Florida RV travel with dogs is a magical experience. Like exploring with a camera in your hand, road trips with your dog will open your eyes to the world in a completely different way.
While growing up, every single family vacation was spent traveling in our class C motorhome. Of course, we always had our large dogs with us. Some of my family’s most treasured memories were made on those trips. Now, when I look back on those experiences, I realize how special that time was, and how much our dogs contributed to the experience.
RV road trips are always exciting. It’s thrilling to find new beaches; dive into beautiful water, and discover hidden gems. But, it can also be lonely sometimes. Having a pet, especially a beloved dog or cat, can help ease that loneliness. It’s like being with your best friend, or partner; but even better in some ways. I’ve never been given the silent treatment by my dogs.
Traveling with dogs is great for you in so many ways; your mind, body, and health. Dog ownership has been shown to have positive psychological benefits. It’ll probably improve your life in many different ways.
Dogs need consistent walks, exercise, and to be taken outside. This is great because taking care of another life forces your focus away from your own “self”, and ruminations. Like meditation, is known to boost satisfaction and happiness levels. Time spent outdoors, especially in sunshine and forested environments, boosts happiness.
RVing with your pet will also make your trip more enriching and fulfilling. It’ll surely force you to plan ahead, and learn about new places before you arrive. You’ll need to know where you can take your dog on a hike, or play on a dog beach. This is especially true in Florida, where you often need to make winter reservations a year in advance. You’ll find that Florida is an incredibly dog-friendly state. But, you’ll need to plan and research thoroughly everywhere you go.
Traveling carries risk, and RVing has its own set of risks for both you, and your pet. Many of the dangers and considerations will depend on your destination, activities, and choices.
RVing in Florida is generally safe, but some feel uncomfortable sleeping in new places, and being surrounded by new people. Having a dog along in an RV can give a powerful sense of safety and well-being. It’s reassuring to know that, if anything were to happen, your dog’s powerful senses would give an advance warning. And, there’s nothing like a “Beware of Dog” sign to discourage prowlers.
As far as safety for your dog, you’ll need to be informed, prepared, and plan ahead. Florida’s humid, sub-tropical environment presents challenges for both dogs and their humans.
Florida is often called the “Australia of the U.S.”; meaning that we have lots of things which can hurt you. While that is a slight exaggeration — Australia has way scarier animals– we do have some dangers which don’t exist in other states. If you know the risks and plan ahead, you can keep yourself, and your pets, safe.
If you’re in a campground which allows fires, be especially careful while your dog is outside! This should not need to be said, but unfortunately it does. If you have a campfire: don’t get drunk! This is especially relevant if you’re boondocking, or camping in nature. You can easily injure yourself, your pet, or cause a forest fire. Be mindful of your dog’s leash, or lead. As your pets walk around your campsite, watch so they don’t drag a leash through the fire, or find any other way to burn or hurt themselves.
Portable Pet Fences for Camping
In camp, dog fences are popular alternatives to leashes. These can work if they’re sturdy, and reliably secure your dog. But, if your dog is a large breed, strong, or a good jumper, it might not be a reliable solution.
Remember that dogs are extremely athletic animals. Even those who don’t seem particularly athletic are capable of amazing feats when motivated by another dog, or a squirrel. They can usually jump, and easily knock over a flimsy fence.
In my opinion, dog leads are the most reliable way to keep your dog restrained while in a campground. Some parks and campgrounds don’t accept pet enclosures as acceptable restraining methods. They require pets to be on a leash at all times, even inside an enclosure.
That said, sometimes portable dog pet fences are preferred over, or in conjunction with, a leash. If your dog is reliably contained in an enclosure, you don’t have to worry about them as much. They won’t get tangled up in their leash, or dragging their lead through the campfire. This is especially true for multiple dogs. Even two dogs’ leashes easily tangle into a gordian knot.
Pet enclosures can also be invaluable if your pet somehow slips out of the door unnoticed, or bolts out of your RV in pursuit of something. With a good enclosure, even if they were to get loose from the RV, they’d be safely contained inside the portable pet fence. I might allow you to get your dog under control before they escape.
Pet enclosures have their limitations. If your dog is an escape artist, it probably won’t work. And, they’re unlikely to truly protect your pet from a dangerous animal, or an aggressive dog which might approach your campsite. But, it might provide slightly more protection than nothing at all. No matter what, you should always stay with your pet, and never leave them unattended outside in unsafe or unfamiliar environments. Plus, it’s probably against most campground rules to leave dogs outside unattended outside.
Florida has a humid, subtropical climate. It supports many exotic, and sometimes, dangerous animal species. Alligators are the most obvious and famous risk, but there are many wild animals in Florida which can cause harm to you and your pets. You should know the risks, and know how to mitigate them.
Statistically, cars and driving pose the biggest dangers to you and/or your pet in Florida.
Because RVers spend so much time on the road, you should be especially vigilant. You’ll be at even higher risk because you’ll be driving on unfamiliar roads, and among the famously bad drivers of Florida.
