Keep You and Your RVing Dog Safe on the Road
Many of us can’t imagine life on the road without our canine co-pilots. For their safety, we must be aware of important dangers of RVing with dogs.
Dogs enhance our experiences in nature. They force us to take time and smell the flowers, to sit and savor the scenery and explore our surroundings when the time is right. But for all the joys of RVing with dogs, certain dangers lurk in this lifestyle that don’t exist in the real world.
Top 3 Dangers of RVing with Dogs
At best, these pet hazards can cost you a lot of money at the vet clinic. At worst, your pet’s life may be at risk. If you think of yourself as a responsible pet parent, you’ll want to avoid these common RVing dog dangers.
1. Don’t let your pooch drive the RV.
As parent to a high strung, intelligent German Shepherd who recently passed, I always worried that one day he would take his role as co-pilot a little too seriously. That’s why anytime we park our Dodge RAM, we put on the emergency break to ensure he doesn’t attempt a getaway.
After all, thousands of children have been known to accidentally hit a gearshift and send the vehicle into motion. Knowing my dog is as smart as the average two-year-old human, it makes sense that he’s capable of doing the same.
Setting the emergency brake seems like the common sense thing to do whether you’re driving a passenger car or RVing with children or pets. But I also know that after a long day’s drive, even little pet safety tasks like this are easily forgotten. And that’s exactly what happened to this poor guy in Texas:
Whatever kind of RV you drive, make it a habit to set the emergency brake. Better yet, don’t let your dog roam in the rig until you’re parked. Keep your pet confined in your RV with a safety-rated harness or carrier.
2. Don’t leave food unattended. Ever.
RVs make it easy for curious dogs to get into trouble. My dog’s muzzle could touch our dining room table and some days he considered it his own buffet tray. For example, one Thanksgiving day while camped in the desert, I baked two pies for our big celebration. Knowing my dog has a tendency to counter surf, I hid the pies behind an accordion curtain separating the kitchen from the bedroom. But I neglected to remember that a dog’s nose is far more powerful than the eyes.
We stepped outside for an hour to dine with friends. When we returned to fetch our pies, Wyatt’s face was covered in pumpkin filling. Only the crumbs of both pies remained. Luckily he was fine and didn’t require veterinary care, but this could have ended badly. Now, I never leave food out unless it’s behind a locked door.
3. Chill out on hot days.
Hot weather is the biggest danger for RVing dogs. Heatstroke happens all the time. If your air-conditioning goes out while you’re away from the RV and your dog is stuck inside, it’s a death sentence.
It might be winter now but it’s critical to be mindful of warm climates when you plan your RV trips. Don’t get caught by surprise if record-setting heat finds you along the way. After all, climate change impacts RVing more and more. Always take along every precaution to keep your dog cool. For example:
- Outfit your dog with a cooling vest to keep core body temperature down
- Consider installing a battery or DC-powered dog kennel fan inside the RV as a backup.
- Use a pet safety temperature sensor that sends phone notifications so you can make sure it doesn’t get too hot inside the RV while you are gone.
Perhaps the best tip for RVing with dogs in hot weather is just don’t leave your dog alone on super hot days at all. Find something you can do together instead.
I love seeing the world through my dog’s eyes. But I love having him around more than any great adventure. This lifestyle can be unpredictable but it doesn’t have to put a dog in peril. There’s plenty we can do to avoid preventable dangers of RVing with dogs.
Read more about RVing with dogs:
- 20 Must-Haves When RVing With Your Dog
- 5 Useful Items For RV Camping With Your Dog
- Camping With Dogs: 5 Useful Tips For RVing With Your Pet
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.
