How We Roll in our RV: Air conditioning and unattended pets

 How We Roll in our RV: Air conditioning and unattended pets

It can heat up very fast inside an RV and in this edition of How We Roll in our RV, Jennifer and I answer a question from a reader named Danielle who asks:

“I'm thinking about taking my freelance writing business on the road in a small motorhome, and I have a question. I'll be bringing my dog with me and I'm concerned about leaving her in the RV while running errands. Can a dog overheat in a motorhome as they can in a car? Can the A/C run off the battery while sitting in a parking lot, or would I have to run the generator and risk the wrath of quiet townsfolk?
Any advice from you (or Tai!) would be much appreciated. Thanks, and safe travels!”

Jennifer and I take our Norwegian Elkhound, Tai, with us and since he has a double coat and doesn't tolerate heat well, we worry about leaving him unattended for long periods of time, even with the AC on and even in our Roadtrek eTrek, which can run the AC on battery power for long periods of time.

Tai, assuming the position in our Roadtrek eTrek

We don't leave him unattended even when we are plugged into shore power at a campground. Indeed, many campgrounds have rules about that. How many times have you walked by someone's RV, only to hear some yipper inside loudly sounding his concern about being abandoned. It is rude to other campers and not very nice to your pet to leave a barking dog alone. Our Tai is not a barker, he's a sleeper. But what if the AC in the park went out? Like a car, an RV can heat up very fast. So we pretty much always take him with us, except for short periods of times like when we are eating in a restaurant. And then only if we run the AC in warm weather and check on him frequently.

You can click the video to hear our response to Daniele's question. And use comments to offer your suggestions.

Meantime, if you have a question about How We Roll in our RV, send it to us at


Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.


  • I find this question to be very interesting, but found the answer to be too short and vague. Do you ever meet single travelers with pets? How do they handle going to get groceries or sightseeing where pets are not allowed? How do you handle sightseeing where pets are not allowed? Please answer as I think this is very important to make sure we are all giving our pets good treatment 🙂

  • Ah… we can’t help you on meeting single travelers, except to say that walking your pet on a leash usually puts you in contact with others who are walking pets and they indeed may be single. But as we said above and in the video, we don’t advise leaving pets for long or extended periods of time. Shopping and eating out is fine. But if you take your pet, you take your pet. That means you probably don’t spent five hours hiking a long trail in a national park while the pet stays behind in the RV. But lots of tourist places and parks have nearby kennels available where they will keep your dog for a few hours or even overnight. We found one at Mammoth Cave in KY that allowed us to do the big underground tour there while Tai hung out in a very nice and shaded outdoor kennel with plenty of fresh water. Taking our dog along on our RV travels does require more planning but it’s all very doable. Good luck!

  • This is a good subject. I don’t think the previous person was looking for a date. I think they were wondering if you ever questioned single rv’ers on what they do with their pets when they need to run errands. I know you previously mentioned you meet lots of different people. Kennels is a good idea. Love reading your blog, keep up the good work.

  • And you must keep in mind that in some states it is illegal to leave your pet in a parked vehicle without supervision. We found this in Florida.

  • What if the A/C in a campground goes out — or if your generator shuts down??? I have a cellular, electronic device called a TemperatureGuard. I set a high temp and a low temp. If the ambient temperature in the van reaches any of those thresholds, the TemperatureGuard sends a text message to my cell phone.

    • Hi Diane, This is a great idea, so I googled and found a device that will send a message to your phone, but it costs $400 for the device and there is also a monthly monitoring fee of at least $15. Have you found anything that’s cheaper?

  • I don’t camp in really hot weather – not my thing. If I need to run into a grocery store and the weather is pleasant but not hot, I leave the back windows open and plug in a small fan and the interior stays very cool. And I make darn sure that I’m gone not more than 5 – 10 minutes. I’ve taken carts full of groceries to a cashier to explain that I need to leave now and I’m sorry I can’t wait, and I abandon my shopping cart. Oh, and I’m a really fast shopper; no browsing just follow my list.

  • I travel in my Roadtrek with my two golden retrievers. If it’s moderately warm and I cannot take my dogs with me, I will hose them down with cool water, then open all the windows and run the Fantastic Fan to keep air circulating on them (canine swamp cooler). If the weather is very warm (for my pups, that’s above 75F), I do not go places where they cannot be with me, outside the van. It just isn’t worth the risk in my opinion. I have found though, many places (especially in Canada) will allow my well behaved, leashed dogs go with me–it’s worth it to ask.

  • Mike – With the etrek, how long have you found that the AC will actually operate on battery power? I realize there are a lot of variables, especially outside temp and sun exposure, but I’m curious what your personal experiences have been so far.

  • For those of you not accustomed to hot climates, please don’t think that a pet is safe for even five minutes. The vehicle heats rapidly to an unbearable and deadly temperature.

  • Steve… we’ve gone all night… or at least tile 3 or 4 when it got too cold and I had to get up to turn it off.

    • Mike – That is great to hear. Roadtrek seems to have backed off initial claims about etrek boondocking capability and about implementing a lithium battery system, which makes a lot more sense than the bank of AGMs. We are holding off purchasing an etrek until it is just a bit more proven, but hope that will be not to far off.