While on the move, be sure to keep your pet well-secured; preferably with a harness, which will keep them safe incase of an accident. At the time of this writing, there is not a Florida law that says dogs must be secured in cars. But, we don’t need a law to tell us what’s right, or common sense. Always be safe, and keep pets properly secured.
Inside your RV, dogs should never have free access to the cab area, or any drive controls. They can accidentally knock into something, or unexpectedly trigger an important control. It’s also very unsafe for dogs to learn to “hide” in a cab, so don’t allow the behavior to start. Hiding dogs may interfere with the driver if they try to squeeze into the pedal control area. Even when parked, it’s not good for dogs to enter the cab area. On one trip, our RV starter battery died because our border collie laid on the brake pedal during a fireworks show. She activated the brake lights, and quickly drained the battery.
Traffic will be one of the greatest threats to your dog in general. Unfortunately, if your dog becomes loose and out of your control, there’s a high risk they might get hit by a car.
Here in Florida, people drive fast. They’re not known to be very cautious, careful or thoughtful. Do everything you can to keep your pet safe from traffic, and keep them under control at all times. Be sure that your pet is always on a properly sized leash, and that his or her collar or harness fits properly. If your dog wears a harness, consider finding one with a strong handle on the back. These allow a dog to be kept under 100% control during dangerous situations.
When in their own neighborhood, dogs have a good sense of navigation, and can keep their bearings. But, when traveling by RV, a dog will be plopped into a new area with no clue where he or she is. So, if they wander away, even a short distance, they are morel likely to become disoriented. it may be difficult for them to find their way back to you; not to mention the myriad dangers they will encounter while they’re unattended. To give your dog the greatest chance of returning to you, please ensure that your pet is microchipped. Make sure they always wear a sturdy collar with ID tags and updated contact information.
It may feel strange, but it’s a great idea to pre-emptively print out several dozen full-size, or half-page color photos of your pet in case they are lost. Can you imagine trying to hunt down a color print shop while traveling in a strange new town, when you need to be looking for your lost dog? Just print them before you need them. If you never use them, great! You’ll only be out a few dollars. If you do ever need them, it may save you priceless time. Just keep them in your “Pet folder” with all of your other important information.
Know the rules
I always tell people that RVing in Florida is better than you can imagine. But, in some ways it’s like traveling on “Expert Mode”. The climate, crazy reservation requirements, challenging boondocking conditions, and other things pose difficulties. If you’re RVing with a dog, notch it up one more skill-level.
You’ll need to be an extra-vigilant planner to RV in Florida, especially with a dog. You’ll need to plan ahead, and have back-up plans galore. With a dog, you should be prepared and consider these things, among others:
One of the best parts about RVing is that you can take your home with you; you don’t need to worry about choosing hotels.
But, eventually, whether it’s for repairs, or for whatever reason, there are times you’ll need to leave your RV and stay in a hotel. Finding a hotel which accepts dogs is not easy; it’s a serious downside of traveling with a dog. Especially in the event of an accident or repair, this can add extra stress and logistics to an already stressful situation.
It’s good to do research ahead-of-time, and know which hotels are dog friendly. I recommend doing this research ahead of time, before you need the information. It’s nice to know which hotel chains offer a mixture of cleanliness, affordability and pet friendliness. Just keep it in your back pocket, so you won’t need to stress or scramble in an emergency.
Remember that even if a hotel is dog-friendly, there may be additional charges for pets. Many charge a damage deposit, which may or may not be refundable. When we’ve traveled with our dogs we’ve always had positive experiences in hotels. We’ve never had an accident, or any damage. But, every dog is different, and even well-behaved, disciplined dogs can have accidents and slip-ups. Of course, you’ll need to pay for any actual damages your pet causes. It’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on your pet, especially when you first walk into a room, and they’re hypnotized by irresistible new smells. Especially if there have been dogs in the hotel room previously this may be even more challenging.
Dog-friendly state parks
Dog-Friendly Campgrounds in Florida
Most campgrounds in Florida allow dogs. But, not all do, so you must always verify, research and plan ahead. It’s always best to call and ask a manager for the most reliable and up-to-date information. If there’s any question, call to get an accurate, reliable answer directly from a campground staff member. If there’s any ambiguity, I recommend (politely!) asking for the employee’s name and position, in case there is any discrepancy later. Always be polite, respectful and understanding with campground or reservation staff, even if you don’t like the answer. Remember that polite, nice people get positive outcomes more often than grouchy troublemakers. And, remember that they probably put up with a lot of grief from irresponsible, inconsiderate pet owners.
Many Florida hotels and campgrounds have size, weight and “Dangerous Breed” restrictions.
Some–but, not all– campgrounds make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
In my experience, it’s easier to get permission for a dog whose weight slightly exceeds the limit, rather than prohibited “dangerous breeds”. This is an unfortunate, controversial, and lamentable fact for owners of certain breeds. If this affects you, be sure to pay attention to city and/or county ordinances which affect “aggressive” breeds.
At the time of this writing, there are restrictions and/or bans in the following counties: Chipley, Sunrise and Miami-Dade Counties. Check the State of Florida’s website for more official information on Florida’s dog laws.
If your dog isn’t allowed, always be respectful, polite and understanding, regardless of whether an exception is made.
