Ah, the elusive topic....Dogs + Road Life....
I have been putting off writing this blog post because I know it is going to be a long one, and that there will always be more questions than what I am going to address in this post. But, I'll offer the knowledge we have obtained from our own experiences with our own dogs, and what works for us.
I think there is a vast majority of people that overthink this topic. Here is my quick answer: Put your dog first, ALWAYS.
Keep reading if you want my long answers to all the most frequently asked questions we receive...
I generally start my reply to these questions with: All dogs are different. Different breeds can handle different climates, different personalities in dogs can better handle the constant movement and inconsistency that comes with this lifestyle, age of your dogs plays a factor into it, and of course how well you have trained your dog. So, please do not base all the information about how our dogs do on the road and apply it to your dog. Your dog is different than our dogs!
Background info about our own dogs...
Our dogs are both rescues, and are living their best life. We have two dogs--an Akita-Chow Chow mix named Missy who is 9 years young, and we have 6 year old golden-lab mix named Trip. Two very different dogs. They both have always loved car rides and long road trips before we bought the RV, and they had been cross country with us a few different times in a car without any issues. We had no doubt in our minds that they would both adjust to the fact that they would be living in a moving vehicle. They both are well trained and will return when off leash, neither of them love the heat, but both are very active and can go on most all trails we decide to hike. Trip loves water, and swimming where as missy would prefer to avoid water at all costs. Neither of our dogs are barkers, they'll bark if there is a knock on the door, but they don't just constantly barking--this is important to us, so we are a little more incognito when we are in the RV in a busier area.
What do you do with your dogs when you want to do something that is not dog friendly?
We very seldom want to do something that our dogs are not also welcomed to do. We chose this lifestyle, not them, so it only seems fair to include them in all of our plans. We've always put them first since the day we adopted them, so moving into an RV hasn't changed that. It's a mindset you have to instill in your travels. If you had kids full-time on the road would you ask the question , "What do you do with your kids when you want to do something that is not kid friendly?" No, you probably wouldn't ask that, you'd just start only searching for things your kids CAN do.
The question and answer below gives a more in-depth look at times we would need to leave them, and what we do to keep the dogs safe.
Do you ever leave the dogs in the RV when you are not in it?
This is the number one question we receive on a daily basis. Yes, we do leave the dogs on occasion in the RV by themselves. Usually, they would only be left alone if we were running into the grocery store, running errands, or doing something in the evenings where dogs are not welcomed. We rarely choose to do hikes or trails or National Parks that are 100% not dog friendly. We have made exceptions depending on the time of year or time of day, but for the most part we want our dogs with us everywhere we go. Which means only looking for dog friendly trails, hikes, parks, etc when we want to go explore.
For the times we do leave them...there are tons of factors into how we decide it is safe to do so.
What is the outside temperature? Is it too hot? Too cold? Is it mid-day? Is it after 6pm? We do not leave our dogs alone in the RV if the outside temperature would make it unsafe for them to be inside. The RV is also insulated to help protect against these elements, and does help a fair bit. We have black out shades, a barrier between the front seats in the cab to keep the heat in there from entering the "home" portion of the RV, we have two fans, and last but not least a security camera that we can turn on that monitors video surveillance, temperature, air quality, and sound (You can find this product in the page "Products we LOVE").
If we still do not think it is safe to leave them alone one of us will stay in the RV with them, while the other runs errands, or finishes up doing whatever it was we were doing while planning on leaving the doggos.
Tips and tricks for the times you absolutely have to leave the pups for an extended period of time...
If there is a hike you absolutely have to do, no questions asked, bucket list type of deal--download the app ROVER, or DogVacay, or find a doggy daycare in the town your in, and book a sitter so your dog is safe. We once booked a dog friendly hotel for our dogs while we were in Savannah, GA for a family gathering where dogs weren't allowed, so we left them in an air-conditioned hotel room and came back a few times that day to let them out.
How have Trip & Missy adjusted to living in the RV?
Trip and Missy are doing great! Trip has always loved the RV even before it was renovated. I think he liked the 25 year old carpeting, and all the weird little smells that came with an older camper. Missy was terrified of the rattling and road noise before it was renovated, so we did our best to rebuild the RV sturdy, and rattle-free. Of course, it is next to impossible to eliminate all road noise, but the difference is definitely noticeable, and she has adjusted amazingly! They both will sit on the couch in the back while we drive, and we can keep an eye on them in the rear view mirror.
For being medium-sized dogs, they both have found spots on the floor that they like to lay in the most and typically those are spots that are out of the main traffic area which is AMAZING for Tommy and I!
How do you guys plan your travels around the dogs safety?
Travel south in the winter, and travel north in the summer. Right now, we are still in Southern Utah which is getting a bit late in the season for us to be here comfortably, but we have some work stuff that needs to be finished in the area before we can head north. This is the best advice I can give you about being on the road with your dogs, or just on the road in general. If you are like us, where you would rather off-grid camp over pay for a campground and plug in so you have A/C, then this will make life a whole lot more comfortable!
It has been in the high 80's and low 90's here recently, and it limits what you can do with the pups, and makes you comfort of living a bit more sweaty. If you are a desert rat, and enjoy 100+ degree temps in a camper/van, then please disregard my travel suggestions!
How do you clean your dogs or try to keep them clean on the road?
We don't try too hard to keep them squeaky clean because we are often outside where we are all getting dirty. We have baby wipes that are super gentle with now chemicals in them that we use to wipe their faces. We have also used Epic Wipes (find link to website on the Brand Collabs page) on them when they get REALLY dirty. We try to find swimming hikes we can take them on to give them a "bath". But, for the most part all the dirt and sand on them shakes off, or they roll around in the grass at a park, and VOILA they are magically clean.
We focus more on keeping the RV interior clean, so each day we vacuum up their dog hair or any dirt they bring in from their bodies or feet.
Tip from a cleaning maniac in an 124sqft home with two dogs...
Your dogs, yourself, your tiny home, will never be perfectly clean. I'm still working on accepting all of this, but once you let that fantasy go, life will be easier!
When the dogs are off leash, are you guys ever worried about predators or your dogs getting hurt?
Our dogs are not always off leash. We choose specific places where we feel comfortable letting them run free. Of course in the back of our minds linger a few worries, but at a certain point we have to trust our dogs instincts and let them really run! Keep in mind, we do not let them wander out of our eye sight very often. We just recently talked about fear on our Instagram, and we are cautious but we do not let our fear of something happening control how we explore with our dogs.
If we are on a trail where there are lots of people and other dogs, our dogs remain on their leash. We follow the rules at the trailheads, but do let the leashes go if it is safer for the four of us to walk a certain path without being held back or pulled through or up something.
A bit off topic, but also thought it was important...we ALWAYS bring poop bags with us when we are out and about with the dogs. If they poop on trail ya gotta pick it up!
These were all of the most frequent questions we receive, I can continue this blog post in the future if there are a ton more questions!