Introducing a dog to your RV can be a fun bonding experience. Dogs love swimming, hiking, and other activities that come with RV travel. Most of all, dogs love to be with their favorite humans and traveling together is the best of all. Whether you are an RV veteran or new to the entire world of RV travel, introducing your furry friends to living in an RV is an important transition.
If you want to bring your dog along on RV trips, you’ll want to take your time introducing the sights, sounds, and smells of your RV. Dogs are much more sensitive to their environment than humans – so the sound of the engine, the swaying of the RV on the road, and all the new smells can produce anxiety in even the most confident of dogs. If you take it slow and follow these three steps, your dog is sure to become a road warrior.
3 Essential Steps for Introducing Your Dog to the RV
Create your dog’s space
Whether you plan to crate, have a dog bed on the floor, or allocate a couch to your dog – its important to set this area up with familiar fabrics and smells. If your dog has a favorite blanket or dog toy, have those items in their spot.
Depending on the size of your RV, this may be a permanent space or a temporary one. Many vehicle seat covers will fit perfectly over a built-in RV couch. Plus, they’re designed to repel smells and odors. Alternately, a dedicated dog blanket can do the trick, and is also a portable option. Or, go crazy – use both!
As most RV owners know, extra space must be made. Areas under the kitchenette table, under bunk beds, and other spaces can be repurposed for kennels, dog beds, and more. Read our full article on setting up your dog’s RV space here.
Whether you create a permanent or temporary space for your pooch, be sure to include items from within the home that they’re already used to. Familiar sights and smells will tell your dog that the RV is an extension of the home space.
Let your dog explore your parked RV
It’s important for your dog to get used to the RV before you go on any trips. While some dogs can easily jump into a new situation, that isn’t the case with most. Dogs who are not prone to stress or anxiety can also be triggered into these behaviors in new situations as well.
Make your dog’s transition into the RV camper enjoyable by letting them get used to the RV first.
Start by sitting down inside the RV to relax. Be confident and relaxed; act as though this is a normal everyday behavior. Play a game of cards or read a book, whatever a normal in-home activity would be, while your dog explores the RV.
Once your dog has had a good amount of time to sniff around, encourage them to lay down and relax in their designated space. Be prepared to offer some reassurance if your dog is anxious or unsure, but don’t over do it. The goal is to act as though this is a normal, safe, everyday place to relax and spend time together.
Repeat this process as many times as necessary until your dog happily jumps in the RV and settles in.
Take your dog for a test drive in the RV
Once your dog seems to feel comfortable with the RV, you are ready to do some test drives. Take it slow because the noises and the motion of the RV may scare your dog at first. Remember to act completely normal, and not make a big fuss about it. Play some relaxing music or just chat as you drive, keeping the mood safe, secure, and relaxed.
If your dog does well, you can extend the test drive to highway travel, residential road travel and turns, and gravel roads. If your dog is frightened or anxious, be prepared to take a break – exercise your dog, and then give it another go. Patience is key, it can take up to a week or more for your dog to become fully comfortable traveling in the RV.
Be sure to use a pet seatbelt harness or crate when in motion, as moving vehicles can be very unsafe for pets who aren’t properly secured.
For dogs who are more prone to anxiety, exercise your dog before going for rides. This way they’ve already had a chance to release pent up energy and are more likely to be relaxed. Repeat this process as many times as necessary until you feel your dog is ready for a long-haul ride.
Once you are ready for a real trip, be sure to stock your RV with everything you’ll need for your pup. Read our post on the essential dog supplies needed for RV travel here. Most importantly, remember to have fun. RV travel with your dog is an incredible bonding experience for both of you!
Jennifer Hillberg is the Founder and Creator of Mountain Mat, LLC, the USA’s first 100% recycled plastic, reversible, outdoor recreation mat. As an avid outdoor recreationalist, Jennifer has hiked and camped in some of the world’s most remote places alongside her husband and three children. Learn more about The Mountain Mat Story.