Other Common Campground Rules
Some hotels and campgrounds have additional prices per pet. There may be other rules, like against bathing your dog inside campground facilities. Be sure to know the rules, and follow them, so future campers and pets can enjoy the privilege as well.
Is it OK to leave your dog alone in an RV?
This is a complicated and controversial topic. If you can avoid it, you should never leave your dog alone because it’s extremely dangerous. There are many things that can go wrong if your pet is left alone in an RV.
- Florida’s frequent severe weather may cause your RV to lose electricity.
- Without AC, RVs become dangerously hot within minutes, just like cars.
- Severe weather can cause your pet panic.
- If not property trained, pets can experience separation anxiety.
- Anxious pets may cause damage to the interior of your RV.
- If your dog barks incessantly while you’re away, you may be kicked out of a campground.
- Leaving a pet unattended in an RV is not safe, or desirable. It should be avoided at all costs. If you absolutely must leave your pet alone, be sure to think through all possible scenarios, and use best-practices to minimize the risk.
- Don’t leave if there’s any threat of severe weather, fireworks, or any other stressful situation.
- Ensure that the RV will remain cool and in a safe temperature range.
- Ensure your AC will run, without fail! If possible, use an automatic generator switch so your AC will continue to run, even if shorepower is lost.
- Give your pet adequate food and water. Consider a no-spill water bowl so they don’t accidentally dump it out while you’re gone.
- Do not leave your pet unattended if your AC, or the park’s electricity, are questionable or unreliable.
- Tell at least one or more responsible people, including from park management, that your pet will be left alone. For park staff, ensure that the important information will be conveyed during employee shift changes.
- Leave a visible, informative and conspicuous note on your vehicle. Include contact details, time of departure/expected return, and any other relevant information.
- Ask the responsible party to check on them at predetermined intervals. Consider asking them to notify you upon check-in.
- Ensure that your pet knows and trusts the responsible party who’ll check on them. This will avoid stress, and lessen the chance of an accidental bite. A stressed, anxious dog may bite a good samaritan who enters his or her territory.
- Have a plan for allowing access to your pet. Consider leaving a spare key to a trusted person, or use a hide-a-key system.
- Know that in case of emergency, Florida law may protect a good samaritan who breaks a vehicle window to save a pet.
- Make sure your pet is comfortable
- If they’re crate-trained, consider securing your pet in their crate. If you don’t have room for a full-size, hard-sized crate, there are portable, collapsible soft-side crates, which can work well.
- Ensure there’s a way to safely open your RV door without your pet getting loose and running out of the door.
Prevent Barking in Campgrounds
Many campgrounds have policies against leaving pets unattended. These exist because of irresponsible and inconsiderate pet owners.
Anxious dogs can bark non-stop. This ruins the peace and quiet of an entire campground. RV walls are very thin, and they transmit sound. It’s extremely unpleasant to be neighbors with a dog who constantly barks.
There are many heartbreaking stories of dogs being left unattended in RVs. When power goes out, dogs are left trapped, and defenseless in a hot RV. When this happens, dogs are subjected to horrible suffering and heat. Like being locked in a car, being locked in an unairconditioned RV is a death sentence.
For these reasons, and more, please be aware of specific rules before arriving at an RV park. Regardless of campground rules, never leave a dog unattended in an RV, if at all possible.
If you must, be sure to take every necessary precaution to keep your pet safe and comfortable. Try to schedule your time away so that you can come back and check on them as soon as possible. If you must be away all day, can you return periodically, or at lunch time? Be a good dog parent, even if it means you experience some inconvenience.
Pet Kennels and Doggy Daycare
If you must be apart from your pet, take advantage of pet kennels, doggie daycare and pet boarding facilities. If you’re uncertain, ask campground management. If dogs are allowed in a campground, you won’t be the first guest, or the last, who needs pet-sitting. Campground staff can point you in the right direction.
If a popular destination doesn’t allow dogs, there’s usually some sort of pet kennel service available nearby. In our travels we’ve found them outside national parks, and other attractions where needed.
For example, here is how it works at the Kennedy Space Center:
“Free kennel service is provided for pets. The kennel operates from 9 am until closing and is indoors and air conditioned. Visitors are encouraged to provide pet food, snacks, toys, blankets and water dishes for comfort. Please show a valid government-issued ID to verify that you are picking up the correct pet. Kennel services cannot be reserved in advance.”
The “Best Friends Pet Hotel” kennel near Disney World looks like it would be a great choice. It has fantastic and affordable options which range from cute to adorable.
Many pet families use services like Rover.com, which pair you with dog and pet-friendly sitters, walkers and other petcare services. And, if you’re an animal lover, it might be a great way to help earn money to use towards your own future travels!
Be sure to do everything you can to make your pet’s stay comfortable. If allowed, supply your pet’s favorite toys, treats and normal food.
For the safety of employees, other animals, and your pet, you must have your pet’s vaccination records, and they should be visibly healthy. If your pet has any visible health problems, or communicable conditions, they may not be admitted. And, if that’s the case, you should not be trying to board them anyway!
