With nothing but the open road and a flexible itinerary ahead of you, going RVing opens up a great world of adventure and who better to go on an adventure with than your favorite furry friends. Dogs, when trained for the environment, are fantastic RV companions. They’re cheerful, courteous, never fight with you over the radio station, and are always up to go for a hike whenever you feel like it. Of course, as much as we may love them, they’re not human and there are many things that they can’t take care of themselves. Human companions, for instance, can rummage the pantry when hungry, use the bathroom without having to go outside, and don’t shed (too much) on the furniture. Whether you’re traveling with humans and pets or just your trusty canine companion, it’s important to remember how to be smart when riding with your dogs.
Here are twelve RV hacks to keep our favorite furry family members safe and happy on the road:
1. Seatbelts are for Dogs, Too
RVs seem deceptively safe and it is quite common for people who aren’t the driver to get up and walk around while you’re on the road. However, there’s a reason why vans have seatbelts on every seat, even the middle ones. While it’s not a pleasant thought, accidents do happen and your pet has less ability to grab the furniture and brace themselves in a sudden collision. If your RV couch has seatbelts, consider getting a special harness to help you buckle them in. Once your pets get used to this routine, they will happily settle in for a nice safe nap during driving time.
2. Foldable Barriers and Baby Gates
Another major issue can be runaways. Most RVing pet owners don’t bother to leash up when inside the cabin, but inside can become outside very quickly on four legs. Even if your dog is usually very well behaved, you can’t guarantee that new environments, people, animals, and circumstances won’t tempt them beyond resistance to run outside and chase things, even if you’re next to a busy highway or could lose them in the woods. The best way to keep pets inside when you want to come and go is with a foldable barrier or baby gate. This will prevent your pets from bolting out the door and give them an opportunity to sniff the air for a while before you take them out on the leash.
3. Take Time for Potty Breaks
One of the best things about traveling in an RV is that you don’t have to stop at every third town to use a gas station bathroom. However, this convenience is only true for people who can ‘go’ inside, meaning people and cats on one side and dogs on the other. If you bring your dog with you on long road trips, remember that they need regular pit-stops for potty time even if you don’t. That said, this is a great time to stretch your legs, roll out your shoulders, and check your navigation app to be sure you’ve been going in the correct direction.
4. Be Prepared for Extreme Weather
When you’re out camping, extreme weather can happen faster than you expect or the existing weather can simply intensify. Big storms can frighten pets which could become a problem in the small space of an RV cabin if you’re not prepared. However, the biggest danger is actually extreme temperature increases or drops. This is especially important to remember if you’re going to leave your pets alone in the RV while you run errands. If your power goes out, the RV could overheat or freeze while you’re gone, something you don’t want to expose your pets to.
5. In Case of Emergency, There are Petsitters in Every Town
Speaking of errands, most people don’t think about how often they leave the RV until there’s a furry friend who has to be left behind when you go grocery shopping, visiting, or in case of emergencies where you have to leave them alone in the cabin for more than half an hour at a time. While sometimes you can rely on the cooperation of nearby campers to check on your pets while you’re away, if a camping trip is interrupted by a sudden need to be away for several hours, it’s important to remember that there are petsitters in every city and online services to find them.
6. Spray Bottles = DIY Dog Sweat
One neat trick to remember is that dogs don’t sweat but their skin still responds the same way ours does to evaporating moisture by pulling away heat and cooling them down. Whether you’re worried about overheating at a hot camping spot, the AC in your cabin is busted, or you’re just trying to save a little money by building up your heat tolerance, your furry friends will appreciate a little manual cooling with the help of a wide-angle spray bottle. Throwing some ice into the spray bottle will make the water extra cooling and will probably feel pretty good for overheating humans as well.
7. Create an Outside Leash Anchor
When you reach a friendly camping spot, no doubt your furry friend is going to want to get out there and explore. There are smells to sniff, people to meet, and something to roll in. While you may or may not take them on a leash-tour of the campsite, you can release them from their indoor confinement safely simply by attaching a long leash to an outdoor loop, hinge, or bar of your RV. If there’s not a good anchor point, bring a stake and mallet. That way, your dog can enjoy the campsite along with you but without the risk of running off or getting lost.
8. Reinforce the ‘Dog Run’
When the RV is in motion, when you’re cooped up on rainy days, or when you’re parked somewhere you don’t want your dog investigating, they still need exercise and attention. It’s more than likely that the central strip of carpet or laminate flooring is going to see a lot of passes made by dog paws running up and down the RV. In the flooring business, this is known as a ‘high traffic’ area and you may want to reinforce it before the carpet starts to look different along the main path. A long flat runner rug is a great way to do this or you can use a ribbed plastic runner if you prefer a wipe-able surface.
9. Feed at the Same Time Every Day
Practiced RV campers who’ve been traveling with their dogs for a long time have learned that a certain amount of routine is the best way to make sure everything gets taken care of to the comfort and satisfaction of all involved. Dogs thrive on a routine and their cooperative natures shine through when you build one for them. However, even if your schedule changes wildly over the course of your travel together, there is a particular benefit to feeding them at the same time every day. You know when they’ll need their next potty break.
10. Play Hide and Go Treat
When it comes to games you can play with your dog, the list seems almost infinite. Of course, there’s only so many times you can play fetch down the length of your cabin so sometimes it helps to get creative. Among the best indoor games to play with your dog is “hide and go treat”. The rules are simple, you hide a treat somewhere your dog can’t see but can definitely smell and safely access, then encourage them to find it. If it’s your first time playing, show them where the treat is, then reward them for revealing it and jump straight into round two.
11. Keep Plenty of Chews
Along similar lines, it also helps to keep a bountiful supply of safe doggy chew toys and rawhide bones available during your trip. Dogs love to chew and even those who don’t chew the furniture normally have been known to display this behavior when nervous about a new situation. You can help them work out any travel anxiety and keep the lower corners of your RV furnishings safe by making sure that your pooch always has something healthy and approved to chew on.
12. Have Your Papers and Vet Info
As our final tip, always always always have your pet’s papers and vet information on hand. If you don’t want to bring your original paper copies, take a clear picture with your phone and don’t forget your charger. This way, just in case anything happens like a bee sting or a worrisomely upset puppy tummy, you’ll be able to take your dog to the nearest vet quickly and efficiently without having to call your regular vet for references or try to remember any pertinent medical information about your pet.
Dogs are fantastic camping companions and can be surprisingly rewarding to spend time with sharing the space of your RV. Besides helping with leftovers, keeping you company, and charming the socks off of your guests, they will also let you know when they need something that hasn’t been taken care of. When camping or riding with your dogs either on the road or parked at a site, make sure to pay attention to their needs, take plenty of walks, and be prepared for emergencies.