Camping and Motor Homes
Most campgrounds and RV parks welcome pets, but you should always call ahead if you are not absolutely sure. Some have restrictions on the size and number of dogs you may bring. Some require you to keep your dog leashed at all times. There is usually no additional charge for pets beyond the regular campsite fee, but some will charge an extra dollar or two per night per pet.
There are numerous guidebooks on camping where pet policies are spelled out for individual camping areas, or you may check the Web site www.gocampingamerica.com and use their quick-search to locate a park that permits pets in your desired vacation spot. The Web site www.camping-usa.com will also furnish you with listings of pet-friendly campgrounds. When planning to visit any national park, check the National Park Service Web site, www.nps.gov, for specific information.
Many campers bring along an x-pen to allow their pets some outdoor freedom without the need to be leashed or tethered.
The Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), which offers advice on traveling with pets in these vehicles on its Web site, www.fmca.com, notes that while some pets adapt to travel easily, others need to take many short trips before they are comfortable in the motor home. Because of health, environmental, or behavioral factors, some pets might never be ready, willing, or able to travel in a motor home. The FMCA online magazine recommends that you consider the following issues before traveling with your pet in a motor home:
Routines: Some pets, especially dogs, tend to be creatures of habit. An animal used to a certain life at home may not appreciate having to alter its schedule to accompany the family on motor home trips. Consider your pet's welfare before bringing it along.
Space: Motor-home floor plans today are more spacious than ever. However, pets accustomed to plenty of room to play will need to adjust to its tighter living quarters. City animals that like to romp in urban parks might not like to be out in open trail country. Conversely, country animals used to more freedom might not adjust to being cooped up in the motor home.
Behavior: Is your dog well trained? Is it housebroken? Does it come when called? How well does it do on a leash? Will it get motion sickness on longer trips? Your answers to these questions will determine whether RV travel is appropriate for your pooch.
Campground rules and manners: Campgrounds and vacation spots expect your dog to be quiet. Some animals can become territorial about the motor home and may bark at strangers or other animals walking past their “house.” You'll rarely have a secluded campsite, so relentlessly noisy or aggressive animals will not be welcome.
Being left behind: Does your dog like to be alone? Some may bark, whine, or howl incessantly when you leave them to go visit a local attraction, one reason why many vacation destinations will not permit pets. No pet should ever be left outdoors unattended.
Temperatures: On a hot day, the temperature inside a closed RV can exceed 100 degrees. Heat stroke kills many animals each year, simply because the owner left the pet inside an enclosed vehicle.
Wherever you pitch your tent or park your RV, remember that your behavior with your dog will affect all other campers with pets as well. Most, if not all, campgrounds expect your dog to remain on a leash when outside the RV. Some may not permit pets to be tied outside to picnic tables or nearby trees. Check in advance to become familiar with a campground's pet regulations.
Camping with pets takes preparation and dedication, but for many campers the companionship and enjoyment derived from traveling with their beloved dogs overrides the extra considerations that their small companions require.
Small dogs should not be subjected to extreme fluctuations in temperature. If your motor home or RV does not have air-conditioning, it would be safer to leave your dog with a friend or a pet sitter or in a kennel.
If you're camping with your dog, you'll need the following items:
Pet ID (a temporary ID tag with your name, current location, and cell phone number)
Insect spray and flea and tick repellent
First aid kit including tweezers for tick removal
The name and phone number of the nearest vet or emergency veterinary clinic, and a copy of your dog's medical records
Grooming basics (brush, comb, dog shampoo, towels, nail clippers, and handheld hair dryer)
Water bottles and dog dishes, including a collapsible bowl
A sufficient supply of your dog's regular food and treats
Chew toys, balls, and other favorite toys
Crate and/or bed
Sweater for cold weather
An extra leash and collar
A spiral tie-out stake for hooking up its leash or cable
A flashlight for late-night potty outings
Pet wipes, disposable poop bags, and a trash bucket with a lid
A life vest for the dog if you plan to go boating