Even if you don’t plan on using pet kennel services, bring all required paperwork just in case, so it’s at least an option. If you left home without it, and can reach your veterinarian, you may be able to have the information emailed or faxed in an emergency.
Other Dogsitter Options
If you make friends with other dog-friendly campers, they may offer to dog-sit for you.
This can be a convenient option, and you can return the favor if the situation allows.
Be aware though, that animal lovers will often have pets of their own. Do your pets get along?
And, remember that people’s sense of personal responsibility varies greatly. Even trustworthy people can be unpredictable. Think carefully before leaving your dog with a stranger. Be sure you know if they’re trustworthy, willing and capable of caring for your pet’s individual needs.
Do Florida Rest Areas Allow Dogs?
Almost all Florida rest areas allow dogs, but some have specially designated “pet areas” where you must take your pet.
When this is the case, be sure to read the signs, and follow the rules. Florida rest areas are often staffed and/or patrolled by state troopers and law enforcement.
It can be annoying, but designated pet areas exist for several reasons:
Hygiene: Thousands of people may use a rest area each day. With so many people using a small area, maintenance staff can better maintain hygiene if all pets are kept inside a designated zone.
Safety: The “Pet Area” may be in a protected area with less vehicle traffic.
Etiquette: Not everybody likes dogs. Some people are afraid of them, or just don’t like them. Some are afraid due to bad experiences, or just because that’s how they feel. Pet owners should be respectful, and keep pets in the proper zones.
One of the greatest things about RVing is that it puts you closer to nature. You’ll certainly pay closer attention to the weather. The outside temperature will dictate how comfortable you are at all times, especially while driving and camping. If it’s hot, you’ll sweat. If it’s cold, you’ll shiver. You won’t be insulated from the world, or sealed in a hermetically controlled office. In Florida, you’ll always need to be prepared for extreme temperatures; usually hot, but sometimes cold. Be sure you know how to keep your dog safe, happy and comfortable.
RV air conditioners will almost surely struggle against Florida’s heat.
RV air conditioners are much less powerful, and are less efficient, than household AC systems. Plus, RVs are poorly insulated when compared to “sticks and bricks” construction. To ensure you, your RV, and your pet stay safe and comfortable, you should familiarize yourself with your AC’s maintenance procedures. Know and follow the best-practices of RV camping in hot weather. If you’re ever going to leave your dog unattended in an RV, it’s imperative that you have a well-functioning and reliable air conditioner. Even then, it should always be an absolute last resort, and only for very short periods.
Be a Responsible Pet Owner
When it comes to RVing with a pet, it’s essential that you behave like a good, responsible owner in every way.
Use a checklist so you don’t forget anything. To make checklists, I find it useful to either visualize, or physically “go through” a day, or longer, and record the types of activities I do. I take note of my tasks, the order, what I need to do them. This works well for catching things like cooking, or performing chores, which are done absent-mindedly.
Checklists are amazing tools; they can help fix attention “blind spots” which exists in all of our brains. I, and many other folks, find that they make travel and organization much easier. If you use checklists and other “hack” tools, your life will be better. I find them particularly useful for travel.
For us, vacation and trip departures are almost always stressful. Although, they do get easier with practice and experience. Even then, though, we’ll almost surely forget something silly. When we travel, we have a million things on our minds. Something will almost always come down to the last minute. Don’t be surprised by this, it’s predictable! Plan ahead, and design systems so you don’t have to rely on your overloaded brain, or over-worked memory, at the worst possible time.
Prepare for Emergencies
Emergencies may arise for any number of reasons. If you RV with your dog, you should be prepared for these eventualities, and have an idea of how you would respond.
- Florida’s extreme weather and/or Evacuations
- Travel back home for a family emergency
- Inuries and/or hospitalizations
- RV repairs, maintenance and/or break downs
Again, having a checklist is invaluable in emergency situations. Plan ahead, and you’ll be prepared during the emergency.
I also highly recommend having good insurance for you, your pet, and your RV. While RVing in Miami and the Florida Keys, our travel insurance saved us immense amounts of money.
First Aid Kit
Unfortunately dogs and pets are prone to injury, especially while camping, hiking and going on adventures. It’s a great idea to have a first-aid kit, stocked with current and fresh supplies so you can administer first-aid, if necessary. If you don’t already know, it’s worth it to learn basic first-aid principles for pets and humans, so you can always be prepared.
Speaking of medicine and health; be sure that your dog or pet is completely up-to-date on their preventative health regimen. If you spend time in campgrounds, you’ll likely encounter more fleas and ticks than you ever would at home. Keep them current, and keep an adequate stock so you don’t run out while you’re on the road!
Dog Training for Full-Time RV Living
Some dogs take to RV living right away, and others don’t. If a dog is anxious, or neurotic, or has any other unique personality traits, RV training might take some work. You should compassionately assess every dog’s own individual needs, and figure out a good way of working with him or her to overcome them. Progress must move at your dog’s pace. Be gentle with your expectations of your pet.
For some people, especially those who are new to dog ownership or training, these concepts may seem silly, hippy-dippy, or woo woo. Trust me they’re not silly; they’re essential. Being calm and patient is truly a golden key to successful dog training. Your demeanor is also one of the few tools you have direct control over in animal training. It’d be silly not to optimize at least that input as much as possible!
