People ask us all the time how we manage to travel so much with our two gigantic dogs Achilles and Daisy. They are 5 and 4 year old Cane Corsos (Italian Mastiffs) and weigh about 140lbs each on a light day. I’m not going to lie, it can be a real challenge finding a dog sitter we trust to take care of our two big babies. We travel so much that we hate to leave them home all the time and they love to be with us when we go. We knew travel was a big part of our lives when we got them, and we have had large dogs that we traveled with before, so this was not something new to us. We took on the commitment of having two big dogs, so we are committed to making sure they are included in almost every aspect of our lives, travel included. Therefore most of our travel is planned with them in mind.
I say planned, but I use that term loosely. Anyone who knows us knows we rarely plan anything. Most of our trips are spur of the moment whims thought up over breakfast with no real plan of where we are going to stay or what direction we will take to get there. Then there are always side trips to see kitschy tourist attractions like Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska or have a picnic by a pretty waterfall like the one at Rifle Gap State Park in Colorado. Whatever it is we end up doing, we try to make sure the trips we take are just as much fun for our pups as they are for us.
In fact, the day we brought Achilles home was the same day we brought home Big Foot, our 44 foot Cyclone toy hauler. Within the first month Achilles had been on 3 camping trips up to northern Arizona and within the first 4 months he had traveled to 7 different states. At the time we were also traveling with an elderly Rottweiler named Tank, and were celebrating our 25th wedding Anniversary. Traveling with an older dog and a rapidly growing puppy presented its own unique challenges, like their different energy levels, and making sure the older dog had his own space that he could get alone time without an annoying little puppy bothering him. Not to even mention the puppy nearly doubling in size during a three week trip. Somehow though we managed to make it work and we look forward to the trips we take with our furry family.
Whether we are traveling by RV, staying in a pet friendly hotel or a pet friendly AirB&B we want to make sure our furry friends are safe, happy, healthy and comfortable. Travel can be very stressful for pets as they are taken out of their home, pulled away from their normal routine and shuffled around from place to place. So over the years we have learned a lot about how to make travel less stressful for them and include them in the fun.
Here are some tips we have found to be helpful that may make it easier for you when traveling with your pets. They are no particular order, and each is just as important as the other. Hopefully these ideas help you as much as they did us. If you have any other ideas we didn’t think of, we would love to hear them. Please put them in the comments below or feel free to email us. We are always looking for new ways to make life and travel easier for all of us.
1. Bring plenty of food and water. We keep a water bowl in the side storage compartment of our RV right next to the hose, so it is easy to pull out and fill when we make stops for gas, and potty breaks. Its also important to make sure we have extra water bottles and a portable travel bowl for them when we go on day hikes, outings and side trips. They have their own backpack that we keep this stuff in so it is ready to go with them, and we don’t have to worry about carrying it.
As for food, we keep our dog food in a storage container with a locking lid that is easy to just pick up and take with us when we go.
We always make sure it is full when we leave and if we are going to be gone on a long road trip we try to bring an extra bag of food with us. We get our food automatically delivered from Chewy.com and because Achilles has food allergies he is on a low inflammatory grain free food that we know he doesn’t have reactions to. We know if we run out of food, we can always make a stop at a store like Petco or PetSmart and pick up a bag to get us through, which we have had to do before, but we may not be able to buy the same exact brand or flavor.
2. Make sure you have a good sturdy water bowl. We do a lot of dry camping in forest areas and our water bowls take a beating. We usually just buy big plastic bowls from the dollar store, but they don’t often hold up well and have to be replaced frequently. We know this and make it work. We’ve found that a good sturdy water bowl with a wide flat base works best to not tip and spill on uneven ground, especially if you have limited water tank space.
This one from Yeti is on my wish list.
3. Get regular veterinarian checkups and stay up to date on vaccinations. Many of the places we go our dogs are around other people and other dogs. This is especially true if we are staying in RV parks where there are dog runs and off leash areas, or if we take them to a dog park or dog beach (which Achilles loves). We want to make sure that they stay healthy on our trips and that they don’t pick up something from or give something to another dog.
Which brings me to my next tip…
4. Bring copies of your dog license and rabies certificates with you when you travel. This is a must if traveling out of the country and highly recommended all the time. We were on a trip to San Diego a couple years ago and a small dog attacked and bit Achilles in the off leash area at the park we were staying at. Achilles, being the big baby he is, ran and hid behind Ryan with his little nubbin of a tail tucked between his legs, but we were concerned about whether or not the other dog had proper vaccinations. Fortunately the other dog owner had copies with him, as did we so we knew they were both all up to date on their vaccines. Luckily the bite wasn’t too bad, and Achilles didn’t need to get stitches.
5. A good tag with your Pets name & your cell phone number are a must. We put both our cell phone numbers on ours just in case one of us has phone issues along the way. All too often I have seen people lose a pet on a trip and the tag they had on the pet had their home phone number on it. If someone finds your pet you want them to be able to reach you easily so the phone you carry with you is the best one to use.
