us with no barking or growling.
I agree with other people that would “never risk their pet on technology” by leaving their pet in the RV and going away. To assume your AC will kick in at a certain temperature and keep running does just that.
Thanks again and safe/smart travels to all.
Learn the hazards where you are going. Try to be prepared.
Hey Michael! Great tips for traveling with a dog. Sounds like you and your dog have had some excellent travels together. Wishing you both many happy trails in the future!
Any advise on taking a Motor Home with tow vehicle up to Alaska. We are talking about this with some friends to caravan with but could use some advise. Also, any Harvest Host on the way? Thanks
We traveled from Homer AK to Portland last fall in a Roadtrek. Beautiful trip. Provincial campgrounds are rustic but wonderful. Firewood. In a beautiful area. May not have hookups but dump stations easy to find. Cost about $15 Canadian (cash please). Purchase a copy of The Milepost which is a mile by mile description. I did not see any Harvest Hosts in Canada, I do see some new ones in Alaska. We traveled with our curly coated retriever with no problems. We did keep her on a leash, lots of wildlife. You will need paperwork from the vet that is not too old. And you can’t bring dog food purchased in Canada into the US, for some reason. We just brought enough with us.
Hey Bette! Thanks for the suggestions, I’ll be taking note of these for my own trip up to Alaska this summer. 🙂
Hey Richard! I’m planning to take this exact trip this upcoming summer. No tips yet, but I have many friends who did it and had an excellent time. There are many Harvest Hosts in Western Canada and Alaska. To find them, use the map search tool and look in the provinces of BC and Alberta and also Alaska. You can also map out Harvest Hosts based on the route you plan to take with our new route search feature. Best of luck on your travels!
We took a 3 week road trip to the Southwest with our pup Luna and we all had an awesome time. We have a camper van and know that an RV might offer more comforts (air conditioning?) than our van does. Just want to note that in our case leaving our dog in the van when we went out was not an option as it got way too hot inside, even in early Spring. As others have mentioned, we had good luck using Rover to find dog sitters for the occasional outing where we couldn’t take Luna. Thanks for a great article and tips!
So glad to hear that you and Luna had a great trip! Great suggestion on not leaving the dog behind when it’s too hot outside. For those with air conditioning and want to leave the pets, temperature monitoring systems are a great idea.
That’s my biggest concern is what to do with my dog if I want to go to a restaurant, museum if other site where dogs are not permitted.
In this case, I just leave my dogs in my RV (weather permitting). Since the RV is our home, it is no different than leaving them home when you have to go out. Of course, this is not recommended if the weather is too hot, and you do not have access to electrical hookups.
The only comment I did not see what keeping pets on leashes around other campers. Also to keep them quiet had night for those that bark a lot. We used a pop up Calm tent to start and get our pets adjusted to the area. Twice I have dogs run out of their RV and come right at me. I love dogs but you never know. Thank you for letting me share this.
Totally agree about leashes! It’s always important to have your dogs on leash, especially in campgrounds and around others. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
We travel with 6 dogs – full time RVers. We are a bit of a crazy clown car of dogs. But…. We work very diligently to ensure our dogs are happy, safe and not obnoxious to other people.
We use 4 sections of portable fencing that’s 4 feet tall. Takes us 15 minutes to set up, connect each section and secure it. If a dog shot out of the rv door, they are in the secure fenced area. The whole thing cost about $200.
We also use our Echo Plus with internal temperature sensor to monitor and alert us if the interior temperature reaches 79 degrees. Alexa sends an alert to my phone. We use a WiFi hotspot to ensure that the Echo can communicate.
Never leave your dogs alone without real AC and full electric hookups. Never leave them out on those awful tie out cables – takes just a minute to seriously injure a leg in a single loop tangle.
I’m a canine behaviorist and I have trained our dogs to respond to the “quiet” command with positive, instant reinforcement. This way they aren’t borking at random folks. We use soft side crates when needed – easy to pack away. Thus far, we have all had a great time on the road and as park hosts.
Thanks so much for sharing all these tips! The fencing sounds great, as well as the temperature sensor. Best of luck to you and your pack in all your future travels! 🙂
Hello, your post os very useful. I have 2 black labs, and really wanting a third. I will be a solo female starting out RVING this Spring 2021. I’ve had 3 before, but not on the road. My biggest concern is if we need to spend a day or week at an rv park, instead of boondocking. Will we get turned away? I want a third black lab puppy. They are so great as a pack, hard to express how wonderful they are. Would love to hear your perspective…good or bad.
I have three dogs on the road with me now! There have been a couple of parks with a two-dog limit, but this is not the typical experience. However, it maybe be an occasional issue for you, but I would say that most parks do not care as much.
I have had three Border Terriers in a row that traveled with my wife and me. The first one made it to 49 states (no Hawaii) and every Canadian province before he died. The second one went to 39 states and 5 provinces and then passed away. All that traveling was in a 5th wheel. Never had any issues. If a place didn’t like dogs then my wife and I figured they didn’t need us. My new puppy is just 5 month old. I sold my 5th wheel and truck and bought a new F350 and a Northern Lite camper. My plan is to go to every state but of course not Hawaii ( unless they build a tunnel and eliminate the dog quaranteen) and every Canadian province again. I have had no problems traveling with my dogs. It is important to make sure you have all the dog’s paperwork up to date as well as their shots. I never had any issues entering Canada. The US is more of a challenge but no real issues.
I wish you all the best of travels and don’t forget your pets. They need a vacation too.
Wow, sounds like all three of your dogs have had some excellent travels! Wishing you all the best on your adventures with your new puppy! 🙂
I travel in a 15ft camper trailer and a Jeep Wrangler. My dog enjoys his bed in the Jeep and sleeping with me in the camper. I also acknowledge that this is his trip as well as mine, so I try to let him have dog time everyday. For him that is usually an hour of sniffing everything. I take a faster pace walk later in the day. He loves being out of doors and spends most of his time sleeping in the sun/shade while tied to the camper.
Great to hear that your dog loves RV life so much! I completely agree that it’s best to let him have dog time each day. Thanks for sharing!
I use Rover.com to find local pet sitters and walkers. I did a river raft ride in Moab two yrs ago and left my dog at the sitter home all day. Well worth the money and peace of mind!!
Yes, Rover is a great resource! Thanks for sharing your experience!
Bring your pets health cert to support up to date on shots, etc. make sure they are also protected from ticks and fleas. soft sided crates are wonderful for RV travel, they store easily. Bottled water is good for pets and coffee. 17,000 miles last year with my dog and me.
Wow, you and your dog have traveled far! Great tips, especially about the records and flea/tick prevention. Thanks for your comment!
We travel with three golden retrievers. We have never had any serious issues. The dogs get really excited when the hear the motor home pull up in front of our house. They love traveling in the RV.
That sounds like so much fun! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
We bought our RV because we like to travel a lot and it was getting harder and harder to arrange care for the dogs all the time. They get super excited each time the RV is being loaded for a trip. We have a 6 year old high energy Vizsla and a 12 year old standard poodle and we couldn’t imagine RV life without them!
Yes, having the RV really makes it easier to travel when you have pets. Thanks for sharing!