  • I am single and I travel with my ten-year-old rescued greyhound, Whiskey, in my Roadtrek Adventurous,. For shopping I usually stop at Wal-Mart (diesel, food, sundries in one location) and park away from the other cars so I can leave the generator and a/c running. If the temp is below 75 (which is heaven in Texas!), I open the screened windows and set the roof vent fan to “blue”. It draws an amazing amount of air through the coach. For in town activities I try to park in a lot that is close enough to keep an eye on the RV by not too close to other vehicles or homes if I need to run the a/c. Don’t eat out much since cooking and eating in my little dream-come-true RV is something I look forward to all week. The only time I leave Whiskey at home (the dog kind not the liquid kind) is boon docking on the beach. He hasn’t learned how to wipe the sand off his paws yet.

  • I travel solo with a cat. Not a major problem. However, if I need to stop the RV in a grocery store to shop and it’s HOT, I leave the top vents open with the fans running. I also leave the small kitchen window open, nobody can get into that window. I also leave an ice bag in the bed with the cat. It’s worked. I try not to be out too long shopping.

    When parked in shore power, I am wary of A/C’s quitting. I leave an ice bag with my cat when I need to run the A/C.

    • JJ, I have not traveled with my cat yet. Where do you put the litter pan?
      Just curious.

  • We arrange our activities around the pet. If we need to leave our beagle to say get groceries or visit an attraction where pets are unwelcome we do it during the early morning or evening hours when the temps are OK for leaving the dog in the rig. She is left inside her kennel and has a bark collar. I always make it a point to ask my neighboring RVers if they heard and barking just to be sure. I have thermometer in the rig that records the temps so I know what they were when we were gone.

  • Thats a good looking Akita

  • Dog needs to go on a diet.

  • Yep. We use the fan with window vents open, but not for very long. We took Gabi whale-watching in Nova Scotia last summer. She loved it! She was also allowed in the Dolphin Reasearch Center in Marathon, Florida last month, where she had a conversation with a dolphin. He was making cooing noises to her (as well as a dolphin can coo) and she was “purring” (as well as a dog can purr) back to him. It was delightful! But there are lots of times we ask if we can bring her and the answer is “no”, so we are content to do something else instead, where she can go. That’s just part of traveling with a dog. They are soooo worth it!

  • That’s a Norwegin Elkhound and the can get a little plump.

  • Our cat Bodhi kickin’ it in our RV….He is such a good traveler!

  • Our cat Bodhi kickin’ it in our RV….He is such a good traveler!

  • Don’t leave her alone in the van. The heat will kill.

  • Don’t leave her alone in the van. The heat will kill.

  • I feel that’s an Akita-Inu.. You could be right Colleen Larkin Grabosky, I’m looking at this on a phone.. lol

  • I feel that’s an Akita-Inu.. You could be right Colleen Larkin Grabosky, I’m looking at this on a phone.. lol

  • Beautiful Akita!!!

  • Beautiful Akita!!!

  • Sez in the article, “…Jennifer and I take our Norwegian Elkhound, Tai,…”

  • Just like home

  • And that’s exactly why we have kitties instead of a big dog. They take up way less room. :). Pretty dog.

  • It’s a Lazy Boy!

  • Love that dog!!

  • You be rollin while I be snoozin zzzzzzzzzzzz. 🙂

  • We went from a 19 footer to a 29 foot trailer because our dog Baron got bigger! He gets the couch…..

  • I also worry about leaving our dog so I will now be checking into Doggy Day Care Centers! Checked out several by Glacier National Park for next summer. So that I won’t worry and will be able to enjoy myself, that is our solution.

  • No worries!

  • I have recently found Petsmart Hotels and Doggy Day Care. I love it and my little terrier Nicki loves it too. She loves to watch the other dogs playing. She is old, 15 and loves the interaction. It has been a life saver since I am still working and need to go to meetings and appointments. This allows me to do it since most of my business is in large cities where they have them.

    • Good reminder. Once you are a member, you can visit any location. The vaccination records are on file and all the information they need to let you in. My dog loves them too.

  • I have a Ranger and a dog. When leaving to go inside somewhere the dog can’t go, we try to park in a shady spot, as far from the building as possible (sometimes the shade is right next to the building though). Fire up the generator, turn on the AC, and hustle hustle hustle on our errands. After the first couple of times, I am satisfied this will work, Ginger has been very comfortable on our return. I still plan to check often to make sure things are still working, and of course, double check the fuel level before parking. Must be over 1/4 tank to keep generator running. Also, it might be a good idea to post a sign, “If generator is running, AC is on. If you see any problems, call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx and I will be right there.”

  • I look at it this way……… Would I want to stay inside without and air conditioning ? Why would I expect my pet to ?

  • We have traveled in the RT for the last 6 years with our dog, Coco, and never experienced a problem. We leave her in the van for extended periods of time (just as she is left at home) with the windows open and the fans on (we also have a marine fan in the back that can be adjusted to blow down in her direction). We check on her regularly and also check the inside temperature to make sure it is acceptable–she is a sleeper so she is mostly taking a nap when we check. We love our dog and take her with us whenever possible, but do not curtail our activities based on whether she can come or not.

  • Traveling around the country on RV – motor home, all dogs along looks interesting. Nothing can stop but leak in roof leak can disturb the journey badly Liquid Roof Coatings is perfect to solve the issues.

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