rv camping with dogs looking out window

Travelers for centuries have enjoyed a little canine companionship and the RV camping crowd is certainly no exception. Roaming and camping with dogs is an incredibly rewarding experience as they have always made friendly, energetic, and empathic companions. Your dog wants to go wherever you go and they love to explore new campgrounds as much or more than we do. However, unlike most human companions, dogs don’t prioritize their own cleanliness. If it were up to them, your RV would be a dog-smelling nest of thrown about cushions and piles of pet food. From the many years of dog camping experience in the RV community, we have 10 awesome tips to keep your RV and your dogs clean on a long camping trip.

1) Removable Covers for Furniture

Everything your dog sleeps on needs to be washable, and that means removable as well. Most RVs come with an integral couch but who wants to deal with trying to wash upholstered cushions? The natural solution is simply to wrap your couch in something comfy that can be easily washed and replaced. If your cushions are built-in, you can tuck a sheet or sturdy blanket over and around them during dog travel time. If the cushions are separate you can take the time to pin smaller covers over them for maximum versatility and protection. This is most easily done by wrapping them like a birthday present and pinning the corners where you might otherwise use tape.

2) Replace Carpets with Smooth Flooring

Dogs have a certain smell to them, which eventually permeates any space that they sleep on. On top of this, even if your dog is excellently trained and is usually very good about where they ‘go,’ accidents will eventually happen, and there’s no point in being surprised by it. One of the best ways to ensure your RV doesn’t acquire a long-term dog related smell is to pull up the carpets. Replace them with something easier to clean and less likely to take permanent damage from constant use by your furry friend. Laminate is the usual go-to solution but you can also get snap-in wood floorboards or even tile if you’re feeling DIY adventurous.

3) Protective Mattress Cover

If you let your dogs up on the bed with you, as many pet owners do, you’ll want to make sure your RV mattress has a sturdy protective cover. While you may be willing to wash your bedding regularly, it’s very important that your mattress not be permeable to either moisture or fleas that your dog might accidentally bring in from a hike. This will help your mattress last a lot longer and help you not to worry about the consequences of your furry companion jumping up and sleeping on your bed.

4) The Right Cleaning Products

Between constant shedding and the occasional accident, you’ll want to have a decent collection of cleaning supplies ready. The best place to start is a way to wipe down all surfaces with a disinfectant solution, though it’s your choice whether to bring along pre-soaked wipes or a cleaning product and rags or paper towels. That said, a roll of paper towels and a grocery bag stuffed with other grocery bags should always be handy in case of the usual accident woes. Finally, a Swiffer and a large pack of dry Swiffer sheets is a fantastic way to polish your RV and pick up most of the loose dog fur.

5) Secure Pet Food and Water Dishes

Unlike people who can be perfectly happy drinking out of a water bottle or eating fruit smoothies from a squeeze tube, dogs need their food and water in open bowls near the floor, but this isn’t so great for moving your RV around. There are a number of ways to keep your dog’s food and water dishes in place so you’re free to get creative. With your new hard flooring, you could, for instance, get bowls that suction down onto a smooth surface. Another method is a small no-slip kitchen rug and a raised food and water bowl holder.

woman and dog by outside fire

6) Hang a Hook Key Rack

Many campsites require your dog to be leashed when outside your camper, so it’s important to have their gear hanging and ready to go. An old-fashioned hook key ring holder makes a lovely addition to your wall by the door from which you can hang a leash or two and a backup harness in case you need extra control of a rambunctious pup. If you don’t have a key ring holder or don’t want one, a few Command stick-on hooks can handily serve the same purpose.

7) Designate a Dog Towel

When you and your dog come in from a delightful hike through the woods, there’s a good chance you will both be a little grimy. While you can kick off your boots at the doorway and move carefully, your dog will want to romp through the RV with the same enthusiasm that they romped through the mud and underbrush. Having an old towel near the door to rub your dog down with will do a lot for keeping your RV clean even when you and your dog are not.

8) Bath Time On-the-Go

A more thorough and lasting solution than the towel is simply to give your dog a bath while you’re out camping. This can happen almost anywhere you have a water hookup and a little room for runoff that won’t bother anyone. Unless you have a tub, it might be best to go light on the shampoo but heavy on the scrubbing. Along the same lines, regular brushing on a sheet or outside is a great way to reduce the amount of shedding that goes on in your RV.

9) Chew Treats

Dogs love to chew things and tend to do so when they’re bored. If you’d like to lower the chance that your dog will be tempted to chew on your RV furniture, a weekly tough chew treat is a great way to reward your dog for good behavior. Working on a new chew will also keep them occupied and reduce the amount of chewing they will be inclined toward during the rest of the trip. Make sure to stick with rawhide and chew treats with all-food ingredients. Some chew treats can harm dogs who swallow inorganic bits.

10) Steam Cleaning

As our final point, no amount of preparation can keep your RV from picking up at least a little bit of shed fur and dog smell. But, you can reduce it with regular cleaning waves. A small vacuum and a rented (or small personal) steam cleaner can work wonders on your RV while your dog romps around on a leash outside. We recommend that you vacuum everything you can reach including the hardwood floors and crevices, then steam clean anything with upholstered fabric. This is also a good time to wash your bedding and pillow covers while clearing the dust, dirt, and pet dander from your RV.

Camping with dogs doesn’t have to mean ceding the entire RV to their presence. The two of you can happily share the space with a little cleanly policy and preparation. Your dogs love to spend time with you and regular brushing, washing, and even cleaning tasks are a great way to bond.

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