As you probably know, we travel with two amazing, awesome, intelligent, beautiful dogs. They are much nicer than your dogs! (We are just a little biased on this issue). Their names are Tucker (left) and Bella (right).
Of course, as dog lovers, we had to take our dogs when we decided to RV. More practical people would avoid this altogether. And of course, they are right. But what’s a dog lover to do?
So rather than answer the question of whether you can travel with dogs, let’s start solving the various issues that arise because you are traveling with dogs.
Choosing a Dog-Friendly RV
If you are in the market for an RV and plan to travel with dogs, here are a couple of things
- Minimal carpet – accidents happen!
- No floor level windows or sliding doors – large dogs could get excited and break through them
- A place to put the dog bed
- If Fido is crate trained, you need a place for the crate.
- A place to put the food and water bowls.
- A place to store food in an air-tight container – to avoid rodents and bugs.
Getting Your Dog Used to Traveling
Our dogs have been riding in cars and trucks since they were puppies, so they are not concerned with travel. But we know people who have older dogs that have not been in vehicles much.
Their solution was to allow the pup to sit in the vehicle while it was not moving for a while, with a favorite blanket or toy. You might try getting him used to riding in a car first. If you plan to use a harness (see below), give him a chance to get used to that before taking off for your long trip. As with anything, take it in slow steps and get the comfort level up.
Many RVers choose to have their dogs in a crate while they travel. This ensures that the driver is never distracted by a dog trying to say hello while moving down the road. Others use a dog harness and a seat belt on the couch. We do not constrain our dogs while we travel. Some people will surely disagree with that. But we do have a co-pilot, whose job is to make sure that no-one with four legs comes into the driving area. This is certainly a judgment call, based on your dogs and their personality.
Travel day for us tends to be about 200-250 miles. This is a long time to be in a vehicle, even for people. For a dog that is used to running around outside, that’s an eternity!
Plan a rest stop every hour or so, at least initially. This is actually good for the humans on board also. Get out of the rig. Walk, stretch, use the bathroom, grab a snack. But most important, get the pups out for a long walk. Most rest stops have signs indicating the preferred place to walk the dogs. Be sure to have them on a leash in a traffic area, of course.
When we “land” for the day, we start with an introductory walk. Bill starts hooking up the utilities while I take the furbabies around the new campground. They can do their job and sniff out new friends.
Campgrounds and Their Rules
Most campgrounds allow dogs. However, it is essential to confirm this when you make your reservations. Be aware that there are often restrictions and rules. Restrictions we see often include:
- No dogs over X pounds (usually 40-50 lbs.)
- No dogs of “dangerous” breeds. (Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, Rottweilers are the breeds we usually see listed)
- Dogs must be “approved”. This is actually a crazy rule that will make me look for another park. I am not going to drive up to your site at 4 in the afternoon only to get turned away because you do not like my dog.
Once your dog is permitted on the premises, now you have to live with the rules. Here are the ones we often see:
- Keep a leash on your dog, (and be holding the other end!) I know a lot of dog owners resist this because their pups come when they are called. Ours do too. But, we have had enough trouble, even when they are on leashes, to know that they could chase a cat, or knock over a two-year-old or a little old lady. I know Tucker believes his job is to eradicate the world of cats. When he was younger, he scooted out of my front door, fought with a cat, and cost me a $500 vet bill. No one asked why the cat was not on a leash!
- Clean up after your dog. Years ago, this was never done. But it is one of the nicest changes to public places. Thank you so much for not leaving dog messes on the side of the walk. The world is a better place!
- Don’t tie the dog up outside and leave it there. Last month, Bella was tied to a table with a cloth leash. We were sitting there with her and talking to neighbors. Suddenly she saw a “friend” and ran to greet the other dog. She was so excited she broke the leash! That would have been a disaster if we had been inside.
- Some parks prohibit leaving the dog unattended inside your RV. This one is a little harder to deal with. I normally will not stay at a campground with this rule for more than one night. See the notes below on leaving your dog unattended.
- All dog walks must be in this 20′ x 100′ area. That’s ridiculous. We’re leaving.
Day Trips When You Have Dogs
One of the most complicated parts of RV-ing with pets is this: What do you do with Tucker and Bella when we are away from the rig, seeing the sights. This is our reason for traveling in the first place. We go places to see stuff.
There are three choices that I can think of. First, we could leave the dogs home i the RV. Or, we could take them with us on the day trip. The third option is to leave the dogs with a trusted daycare. All options have complications and benefits.
Option 1: Leave The Dog Home
This is the best option when your destination is not dog-friendly. It is just not going to work to take the pup on a trip to a museum or a concert house in the city. And no, the dog does not get to go into a grocery store. If you decide to leave Tucker and Bella in the rig for a while, here are some considerations.
- Know how long your dog can stay alone without having an accident.
- Be aware of the dog’s barking habits. The quickest way to get cranky neighbors is to leave a barking dog for several hours. If you are not sure, try pretending to leave by driving the car way and hide behind the rig. Have a neighbor walk by and see if the dog barks. If they do, you might consider closing shades to limit what the dog can see that might set them off.
