So you’re ready to hit the open road with your furry, four-legged companion? There’s a little more to RVing with dogs than just hopping in and setting your GPS for your next location.
I’ve spent the last three years traveling with my dog, Rory. And I have learned a lot about what it takes (and what it breaks!) to travel with a pet.
You can easily take your dog on any local drive. But, when living in an RV, everything from where you eat, sleep, and explore can be tricky. It’s a good idea to have a roadmap of what to do (and not do) when you’re on the road with dogs.
A Comprehensive Guide for RVing with Dogs
I’m going to share everything you need to bring your pup along on your next RV trip. I’ll also cover how to keep your dog safe and where to go when you’re ready to hit the road.
To start off, let me share a list of the essential items I always pack when I travel with Rory. This gear has enabled us to travel happy and fairly stress-free over the last few years.
Must-Have Gear for RVers with Dogs
I know most people think my dog is spoiled. Maybe…but there really are some essentials you’ll need to pack with you every time you RV with your dog.
Here are a few of the basic things we can’t travel without:
Now that you have the essential dog gear, let’s talk about how to keep your dog safe while RVing.
How to Keep Your Dog Safe While RVing
As a first step, assess whether your dog has any travel limitations.
Always consider your pet’s safety and the safety of others above all else.
New places, people, and adventures can stress your dog more than you’d expect. Keeping your pet safe helps to ensure those around you will also be safe.
1 – Know Your Dog’s (and Your Own) Limitations
Not all dogs are ready to hike 12 miles in a day on their first RVing trip. Some aren’t too keen about riding in the car. Be aware that the excitement you feel about the upcoming trip may be your own.
For some dogs, climbing aboard a big rig may create even more anxiety. They don’t yet know about the new smells and beautiful landscape they’ll explore at the end of that road trip.
Start with small excursions to learn how your dog may react to RV travel. Take him to a new restaurant to witness whether new places spark any nervousness.
You can take an afternoon to relax inside and outside of your RV while it’s still parked in your driveway. During that time, allow your pup to follow you in when he’s ready. Start the rig and remain stationary so he can feel the vibrations and hear the noise. Then take a short drive around the neighborhood before kicking off a long-distance trip.
Here’s another tip for those of you planning to hike long trails into the backcountry. Vary your daily walks around the neighborhood to include different routes. Ideally, take your dog through park trails. You want her to get accustomed to walking on uneven, rocky paths with tree roots and other obstacles. Remember to keep her leashed, same as you would while at RV parks. Start this plan a few weeks prior to departure and increase the distance a bit each day.
At the end of the day, your dog’s limitations can make or break your trip. Be sure you know how they will react in most scenarios. This will help you avoid having to change your plans or causing undue stress on your pet.
2 – Check with the RV Park, state park, and other campsites to determine the rules and regulations for pets
Before you take off to your next destination, it’s always best to check if dogs are allowed in the area. Contact the local ranger station as well as the RV park or campground in advance. Confirming the current rules will help you avoid wasting time and money driving to places that don’t allow pets!
3 – Always Have a Plan B
PREPARE BACKUP PLANS in CASE WEATHER or LOCATION ISN’T IDEAL
It happens to us at least once a trip. There are always places or changes in the weather that aren’t ideal for bringing your pup along with you.
Sometimes, the temperatures spike and it’s too hot for the dog to remain in the rig. Other times, you learn that the restaurant hasn’t updated its website and dogs are actually prohibited. What about just grabbing something to go? Sure, it’s a 90 minute wait.
As with many things in life, there will be hiccups in your RV travel plans. When your dog is traveling with you, managing those little hiccups takes more work.
A way to simplify the situation is always (always) have a plan B. It’s great if you don’t need it, but when you do, it’s even better when you have it.
For me, I always pick out two places when we go out to eat. That way I have a backup in case the first venue isn’t as pet-friendly as they claim to be online. If the weather changes, our plans change, too. That way, we won’t risk burning Rory’s paw pads in the extreme heat.
ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION
RVing with pets should mean that their health, wellbeing, and safety is a priority over inconveniences in the travel experience. Caring for dogs isn’t always easy. Before you take off on your next trip, consider the extra time and work that will be required.
I suppose if you’re hooked up to shore power you could grab a bite to eat while the dog naps in the air conditioned RV. I personally feel it’s not worth taking a risk. Electrical issues can happen. If the A/C shuts off – or worse, catches fire – I don’t want my dog trapped inside the rig. No, I prefer to simply plan ahead and ensure everyone is safe.
4 – Always be respectful of others while RVing with your dog
Last but not least, always be respectful of others when you RV with your dog. Whether you’re at a campground or on the trail, be mindful of how much noise your dog makes. Is he prone to barking at every squirrel or people carrying large backpacks?
Also consider his level of comfort socialization with others. Be honest with yourself about these characteristics of your dog before taking him with you.
SOMETIMES IT’S ABOUT THE OTHER PETS at the CAMPSITE
When you’re traveling with your dog, there is no guarantee that other pets will behave appropriately. You also can’t assume other RVers or hikers will be respectful of your beloved companion.
The best thing you can do is to keep your dog on a leash when outside of your rig. In addition, always keep your distance from other people and their pets while walking around populated areas.
It may sound like a lot to worry about, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. An injury to you, your dog, or others would certainly ruin the trip. Even an uncomfortable disagreement about pet behavior between you and another camper can put a real damper on the day.
Always be a responsible pet owner when you RV and you’ll set yourself up for success.
Best Places to RV with Dogs
Now that you know how to keep your dog safe while RVing, start planning a trip with your best companion. When you decide to RV with your dog, look for:
- Dog-Friendly RV Parks
- Bureau of Land Management Land
- National Monuments
- National Forest Roads & Campsites
Remember, you should always verify with local outdoor authorities and campground staff before bringing your pup with you. Rules and regulations can change without much notice. It’s important to do your due diligence to avoid getting turned away or receiving a fine.
Some of my favorite places to RV with my dog:
Those are just a few great destinations in the west to help you get started planning your next trip! Don’t worry if you’re not sure where to start or based too far away from these suggested destinations.
Simply select a location based on the weather. Then you can start your trip planning. Seek moderate (not too hot, not too cold) weather patterns. That may seem too good to be true. Narrow your travel window down to a specific season, or a particular month and you’ll find regions with mild temperatures. Doing so will offer you the best chance of having a great trip with your dog.
Hit the Road with Your Pup
Once you’ve found a dog-friendly place to set up camp, it’s time to hit the road with your pup!
When you’re prepared, you will know how to keep your pet safe. So take the time to plan out your pit stops and sight seeing. Trust me, you’ll have a much easier (and happier) time traveling with your dog.
Pack the right gear, be prepared, and plan your pit stops in advance.
Just like with kids, you always have to be prepared for the unexpected. And yes, you must be willing to make some sacrifices along the way.
When it’s all said and done though, traveling with my dog, Rory, is much more enjoyable than traveling without her.
Now she’s seen more than most pets ever will. We’ve shared many amazing memories that would have been rather lackluster had she not been with me.
I will always treasure the amazing adventures we have had together. I know you will feel the same about your dog as well.
Erin is rooted in South Dakota, but wanders every chance she gets to see the beauty that nature holds. From hiking to climbing, there’s not an adventure she’ll turn down.
After renovating her 1976 Airstream Argosy, Erin knows the ins and outs of living life on the road and trailer maintenance.
Whether she’s on the road with her dog and partner or at home curled up with a good book, Erin is always planning her next adventure because life is meant to be lived outdoors.