Pros and Cons of Rving with Dogs
If you’re RV Camping for the weekend or going on a 3-week road trip, do you need to board your dog, or can they come along? If you are looking at Full-Timing, should you reconsider if you have dogs? RVing with dogs can be tricky, but it’s also extremely common. Both “Weekend Warriors” and “Full-time RVers” RV with their dogs. As with most anything else in life, there are pros and cons. We RV full-time with our 2, medium-sized, dogs, Remy and Sienna. Acclimating them to RV travel was the most difficult part, but the work does not end there. In our nearly two years of full-time RV travel we have taken note of the pros and cons of RVing with dogs.
The benefits of having a dog are no different just because you’re in an RV. They still provide companionship and countless studies have proven they can even provide health benefits (like lowering blood pressure, improving mood, and encouraging exercise!). All of these things are still positives when you RV with your dog.
We particularly enjoy boondocking. The more remote the location, the better, as far as we’re concerned. We would have to say that we are pretty glad to have them with us whenever thoughts of bears or mountain lions enter our brains! Ditto on the Walmart stays between destinations. Being from a large city, we are extremely comfortable at most any Walmart, but we do like knowing we have “back-up” whenever we find ourselves at a grittier Walmart.
Let Dogs Be Dogs
One of the things we felt most guilty about when our dogs were in a suburban setting was the limits of their backyard. Before I began working remotely (I worked remotely before RVing), we felt guilty leaving our dogs alone in the house for hours. Once I was with them during the day, the guilt eased, but their opportunity to be dogs was largely limited to a short walk and a jaunt in the backyard a few times a day. New smells and adventures were hard to come by.
When we’re boondocking in the remote places that we love, we are so isolated that we can let our dogs off leash for a bit and take them on long(ish) hikes with us. We are so happy that they have been able to jump in and out of creeks, and climb up and down over logs, and smell the endless smells of forests and deserts.
Easiest Mode of Travel with Pets
RVing is the easiest way we’ve found to travel with our dogs. We like to have them with us, so much so we even took Remy and Sienna on our honeymoon. Dog friendly hotels are a good solution for spending the night, but not any good for any other aspect of travel given you cannot leave them in the hotel room. Dog friendly cabins and Airbnb’s are also great, but again, it’s not ideal to leave them in there because it’s not yours. When we need to leave them in the RV, if they were to chew up anything (they don’t) it would be our own stuff. Finding accommodations that allows our dogs is no longer a concern when we travel. They’re always allowed in our RV.
Lack of Freedom for the Humans
Just like dog ownership in any setting, there are negatives. Dogs need you, they miss you, and they can’t exactly let themselves out or adjust the thermostat. If we were always boondocking in remote locations, RVing with dogs would be absolutely perfect and a total piece of cake. But, we need connectivity, we like to visit urban destinations, and we like to visit friends.
Our dogs have boring days when we’re meeting with other humans or are visiting urban destinations. When we are with friends or family, we always have in the back of our minds that we need to get back to the dogs or check on them or let them out. However, this was true outside of an RV too. No matter what, when you have dogs you cannot be gone for a full day of sight-seeing and socializing. We have greatly improved this situation with our switch into a Class C (with no toad). We drive our Class C everywhere and so our dogs are often a few feet from us, and we can easily and quickly check up on them and let them out. Now we can even do that between multiple stops in a city.
RV Temperature and Weather
If we go out to eat, go into a coffee shop for connectivity, or visit a museum we have to leave the dogs behind. If we leave them behind, we need to be 150% sure the temperature inside the RV is going to be good for them. This is a constant worry and a hard thing to line up because: 1. shade is more common is some areas than others 2. When you find shade, it can’t scrape up your tall RV roof 3. Weather is a terrible thing and is often too hot or too cold. If it’s beautiful shorts weather somewhere, you can bet that it’s terrible “leave the dog in the RV weather”.
In your more “progressive” cities we have worried that someone might smash our truck window (when we towed a travel trailer) or RV thinking they are saving our dogs. Obviously, this has never happened, but we have been places where local law enforcement has let us know they’re sure we’ve left them plenty of water and air circulation, but that they will inevitably receive 55 calls about a dog left in a vehicle.
In warm weather, we do sometimes stay at a campground with electric hook-ups so they can stay in the AC. Still, the worry then becomes: what if there’s a power outage? or what if they decide to start barking their heads off? There are ways to monitor the temperature inside the RV, but those are often dependent on connectivity, which you won’t have hiking in Grand Canyon National Park.
Which brings us to National Parks. Visiting National Parks is often the impetus for RV purchases and RV road trips. Well, National Parks do not allow dogs on their trails. They are only allowed on your campsite (if you are camping onsite) or on the main road through the park.
So that has meant that we have seen Great Smokey Mountains National Park largely through our car window and we mostly go on the hikes that are no longer than 3-4 hours (if we were able to park our RV right at the trailhead, less if we are parked elsewhere).
What we do to extend the time we can be out exploring in National Parks is to go when the weather is too cold for us, but just right for the dogs waiting in the RV. I hate being cold and we both hate the wind but moderate cold and breezes work well for our dogs. It’s a compromise we make. As for the longer trails, or hiking down into the Grand Canyon, etc. we haven’t quite got that figured out yet.
This is hit or miss. Our dogs used to be happy, calm car riders, but within the time we’ve spent RVing, they have grown to hate “car rides”. It started when we were towing with the truck. Suddenly they stopped doing well in the truck. When we got into the Class C, we were hoping they would happily ride on the sofa or the bed, but they insist on nervously shaking while pressed up to our legs. We feel horrible.
In an attempt to try to understand things from their point of view, I rode for 20 minutes or so on the floor of the RV. I get it. The rattles, shakes, and vibrations are wild. It does sound like the contents of the cabinets and drawers will come flying out. It does sound like “the house” might collapse at any minute. And it is LOUD. I can only imagine that rolling down the road sounds thunderous to them. Also, our drawers have been known to fly open on windy mountain roads, and I bet they noticed…
Our Advice To You
So, what do we recommend? Well, if you already have dogs, RVing with dogs is worth it. If you are a weekend warrior, you will probably highly enjoy RVing with dogs as you are not likely trying to find connectivity or connect with relatives. You’re probably trying to get out in nature and that’s awesome for your dog. If you’re headed to a National Park for the weekend, and you can leave them at home with someone, we would say leave them.
If you are Full-Timing, you will spend more time with your dogs than you ever did. And they’ll love that. The highs will be higher than anything they experienced in your backyard, and more frequent than any “cabin” trips you may have done in the past. Full-time RVing and sharing it with your dogs is worth it. Sure it’s not easy, but name me something that is.
Our biggest piece of advice is this though. If you’re already RVing, or are considering Full-Time RVing and you do not already have a dog: DON’T get a dog. We are huge believers in rescuing dogs and we’ve rescued all sorts of animals (not all of them furry even!), but both Jon and I would tell you don’t get one. Especially, if you have dreams of international travel, are heavily reliant on connectivity, or enjoy urban travel.
If you’re a solo traveler, then we’d say think about it. But if you decide to go for a dog, go for a small dog. Also, make sure the dog doesn’t have any socialization issues (with both people and other dogs).
The road has a way of making you crave more and more freedom. Even a well-behaved, beautifully socialized, impeccably trained adventure dog will grow old someday. Dogs are unconditionally at your side, and you have to be able to return in kind.
If you have any questions about RVing with dogs, leave us a comment below. What has your experience RVing with dogs been like? Let us know in the comments. Do you dream of international RV travel, but have pets, like us?