6. Get your pets chipped. Both of our pups are chipped and we pay a nominal annual fee for a monitoring service through HomeAgain.com. HomeAgain tracks their chip number and we are able update our pets information with them regularly with current photos, identifying features, medical issues, medications, allergies etc. That way if they do get lost, and they have for some reason lost their tag, they can still find their way home to us when someone finds them. There are other similar services so you can find the one that is right for you.
7. If you have to leave your pets, carry a wallet card with your pets information, location and an emergency contact. If something were to happen to you, authorities would know where to look for your pets and get them to someone who can care for them while you can’t.
8. Use light up collars at night. We like to camp in the woods or on the beaches of Mexico where our dogs are able to roam about our campsite without leashes or chains. They are dark brown, brindle and surprisingly camouflaged at night, so we have found that light up collars give us a quick easy way to spot them in the dark at night. One challenge we have had is finding a good light up collar that is also water resistant or water proof when they jump in a lake or the ocean. If you know of any good ones, please let us know so we can try them out.
9. Make sure they are well trained to walk on a leash and socialize them with other dogs. If you are traveling with dogs you need to plan that they will be out and about with you on a leash for a fair amount of time. Make sure your dogs are well trained to walk on a leash, and don’t pull or jump, especially if there may be other dogs around. Also when we travel our dogs often get their exercise at off leash parks, and dog beaches. And, when we camp, we are often with other people who have dogs of various sizes as well. We spend a lot of time training with our dogs walking on leash, and walking in busy areas where there are lots of people and dogs around and socializing with other dogs. When they are around new dogs that haven’t met before we try to introduce them one at a time, because two large dogs sniffing your ass can be overwhelming, especially for a small dog like a chihuahua. And we are ready to correct their behavior if necessary. People with small dogs don’t often realize how often their dogs jump up and nip because it isn’t necessarily painful, but more of a nuisance. Be cautious to ensure your dog doesn’t do this because you never know how another person or dog will react to their behavior. Also, expect that while you are on the go there may be kids around, and they (and sometimes adults) don’t always ask if it is ok to pet. Follow your dogs cues, if they get nervous in a large crowd, remove them from the area, or if they don’t like to be pet, have them wear a harness or collar that signifies that it is not ok to pet them.
10. Have good sturdy leashes. This is one of my pet peeves. If you are out on a walk with your dog on a leash you should have complete control of them, and the leash should give you that control. I see too many people with dogs of all sizes on retractable leashes that have no control over their dogs, they get all tangled up in things and they can break easily. A good leash should be a fixed length, no more than 6 feet and made from sturdy nylon, leather or paracord material that doesn’t tear or stretch easily.
11. Give them their own space and try to stick to a routine. Most dogs have some kind of routine at home and a safe space to call their own, whether it is a crate, a dog bed or your living room couch. They may even have a special toy, stuffed animal or your favorite shoe that they like to keep close by. It is important for them to have their same routines and comfort items while you are away on a trip. Our Daisy for instance doesn’t like the dark, so when night falls she lets us know and we let her into our RV where she has her own bed to laydown in. If we go to a hotel or AirB&B we take their beds with us so that they know where their space will be, and they can always retreat to them whenever they want.
12. Use baby gates to help separate spaces. When we are traveling with our dogs in our Toy Hauler and don’t have our children or grandchildren with us, the garage is our dog’s space. We put their beds and toys in there and it gives them a quiet space to call their own. It also keeps them from climbing on the furniture and being under feet all the time, because if we let them on the couch once, it will forever be theirs. Instead of closing the door between the garage and living space, we use a baby gate to separate the two areas. This allows the dogs to be in their space, but still feel like they are close to us. Being as big as they are, they could probably step right over it if they wanted to, but luckily for us they have never tried. I’ve seen a lot of people use play pens or portable fencing set up outside their RV to contain smaller dogs while in campgrounds. While I have never tried this with our giant beasties, it seems like a great solution for people with smaller pets.
13. Plan puppy play time. Whether you are at home or on the go, your pets don’t want to be cooped up all the time. Make sure to plan some fun time for them, especially if you are going to be leaving them somewhere while you go do something they can’t go along for. When we travel we try to take them to do something in the morning before we really start our day. This can be any type of activity your dog enjoys like a walk around the area, a hike, a trip to a dog park, or a romp on a dog beach. This makes the trip more pleasureable for you and your pet, and helps them to rest easier and stay calmer in a strange environment.
14. Carry plenty of poo bags and hand sanitizer everywhere you go. If you have ever been anywhere with me and my dogs you know that I go to a lot of amazingly beautiful places, and they all smell like shit. 💩 That is usually because as soon as set out on a loop trail, one of them decides to drop a deuce. Especially with dogs as big as mine where it sometimes takes a hefty flex seal to pick up a single dump (no joke). Always have plenty of poo bags and be ready to carry them to the next available trash can, which may be a ways.
