The best part of RV travel for our family is that we can all be together, and that includes our dogs. However, it’s not all fun and games: ensuring our dogs’ safety is a major part of RVing with pets. A motorhome is our home, and their home, on the road.
Over five years of full-time travel with Peanut Butter Brickle and Digby Pancake has taught us many lessons, and we have made many mistakes. Some of the mistakes had very different outcomes. Learn from our mistakes, and you will enjoy a safe and fun time on the road with your dogs!
It is important not only to keep your dog safe while moving, but part of moving is stopping to take breaks. Whether that is at a rest area, a park, or during an emergency–preparation is key! The unexpected will happen. But you can prepare physically and mentally before your journey.
Introduce Your Dog To The RV Before That First Travel Day
First impressions are very important. Not only should you consider taking your dog with you to shop for an RV (Camping World welcomes fur family), but before you travel one mile together, introduce your dog to your motorhome! For two weeks our dogs and our RV got to know each other. As senior dogs, they were a little more unsteady when it came to stairs. So our first goal was to get them safely in and out of the RV. We did not know about dog ramps at that time, and it would have made the transition so much easier! Spend some test nights in the motorhome with your dog so you build a routine, and find a comfortable space. Take a ride with your dog in the motorhome to a park or a favorite place so that your dog associates the motorhome with fun.
Get A Health Check-Up For Your Dog At The Veterinarian
We all know that good health is one of the most valuable assets we can have. Before you travel with your dog, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Make sure your dog is healthy enough to travel and that all medications are filled. Make copies of your dog’s records and keep them in an accessible place in your motorhome, or car if you are towing. Many states require records to cross state lines, and campgrounds may also require vaccination records in order to make a reservation.
Make Sure Your Dog’s Tags And Microchip Information Is Up To Date
No one wants to think about their dog getting lost. Ensure your dog’s tag with a working phone number on a secure collar. This precaution will be your first chance of getting your dog back in case they get lost. Microchip information should also be checked to make sure it is up to date.
Your Dog’s Collar And Leash Could Be Lifesaving
Your dog’s collar and leash are lifelines. Peanut Butter Brickle and Digby Pancake were very active when they were young. Digby was a known escape artist, and he could pull out of any harness we put on him. If this happens at a rest area or busy street, your dog’s life is in severe danger. Find a harness or collar that is safe for your dog, and make sure that the leash you use is secure as well. Retractable leashes are easily broken and are a safety hazard on the road. Check the clip on the leash to ensure it is operable and not able to slip off of your dog’s collar. Our favorites for Brickle and Digby for over a decade have been Ruffwear’s Webmaster Harness and their Knot-A-Leash with a carabiner. The carabiner is vital to our peace of mind; it locks and makes us feel like we have taken every precaution necessary.
Prepare An Easily Accessible First-Aid Kit
Adventure comes with risks. Be prepared for those risks with a first aid kit. You can purchase one pre-made or make one yourself. Some items to include are gauze, an extra leash, an extra collar, non-stick bandages, dog thermometer, cotton balls, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic spray for dogs, tweezer, tick tweezer, flashlight, towel, muzzle, and emergency dog medications.
Bring Your Dog’s Favorite Toys And Items
Water, Treats, and Meals
Keeping hydrated while traveling is very important. Map out potential places to stop and let your dogs out. Drinking more water will mean they have to go out more. But don’t sacrifice convenience for their health. When it comes to treats, choose healthy treats that are not new to your dog so as not to upset their stomach. When it is meal time, be sure to stop. Do not feed your dog while moving.
Be Mindful Of The RV Temperature For Your Dog
When traveling, you never know what weather you will drive into! We have taken detours in our travel days to avoid hurricanes, storms, or severely hot weather. For our dog, Digby Pancake, the temperature is integral to his health. If you are traveling in a motorhome, keep an eye on the temperature for the safety of your dogs. There can be a big difference in temperature from the front of the motorhome to the back. We like our Waggle Pet Temperature Monitor as well when we stop at rest areas and have to run inside by ourselves for a quick moment. It alerts us of any temperature or humidity changes.
