Driving Towards F.I.R.E.

RV Life with Dogs

So…you have decided to hit the road full-time in your RV, camper, 5th Wheel, Class A, Van, etc and you’ve decided to bring your beloved dog(s), or maybe you’ve decided now you want a 4-legged companion for your hikes and travels and are looking for tips with caring for them while on the go?

That’s GREAT!  Dogs are such great companions to have and help provide that companionship we all need!  We travel full-time with our 2 rescues in our 42 foot 5th wheel.  We couldn’t imagine the RV lifestyle without them.  Duke, our full-blood german shepherd is our most recent rescue, although we’ve had him now for 3 years.  Chloe is our diva and we rescued her at the end of 2013.  She’s the alpha and Duke generally follows her lead.  Truthfully, the’ve created a bond with one another and we are thankful to have both of them.

Let’s discuss the most important topics when considering traveling full-time with your dog(s).

1. Veterinarian and Animal Care

This is essentially the most important for you and your dogs.  For us, we still consider our Vet back home in Nashville to be our primary Vet’s office even if we are located hundreds of miles away.  It’s imperative that you have digital and hard copies of all vet records as some campgrounds and other vet offices will require them before you can book your stay or appointment.  If you’ve rescued or adopted a dog outside of your home area, consider finding a vet in your area that has flexible hours, includes emergency services, and allows you to be with your dog when they call their name for their appointment (some vet offices take your dog while you remain out in the lobby waiting).  If you prefer to board your dogs (we don’t usually) at a Vet’s office, make sure they have a large enough area outside for them to play.  Most Vet’s offices have small spaces for boarding and while that may be fine for smaller dogs, we generally recommend dog boarding places with a good bit of space and 24 hour services.

2.  Shots, Preventative Meds, Flea and Tick Medications:

If you are like us, we prefer to rescue dogs who are often not considered puppies (which require many more shots and appointments at vet than older dogs do) and while on the road there are many required shots and medications that should always be up to date.  Here’s a list of the most common shots and necessary exams for dogs:

~ Heartworm ~ Bordetella ~ Fecal and Parasite Exam ~ Distemper/Parvo ~ Rabies

These are the standard for a majority of dog boarding and kennel places and you’ll need to ensure that your dog(s) stay up to date on these.  There are some places like the State of Virginia who require your dog to have a 2 part series of Influenza Bivalent treatments too.

Now as far as Flea, Tick, and Heartworm treatments go…usually your veterinarian will recommend the best plan for these, but for example using our dogs for the sake of this post, we treat them with Sentinel (Flea/Tick and Heartworm) and Bravecto (Flea/Tick). Essentially, Sentinel prevents flea and tick bites and Bravecto prevents the reproduction of flea and ticks.  Sentinel is given once a month and Bravecto is given once every 3 months.  We use the stickers that come in the box and attach them to a small calendar hanging in our RV as reminders as to when to give and when they received.

3.  Finding Dog-Friendly Campgrounds and Trails:

So this one can be tricky as most campgrounds are independently owned and operated (besides state parks and private land), and these campground hosts often have the final say as to what breed of dogs are allowed.  Just because online it says, “pets allowed” you better check for the fine print and make sure you double-check with the campground before booking.  We haven’t had a particular issue with this ourselves, but some places classify German Shepherds as an “aggressive” breed.  It’s funny because if you’ve ever owned a GSD before, you’ll laugh at the thought of how silly it is to put them in the aggressive category.  We often say, “Big Bite, Big Bark, Bigger Heart”.  As a pro-tip we’ll offer here, if you run into a campground host stating they will not accept your breed, maybe you can suggest a meet and greet between them and your dog.  This may allow you to book with your dog.  We utilize a few mobile apps to check for dog-friendly campgrounds and we will read reviews about what amenities are offered for pets along with what restrictions are in place.  Not all campgrounds are equal so mileage will vary here.  Here’s a short list of our favorite apps:

~ Campendium ~ KOA ~ Recreation.gov ~ The Dyrt ~ and Hip Camp

Each app offers a different user interface but provides some info regarding being pet friendly.  Pro-tip, read the reviews to get a better understanding of what the requirements and restrictions (and any previous mishaps) are.

