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RV Camping with Dogs: A Complete Guide Loaded With Tips

Published on March 19th, 2019 by Camper Report
This post was updated on April 28th, 2021

My family is full of avid dog-lovers and we have taken ours on many camping trips in our RV. It may seem simple, but there is a whole lot to know about having a dog with you on an RV trip, so I have made a guide that will help you, and your pet, have an amazing road trip.

So, what should I know about camping with dogs? The most essential thing to remember to pack all of the essentials, buckle your dog up, and make time for potty breaks. Also, stay in pet-friendly campsites and be courteous to your neighbors with your dog.

Continue reading to dive deep into the details of all the tips and techniques of knowing everything you need to have the best road trip with your dog. In this guide, I will go over the most important things to keep in mind on your RV camping trip with your dog, and other tips that will further enhance and guarantee a great experience for all involved.

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Pack the Essentials For Your Dog

One of the most important things for you to keep in mind in regards to camping in an RV with your dog is to be sure to remember to pack all of your dogs will need during your trip.

Think of that awful feeling you get when you realize that you forgot to pack something important for a trip. That feeling is even worse when you forget something essential for your dog, trust me, I know!

Here is a list of some important things to bring of things that your dog will need on the RV camping trip. Some of the items have links to where you can purchase them if you don’t already own them.

In the two links above I have attached some great products that are perfect portable water bottles and bowls for your dog.

Unlike humans, dogs can’t express easily how they are feeling so it can be hard to tell what exactly it is that they need. This is why the owner needs to be on top of keeping their dogs hydrated throughout the day and trip.

Travel water bottles for dogs are convenient due to their light weight and ability to transport water around. When it comes down to it, having a water bowl at the very least will be just fine.

  • Dog food

You don’t want to have to be feeding your dog all of the people food that you bought for yourself and family during your RV trip, so it’s important to remember to pack lots of dog food along as well.

Sometimes those bags of dog food can be huge and heavy but don’t worry you don’t necessarily have to bring the whole bag depending on the length of your trip. Measure how much your dog eats each day then bring as much as you need (plus some extra just in case) in a separate bag for your trip.

In the link above I have attached a great leash and collar for medium and large dogs that are strong and reliable. If you do not have one, or if you do not like the one that you have now, I highly recommend this one!

I can’t stress how important it is to bring both a leash and collar for you dog in your RV while camping. There have been so many accidents that could’ve been avoided by having these simple items.

Some people try to get by with just a leash and no collar. They wrap it around the dog’s neck and it seems to have the same effect. It definitely does not. Dogs have the ability to free themselves much easier when the owner doesn’t use a leash and collar.

If you remember to bring these two simple items and use them while RV camping, you will avoid and be safe from almost all dog-to-hum incident, dog-to-dog attacks, wildlife encounters, losing your dog, and many other things.

In the link above I have attached both a harness and seat belt/car leash that can be used to keep your dog safe and sound in the RV.

I have been guilty of not buckling up my dogs when they ride with me in the car/RV, but I now understand that it is super important for dogs to strap in up just like humans. It can be very dangerous not only for the dog but for the other passengers as well in the RV if the dogs don’t have some sort of belt or protection.

Crashes happen to many when they least expect it, so be safe and protect your dog and family with some sort of harness or seat belt on your road trip.

This item might not apply to all dog owners because I know that many just have their dogs sleep with them or wherever they want. My family usually puts our dogs in kennels or on dog beds.

If this is the case for you and your dog, or if that sounds convenient to you, then I definitely recommend that you bring along some bedding to give your dog a designated place to lie down and night.

Depending on the type of RV road trip you go on, your dog can easily get dirty in a matter of minutes, and nobody wants a dirty, wet dog sleeping with them in their RV. I recommend purchasing an outdoor dog bathing tool to be able to wash your dog quick and easy just in case they get gross and dirty.

  • Dog Toys

Going to campsites in an RV with your dog is just as much as a fun vacation for you as it is for them! They will love being able to spend lots of time with you that they might not get during the business of normal work and school weeks.

Bring or buy lots of toys and balls for them so that they can make memories with you and bond like never before. This is an awesome opportunity for man’s best friend to really live up to its name.

Depending on the time of year and the region where you decide to go RV road tripping, it might be smart to bring some clothes and protection against the elements for your dog. This can help keep them safe and comfortable as they enjoy their camping experience with you.

If you plan on staying by any campsite in your RV that is near rivers, lakes, or ponds you might want to bring a life jacket along for your dog. Some dogs are pretty skillful and natural swimmers.

