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12 Things You Should Know About Full-Time RVing with Dogs

Our dogs have a really special place in our hearts and in our lives.  They are our partners and companions who are there with us in every circumstance that life throws our way.  It’s pretty cool to be able to have pets join us in our full-time RVing adventures.  I’ve lived in my RV full-time with my dogs for several years now.  I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Below is a list of 12  things you should know about full-time RVing with dogs to help anyone who is considering this lifestyle with their best friend.

1.  Full-Time RVing with Dogs Will Not Make Your Pet’s Behavior Problems Go Away

Starting your full-time RV journey with dogs means ensuring they are as prepared as you are. Dogs that exhibit separation anxiety, excessive barking, or other behavioral issues need special attention before embarking on this RV lifestyle.

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Consult with a vet and consider a CPDT-KA or CPDT-KSA certified trainer to address these issues. Training should focus on adapting your dog to new environments, sounds, and situations they’ll encounter in RV parks and during travel days.

Create a calm, safe space within your RV where your dog can retreat to when overwhelmed. This preparation phase is crucial for your pet’s safety and your peace of mind.

As a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I recommend moving into your RV with your dogs a month before you leave your sticks and bricks behind. 

Keep to your usual daily routine with them while you are parked in the driveway. That way, your dogs get a chance to learn that the RV is their home base while you learn what adjustments need to be made before you actually head off to live in your RV. 

2.  Some RV Campgrounds Are More Dog-Friendly Than Others

When it comes to full-time RVing with dogs, not all RV parks are created equal. Prioritize finding pup-friendly destinations that offer ample space for walks, provide dog parks, and don’t have restrictive breed policies. Research each campground’s rules regarding pets, including leash requirements and any specific restrictions using resources like RV LIFE Campgrounds.

3.  Containing Dogs on the Campsite or on a Leash on Walks Is Always Necessary

It’s never a good idea to allow your four-legged friend to roam off-leash, especially in a strange area.  Even if your dog is always sweet, friendly, and reliable off-leash, there will always be campers (and other dogs) around who don’t like dogs.  There could also be all kinds of hazards at an RV campground, including:

  • Gross things to roll in
  • Wildlife (skunks, rattlesnakes, scorpions, coyotes, etc)
  • Unattended picnic lunches
  • Trash
  • Vehicle traffic

At the campsite, your dog should be in the RV if you aren’t home.  When you are home (and, of course, if the campground allows it), you can use exercise pens to create a nice, fenced area where he can hang out with you.  If you find your dog barks at passersby, use blankets on the dog fencing to block his view. Whenever you see someone approaching distract him and reinforce his attention to you with praise, treats, or favorite toys. 

He’ll start to think the things he used to bark at represent opportunities to interact with and be reinforced by you. When that happens, he’ll stop barking at passersby. 

4.  Leave No Trace

“Leave No Trace” applies to your dog as well as you.  Always use pick-up bags to pick up your dog’s poop.  Dog waste left behind is a top complaint about dogs among park staff and RVers.  Leaving dog poop behind gets dogs banned, so don’t be that person.  Pick up your dog’s poop and drop those filled waste bags into trash bins.   

5.  Be Prepared for Hair, Hair, Everywhere

Most dog owners are so used to dog hair. We hardly notice it anymore.  We see dog hair as a small price to pay for the loving companionship of our pooches.  Here are a few ways to minimize the amount of dog hair, dirt, and  mess in your rigs when full-time RVing with dogs:

  • Bathe your dog at least every 2 weeks: There are handy coin-operated dog baths at many pet food boutiques these days.  These have everything you need for grooming, including shampoo, conditioner, dryer, and towels.  Some even boast apres bath cologne.  If your rig has an outdoor shower, you might make use of it when the weather is warm enough.  
  • Brush or use a de-shedding tool on your dog every few days.  Do this outdoors to keep dog hair outside.  Be sure to put all the resulting dog hair in the trash.  
  • Use a Dirtbag dog towel on wet or muddy dogs. Ruffwear Performance Dog Gear’s Dirtbag dog towel is like a bathrobe for your dog. The exterior of the Dirtbag is a waterproof shell, and the inside is a soft, highly absorbent microfiber towel that soaks up water and mud like a sponge.  
  • Use a Cordless Vacuum:  We love the cordless Dyson V10 Animal vacuum for its amazing ability to clean up dog hair and other dog-borne debris quickly.  After use, it disappears into a corner to recharge until the next time.

