Rover on the road

The essential guide to preparing a great trip for you, your vehicle, and your furry friend.

When you love your dog but also love to travel, RV life lets you enjoy both. Ontario is full of dog-friendly vacation spots. Bringing your dog with you makes camping even better; dogs provide security at the campsite and can help scare off predators while hiking along a trail. They offer affection and comfort, and can even help you keep warm on a cold night! Dogs are also a great way to meet new people: one time hiking, I stopped to chat with a couple walking a cute dog when our two dogs stopped to say hello. We quickly became friends and they joined our group for campfire that evening!

Of course for all the benefits, having dogs in your RV brings a variety of additional challenges. If you’re bringing your canine companion to Canada from the US, check these tips first. A primary consideration is: how well does your dog travel? Before your RV trip, prepare your pooch by taking them on happy adventures so you dog learns to associate vehicle travel with fun outings, not just a visit to the vet. Whether or not to harness your dog in your vehicle is up to you. Harnessing can not only protect you and your dog in case of an accident, it can also help energetic dogs remain calm and stay out of the driver’s way.

Food, Medication, ID

Be sure to pack enough dog food and medication for your entire trip with a little extra just in case, especially if the food can be hard to find on the road. Consider if you need to beef up your dog’s flea or tick control regimen before you go, especially if your city dog will be spending more time in the woods on your trip. For your peace of mind, ensure your dog has an ID tag on its collar with your contact information.  If your dog is microchipped, be sure the microchip company has your current contact info registered to the chip ID before you go.

Keeping cool

While camping, climate control inside the RV can be a problem, especially when the temperatures swing to the extremes. Dealing with high temps presents the greatest danger to dogs, who can easily overheat in their warm coats. Air conditioning is the obvious solution, but what if you don’t have it, or you’re camping without electricity? There are lots of tricks to help keep things cool: park in the shade, or park with your awning to the south so the awning shades the side of camper in the heat of the day. Open windows on the shady side of your RV and ensure roof vents are open and fans are running for maximum airflow. Set up a fan to blow on your dog’s favorite resting area too. For shedding dogs, bump up your brushing routine to a daily schedule to help remove excess coat. For dogs with hair, consider getting them a shorter haircut before your trip. Always be sure their water dish is full of fresh water!

If you need to go out and leave your dog in the RV in places where it might be too hot, consider going early in the morning or later in the day to be sure RV doesn’t overheat while you are away. Or have one person stay home to keep an eye on pooch and provide relief if things start heating up. Another option is to bring your dog with you. Call ahead to be sure dogs are allowed and always be prepared with a plan B. Carry a reflective front windshield sunshade custom fit for your vehicle make and model for complete sun deflection. In our vehicle, with the sunshade in and the windows rolled down, our dog is safe on all but the hottest days. We always take our valuables with us, provide a bowl of fresh water, and leave a sign on the dash with our phone number in case a passerby is concerned.

Keeping Warm

Camping in cold temps can also be hard on your pup. Having a reliable heater with a thermostat is your best option, but once again there are more tricks to try. Provide a warm dog coat for those cold overnights and, if needed, consider allowing your pup to sleep under the covers with you to share the warmth!

Keeping Clean!

Having a dog constantly coming and going from your RV can bring too much of the outside in! While some dog owners may embrace the dirt and just keep their shoes on inside, others may prefer the inside space to stay clean. Keeping the inside clean may be harder but worth the effort, especially if your dog likes to jump on sofas or beds. I take the clean approach with my mini poodle at the campsite, always ensuring her feet are clean when bringing her back inside. In particularly dirty or muddy places, I put her in the sink to spray her feet down thoroughly each time she comes back inside. Fortunately, this is only needed occasionally; often a wet wipe suffices to get paws clean!

Dog hair everywhere!

Compared to a regular-sized house, an RV will show shedding dog hair faster since the shedding is concentrated in a smaller space! How motivated you are to deal with this depends on you. Having a 10-minute daily outdoor brushing session when RVing can reduce shedding, make your dog more comfortable, and also provide additional bonding time with your pooch. Expect to sweep up inside everyday too if you want to avoid swirls of shedding hair. For sofas or beds, placing special dog blankets can help contain the dog hair while also designating a special spot for your pet.

Dog-proofing your RV

If your dog may be prone to causing some damage inside, you may want to make a few modifications ahead of time.  For example, energetic dogs can easily rip screen doors in their exuberance to go outside. Consider installing a protective metal screen grate or a sheet of plexiglass over the lower part of the screen on the inside of the screen door. Chewers may have more chances to get ahold of favoured footwear. Put shoes away in cupboards or otherwise out of reach, and provide Fido with a suitable chewing substitute. Crate-trained dogs may feel safer inside their crate, and leaving them in it while you are away ensures you will not come back to a big mess. The smaller space may mean that food left on tables or counters may be more easily accessible. If your dog is prone to scavenging, be sure not to leave tempting food out where the pooch may be able to reach it.

Dogs are all unique, and so are the challenges different dog owners may face. TiresandTails.com is an excellent resource for RVing dog owners, with plenty of advice to share. Their Facebook group provides an online community for traveling pets and their owners. RVing with your dog is so much better than leaving Fido at home! With a little advance planning, you can ensure both you and your dog continue to enjoy RV road trips across Ontario for years to come!

About Margot Bai

Margot Bai travels North America in her RV. Based in the Greater Toronto Area, she has camped in all seasons and has RV’d across Canada to Vancouver, BC, to Key West Florida, and Mexico. Margot is a published author.

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