The entire method of animal relies upon clear, consistent signaling and positive reinforcement. If you’re stressed, or exuding negative emotions, your pet will pick up on it. Any hint of negativity coming from you will confuse your pet, and it’ll just prolong the process. So, be kind, be patient, and try to feel a sense of enjoyment with the process itself, even when it’s frustrating.
Introduce RV Life to your Dog Slowly
It might help to start small. Just as you would with normal training, try to isolate specific elements of RV life which are troubling your pet. Work on each issue individually, and introduce new challenges one small bit at a time. As RV training progresses and your dog acclimates, pay attention to areas where your pet may struggle, and where there’s room for improvement.
It’s a great idea to first introduce dogs to the RV lifestyle with small trips, and also at home, without going anywhere. Spend time relaxing with your pet in the RV, and let your dog get used to it. Their senses are much stronger than ours, and there will undoubtedly be many unfamiliar sounds, smells and stimuli. Many RV travelers find that training is necessary to desensitize their pets from these stimuli.
Practice RV-Life Skills
Practice specific behaviors you’ll likely need in an RV park, or while on the road. Practice going for mock “walks”, where you put your dog’s leash on; take them to potty, return, and go back to casual relaxation mode. Eventually, graduate to spending the night inside the RV, maybe even in your own driveway. Realistically pretend as if you’re in a campground. Then, do the same, but camp somewhere with new sights and sounds, like a local campground, or even camping at Walmart. Your dog will get used to hearing strange sounds outside the RV. Sit with them and calmly teach them to relax, and not be reactive. This training will help when there are distracting campground sounds all around your rig.
Plan for Separation Anxiety
One other useful exercise is to ensure that your dog does not suffer from separation anxiety. There will be times when your dog needs to be apart from you, possibly under the care of strangers like veterinarian staff, a dog-sitter, or a pet kennel. Be sure that your pet is properly acclimatized to being alone, so it’s not stressful or traumatic when it happens in real life.
All of these training scenarios will help build positive reinforcement and mental associations with the RV. It’ll show the dog that a trip in the camper is a positive, fun experience, and something to enjoy.
While training your pets, be mindful that you don’t accidentally introduce negative behaviors, or associations. For best results, it helps to foster a calm, controlled, peaceful and relaxed environment inside the RV. Don’t promote rambunctious play inside the RV, or to encourage barking, unless you want those behaviors to live on in the future. It may seem unbelievable, but we’ve had RV friends who have done this. It wasn’t always pretty.
Obviously, if you start out with a solid training foundation, you’ll have a much easier time adjusting your pets to RV life. Your pet should be leash-trained, safe and well-trained enough to take out into the world. If your dog needs it, invest in dog training classes before taking your dog camping or RVing. On the road, external stimuli and temptations will pose a constant challenge. Make it easier on everyone, and start from a strong training foundation.
Whatever happens as you begin your adventure, remember that RVing is a totally foreign concept to animals.
Nothing about dog’s existence has evolved to travel in an RV; not their plumbing, brain, temperament, nor any other part of them. Be understanding of accidents, slip-ups, and other unfortunate events. Treat difficulties as a positive challenge; not an excuse to lose your cool.
Exercise patience, kindness and awareness. As a dog owner, it’s your job to use positivity, and consistency, to kindly train the behavior you want to see. It’s not your dog’s job to read your mind, or to meet impossible expectations.
Keep Your Pet Safe
Pets should be properly restrained while traveling in a vehicle. They should never have access to a driver’s cab, or any drive controls. It’s for their safety, and yours. Unexpected things happen while driving, like emergency maneuvers and tire blowouts. it would be horrible if your pet was injured due to carelessness.
Can dogs ride in a travel trailer?
Opinions differ on this question; it’s controversial. Some states may have laws against this, and driving with unrestrained animals. According to my research, at the time of this writing, Florida does not seem to legally require animals to be restrained while driving.
But, the law does not define what is right. If you’re wondering if it’s OK for pets to ride in a trailer, consider this rule of thumb. You should never do anything to your pet that you wouldn’t do with a human child. Travel trailers are not safe to ride in. Neither people, nor pets, should be transported in travel trailers, or fifth wheel trailers.
Trailers are very likely to lose control during an emergency maneuver, like an unexpected swerve at high speed, or a tire blowout. Trailers can easily become uncontrollable while towing. They can crash if they’re not properly loaded, or if the tow vehicle/trailer weight distribution is unbalanced.
Travel trailers don’t have any passenger protection, or structural integrity. They’re made with flimsy wood, staples, and thin plastic. In an accident, your pet would almost surely suffer serious injury, or worse. Pets in travel trailers may also be exposed to heat, uncomfortable motion, fear and anxiety. Don’t transport pets in travel trailers, pickup truck beds, hot or cold conditions, or anywhere else you wouldn’t put a human child.
