The “Dog Divide” – Traveling with a dog in an RV

 The “Dog Divide” – Traveling with a dog in an RV

We have a dilemma as we prepare for a very long extended trip west in our Roadtrek: Should we take our dog, Tai, an eight-year-old , 70 pound Norwegian Elkhound?

There are a lot of pros and cons and, beneath the surface, strong feelings among a lot of campers and campground owners.

First, I need to tell you about Tai. He has some issues. Like people, he has some emotional scars that have given him a couple of phobias.

People have shrinks. Lucky dog owners have Caesar. I have you, loyal readers.

See Tai was raised to be a show dog. His parents were both champion purebreds and the breeder who bought Tai planned to show him, too. Then, she discovered he had a small overbite. Instead of being a stud and show dog, he was neutered and sold to us as a pet. (By the way, if you met Tai, don’t tell him. He doesn’t know about the overbite issue and still thinks he’s a champion.)

He is extremely well behaved. But he’s a real wuss when it comes to flying insects. See, he thinks they’re all hornets. When he was just a pup, he ran into a nest of them and got stung. Ever since, it makes no difference to him. Whenever he sees any insect that flies – mosquito, house fly, moth, anything with wings that is smaller than a bird –  he cowers and hides in a corner. A couple weeks ago, he actually jumped out of our car while we were cruising a local campground because there was a deer fly in the car. He didn’t hurt himself in that outburst, but that gives you an idea of the fright flying insects cause him. That’s his first phobia -that insects equal pain.

The second phobia has to do with slippery floors. Again, when just a pup, he jumped off the front porch when he saw my wife cutting the lawn. He wanted to join her. Instead, he sprained his leg. And later that night, on our slippery tile floor, he patched out, torqued the leg just so, and felt the pain from the sprain. He made an immediate association. Thus, years after that sprain healed, he plants all four and has to be dragged across linoleum, tile and hardwood floors. To him, slippery floors equal pain.

Those are his only hangups. Because he has a thick, double coat, he doesn’t tolerate heat well. But he is very well behaved, very friendly, seldom barks and, amazingly, always does his business deep in the woods, off the beaten path as far away from people areas as his leash will take him.

He’s been in the Roadtrek on a couple of trips and seems to like it. But on the trip we’re about to head out on, we’ll be gone for several weeks, spending a lot of time in national parks from the Badlands to Yellowstone to the Tetons. Jennifer and I are very active. We like to do very long hikes and bike rides. I like to fish. We’re told that the National Park Service prohibits dogs on many trails and in many wilderness areas. We’ve already encountered a lot of “Absolutely no dogs allowed on beach” signs.

So what do we do with Tai? Do we leave him in the Roadtrek for four or five hours at a time, with the AC running, of course? Are there doggy day care places around big high traffic parks like Yellowstone?

My son has offered to keep Tai in his house while we’re gone.

But with our three kids grown and out of the house, Tai is part of our family and Jennifer and I are feeling conflicted about whether to bring him or leave him. I’ve asked about this on several online forums and have had mixed response.

One writer on the Roadtrek Facebook Group  – Jim – says he ignores the no dog signs and says he takes his 90-pound bulldog everywhere. “If you have a well behaved dog…….ignore the signs and rules…Clean up after him, and if he is well behaved, who will complain? Also, if you have to leave him in the RT once in a while, well that is what AC is for. That’s why you have an RT. And no one will break in, with a dog inside.”

Sue is another Roadtreker who says we should bring Tai. She and her husband have two dogs. “Our dogs always travel with us,” she says. “That is the main reason we bought the Roadtrek. We often comment that there must be something wrong with us because while we are out sweating and sightseeing, the dogs are enjoying the air conditioning and guarding their property!”

On the other side, Darlene advises: “if you have someone you trust to take care of Tai, it would be better for both of you. Weather is a concern if you take your trips during warmer weather. Even with AC, running your generator, there is the possibility of it to stop working, happened to us, and there are many places that restrict running them. There is a reason why they do not allow dogs on trails…bears for one and other wild creatures. It is for YOUR safety and the DOG. You’ll enjoy your hikes & biking more if you are not worrying about Tai. We have no choice but to take our 2 dogs, and we always worry about them. There have been times we didn’t hike a trail because of the length of time we would be gone. We travel more in spring and fall during cooler weather, which makes it less worrisome for warmer tempts. Enjoy your trip and don’t worry about Tai.”

Truth told, a lot of non-dog owning RVers aren’t exactly excited to see dogs next to them. Same with many campgrounds. Over on the RV Tips Facebook Group, Fran, from Tennessee, who works at a campground, explains why: “I work hard at keeping the shrubs and flowers in the campground looking their best and I’m sure employees at other campgrounds do the same. I watched 7 people let their dogs pee in a flower bed or on the shrubs within a 30 minute time frame this morning when they could have walked another 100′ and been in the pet lane. This eventually kills the shrubs and flowers. If we say something to them they get all huffy, defensive and rude.”

Rhonda, from Ohio, is a camper who probably echos a lot of others about rude and inconsiderate dog owners. She says: “A few weeks ago we were renting. A trailer couple of spaces over let their dog wander around and it pooped close to our tent and left it. Smells great in 90+ degree heat. There were a ton of places they could have let them go but just let it wander and go on our site. See it happening a lot even with people walking them on leashes.”

So, putting the initial feedback together from the various forums and camping groups I monitor, there seems to be a serious dog divide.

See why we’re confused? Your comments and advice will help us make a choice about taking Tai on this trip or whether to leave him behind?

Mike Wendland

Mike 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. He enjoys camping (obviously), hiking, biking, fitness, photography, kayaking, video editing, and all things dealing with technology and the outdoors. See and subscribe to his RV Lifestyle Channel on YouTube, where he has hundreds of RV and travel related videos. His PC MIke TV reports, on personal technology are distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations.