- Put all people food in the cupboards. One time, Bella sniffed out Tucker’s antibiotic medicine, because it was “meat flavored”, and chewed through the plastic bottle to get to it. Now I had two dogs to worry about! Another time, we had a covered pyrex bowl of food on the counter to thaw out. She pulled it to the ground and it shattered. When I got home, I was terrified that she might have eaten glass mixed into the food. (She lived, so I guess she avoided the glass)
- Here’s the hardest puzzle. What do you do on a hot day? I will state absolutely that you do not leave the dog in the rig with the Air Conditioner running for an extended time. It is VERY likely that the electricity will go out on a hot day, leaving the dog cooped up in a rig that gets hotter by the minute. DON’T DO IT.
- Some rigs have a generator that kicks on if the power kicks off. If you can trust it, that might be enough.
- If the day is not crazy hot, we prefer to leave the AC off and open all of the windows and fans. Then it won’t be hotter inside than it is outside.
- There are a couple of devices that friends have used to monitor the temperature of your rig while you are away. The best unit uses its own cell phone service rather than attaching to wifi. It is battery operated, so you are also not depending on the local power supply. There is an annual service charge, but it’s not bad if you need to be away from the RV with dogs inside. You can find the Marcell Cellular Monitor here.
- Last option, if opening windows is not going to work because it is going to be 100 degrees out, don’t leave the dogs alone. Pick another activity for the day.
- Don’t you have wheels under your house? Why are you in such a hot place? Just a thought.
Option 2: Take the dogs with you
Some destinations are great for dogs. We often go walking on local trails or hiking. Some towns
There is actually a web site that lists pet-friendly destinations. Check it out at
This is an area where pet ownership make travel more complicated for sure. But we always call ahead to any parks or beaches we hope to see to determine if the dogs can go. Don’t forget that leaving them in the car, even on a slightly warm day, can be more dangerous than leaving them in the RV. Some towns will give tickets for leaving dogs in the car, or even break windows to let them out.
If we need to run into a grocery store on the way home, and the dogs are with us, we will leave one of us in the car with the windows down while the other runs in. It’s a hassle, but my dogs are worth the effort.
Option 3 : Doggie Daycare
In many towns there are a variety of doggie daycare options. They seem to run from $25-$50 a day per dog, with a slight discount for the second dog. We have used this a few times quite successfully.
It does take a bit of planning. Of course, you will want to read the reviews. You should also stop by and check out the facilities. Most of the better locations will request that you leave the dog(s) the day before for an hour or so, to make sure they will get along with other dogs. If your excursion is worth all that effort, this is actually a pretty good option, assuming your dogs are reasonably social with other dogs and people.
Pet Health and Safety
So let’s get the easy health and safety stuff out of the way, and then I’ll tell you a story.
Vaccination requirements are different in every state. We take the pups to a vet every 6 months. But because we are in different towns, we never see the same vet. For that reason, we keep all receipts and shot records with us. If you are traveling full time, you don’t usually get a rabies tag. Instead, I have a file folder with copies of shot records in the car. Why? Because the groomer wants to see them, as well as some dog parks. They are with me wherever I go.
Before you choose a vet, visit the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) website for a list of approved vets.
Keeping shot records with you is especially an issue when you cross the Canadian Border. Not only do you need vaccination records, but you need a certification of health from the last 30 days. So we stop by a vet before we cross the border.
Dog Tags and Id
I almost forgot to mention this, but don’t forget to get tags for the dogs with your name and phone number on one side, and the dog’s name on the other. Also, consider chipping the dog so a vet or animal control facility can determine who to call. This is especially important if you think someone might steal your pet and you want to prove they are yours.
Doggie First Aid Kit
A first aid kit for basic cuts and scrapes is available at the pet supply store. In addition, look for Benadryl (for bee stings and poison ivy rashes), and edible green clay for constipation and diarrhea.
Also, it’s a good idea to own a muzzle. If your dog is seriously wounded, he could snap at you or the vet. You are safer if he is muzzled.
A Really Bad Day
So now I can tell my story. We were up in Alaska, near a very small town (Glenallen) on a Saturday evening. We had parked near the mechanic for the weekend with his permission, because he would be working on our rig on Monday. (Another long story that isn’t related to puppies, so I won’t digress.)
There were no other people around and our dogs are trained to return when called. So we let them run off leash into the field near the parking lot. They played for quite a while when we heard a serious “YELP!”. Bella returned when called, but Tucker did not. We walked over to the trees where they had been playing and coaxed Tucker to come out to us. Apparently, a pointed stick had jumped out and jabbed him as he was playing in the trees.
To shorten the story, the wound was severe enough to have him shaking and whimpering. We called around for an open vet, but the only option was an all-night pet hospital in Anchorage, 3 hours away. Of
Total cost: $900 for the vet, $125 for the hotel room in Anchorage, 200 miles worth of fuel and some serious exhaustion.
Not sure if there is a moral to that story. It might indicate that pet insurance would be good. My son carries insurance for his dog. We have not done so. It might imply that you should only travel near a vet, but we choose not to draw that conclusion. Life carries some risks for humans as well as puppies. Maybe it just tells us how much we will do for our dogs!
How do you do it?
So help us out here. What things do you do to make travel with pets work? You can really help other travelers by adding a few of your ideas in the comments. Or link this to facebook and start the conversation there.
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