Carbon Monixide Poisoning
Another danger to avoid, and be aware of, is carbon monoxide poisoning, and the accumulation of dangerous exhaust gases. Travel trailers, truck beds and camper shells are all susceptible to dangerous exhaust build-ups. As you drive, vortices cause exhaust gases to accumulate behind your vehicle. It’s just another reason why you should never transport animals in trailers, pickup beds, camper shells, or by other unsafe methods.
While camping, you should also be careful of carbon monoxide poisoning from other common sources, like generator exhaust, open flames and other common safety hazards. Be sure you know how to safely use all of your equipment!
Pet Accidents: Avoiding Embarrassment
Every pet owner knows what pets do when they find irresistible new smells: they mark their territory. This is fine if it’s outside on a tree; it’s not fine in a vacation rental, hotel lobby, or in a new friend’s house.
If you take your dog to a pet-friendly place, be sure to keep an eagle-eye on them. Look for the tell-tale body language and any signs they’re about to relieve themselves. Try to stop them before it happens. Be sure to take them to potty before going inside any dog-friendly place, too. All of this applies even to the most well-trained dog.
If your pet has an accident, remember that it’s your shortcoming as an owner, not theirs. At the same time, don’t beat yourself up, too much. If it’s a dog-friendly place, it’s not the first time it’s happened, and it won’t be the last. Just apologize appropriately, clean it up thoroughly, and offer to pay for any damage. Most importantly, recognize what went wrong, and commit to doing better next time.
In an emergency, it’s possible that you won’t be able to communicate with your vet back home. In some cases, like using a pet kennel, boarding or doggie daycare, you may be required to show proof of vaccination or other medical records.
Whether you’re full-timing or on a short weekend trip, be sure to request your pet’s medical records, and keep them with you. Your vet at home knows your pet’s detailed medical history, but in an emergency, a new vet might need that important information.
As all experienced travelers know, it’s wise to securely store copies of important documents online in the cloud. This will protect you incase your physical documents are lost, stolen, or damaged. Some modern pet kennels allow emailed copies of your pet’s records, if you don’t have a portable printer for RVs.
Be sure to keep your pet on a healthy, consistent exercise schedule. This is good for your pet, and it’s good for you!
Florida is home to spectacular nature. We have world-class beaches, wildlife, bird-watching, hiking trails, beautiful natural springs, and more. We have a fantastic state park system, which is brimming with opportunities for hikes and adventures. Take advantage of these things! As you do, be sure to know how to keep yourself, and your pet safe as you exercise in hot weather. Always research whether pets will be allowed, and plan accordingly. Pets are not allowed in some destinations; for example, essentially no springs in Florida allow dogs.
Dog Safety in Hot Weather
For your sake, and your pet’s, always plan your outside adventures for morning and evening. This accomplishes two goals.
First, practice sun safety. Avoid being outside when the sun is most intense. Generally, the sun is strongest from around 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Being active during peak-sun hours subject you and your pet to injury and danger. Dogs can get sunburned just like humans, especially on sensitive areas like their noses, and underneath their fur coat. Your dog’s sensitive underbelly can also be burned, because the sun’s powerful UV rays reflect upward from ground surfaces. Dogs with pink skin and thin hair are especially sensitive to sunburn. The best protection against sunburn is to keep your dog inside and under AC while the sun is most intense.
The second consideration, and reason for avoiding the heat of the day, is to avoid heat exhaustion. Even after 4 p.m., when the sun is lower, it’s very hot in Florida. The ground, air, atmosphere, and surfaces will remain very hot until it rains, or after all of the heat has dissipated, which will be well after dark. Dogs are very susceptible to heat exhaustion, especially heat-sensitive breeds. For both your sake, and your pet, take this into consideration as you spend time in Florida’s often unbearable heat.
If you don’t have AC, or can’t limit your activity during peak-sun times, be especially mindful of your pet’s temperature. Keep them under inside air conditioning, under shade, and on cool surfaces. Don’t walk your pet across hot parking lots, or scalding-hot beach sand. If in doubt, always check surfaces with your own exposed, bare skin. Remember that conditions change throughout the day. A lovely, cloudy morning will usually give way to searing sunshine. Plan for the conditions as they change. Always remain aware of your pet’s body temperature, hydration, and other signs of heat-related distress. .
Dog Food and Water
Food and water are among the most important aspects of your dog’s health. Of those two, water is arguably the most important. Be sure that your dog always stays properly hydrated!
Pets should have always have access to cool, clean, fresh water.
A spill-proof dog bowl is great to avoid messes on your RV’s floor. We’ve experimented with many dog bowls through the years; normal dog bowls slosh around and constantly need to be mopped up. There are “no-mess” food bowls for RVs, too.
Be sure to change your dog’s food and water frequently so they’re always fresh. Make sure their bowls are always in the shade, because water will become dangerously hot if left in the sun. Change the water frequently too, to ensure that mosquito larvae does not accumulate.
Florida is filled with insects, ants and bugs of every kind. This is a problem which is much better to avoid, than solve. Dog food should be stored in an airtight container, and should be monitored for infestation by ants, weevils or other bugs.
Be Aware of Florida Bears!
If you’re in bear country, you must secure all types of food properly to avoid unwanted, dangerous encounters. But, even if you’re not in bear territory, other wildlife like coyotes and other wild animals may be attracted to your pet’s food.