As for dog-friendly trails, a general rule to remember is that if it’s a National Park majority of the time pets are NOT permitted.  State Parks allow pets on leashes.  As for other trails (and parks) we’ve not encountered any pets not allowed situations at this point.  If dogs are allowed on trails most will require them to be on leashes and that you pick up after them.  Here’s 2 Apps we use to find awesome trails and to find out if we can bring our dogs:

~ All Trails ~ Trip Advisor (Trip Advisor doesn’t necessarily specify, but there are reviews that often let you know as well.

Here’s another pro-tip, we usually only read reviews that discuss whether the trail or park allows dogs.  What’s important in some of these reviews are the potential hazards for dogs.  In particular, we’ve depended on reviews to let us know if a trail or park is known for ticks or other harmful situations for our dogs.  Helps us plan to have a fun but safe day!

4.  Activities for your dogs while traveling:

Just like us humans, our canine friends need activities throughout the day.  This is especially important if you have active dogs who depend on exercise and other routines.  Having a routine and a schedule is critical for your dogs.  This can be especially difficult for RV’ers because your plans and route can change at a moment’s notice.  While in route, stopping at rest areas is a great way to allow your dogs some fresh air and to do their business.  In most cases, if you have to go, trust they usually do too.  Keeping them on a schedule will help you limit any potential messes that occur inside your RV, camper, van, etc.  Dogs are creatures of habit, they are very smart and keen on this.  For example, our dogs know that every morning I have my morning coffee first after loving on them and then it’s time for their breakfast.  Once breakfast is over they know it’s time for a walk to potty and to exercise.  I’ve found that usually every 4-5 hours is a good measure of when to let your dogs out to potty and works well for our two dogs.  If your campground has a fenced in doggy play area, this can be a great way to both socialize them with other dogs and allow them some freedom to roam around.  As an added bonus, some campgrounds have open fields that provide some more room for them to run around, but make sure it’s away from other campers as most campgrounds require leases.  Some other great activities we recommend is treat-training, using treats to work on come, sit, stay, etc.  Many dogs, especially ones like our GSD love training as it gives them a job/activity to do.  You can also consider picking up many types of balls to throw for fetch from Petsmart as other activities.  If you plan to rescue a dog or adopt one from a shelter, some (like ours) may not know how to play and it may take them some time to learn.  Great activity for you and your dog.

5.  General Recommendations:  

In this section we’ll discuss some other recommendations for traveling with dogs.  1st, if you haven’t yet purchased a RV, we strongly consider purchasing one that has a 50amp connection and if possible dual A/Cs.  30amps seem to struggle mightily during the summer months especially if you are camping in warmer states.  50amps help provide more A/C output throughout the day.  This is imperative if you don’t plan to bring your dog or if you are out sight-seeing to places that don’t allow pets and you need to leave them behind in the RV.  If you already have your RV and it’s a 30amp, maybe consider adding a circulating fan and keep plenty of water available for your dogs.  We usually are not gone longer than 4-5 hours max from our RV while sight-seeing.

Additionally, we purchased a device called “Canary” from Amazon that provides a full HD wide angle lens camera, microphone, and speaker that allows you to not only remotely check in on your dogs from your smartphone, you can turn on the mic and talk to them.  As an extra benefit, Canary allows you to see the current temperature, humidity, and air quality inside your RV from your smartphone as well.  You can set ranges in the settings that will notify you when the temp has exceeded and certain temperature as well as the humidity and air quality levels.  It has motion settings too that will notify you of movement inside your RV.  We use the motion settings notification so we know they are doing ok.  You always have the option to “watch live” at any time.  It also works great at night as it comes equipped with an infrared camera that will illuminate even in darkness.  The company will also give you 3 free months of the “pro” subscription that will record all movements and send them to you in a notification and backup all captured video to the cloud for you to access later.  Last time we checked it was listed for $85 on Amazon.

We have been on the hunt for a smart thermostat that will work with RV’s that we can control remotely as well, but so far we’ve been unsuccessful  Maybe this will be a reality soon.

That’s all our tips and recommendations for traveling fulltime with our dogs.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.  Safe travels!

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