15. Please, Please, Please, Don’t leave your pets in a hot vehicle. We live in Arizona where temperatures reach blazing levels and a pet can die in a car in a matter of minutes. The same can go for your RV as well, depending on the size, ventilation and reliability of your A/C unit. If you have to leave your pets in your coach in hot weather make sure a good reliable A/C is on, leave plenty of windows open or have good temperature controlled vent fans that will vent out excess heat and help keeps your pets cool. Also make sure to leave them water where they can get to it. Also, If you are leaving your pets in your coach at an RV park or in a hotel room let the office know and make sure they know how to reach you. Your pets can get scared being left alone in a strange place and may bark or whine. They may also get protective or aggressive if someone tries to come in like maintenance or housekeeping at a hotel or AirB&B.
Another option is to check in with a local doggy day care or a local pet sitting service.
16. If your pet takes any medications or supplements bring them with you. Make sure you have enough on hand for your entire trip, as getting refills of pet medications on the road can be difficult. Daisy has Valley Fever and needs to take Fluconazole twice a day, every day. We get it filled in 3 month supplies when we can so that we always have enough on hand, and we pack it with her food so that we don’t forget it when we go.
17. Make sure your dogs have a safe place to sit while you are driving. Our dogs ride in the truck with us and have the entire back seat to themselves. This gives them enough room to lay down and they can look out the windows if they like. Luckily Daisy and Achilles don’t mind laying on top of each other, so it works well for them. We also have a water proof floor liner from WeatherTech, just in case of accidents (they do happen sometimes). My daughter used to have a little dog who wasn’t so comfortable riding like that, so he had a box he sat in and a harness that connected to the seat belt to help keep him secure. It worked great in the convertible to keep him from jumping out and in the truck it gave him his own space away from the other dogs. If you are traveling in a motor coach, it can be more difficult to find a comfortable place to sit where they are not going to be tossed around, or startled by shifting objects. Having a crate or harnessing them into a seat belt can be a great solution to help them feel more secure.
The PetNation Port-a-crate is a great option for RV use. It is a lightweight crate that can be used indoors or outdoors and folds up for easy storage when not in use.
And the Ruffwear Load Up Car Harness will keep them securely seat belted in place for their safety.
18. Stop for potty breaks. On the road in an RV it is so easy to just pull over on the side of the road and go, and them maybe even grab a snack, while skipping the normal bathroom and snack breaks somebody traveling in a car might take. These breaks are important for our pets to. They give them a chance to relieve themselves, stretch their legs and get a drink, especially if you are going to be on the road for a while. Daisy has a big problem with this one. She has a deformity that makes it awkward for her to squat, and she doesn’t like to do it in busy or unfamiliar places. Because of this we try to make sure to stop at places with grassy areas or places that are off the main drag where she will be more comfortable and less distracted. Doing this help prevent those nasty accidents I mentioned earlier, allows her to get down to business and gets us back on the road faster. If we are spending a whole day on the road, we will also try to stop somewhere along the way for a walk for them and us to stretch our legs and break up the monotony of a long drive.
19. Be prepared to change your plans if your pets can’t go where you want to go. In our experience there are many businesses out there that are pet friendly. Searches on Google maps and websites like bringfido.com can help you locate such places, but it’s always best to just ask. We’ve been to several restaurants, museums, and wineries and shops that have allowed us to bring our pets in when we have asked. Some have even asked us to come in when they’ve seen us outside so their staff can love on our pups. It’s important to know your pets limitations in these situations. For instance I won’t take my dogs into a shop with narrow aisles or lots of breakables, that would be like taking a bull into a China shop.
There are also a lot of places you would like to take your pets that you can’t. For instance, most national parks in the United States don’t allow pets. There are several reasons for this like large amounts of visitors, wildlife protection areas, danger of bears, etc. In situations like this you may need to alter your plans for the benefit of your fur babies. If there is something you would really like to do and you can’t take them, but also don’t want to leave them in your coach, you might check in with a local doggy daycare or dog sitting service. Again, another reason for regular vet checkups and to carry proof of vaccinations with you.
20. Keep a bottle of dog shampoo in your RV. When we give our puppies play time they get muddy, sandy and smelly. We always try to carry a bottle of dog shampoo with us incase we have to wash them down. If you don’t have a hose on the outside of your RV, or you have limited water you can try to find a dog wash or pay a visit to a local groomer. A lot of pet friendly hotels will have dog wash stations and provide necessary supplies like shampoo and towels.
21. If you’re traveling with other people, make sure they know you are traveling with pets and are ok with it. If they’re not, you might want to get some new friends!
Again, I hope you find these tips helpful when you are traveling with your pets. If you think I may have missed anything, or if you have any other tips or suggestions to share, I would love to hear them. Please make sure to share them in the comments below.