Be sure you don’t leave any food out overnight, or while you’re away. If wild animals learn to approach campsites in search of food it may lead to catastropic results, including the euthanization of the wild animal, danger to other campers, pets or worse. Learn more from the University of Florida’s excellent guide.
Don’t change your dog’s food
A dog’s digestive system can be sensitive, and some pets are sensitive to food changes. As you travel across long distances and spend time in small towns, you may find that your preferred dog food brand is not available in different regions.
If you can, keep an adequate stock of dog supplies so you won’t run out. When you do see your dog’s preferred food, be sure to re-stock and keep extra supplies on hand. This is especially true if your dog has food allergies, or other dietary restrictions.
Changing dog food is never ideal. It can cause health problems, including gastronomic distress, including vomiting, gas and/or diarrhea. These all make your dog miserable, and they’re all hugely inconvenient while living in an RV.
As your location and schedules change, your pet will already experience stress related to travel. And, they’ll be subjected to illnesses, bacteria, parasites, and bugs he or she may pick up. If you can, try to avoid having your dog’s dietary routine interrupted. If you must change your dog’s food while on the road, be sure to introduce the changes gradually, so your dog’s system can adjust properly. Thankfully, with basic RV travel hacks, it’s become easier to get essential dog food and supplies while on the road.
To lessen the chances of your dog becoming ill, be careful of where your dog drinks water. A good rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t let them eat or drink anything you wouldn’t drink yourself. And, while out on walks, or playing on the beach, pay close attention to things they find and “get into”. Don’t let them eat anything which will upset their stomachs or hurt them, like dead animals.
RV Life Routine
Animals operate according to natural rhythms and cycles. At home, whether you know it or not, your dogs follow a nice, natural routine. It’d be impossible to exactly match this on the road, but try your best to maintain some form of consistency for your pet’s schedule and routine. Be aware, observe and sculpt rituals for you and your pet. These will serve as “cues”, and will let them naturally know what’s coming next.
For example, if you take a walk every night so your dog can relieve himself, he’ll get the hint, and know that it’s bedtime. Along those lines, it would be confusing if you break the routine, and initiate rambunctious play right before bedtime.
Dogs can become very territorial, especially if you are not accustomed to having guests in your RV. It’s not safe for dogs to display aggressive behavior in any circumstance, because it may lead to an accidental bit. Be sure to practice introducing people to your RV under controlled circumstances. If an official, or unkonwn person needs to board your RV, have a plan for keeping your dog under control at all times. If you ever get pulled over, or have an unforeseen emergency, this training may be the difference between your pet’s life and death.
I also highly recommend training your pet with behaviors like the “Automatic Sit”. These will reinforce a sense of discipline and control which is helpful all the time, and may be imperative during an emergency.
Dogs should also be walked immediately before bed, and immediately when they wake up. If your dog does have an accident, don’t punish them. It’ll be your fault, not theirs.
To avoid accidents in your RV, and to keep your pet comfortable, be aware of your dog’s potty schedule.
You must take frequent, scheduled and consistent breaks. Really, you must ensure that you stick to this schedule! Try not to “push it” with this because you never know what will happen; if you see a good opportunity for a potty break, take it when you can.
Consider using an app or phone timer so you don’t forget. Be generous with the duration of your walks. Be sure to give your dog enough time to fully relieve himself, stretch his legs, and keep his circulation moving. It’ll also give everyone, including you, a nice mental break from the monotony of highway driving.
Honestly, there will be times that walking your dog will be a chore. It’s a drag to leave the AC when it’s blazing hot, or to go outside in pouring rain. But, try to keep a positive mindset.
Dog walks are one of the biggest benefits of RVing with a dog. You’ll have no choice but to slow down, be mindful, and explore in new places. You’ll get an entirely new perspective, which you might not otherwise have. It’s a great chance to bond with your pet, and for me, almost every dog walk results in a laugh for some reason or another. Take the time to be present. When you think back on your time traveling with your dog, these will be some of the best memories.
Dog Friendly Beaches
Many beaches don’t allow pets. But, there are countless dog friendly beaches in Florida. Florida locals love dogs, and taking their dogs to the beach. They’ll often have inside knowledge about the best dog beaches, and spots, so be sure to ask.
City, county and state websites are also great sources of information for this. Be on the lookout for information from “Parks and Recreation” departments.
Keeping your RV clean
If you have the choice, hard-surface floors are the best choice for RVing with dogs. But, you don’t always have the option of choosing the floor material, and renovations can be difficult and expensive. If you have carpet, be sure to vacuum daily, or as often is necessary to keep the RV clean. Keeping the RV clean will also help reduce the strain on your RV’s air conditioner, because the filter will stay cleaner.
If you have non-carpeted flooring, be sure that your dog has good traction; invest in non-slip rugs, if necessary. This is especially true if your dog is older, or has any sort of hip or joint problems. If you have carpet, and changing it out is not an option, be sure to invest in the necessary tools and products to maintain it well.
