The RV lifestyle has hit the country by storm with over 1 million calling their RV home. What many of these folks have in common, other than a life-nomadic, is their love for dogs.
For those who are considering life on the road or just an occasional weekend trip at camp, the question of RVing with dogs is often raised.
We’re here to give you our take on the subject. We have been full-time road warriors for five years now.
Even before we hit the road for good, we easily spent 2-3 months a year in our camper by utilizing vacation time and nearly every weekend. While bringing along for the ride, our pet dogs.
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Planning For The Weather
Early on we lived in a truck camper and had two pups riding along, Porter and Aspen. We learned a great deal about space management in those days.
We quickly gained an appreciation for the ability to “follow the weather”. 150lbs of dog along with two humans in a small space forces organization!
Our original goal was to drive the Pan American Highway to the tip of South America. And south we went, spending 1 ½ years exploring Mexico and Guatemala, before family and financial matters drove us back to the USA.
We sadly lost Porter in Mexico, but Aspen is still with us. She has been to four countries and dozens of states here in the USA, easily making her more well-traveled than many people.
These days we’ve moved to a 21’ Lance trailer and now work seasonally as work campers at campgrounds around the West.
We spend much of our winters in Baja taking full advantage of the enjoyable weather and our spectacular National Parks on the road north and south.
Places To Travel With Your Dog
National Parks are a passion of ours and there is such a bounty of fantastic parks it is difficult to pick a favorite.
However, we’d have to say that the parks of Southern Utah have to rank at the top.
Can You Travel In A National Park With Your Dog?
Herein lies the challenge. All the parks we’ve been to have allowed dogs in the campgrounds, on paved roads, and in your car/ RV as you travel through the park.
What they do not allow is dogs on the trails in most cases.
The good news~ there are nearly endless opportunities to hike with your dog’s outside of National Park land but still with much of the same scenery as within the parks.
A small amount of time spent online can lend a bevy of options.
Bryce Canyon does allow dogs on the 1.2-mile paved ridge trail but there are also loads of hiking options nearby, such as the fascinating Panorama Trail at Kodachrome Basin State Park.
This moderate 5.6-mile loop takes you past the towering spires of Mammoth Geyser and Ballerina Spire along with other highlights.
If you’re basing yourself in Moab, for instance, you’ll find dozens of excellent trails that allow dogs such as Corona Arch which offers the same spectacular rock formations as Arches National Park.
Another favorite of ours, especially on a hot day, is the Negro Bill Canyon hike.
This hike follows a meandering perennial stream through narrow canyons before reaching the spectacular Morning Glory Bridge.
The 6th largest natural bridge in the USA. Dogs love splashing in the stream during crosses and to naturally cool off their paws.
One day in Moab we knew we wanted to drive through Canyonlands but were unconcerned with hiking the park so Aspen came along for the ride.
We drove through the National Park on a photo safari before continuing to nearby Dead Horse State Park.
As a state park, it is fully dog-friendly, and we hiked the trails taking in the amazing vistas at 2000ft elevation.
Other National Parks Have Similar Options Nearby
Other National Parks have similar options nearby. Yellowstone National Park is a must-see on many traveler’s itineraries but, once again, your pup will not be allowed on trails.
However, much of the magic of Yellowstone can be gained by driving through the park viewing wildlife from your car.
Then it’s easy to exit the park’s north entrance to experience Pine Creek Falls and Lake. Aptly named Paradise Valley it is, indeed, a paradise for fishermen.
It is also a favorite for hikers either on the easy 2-mile trek to the falls or to venture another 7 miles further into the backcountry to the lake.
In contrast, there are a couple of National Parks that are quite dog friendly. Acadia, for instance, allows pups to hike along 100 miles of trails and in Shenandoah National Park only 20 out of 500 miles are off-limits to your fur babies.
Consider The Best Time to Exercise Your Dog
One essential in traveling with dogs in the National Parks is the question of how to keep your pups cool.
It is absolutely not okay to leave them alone in the car while you go hiking. EVER. Any dog owner should be well aware of the dangers of dogs being left inside the condensed heat of a vehicle, even with the windows cracked.
For RVer’s this can often be solved by dividing your time. We often take Aspen for a really good morning hike when the weather is cooler and then allow her to hang out in air-conditioned comfort in the trailer while we head into the parks to hike trails that are off-limits to her.
In the evening we take her for another hike or to a dog park to play and we all end the day well-exercised and happy.
As we mentioned earlier, one of the joys of a full-time RVers life is that we are able to follow the weather.
Learning how to deal with bad weather is equally important if you are heading out for a weekend.
A bout of bad conditions can put a damper on everyone’s spirits. Dogs, of course, do best with regular exercise regardless of conditions.
We have found that it is rare, even on the rainiest Oregon coast winter weekend, for it to storm nonstop.
