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RVing with Dogs: 33 Practical Tips & Free Essentials Checklist

Time to hit the open road with your pup! Traveling with your dog is rewarding, even if it is a bit more effort. Before you head out on your next adventure, check out these best tips for RVing with dogs, including a free packing checklist to download.

RVing with dogs view of two golden retrievers and motorhome in background
RVing with dogs: my two Goldens who love traveling!

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RVing with your dog is one of best ways to spend time with your pup while enjoying the outdoors! My dogs, Kona and Kai, loooove going on RV trips and after a few years and many awesome RV vacations, I thought it was about time to share my top tips.

Whether you’re just getting into RVing or you’re thinking about adding a dog to your family, this guide has the best tips for your RV with a dog (or multiple😉).

Oh and just a side note, I’ll use ‘dog’ and ‘dogs’ interchangeably in this RV travel guide. Obviously having more than one changes the dynamic, but the same tips still generally apply!

RVing with dogs: top tips

RVing with dogs with two golden retrievers in the drivers and passengers seats
These dogs hop in the drivers and passengers seats when we head into a gas station or store.😆 Oh the stares we get!

This guide is going to cover a lot of ground. From health and safety to recreation, there’s so much to enjoy with your pup while RVing. Let’s get to it!

Getting your dog ready for the RV

Before you hit the road, it’s a good idea to prepare your dog for RV travel…

  1. Acclimate your dogs to the motorhome first! We first got Kona and Kai comfortable with the RV while it was sitting in our driveway before ever moving it. Then go for short trips then further away.
  2. Create a familiar space for them. Bring things in that smell like home, like their dog bed or favorite blanket.
  3. Figure out where they’ll travel. Are you keeping them in a crate or other safe place? Using a dog seat belt tether? Free roaming? Make sure they’re safe and you are too while on the road!
  4. Start with a short trip. Whether your plans are to take epic adventures like through the Canadian Rockies from Banff to Jasper or other awesome destinations, you’ll want to start out easy. An hour drive, then a short weekend trip, etc. before going for a multi-week adventure.

As RV owners, taking the time to adjust your dog to your trailer or motorhome is an essential part of their comfort level.

RVing with Dogs Checklist

Download the FREE checklist now!

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    RV with dogs: taking essential gear

    Heading out on RV adventures with my Golden Retrievers means ensuring they have all they needed for comfort, safety and fun. Your dog needs the same, too!

    Preparing with the right dog gear is crucial for a successful RV trip…

    1. Dog food and water bowl. It can be easy to walk out of your house without them. Buy a spare set of bowls for the RV or grab them before you go!
    2. Pack food and store your bulk dog food in your RV storage. This has helped us on our RV adventures immensely. We have a small container with about 2 days worth of food available in the cabin, then the bulk of the dog food is kept in the storage under the RV.
    3. Bring collapsible water bowls. We pack ours in the RV and bring them while hiking with our pups, like in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta.  
    4. You’ll need leashes and in-ground leads for camping trips. Having a set of leads that can be put in the ground at campgrounds while RVing with dogs is so handy! It ensures your dogs’ safety while allowing them some flexibility.
    5. Interactive toys. Essential for keeping Kona and Kai entertained during low activity days or on a long road trip, we always pack a bag of toys they love. My dogs have this one and love it.
    6. Take a white noise maker. We use ours overnight for our kids and dogs, so they don’t overhear other campers or animals outside. You can also use it if you need to leave the dogs in your RV for a while during the day to distract them from barking at outdoor noises.
    7. Make sure you have plenty of doggy bags. As dog owners, pick up after your dog – always!

    Packing cleaning supplies for RV camping with dogs

    Okay, so as a pet owner you know you’ll have messes. In my family, it’s either my kids or my dogs that seem to constantly making a mess. Anyhow, these supplies have been helpful in our RV adventures with our Goldens…

    1. Get a handheld vacuum. I was honestly apprehensive to get this because of the price. But it’s been worth every single penny and is a great way to keep the motorhome tidy! With 2 Goldens, we use ours every day to pick up hair, food messes, etc. It doubles for quick cleaning at home, too.
    2. Bring “dog towels” as we call them.😆 Basically we have a set of old or torn towels that we use for dog messes like muddy paws. 
    3. You’ll want doggy shampoo and a large cup for spot rinses. Our dogs love swimming, so it seems like we’re always giving them baths on our adventures! On our Utah national parks road trip they swam in the river at our campground right outside of Zion, which required a quick bath!
    4. Get a collapsible bucket. Whether you’re rinsing muddy paws or cleaning up dog vomit messes from motion sickness (been there 🤢), a bucket that folds down flat but holds a lot of water when needed is awesome to have. Grab some puke cleaner while you’re at it, too!
    5. Speaking of, our SpotClean Pet has come in really handy for upholstery messes. A quick shampoo will help preserve your RV. We use ours at home and in the RV.
    6. Pack a brush, nail clippers and other grooming supplies. You just never know what you’ll need on the road.