6. We Can’t Always Take Our Pets Everywhere

When you live full-time in an RV with your dog, you’ll have to leave him in the RV at some point.  Whether you are going sightseeing or simply need to buy groceries, you may need to leave him at home. 

Always provide them with access to plenty of water to stay hydrated. For their mental well-being, leave puzzle toys or long-lasting treats to keep them engaged, helping to manage any anxiety and prevent destructive behaviors.

Having a wireless camera and temperature monitor can give you peace of mind when you have to leave your dog in the  RV by himself.  The Canary All-in-One Indoor HD Security Camera with Built-in Siren and Climate Monitor is one such device that will send you alerts if anything is amiss in the RV while you are away. Check it out here.

7.  Dogs Thrive on a Predictable Routine

To keep your dog happy, secure, and behavior problem-free, keep the same basic routine every day.  If you normally take him for a morning walk, feed him, and then go to work in the morning, don’t change any of that routine, including the order.  Dogs like a predictable routine.

8. Ensure Proper Identification

Microchipping and up-to-date ID tags are fundamental to your dog’s safety while enjoying the full-time RV lifestyle. In addition to these, consider utilizing a GPS tracker that can be attached to your dog’s collar. This technology provides real-time location tracking, making it an invaluable tool should your dog wander off or get lost.

Always ensure your contact information is current on their ID tags and include a temporary tag with the location and phone number of your current campground or a mobile number. The combination of microchips, ID tags, and a GPS tracker greatly increases the chances of a swift and safe reunion with your pet under any circumstances.

9. Healthcare and Medications

Before hitting the road, ensure your dogs are up-to-date on all vaccines and pack a sufficient supply of any regular medications, including flea/tick and heartworm medication.

Familiarize yourself with vets and emergency animal hospitals along your route. Keeping a pet first aid kit in the RV is also advisable for addressing minor injuries or illnesses until professional care is available.

10.  Dogs Need Mental Enrichment

In order to behave at his best, your dog needs independent mental enrichment and interactive mental enrichment.  Dogs are instinctively scavenging animals.   Working for their food by getting it out of food toys and puzzles makes them happy and helps to alleviate boredom-related behavior.   Try these top-rated food toys: 

  • Kong Wobbler. The Kong Wobbler rocks back and forth on a weighted bottom dispensing your dog’s kibble from a hole in the side.  Dogs love this toy, and it’s easy to clean too.
  • Snuffle Mat    Snuffle mats are another way to feed your dog his kibble.  The food is scattered within the fleecy snuffly parts of the snuffle mat for him to sniff and search out.  These are highly entertaining for dogs and highly rated by their owners.
  • Petsafe Treat and Train Toy:  The Petsafe Treat and Train toy is a food dispenser that can provide entertainment for your dog while you are away.  

 Interactive mental enrichment includes training and fun games with you.  Two great books for training ideas are:

11.  Dogs Need Exercise When RVing-Full Time

Adequate exercise is crucial for your dog’s physical and mental health. Plan daily activities that match your dog’s energy levels, such as hiking on trails, swimming, or playing fetch. Explore dog parks and safe off-leash areas where they can run and socialize.

Some dogs can benefit from the opportunity to run along on a bike ride using a bike attachment like a Walky-dog or Springer dog bicycle attachment.   

Alternatively, dog parkour is a fun agility sport where your dog goes over, under, around, and on different objects in the environment.  It’s a double whammy that’s great for exercise and mental enrichment.  Check it out at the International Dog Parkour Association’s website here.

12. Adjusting to Weather and Seasons

Prepare for all types of weather by ensuring your RV is equipped with heating and cooling options to keep your pets comfortable. On hot days, prioritize early morning or late evening activities to avoid overheating. Always provide access to shade and plenty of fresh water. In colder climates, consider dog coats and booties for extra warmth during outdoor

Wrapping Up Full-Time RVing with Dogs

As you navigate the joys and challenges of full time RV living with your dogs, remember that every experience offers an opportunity to learn and grow. We invite you to share your stories, tips, and feedback with the community. Engaging with fellow RVers can provide new insights and make the journey even more rewarding. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or just starting out, your experiences can help inspire and guide others in this unique lifestyle.

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