Secure Your Dog While Moving
The best way to restrain most dogs within an RV is with a harness. The harness will usually clip to a seatbelt, and ensures that your dog is restrained during a collision. We made the very treacherous mistake of having Brickle in the front seat of our motorhome without a harness. After pulling into a rest area, we had to slam on our brakes in order to avoid a collision. Unfortunately, Brickle fell off of his seat and onto the dashboard. This could have ended very differently. The door of the RV could have flown open, he could have had broken bones, or worse. We learned our lesson, but it is one you should not have to learn. Assume that one day, an accident will occur. Take all precautions necessary during every single mile of your trip. Some dogs may also do better in a secured and comfortable crate during travel.
Watch All Doors, Stairs, And Steps
Stairs are one of the most important safety aspects when moving with your dogs in an RV. Dogs can quickly run by you, they can be startled, and if they get out of your motorhome in an unfamiliar area, they may get lost, injured, or worse. If you have children and dogs in your motorhome, make sure the two-legged kids know not to open doors without permission. Also, every motorhome is different, but usually stairs by the front door can be steep. Dogs can be injured jumping out of a door with the steps not secured. Older dogs can really struggle with the angle of steep steps. Get leashes on BEFORE you go out of the door and make sure to go out first. Check around your RV. At rest stops, RV’s and very large trucks often have parking spaces by each other. It is your responsibility to check all around you before leaving your parking space, walking across a street, or parking lot.
Be Mindful Of RV Windows
Looking out of the windows at the world going by is one of our dogs’ favorite activities. But RV windows can also be hazardous. In unfamiliar places, you may be surprised when your dog lunges or tries to jump out of a window at wildlife, other dogs, or people. Even if you think that your dog will not do this, think again! We have seen numerous screen doors and windows that have been broken by exuberant dogs! Dogs can injure themselves while moving, and when you are parked.
Have A “No Dog Zone” Around The Driver
Our dog, Peanut Butter Brickle was very anxious when we drove our RV. He thought that the safest place that he could be was under our feet while driving. Needless to say, he was wrong. Remember, you have a responsibility on the road to those you’re transporting, and others on the road. Establish a “no dog zone” around the driver. If your dog is in a harness or secured crate, this can work.
Remove All Hazards That Can Fall On Your Dog While Moving
Moving in your motorhome is always fun, but roads can get rough. Assume anything that can fall will fall! If that item can injure your dog, pack it away. Even items that don’t look dangerous could injure your dog when airborne!
Give Every Dog Her Own Space
Just like you need your own space, your dog does as well. Your dog may be more comfortable in a crate. Our Digby loved our RV kitchen table made into a bed! However, this bed was not accessible with the slide-outs pulled in while moving, so he found a secure spot that was all his own on the road.
Beware Of Dog Distractions
Our dogs always have a way of surprising us! Just when we think we have their behavior and triggers figured out, they come up with a way to keep us on our paws! Digby will randomly bark and howl at people with hats, Brickle is very protective of our RV, even while moving. Distractions can be hazards. Be cautious and observant of dangers that may occur.
Be Aware Of Your Surroundings At All Times
Part of RV travel is expecting the unexpected. If we are concerned about our dog having fun, and their safety, road life will be the best life! And remember, if you aren’t safe while moving, your dog is not safe! Take precautions to ensure your safety too.
We chose the full-time RV life in order to spend more time with our dogs and to make a difference for animals and people while traveling. What is your motivation behind traveling with your dog? Is it to give your dog the best life possible? If you are considering taking your dog with you in your motorhome or RV, thank you–thank you for considering your dog a part of your family! Not only will you see your trips differently through your dog’s eyes, but you will truly get to live in the moment. Pack up, prepare, and get ready for the most epic travel life ever with your dog!
You might also enjoy reading: How to Plan a Dog-Friendly Road Trip