10 Comments

  • One of the main reasons we bought a Roadtrek was to be able to travel with our dogs, who were all adopted from shelters. Our oldest poodle, a mini, recently died at almost 18. Our younger poodle, a standard, is 11. We foster dogs for a rescue group and have also taken foster dogs on short trips with us. Yes, having a dog along can be a challenge sometimes. We don’t like barking dogs so we try to ensure our dogs are quiet. We don’t like stepping in dog poop so we ensure our dogs eliminate in appropriate places and always, always pick it up. We don’t like to see dogs who pee on every vertical surface, so we have trained our dogs not to do that while walking on leash by our sides. We use only rewards-based training; no leash pops, yelling or scolding. We’ve visited parks where dogs aren’t welcome on the trails. Our younger dog has severe separation anxiety and doesn’t do well left alone. He would barknand get stressed, so we don’t leave him for more than a few minutes. One of us will enjoy the hike on the “no dogs” trail while the other catches up on email, enjoys a book, or walks in a nearby area where dogs are allowed. Our dogs are so well behaved that we have been allowed to bring them into places that normally do not allow dogs. For us, having the companionship of our canine family outweighs any inconvenience they cause. When our Andrew died just shy of 18 we were a few weeks returned from a 4500 mile trip where he met his first deer nose-to-nose! He was so excited!! If your planned itinerary will require your dog to be left alone a lot, or if you think he would be too stressed by weeks on the road, leave him home. If your dog, like ours, enjoys the journey, and you don’t mind making some accommodations, bring him along. You and your well-behaved dog could be ambassadors, helping other campers and the public see that there are considerate, conscientious pet owners.

    One last thing to consider: Dogs never live long enough. The memories you create with him won’t die.

  • If reasonable dog owners bring there dogs more then it will be better for all of us. We always bring our pup on trips if we leave he just waits inside till we get back. I couldn’t think of leaving him behind for that long and miss out time with him hes our friend. And Ive been annoyed more by peoples kids then their dogs by far. Use common sense if there’s big predators in the area then don’t walk with him if not then take him along. Enjoy your trip!

  • What a blessing it is to actually have someone that knows your dog, and your dog knows, that can take him in, love and care for him in a safe and loving atmosphere!!!! I used to have that before moving 6+ yrs ago and no longer do. And leaving my dogs in kennels just kills me. But ignoring posted rules, as if you are special, or rules don’t apply to you, is just maddening. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a dog lover to my very core. I would prefer to see and be around dogs more than most people most of the time. But not every situation is made to include our dogs and no matter how much planning one does, mishaps do happen. Unfortunately, its usually the ones that DON’T take their dogs to the designated areas to do their business, or follow the rules that are the most vocal and beligerant about not following them. And a few bad apples DO spoil it for the rest of us. I say enjoy your trip FULLY, without the worry of your furbaby. Take advantage of having a GREAT place for him stay while you are away. It sounds like the best of all possible scenarios to me.

  • RV’s are made for taking your dogs. We once traveled with 2 Dobermans (one was a “king” size), in a 22 foot Class C! It was tight, but we made it work because we wouldn’t leave home without them. It depends on how much a part of the family they are to you. Are they a pet, or a dog-child? Only you can answer that. Our dog child now (a Weimaraner) is also bug phobic. We travel with a small ultrasonic device that emit sounds waves to repel bugs. It’s made by Bird-X and it works for small areas.

  • Where do you buy this ultrasonic device? The dog doesn’t hear the sound waves?

  • I always bring my dogs. I travel alone so they are my companions. I wouldn’t think of leaving them home….BUT if I was in your shoes I would leave the lovely TAI at home with your son. You have a companion and you have a safe place to leave TAI without worrying about weather or potty breaks, etc. I bet all 3 of you will be happier.

  • We like many others purchased our Roadtrek because we love taking our dog with us. We started with a VW EuroCamper and our yellow lab. She traveled with us for several years and passed away at 16. She loved traveling. We now have a small (35 lbs. Labradoodle), Abbey, who is also a great traveler. We do adjust or travel activities to take in the needs of Abbey! The beauty of a RT is that it has a generator and we can leave Abbey unattended for some period of time. We are very active and still find our dog doesn’t prevent us for many activities during the day. If we have to miss something during our travels because of Abbey so what. She is more important that any activity. We were just in Yosemite NP and walked through the valley for over six miles. Where there is a will there is a way, without breaking National Park rules.
    Have a great trip to Yellowstone. Abbey loved it there.

  • I live in las vegas(total desert)& talked to my vet )who rv,s) I was worried about taking my chi-weenie(they can only walk a few blocks) or finding a home as I,m planning on full time traveling. a/c.s r motors ceiling vent fans r motors & motors break down . he advised me to go online & buy 2 BATTERY-OPERATED FANS. I can leave for hours to sightsee & not worry !! leave ceiling vent fan & battery fan on & dogs r comfortable & yur worry -free!!!!!!

    • Your vet is in error. As proof I suggest you park on a hot desert day with just the fans running. Stay inside for hours and have a thermometer with you. You won’t last. I have tried it. I have those big battery operated fans and a fantastic fan. They don’t cool, all they do is move around and exchange hot muggy air. The other big issue that I found is that the batteries don’t last very long. Hiw can you know when they will quit?

  • I just heard your podcast about service dogs. I remember a couple years ago you had said that you had Tai registered as a service dog and you were very lighthearted about it, as you did it allow him on beaches and such. I was going to call you out on it back then didn’t. But now listening to your latest podcast where you played down the fact that you did the same thing with Tai really ticked me off. I tried to find that pocast from years back but couldn’t locate it, did you remove the tag to it? Bad showmanship Mike !

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