Gina Fisher says
Make sure you know where your dog(s) are! #1 we were at a rv park the husband went to move his truck to hook up to his rig and their little dog was under the truck and we’ll you can imagine the rest. The wife ran out of the trailer screaming they got in the truck and sped away with the dog in a blanket. I was crying. We checked out that morning. They had not came back before we left. This has been at least 10 years and to this day we make sure we know where are dogs are at all times! I prayed that little guy made it. Be careful everyone and safe travels. Bill and Gina
Lisa Harris says
I agree that on really hot days don’t leave your dog alone in the RV even if the AC is on. My husband and I did that while we went into a restaurant one afternoon. When we came out I didn’t hear the generator. It turned off because it needed more oil. The inside of the RV was 99 degrees and my dog was panting on the floor. He was OK but that was a lesson learned. If I have to turn on the AC, I never leave my dog alone in the RV.
Please, advise pet owners who have RVs with steps that have the little holes in them, to put carpet covers on those steps. The RV next to us let their terrier out and a few of his nails got caught in the holes and ripped his nails completely out. Besides blood & whimpering the owners felt so bad as this could have been prevented.
steve Hammill says
Venomous snakes, scorpions, and even spiders are a threat to dogs when exploring new territory. In the 70’s, my curious mini-pin was stung by a scorpion in Florida. Just two years back, my Irish Terrier was bitten by a Copperhead while I walked on a leash. Both incidents required a trip to the vet.
Carlotta Kies says
I know my husband and I are a rare breed, If there are 100 campers, 95 have dogs, 4 have nothing, and we have the CATS, believe it or not there are more of us than you know. Our cats love us and would be totally devastated if we left them home. Please be mindful of cat owners.
Donald Schneider says
We use a BING video system with wifi hotspot. The BING camera has temperature settings for high and low. You can also monitor your pet and TALK to them over the system. Works GREAT for us and we no longer worry about Missy while we are gone to get groceries or a Dr visit that may take longer than planned.
Zack May says
We never leave the pups in the RV, they go where we go.
Our dogs will go out and lay on the pool deck when it is 110 and the deck is probably 130. Not sure the inside of the RV will ever get that hot but its not worth the chance.
I have seen many RV’rs holding their dog or cat on their lap or sitting on the dashboard while driving. This is not only dangerous for the driver, but the pet also. A quick stop launches the animal into the windshield. It also makes the driver try to catch the animal and lose control of the RV.
Even having your pet wander in the coach or sleep on the couch while driving is a bad idea. A harness with a short tether will still allow the pet to move around a little but keep them from flying inside the coach. There are harnesses available that attach to seat belts. We use one in our tow vehicle and our dog is safe and secure in the back seat and can still look out the windows.
Would anyone allow their child to be unsecured?
Ed Fogle says
Many motorhome parking brakes are set by a plunger on the console next to the driver’s seat. A rambunctious, heavy dog might be able to jump on and release it. I found a hard piece of material just the right thickness to fit between the plunger throat and console. Cut a slot in it and slide it under the plunger every time I set the parking brake.
#1. My vehicle cannot be taken out of park, if the engine is shut off.
#2. Don’t leave food out should be common sense. But apparently not.
#3. If you are going to leave a generator on to run an AC, at least check the generator first. I would either take a dog with me, or have 12V cooling fans running inside. In my van project, I will not have an AC, fans will do the job nicely; if I could sleep well in 100+ temperatures in Nam, I can surely sleep well in a camper van. My generator will be backup for my solar, and wind power; the only time it will run will be if/when it charges the batteries.
Great article by author Rene, plus I agree with all the comments I saw. I owned a great dog back in the early 2000’s who got bit by a diamondback, probably took the hit for me as I was walking behind him. Cost a small fortune in vet bills (anti-venom is very costly) but he pulled thru. For you dog and cat owners remember predators would love to turn Poochie Boy or Puss ‘n Boots into lunch. My sister-in-law used to live in a semi rural suburb of Tucson (Vail) and she loved cats. But she was never able to keep one for more than two, three months because owls and hawks got them (she never should have let them outside). I think her experience applies to RVers. If you camp in non-urban areas of my state (Az) there are plenty of mountain lions, black bear, coyotes, winged predators, and even wolves (in the eastern mountains). Not to mention ubiquitous Arizona buzzworms (rattlers).