Fulltime RVing with Dogs

Having the love and responsibility for a dog doesn’t have to stop when you make the choice to live in your RV fulltime. Dogs are family too, and so it is only natural that when you decide to give up your brick and mortar home for one on wheels, you will want your dog to be an integral part of the adventure you are about to embark on. It is also natural that while you want to have your beloved pet alongside you as you travel and discover this great country you are likely to be concerned that being confined in a small space will not be healthy for your dog. While living in a motorhome with a Great Dane may be challenging most dogs adapt well.

Company

For single travelers a dog is not only good company, but if properly trained, can also provide protection and peace of mind. Even if not trained to any significant degree to properly provide protection the dog is likely to hear someone approaching long before you do, and advise you in time for you to prepare for what could be an unwelcome visitor. Traveling and living in an RV fulltime can become very lonely for some, and the company of a faithful, attentive pet can alleviate some of the sense of being cut off from family and friends. 

Space

There will come a time when the weather is not conducive to going outdoors or you are parked in a location where it is not practical to use the slide-outs or awning on your RV. Ensuring you have sufficient room not only for yourself to not start feeling claustrophobic but also for your dog to stretch out and sleep. If you choose to allow your dog to sleep on your bed or the couch this will not be an issue, but if you prefer it to sleep on a dog bed on the floor your RV must be large enough to make allowance for that and still provide you with sufficient room to move from one end of the RV to the other without having to step over your pet. 

Small dogs are usually not a problem because they can have their pet bed tucked in under the dining table or another small space where they will be out of the way. It is when your dog is a medium to large dog that space becomes an issue. Your dog must have the ability to stretch out to sleep if that is their preferred sleeping position, and this could become a challenge if your RV is not large enough to accommodate it. If you train your dog to only sleep on its dog bed then you can allow the dog to sleep on the couch (on its bed, of course). You will need to make your dog understand that it is only allowed on the couch when its dog bed is placed there. An alternative location for your dog to sleep is on the floor at the side of the bed, provided there is sufficient room. By training your dog to sleep on its own bed and nowhere else you can choose the best location for your dog to sleep at any given time i.e. on the couch during the night when you are in bed, and beside the bed during the day when you need the couch for your own use.

Access

Getting in and out of an RV can be challenging for dogs, therefore it is important to take this into consideration before purchasing, or finding a workable solution if you already own an RV. Your dog needs to be able to get up and down the steps with ease. Older dogs may find they don’t have the strength in their hind legs to get up and down without a struggle. 

Provided you have sufficient storage space you could provide additional steps that are not as steep as are typically found on an RV or a lightweight, portable ramp that your dog can run up and down on to get in and out of the RV. Small dogs, of course, can be picked up and carried in and out as necessary. If your dog is still young and fit the steps may not be an issue right now but bear in mind the future when it isn’t as agile as it is now.

 

Traveling

When planning to be on the road for more than an hour at a time your dog may feel very confined. Some dogs are content to sleep while the RV is moving, while others prefer to be alert and curious about all that is happening. Either way, your dog is likely to need to stop to relieve its bladder at some point. This can be a small inconvenience if you are planning to drive for several hours before taking a break.

A long walk before embarking can be helpful to not only tire your dog so it is likely to sleep much of the time you are driving, and also allows it to void its bowel and bladder. This should allow you to drive a significant distance before having to stop and take your dog out again. Your dog will need to have water available but as spillage is a concern when the RV is moving it is advised to only half fill the dog’s water bowl, allowing it sufficient water to avoid dehydration but not enough water that could spill out when cornering.

If your dog is alert let it sit in the front passenger seat. This will provide your dog with something to see and also give your dog the security of being in close proximity to you. Some dogs travel much better than others, and as you are the best judge of how your dog copes with being in a moving vehicle for several hours at a time, you will know when is the right time to pull over and allow your dog a break from being shut in.

Cleanliness

Most breeds of dog shed, some more copiously than others. Unless you own a breed that is known for very light to no shedding at all you are going to have to deal with pet hair. Brushing your dog outside daily will help not only reduce the amount of pet hair that will be found inside the RV but also help your dog get rid of unwanted hair. 

Carpeting and upholstery seems to attract dog hair even when the dog is not allowed to sleep on either. Regular vacuuming will help alleviate this problem, with daily vacuuming recommended. Minimizing the amount of carpet will also make keeping the RV clean somewhat easier. 

Care

Day to day care of your dog while living in an RV is much the same as it is when living in a house. The usual requirements for a traveling dog exist; water, food, a comfortable place to sleep, and companionship. What you may find more challenging is ensuring your dog receives good vet care. Because you are constantly on the move the ability to build a good rapport with one vet is impossible, therefore you will need to rely upon reviews of local vets in the area you are currently in. Fortunately the internet makes finding recommendations quite easy.

Dogs that are given the opportunity to roam off-leash in areas they are unfamiliar with are likely to injure themselves more readily than those confined to a home’s back yard. If your dog is not obedient it is wise to keep it on a leash whenever you leave the RV. Most cities and towns have leash laws for walking your dog on streets and within other public areas, but when out in country areas those laws may not exist. Unfortunately, if given the ability to roam freely, your dog may encounter any one or more of several dangers. 

Snakes and spiders are known to attack dogs, and many of them have venomous bites. Such bites need immediate attention by a knowledgeable vet. Being able to locate and drive to the vet quickly could mean the difference between life and death, and the smaller the dog the less chance it has to survive. Animal traps are another danger in rural areas. Even picking up a tic or two can cause problems for your dog.

Loss

Compared to humans a dog has a relatively short life, and there may come a time when your dog is no longer leading a life of quality. Making the decision to have your dog euthanized is hard enough but not knowing where to take your beloved pet for the most humane transition can make it even more difficult. Afterwards there are the remains to be dealt with, and this too can cause some stress as you try to decide whether to keep the cremated remains, or leave disposal to the vet. This last decision is one that can be made well in advance of the actual event, and may alleviate some of the sadness associated with the loss of your traveling companion.

 

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