Living on Wheels

Dogs, Dogs and More Dogs!

Some advice on smooth traveling

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I must preface this by admitting that I have never been a dog owner, and don’t plan to become one. But when one of our regulars came into the office here at Rose Valley and said, “I swear, every RV in my row has a dog in it except mine!” I began wondering. Why make RVing more difficult and inconvenient by dragging a dog along? I mean, the kids are finally gone, so why make life more complicated?

I can almost understand part-time RVers. It’s their house dog and, unless they have someone to leave it with, they have no choice. The same can be said for full-timers who have this dog left over from their stationery days — abandoning it just doesn’t seem right. But why do people acquire a dog on the road? Or replace one that has gone to doggy heaven?

I started my research by asking non-dog owners “why not?” 

“I don’t want to take care of it” won hands down. However, I did get a few surprise responses.

“My parrot doesn’t like anything strange in the bus.”

“When I was a kid, my dog got killed by a car, and I can’t handle the grief of losing another one.”

Several RVers mentioned their belief that dogs, especially larger dogs, need lots of room to run, which they don’t have in most RV parks.

The “whys” were trickier. “For protection,” said one single RVer, and when I looked down at her chihuahua doubtfully, she said, “She barks and scares burglars away.”

Oh, yeah, like most self-respecting burglars can’t tell the difference between a chihuahua’s bark and that of a German shepherd.

Another woman said, “I like taking care of someone.”

Most of the single RVers said their dogs were for company.

“I’m lonely, and also, dog parks are a good place to meet people, much friendlier than bars,” one guy explained.

“The Neanderthals were buried with their dogs,” a terrier owner told me, although the vote is still out on that. Some experts say nope, Neanderthals weren’t doggy people, others say most likely they ate dogs for dinner, and anthropologist Pat Shipman theorizes that dogs were implemental in the extinction of their species — the humans trained wolf dogs to help them corner the food supply and starve out the pet-deprived Neanderthals.

The couples I talked to almost unanimously said, “We’ve always had dogs.”

Yeah, but isn’t it a hassle? Always rushing back to the RV to walk or feed him. Looking for a new vet or groomer when you travel. What about all the places you’d like to see, only they don’t allow dogs? Strangely, no one gave me a straight answer to these questions; they usually shrugged and murmured something like “Oh, we manage.”

I googled “RVing with dogs.” And oh, my, dog people love to give advice, considering the many books written on the subject. Even Woodall’s, one of the Bibles of the RVing world, publishes “Camping and RVing with Dogs.” Probably because an unofficial estimate is that over half of RVers have pets, mainly dogs.

Some RV parks don’t accept dogs. Some limit the number per RV or the size and breed. On the other hand, some RV parks go all out to accommodate them. Dog runs, doggie bathhouses, dog-walking service, pet sitting, obedience training and agility classes. Hey, they’re treated better than us humans!

When you’re planning an RV jaunt, either a short-term trip or a new lifestyle, consider your dog’s personality. That might sound a little touchy-feely to non-dog owners, but it makes sense. Get him used to the rig BEFORE you start travelling. Turn on the engine for a couple of minutes to see how he copes. Try him out on short trips and reward him for good behavior. And bring along a familiar portable kennel as a safe haven. One writer recommends getting your dog used to peeing on grass before the first trip. I thought all dogs pee on grass. Except desert dogs. Or frozen tundra dogs.

The following tips sound reasonable even to me:

  • Stick to one kind of food and make sure it’s easy to find or take plenty along.
  • Give him purified water for his digestion — and yours too, by the way.
  • Store food in sealable bins to deter rodents.
  • Feed him at the same time every day.
  • Check for geographically centered diseases and parasites.
  • Google veterinarian reviews before using a new one.
  • Load “Dog park finder app” on your Apple products.
  • Stick to routine as much as possible.
  • Keep him inside the RV and, preferably, in his portable kennel when you’re gone, TV or radio on, blinds down.
  • Invest in a portable dog pen to set up on your site.
  • Choose an RV with minimal fabric and carpeting.
  • Ask your RV neighbors if the dog barks when alone. If yes, consider a bark control collar.
  • Travel with the following: proof of vaccinations, license tag, ID tag; color photo of dog, sturdy leashes, medications, waste bags, old towel for those wet walks, doggy first aid kit.
  • Finally, on Amazon.com, I discovered an entire retail industry of products specifically made for dogs on the road. Loading ramps, pet door covers, harnesses, dog teepees, pet mats, kennels and crates. You can buy a remote dog camera for spying on your dog when you’re away, with two-way audio so you can talk to each other, and a treat-tossing feature for his good behavior. How about a Scout High Performance Tactical Military Backpack, or a Happy Camper dog dress for the highest canine fashion?

All of this sounds much more complicated than just tossing Fido in your RV and taking off. But a little research and some minor adjustments are probably worth the time if the result is a smoother, more peaceful journey. And a dog that doesn’t need therapy.              

(mug) Sheila and husband, Jimmy, have lived at Rose Valley RV Ranch in Silver City since 2012, following five years of wandering from Maine to California. She can be contacted at sksowder@aol.com.

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