Flexibility becomes essential as we monitor the weather. In the middle of a movie when there is a break in the storm? Too bad, that’s what the pause button is for. We have become experts at getting walks in when the weather suits.
Certainly, Aspen prefers to keep to a consistent schedule, but sometimes the key is to go with the flow.
Dog Breeds For RVing
Sadly, many campgrounds do have breed restrictions. National Parks don’t tend to focus on specific breeds because their dog restrictions, in general, are quite tight.
When camping elsewhere, however, it is always best to check with individual campgrounds regarding breed restrictions.
The most restricted breeds tend to be Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Rottweilers, and Chows but they can vary by camp.
We have met thousands of dogs on our travels, many off-leash street dogs south of the border and have rarely had any real issues.
Over the years Aspen has developed superior meet-and-greet manners and we take our cue from her. The very best advice we can offer~ SOCIALIZE your dog.
Now, obviously, if you already have a furry family member who isn’t great with other dogs you need to work with what you have. But even dogs that aren’t as well behaved can learn to play better with others with consistent socialization.
Dogs are, after all, pack animals and the opportunity to sniff and play with others goes a long way to keeping them at their happiest.
Of course, spending time with their humans is probably their favorite thing!
If there is not a dog currently in your pack, then you are in luck as you can focus on finding one that is well-suited to life on the road.
You’ll want to take into account the size of your camper, whether you plan to move around a fair amount or tend to get to camp and remain there before heading home, along with what activities you enjoy while out and about.
In general, we wouldn’t recommend getting a puppy.
Although it might be tempting to start with a puppy believing you can train them as you like, the reality is that puppies take an enormous amount of time, energy, and consistency.
They chew, they piddle, and they don’t sleep through the night.
Here we have to give our two cents for recommending adopting. Every fur baby we’ve ever had has been adopted with great success.
Dogs often end up in rescues through no fault of their own and it is unfair to assume that there is something wrong with a dog that needs a new home.
We believe Aspen, for example, had been a breeder dog and something went wrong so she was abandoned. It is rare to find purebred Labradors at a rescue.
The large scar on her belly along with the fact that she had zero leash skills lead us to believe she did not come from a home setting.
Here the rescues themselves will be your greatest asset. They work with the dogs every day and know their personalities and can recommend a dog that will suit your personality and lifestyle.
RVing With Dogs Accessories
On this note, one essential piece of gear in her cupboard is her Weatherbeeta waterproof coat.
She remains cozy with a fleece lining and the large flap that goes between her front legs. It covers much of her belly keeping her mostly dry even in the wettest of conditions.
We use our camper shower more as a storage spot than anything and Aspen’s jacket and our raincoats happily hang dry there after a wet walk.
As the humans of a fetch-obsessed waterdog, one other important piece of gear to reduce the smell of “wet-dog” in the camper is her waterproof dog collar made of urethane-coated nylon.
We tried a multitude of alternate options that all ended up stinky, perpetually damp, and embedded with sand before becoming huge fans of these types of collar.
If you do insist on bravely entering puppydom make your life a bit easier by crate training them first off.
Most dogs prefer to have their own safe space and if the crate is a positive environment, some of your challenges will go smoother.
Tips For Washing Your Dog On The Road
As for baths…we have also become huge fans of self-wash dog washes which are readily available in many locations.
When that option fails us, we have found some campgrounds offer dog-wash facilities which is always a nice option and there is always the ability to give our girl a bath from our outside shower hose.
Any option we need to bring plenty of treats because we are well aware that this water dog does not, in fact, like water much!
Life on the road with a pup in tow shouldn’t be viewed as restrictive, but rather an opportunity to experience adventures and think outside the box.
There are so many dog-friendly options these days and Aspen has joined us for hundreds of meals at outdoor cafes, drinks in pubs, and hikes everywhere from the mountains to the beach.
Our final advice is safety for your pup. Ensure they are up to date on shots and micro-chipped with accurate information from your vet.
Regular use of flea & tick medication along with heartworm pills are essential.
Dogs are truly a huge part of our family and any challenges encountered along the way are more than made up for with a single happy dog smile.
Rhonda & Jim Delameter, along with their black lab Aspen, have traveled tens of thousands of miles in the Western USA, Mexico, and Guatemala while living full-time on the road. They both put their skills to work at various campgrounds and enjoy sharing their blog, The Next Big Adventure, with friends near and far. Rhonda is also a freelance travel writer. Aspen specializes in doggy kisses and superior cuddling skills.
We hope you have enjoyed the guest post from our friends over at The Next Big Adventure.net.
Leaving their home over 5 years ago for a life on the open road in their recreational vehicle with 2 dogs, we were sure they could help our readers with a guide on frequently asked questions about RVing with dogs.
If you found this article helpful please share it with a friend who could benefit from the tips from Rhonda.