Simple 7: Steps to RVing with a big dog

(Photo: Adventurnity Family)

If you ask our son how long he has been waiting to get a dog, he’ll tell you 100 years! But luckily for him, he only had to wait until he was 4. When we first set out on our full-time RV adventures, we were a family of three with mild intentions of adding a fluffy golden retriever puppy to the mix. After four months of travel, seeing our son thrive in our new lifestyle and witnessing a handful of heart-wrenching goodbyes from new friends, we figured it was as good a time as any to get our son a pup.

But yikes, the thought of having a fluffy puppy that would eventually be a big dog in a tiny space was rather interesting. Thankfully, we had two months to research the best solutions to make traveling with a big dog easier.

If you already have a big dog, or are thinking about getting one, here are seven things to consider when bringing your dog along on your RV adventures.

No Dogs Allowed

Before adding a pup to our family, we started taking note of dog rules at campgrounds and parks. Most campgrounds welcome dogs kept on leashes and share this information on their website. When in doubt, it is always better to call ahead and ask prior to arriving with your dog in tow. Sometimes there are breed restrictions even if they do allow dogs. We’ve seen a handful of campgrounds actually have on-site dog parks where you can run and play with your dog. Another thing to note, although it’s rare, is that some campgrounds will charge an extra fee for having a dog. When visiting state parks, always look up their dog rules because they frequently vary. One thing we pay close attention to is whether our dog is allowed to swim in nearby waterways and if the waterways are safe for dogs. National parks, on the other hand, are a bit more challenging. Most national parks do not allow dogs (other than service dogs) throughout the park. On occasion, you will find some parks allow dogs on paved walking paths but not on trails. Knowing this ahead of time will help you plan accordingly to figure out the best solution for your dog while you are out and about if they aren’t able to accompany you.

Finding A Veterinarian On The Road

Traveling with an 8-week-old puppy was relatively easy because, like babies, they sleep a lot. It was, however, a little challenging to find a veterinarian to schedule the suggested puppy checkups and booster shots. Once we finally found a vet with an opening to take us, we would typically have to drive 45 minutes to an hour as they were not exactly close to where we were staying. Now that we are past the puppy stage, we don’t have to go as frequently. But we always do a quick search to make sure there is a veterinarian or animal hospital nearby in case of emergencies.

To Crate Or Not To Crate

Growing our family with an 8-week-old pup left us with no option but to use a crate. But we were perplexed as to how we were going to figure out fitting a crate in our 37-foot motorhome. After weeks of researching and discussing options, we learned this wasn’t going to be an easy decision. Do we get a fabric collapsible crate, buy a small crate for now and upgrade to a bigger one later, or invest in one crate that will last us well into the future? We decided to invest in an Impact dog crate. They are made from recycled aluminum, so they are solid but don’t weigh too much. The one we have is 40 inches, and it was huge for a 14-pound pup, but it is great for him at 63 pounds, with plenty of room for him to still grow. The biggest selling point for us was that his crate easily collapses, which is perfect for travel days, staying in a hotel or giving him some outdoor space.

Sleeping Arrangements

Creating a consistently safe and comfortable place for your dog is extremely important. Your dog will need to know where they can/should go to sleep, rest, play or hang out. If you decide to have a crate in your RV, maybe that is the place. It could also be a dog bed on the floor, the couch or even your bed, if you allow it. Even though we have an Impact dog crate as our pup’s nighttime sleeping area, and it’s where he stays while we are gone, we also got him a Big Barker Bed. Typically, we keep the dog crate in the back of our RV in the master bedroom and the Big Barker dog bed up in the living space by the fireplace. It’s been great to have both available for him, so we do not need to move the crate back and forth depending on where we are spending time.

Creating Storage Space 

We knew we wanted a big, fluffy dog for our family, but naively we picked the biggest pup out of the bunch. And with big dogs come big things — bones, food, toys and leashes are all big and tend to take up a lot of space. It’s best if you can dedicate an indoor area such as a cabinet or drawer for all your dog’s items. Ideally, you want your storage space to be easy to access since you will be using it multiple times a day. We use a drawer under the dinette for food storage, bones, treats, medicine and other items. Outside in our storage bays, we store extra food, outdoor toys, a dog life vest and an outdoor lead line.

Maintain A Clean RV

Cleaning up dog hair kind of goes without saying … especially with a golden retriever. If you, too, have a big, fluffy dog, we suggest brushing him or her daily and using a Swiffer each night to keep the dog hair to a minimum. But, in addition to the hair, you’ll want to keep the areas in which your dog eats and enjoys their treats, as well as where they are stored, clean too. Dog bones, crumbs and pieces of food lying about, even if hidden under a dog bowl or bed, are an invitation for mice and other critters looking for a snack. The last thing you want is a mouse in your RV! Besides maintaining a clean RV, we have also found peppermint spray to be a good deterrent for mice and rodents, and it’s safe for animals, too.

Dog Chips And Insurance 

If you are RVing and out for an adventure, you are most likely hiking, biking and/or spending time on the water. All of these are great activities to have your dog included in the fun. However, some of the activities or terrain could put your dog at an additional risk of an accident. Knowing there is a veterinarian or animal hospital nearby may put your mind at ease, but another level of assurance could be having insurance for your fluffy friend. We all know how expensive medical help can be. And if you’re in need of emergency help, there isn’t much time to shop around prices, even if there are other options in town. Another thing you may want to consider is having your dog microchipped. While a dog chip is not a tracking device, it is still a very handy way to have your dog returned to you should he or she take off or somehow get separated from you. We were apprehensive at first, but after researching it further and finding out that the process and registration were under $100, we decided to get the chip for our pup.  

All in all, traveling in an RV with a big dog has been great. Our pup is now 63 pounds at 6 months old, so he still has some growing to do. We’ve made our space work for all of us, and you can too!