    That’s a bulk of what makes it into our motorhome. More camping with dogs tips still ahead….

    Finding pet-friendly campgrounds

    rv with dog view of Goldens looking at elk in distance at campground
    Dogs watching Elk from a distance at Whistlers Campground, Alberta

    Let’s be honest, some campgrounds say they’re dog-friendly, and others actually really are! Here are some tips on what to look for in a campground while RVing with dogs…

    1. Research early: prior to setting off on your RV adventures, dedicate time to research. Look for RV campgrounds that specifically mention they are pet-friendly. We’ve found over the years the really good campgrounds often sell out months in advance.
    2. Watch for size or breed restrictions. Depending on what kind of dog you have, this could make or break your trip.
    3. Look for pet amenities: the best pet-friendly RV parks go beyond just allowing pets – they cater to them. Amenities like off-leash dog parks, pet exercise areas, and walking trails are indicators of a truly pet-friendly campground. My family loves a campground with a fenced-in dog run so they can play off leash.
    4. Read reviews: other pet owners often share their firsthand experiences about the pet-friendly nature of the campgrounds.
    5. Watch for pet fees. Some campgrounds charge per dog (and for a large dog), so be sure you read the fine print so you know the actual price of your stay.
    6. Don’t leave your dog unattended outside. Most campgrounds have this rule, and it’s for the safety of your dog(s).

    Tips for recreation and exercise

    Ensuring Kona and Kai get enough daily activity is so important while while RVing. Your pup(s) need the same, too! Never let them go long periods of time between stretching their legs and be sure to plan your day for frequent stops

    1. Obey leash laws. This is so important. You never know when you will meet a reactive dog, or other wild animals for that matter.
    2. When on the road, look for pet-friendly rest stops and gas stations for potty breaks. My family looks for Love’s Travel Stops along our routes for long travel days. They always have fenced-in dog areas, and some even have playgrounds for my kids, too. Just watch your step and clean up after your dog – so many piles are left around these kinds of places. And bonus – they’re RV-friendly, too.
    3. When entering a new state, look for visitor centers. So many are dog-friendly, and if you stop during open hours, you can chat with them about dog-friendly opportunities along your route or in the area you’re staying in!
    4. Create a relaxing outdoor space at your campsite. We tend to travel a lot in our RV, rarely spending an abundance of time at one place but when we do, we create a cozy outdoor space. A large area mat is helpful. I’ve also seen some make-shift fences. Just be sure to check the fine print for your campground.
    5. Search out dog parks, local parks and other dog-friendly activities. This is part of enjoying RVing with dogs! While dogs can’t go on most national park trails in the US, lots of state parks, forests and other recreational areas do allow leashed dogs. My dogs have enjoyed swimming in Lake Tahoe and many Colorado hiking trails over the years, for instance.

    RV travel with dogs – health and safety tips

    rving with dog view of two dogs on beach with pier in background during RV vacation
    RV with dogs is the best: Kona and Kai enjoying the beach in Florida

    Maintaining your dogs’ health while enjoying the RV lifestyle does require a bit of planning but it’s totally doable

    1. Keeping up with vaccinations is essential. Before hitting the road, I ensure that Kona and Kai’s shots are up to date, have a physical copy of their records in the RV and vet contact information. And if you’re traveling over a border, make sure to do a bit of research to be adequately prepared.
    2. Bring a pet first aid kit on your RV trip. Include items like bandages, gauze, antiseptics, tweezers and styptic powder for your dog’s nails.
    3. Don’t forget any medications for your dog. On an RV trip to 30a Florida with Kona and Kai, we also brought ear flush so we could clean their ears after swimming in the ocean.
    4. As an extra precaution, you could locate an emergency vet clinic near your campground and have the number saved, just in case.
    5. Ensure ID tags are on your dog, always. Don’t forget these at home. Having your dog microchipped is helpful on your RV camping trip if your pup was to get lost, too.

    RV with dogs checklist

    Here’s a free, easy to download checklist that will help make packing a breeze for your RV adventures with your dog.

    Get the perfect RVing with dogs checklist!

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      RVing with dogs – that’s a wrap

      RVing with dogs two golden retrievers with Golden Gate Bridge in background
      Another RV travel with dogs adventure: visiting San Francisco

      My dogs, Kona and Kai, absolutely love going on RV trips with my whole family. They’ve been to dozens of states in the RV, and truly enjoy the adventures. Core memories have been made, that’s for sure!

      Prepping to leave home in your RV with dogs (and kids) is no easy task with so much to remember. But it’s always worth it to spend quality time with your pup, finding new adventures along the way.

      I hope you found this RV travel guide helpful, and that you’re just that much closer to hitting the road to go RVing with your dog!

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      text that reads 33 must-see tips: rving with dogs with free printable dog RV packing list and photos of two dogs on beach and in front of RV