My parents’ Yorkies, however, are not, so they bring along two cute doggie life jackets for them so that they can still have some fun in the water.

My parents use life jackets for their Yorkies when they go to lakes and the dogs actually don’t mind them! They sure do help a lot for dogs who aren’t very strong swimmers.

Make Time for Potty Breaks

Dogs aren’t always known to be the best communicators, and due to that, they can’t always make it very clear on whether they are hungry, thirsty, or need to use the bathroom. When on the road in your RV be cautious of that because you don’t wait to have to clear up any messes in your vehicle!

Make multiple and somewhat frequent stops so that the dog can get out and do what needs to be done. You might have to treat your dog like a little toddler in regards to this.

When parked at a campsite this is less of a hassle because they will be outside in nature for most of the time. Be aware that they may need to be let out at nighttime or even early in the morning to do their business.

It is extremely important that you be sure to bring little bags to clean up after your dog once it has done its business! Nobody wants to step in that mess on accident! Many campsites that allow dogs in place trashcans sporadically throughout the land so that owners can dispose of their dog’s messes quickly and easily.

If you still are in the potty-training phase or don’t fully trust your dog with this, then I would recommend investing in an RV that doesn’t have carpets if possible. It is much easier to clean up messes that way.

Stay in Dog-Friendly Campgrounds and Areas

Before starting your trip it is very important to do some research to see if the campground that you plan on going to allows dogs. Every park and campsite has its own policies, rules, and restrictions in regards to our four-legged friends.

Some national parks don’t allow pets at all, while some have strict rules that they must be leashed at all times You don’t want to show up and then get kicked out or fined for bringing your dog to a place with strict rules.

Many places don’t have a problem with dogs, just in case, it is always safe and important to check the park or campground that you are planning on going to with your RV and pups.

It usually isn’t hard to find campgrounds that are pet-friendly, and there are some that are completely open to dogs to roam as they please, but it can quickly become a big problem if you don’t do your homework and show up to the wrong place without knowing the regulations.

When you find out the rules, please follow them. The rules in regards to dogs and other pets for certain campgrounds have been put there for a reason. You don’t want to get in trouble, fined or kicked out of a place because you failed to obey the rules or weren’t aware of them at all!

Be Careful With Others and Their Pets

Prepare for contact with other people

I love dogs and will for my whole life, and it was hard for me to come to terms with the fact that not everybody in the world shares that same passion for man’s best friend that I have.

In campgrounds especially, keep in mind that people might not only not like dogs and some might even be allergic or scared of them.

It is usually pretty easy to tell the dog lovers from the dog haters. Those who are interested and love dogs will likely approach you and ask for permission to interact with your pet. That is totally fine, and is a great way to make friends!

Dog haters are even easier to spot. They will avoid both you and your dog and won’t even make eye contact with it. Don’t worry about this, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

I don’t know what it is about dogs, but they are often interested in those who have no interest in them! Maybe it is because they are used to always getting attention from everyone that when someone walks by who doesn’t like pets, the dog just wants to get right in their face!

Just keep your dog leashed so that you don’t make anyone unhappy that isn’t interested in interacting with your pet. Remember to not take offense. Many more dog lovers will come your way during your trip, I’m sure of it.

Prepare for contact with other dogs

Sometimes the issue, however, is dog-to-dog contact instead of human-to-dog interactions. As a dog owner, I’m sure you’re familiar with how dogs can react when other dogs come walking by.

Sometimes it can be a good and positive experience where your pup makes a new friend. Other times the dogs might get a little aggressive, and there could be fighting.

Dogs are awesome, but they can be extremely territorial and vicious when it comes to those of their species that they are not familiar with. Its almost like they picture themselves as being tougher and stronger than they actually are and this can get them in trouble.

Like I mentioned before, my parents have a couple of Yorkie’s and they act more like rottweilers when other dogs come near. We have to keep them away from other dogs until they have time to get to know them and become friends.

The first interaction is usually tense, but the more contact they have with dogs, the more they will be friendly and nice to other dogs around the campsite.

If you are cautious and keep these things in mind while on your RV camping trip you should be just fine!

Prepare For Contact With Wildlife

There are tons of animals out there that I’m sure your dog has never seen before. When going on an RV trip to campsites there will be plenty of chances for them to see all sorts of rabbits, foxes, coyotes, bears, deer, etc.

Depending on your dog it might be excited, curious, aggressive, or terrified when it sees these animals.

It doesn’t really matter how your dog will react when it sees wildlife if you are prepared for it. Two simple things can make it so that your dog is kept under control during these interactions: A leash and a collar.