As far as furniture material, there are pro’s and con’s to both; it really comes down to personal preference. Fabric upholstery will retain body heat more, but leather will get stick in hot and humid conditions. Leather or non-fabric materials are easier to clean, and are not as bad about retaining smells. But, dog’s toenails may scratch, or even puncture, leather or non-fabric upholstery.
Many pet owners prefer to use a washable cover to protect their furniture. This can make it more pleasant to use and maintain your RV, and it’ll also help with it retain its value if you ever decide to sell it.
Keeping your dog clean
When you’re a full-timer, keeping an RV becomes a challenge. When you add a dog or pet into the mix, it becomes an unwinnable gauntlet.
Pets — especially dogs — make it much harder to keep an RV in pristine condition; try as you might, pets will take a toll on even the most pristine RV. Pet’s toe nails will dig into plush, luxurious RV leather.
Dog or cat hair will permeate every nook and cranny. Adorable little paws collect tree sap, dirt, and every other imaginable substance, and smear it into your carpet and living area. Spilled water and food will slosh around your kitchen floor, and kibble will find its way into the darndest of places.
If you want to keep your RV clean while traveling with a dog, or pet, you’ll need to be ever-vigilant, and have the right tools.
The best advice for keeping a clean RV with pets is to have a regular cleaning regimen. Use a checklist and rotate through chores on a regular schedule. RV owners should be familiar with because you will already have a litany of things to inspect and maintain around your rig.
Make it easy on yourself. Get proper tools which make cleaning jobs easy. This is one of the biggest lessons I have learned over the years: Hard job get delayed; easy jobs get done.
Human brains, like dog brains, are trained and conditioned. We avoid negative stimuli like frustration, and unpleasant tasks. We crave dopamine hits, and feelings of gratification. Dopamine is our neurological doggie treat; it’s how our brains reward us for “good behavior”. We can’t change our neurobiology. But, we can train ourselves, and use our own biases constructively.
One trick I’ve found to be successful is to make every job as easy as possible. Try to isolate the annoying aspects. Here’s an example. Maybe you need to clean your RV; dog hair, twigs, and all sorts of debris have been tracked into the carpet and upholstery. You know you should clean, but the vacuum is hidden somewhere in your rig’s deep, dark basement. You don’t want to dig everything out, so you procrastinate. Solution? Keep the vacuum accessible inside! If it’s too big, keep a small, convenient one where it’s always easy to access! For every task you find yourself procrastinating on, make a “kit” dedicated to the individual task. Assemble every tool and material you need for the task, and keep it right where you need it.
Build a cleaning coalition with your entire family. Get everyone on board, and work together towards your goal. If your family doesn’t also clean your dog before coming inside, your efforts will be hampered. If you have kids, decide whether they’re responsible enough to take your dog for walks. Will they reliably keep them safe, and prevent them from rolling on dead, stinky fish? Will they be sure to clean the dog before bringing inside?
For long-haired dogs, daily brushing works wonders. Do this outside, obviously. Special brushes can help remoe the undercoat of heavy-shedding dogs. If you wind up with a tumbleweed of hair after brushing, smile as you realize that this is hair which will not wind up hidden in your sofa cushions!
Especially in hot, humid environments like Florida, it’s essential that you all pet food be kept in sealed, air-tight containers. Otherwise, you may find that your dog’s food has been infested by ants, or other insects.
Before taking your dog RVing, ensure that they’re reliably potty trained. If you need to use puppy pads, or other solutions, make sure you practice before getting on the road. Pay attention to your pet’s pottie schedule to avoid accidents, and to ensure that your pet is comfortable and healthy. Accidents will probably happen; every dog owner knows this. But, they don’t need to happen often. Remember that if your pet does have an accident, it’s your fault for not staying on top of things, not theirs!
Keeping your dog clean is one of the best things you can do to keep your RV clean inside. Especially if your dog is fluffy, or long-haired, they can track in an amazing amount of dust and dirt. Plus, if your dogs are like mine, they love to roll in the stinkiest, most rotten things they can find. I don’t want that on my couch, or in our RV’s carpet!
When dogs swim in bodies of water they may be subjected to chlorine, bacteria, algae, pollution and/or salt, depending on where they swam. All of these substances affect your dog differently. Some will cause dry skin and irritation; some may cause your dog to smell horribly, and some can cause serious health problems. To really keep your dog clean, bathe your dog thoroughly after swimming, no matter what the water source is. The only exception I might make for this rule would be a clean, natural and pristine body of fresh water; something like the Great Lakes.
Outdoor showers are one of the best features for RVing with dogs! You can bathe your dog outside, and leave all of the wet dog smell, hair and dirt outside. It’s also great to keep the heat and humidity outside, especially during the summer. We recommend using your outside shower liberally.
One other thing I recommend is to keep your pet’s “stuff” — toys, leashes and pet gear– clean, too. All of these items get nasty over time, and may harbor smells. Especially leashes — sometimes they get dirty during potty time, and that’s certainly not something you’d like to track back into your coach.
Sometimes RV sites are dusty, and/or muddly. If you can find a nice, large camp rug to keep just outside your door, beneath your awning, it’ll do wonders to help keep your RV’s interior clean!