If your dog gets excited and curious when new creatures are near, leash and collar combo will keep it from running after the wild animals and getting attacked, lost, or even dirty.

Some dogs might be aggressive and can quickly get themselves into trouble with wildlife, putting them on a leash prevents that as well.

Maybe your dog is easily scared. I’ve seen dogs that quickly run away at the sight of something unfamiliar. That’s an easy way for them to get hurt or lost, so keep them safe by with your leash and collar.

The leash and collar combo are so simple and effective that there really is no good reason that using them when you go on an RV camping trip with your dog.

Be Prepared for Weather Conditions

Weather conditions will vary dramatically depending on what campground you decide to road trip in your RV to and what time of year it happens to be. Also, certain dog species are naturally equipt to handle specific climates that other dogs were not bred for.

For winter camping occasions, for example, if you have Siberian husky you shouldn’t have a problem at all with the weather. However, if you have Yorkies like my parents do you might want to bring some sort of jacket or sweater for your dog.

On the other hand, a husky might not do as well is a really hot and arid climate, so a fan or some other item can be brought and used to help keep them cool.

Weather on camping trips can often be unpredictable, and luckily RVs can provide good shelter for you and your dog. However, bringing jackets for rain/snow, sweaters, heaters, fans, etc can make your dog’s experience a lot better.

Do Smaller Trips at First

Let’s be honest, dogs for the most live simple, lazy, and luxurious lives at home. Going from that to a mobile RV and living in the wilderness for a number of days or weeks must be a crazy culture shock.

My dogs have had to take their time adapting to the time away from home. At first, they absolutely hated it and kept shaking throughout the whole trip. Now they are starting to warm up to it.

If at all possible, it can really help your dog adapt and fully enjoy the RV camping experience if you slowly introduce them to it. Maybe at first you simply spend some free time with your dog in the RV so it doesn’t seem so foreign to them when you start the trip.

Then you can start going on small, weekend trips to campground. At first, it will be new for your dog, but they will learn to love it quickly and be better prepared for larger and longer trips in the RV.

Also, it helps the dogs a lot if you go on lots of walks when these breaks are taken. Being cooped up in a small space for so long can be nerve-wracking for dogs, especially the active breeds. They will feel much better if they have opportunities to walk it all off frequently.

Chip and/or ID Tag

If you haven’t already gotten a chip for your dog it might be a good idea to invest in one now if you are planning on taking them on RV adventures to different campgrounds. At the very least be sure to have a collar with a tag that has your contact information.

Sometimes even with all the preparation and proper items things still can go wrong. I have heard of and read too many depression stories of owners who lose their dogs while camping and never find them again. If this happens, having the chip or a tag can be a live saver.

If you invest in one of these you will definitely not regret it!

Spend as Much Time With Your Dog as Possible

Put your dog’s point of view into perspective. They are in a completely new environment that they probably aren’t used to at all. At home, they are more comfortable with their space and having their owners leave on occasion.

However, being in what seems to be the wilderness they could be confused and scared. I know my dogs still feel this way when we travel with them.

Your dog can have just as much fun on an RV vacation as you do. All dogs love spending exclusive time with their owners and discovering new places with them. Take your dog with you everywhere you go on this trip, don’t just leave them alone on the campground.

If you can, do some exercises with them such as light jogs and morning walks. Take them on hikes and other sorts of adventures. I’m sure the experience will be just as memorable to them as it is to you!

Keep Dog’s Ownership Info on You (Proof of Ownership, Vaccination Records, Photographs)

You never know when all of this information can come in handy. Sometimes people are evil and can accuse you of stealing a dog, or that you didn’t take proper precautions as an owner.

Just to be safe and avoid any false accusations or issues with anybody, it is safe to have copies of proof of ownership, vaccination records, and other documentation.

Even just having multiple pictures of your dog with you and your family can be helpful at the very least.

Related Questions:

Can I take my cat RV camping with me? Cats can be very different than dogs in regards to leaving the house and going on adventures. Typically they prefer to be comfortable at home and most cats even thrive with having extra alone time. It is up to the owner. Having a cat in an RV on a camping trip could still be a good experience.

What dog breeds would tend to enjoy RVing more than others? The best dog breeds to take on RV trips are the ones that are naturally active and adventurous. Some of these include Australian Shepherds, Labs, Golden Retrievers, and Huskies. Most dogs will enjoy it though, especially if they are with their owners.

Is it hard to keep an RV clean with dogs? This can be a challenge if you aren’t on top of it, especially with dogs who shed. The biggest thing to worry about is hair, so if you get in the habit of vacuuming daily it won’t be too big of a problem.

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