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A comfortable living with pets

11 Essential Hacks for Pet-Friendly RV Adventures

Published on November 1st, 2020
Updated on February 19th, 2024

Most RVers agree that being able to travel with their pets is the number one reason they own a recreational vehicle.

With pet-friendly campgrounds the norm, you no longer have to find a pet sitter when you want to take a vacation, and you can enjoy your trip with all your family without worry.

For the best pet traveling experience, follow the guidelines below when RVing with pets to keep everyone safe and happy.

Tips and Tricks for RVing With Pets

A happy couple with a dog having fun in a vintage van

Nobody wants to see their pet get an injury or be under stress when it could have been avoided.

Traveling with pets inside an RV will up the ante when it comes to necessary precautions to keep them safe. While most RVers have a dog or two, the information below will pertain to different kinds of pets.

Let’s go over the tips and tricks for RV pet travel to make the trip much easier for both you and your pet.

Introduce the RV

Whenever possible, give your pet an introduction to the RV you’ll be taking.

Whether it’s a new purchase or a rental, try to give your pet several hours to get accustomed to the new spaces and smells.

Watch your pet to see if they find a special nook or area they prefer most so you can situate their bed or crate there during your trip. Making your pet feel safe and comfortable before the RV starts moving will keep their stress levels lower.

Think about your pet’s needs, such as food bowls or room to play, and consider the ways you can make that happen inside your RV without it being a trip hazard.

Paperwork and Medications

Never travel with your pet without proper paperwork that indicates shots, training classes, and medical history if you need to see a vet on the road.

Make sure your pet is chipped and is wearing a collar with a tag that shows your current cell phone number.

If your pet takes medication, make sure you have enough to get through your trip and have a backup prescription if the original package gets lost in the shuffle of travel.

Some campgrounds will insist on seeing updated vaccination records for your pet to reduce their liability if your pet hurts another guest.

Road Rules

Taking a pet on any adventure that includes road travel requires following basic safety rules that include:

  • Not letting pets roam free inside the RV or tow vehicle while in motion
  • Keeping dogs from putting their heads out the window
  • Using an approved pet harness or travel crate

If you’re towing a travel trailer or fifth wheel, providing pet comfort and safety in your SUV or truck is essential.

For a small dog or cat, check out the Luxury High-Back Console Dog Car Seat by Snoozer. This high-wall bed straps to the center console and allows pets to safely see out the windows and be near you without being in the way.

There are also similar pet travel beds for all sizes of dogs that fit into the back seat.

Accidents can happen in a moment, and not having your pet secured inside your RV or tow vehicle can cause massive injury or even death, so don’t take the chance.

Of course, make sure you leash your pet before letting them out at any rest stop or gas station to use the bathroom to prevent getting hit by a car or running off.

No matter how well you know your pet’s personality, the rigors of travel can cause jitters and unusual behavior.

Leaving Pets in RV

A cute cat left in an RV

You have all the gear to keep your pet secure during travel, but what about when you’re at the campsite and want to go out to dinner and must leave your pet behind?

Is It Legal? Is It Safe?

Yes is the answer to both questions, as long as your pet cannot escape the RV and it can’t access and ingest anything harmful while inside.

For cats, as long as the litter box is clean and they have food and water, they can entertain themselves.

For birds or small critters like hamsters, bring out a new toy or chew treat that will distract them while you are gone.

Dogs seem to have the most difficulty being left alone, so you may have to try out these tricks:

  • Leave the TV on or play a DVD
  • Take them on a long, tiring walk before leaving
  • Set up a monitoring system to watch RV activity
  • Fill up a treat toy you only bring out when you leave

Leaving on the TV will provide a bit of company that should calm your dog, especially if you wore them out with a long, vigorous walk.

A pet monitor is a handy RV gadget to have, even if you don’t own a pet. The Canary Monitor is a great tool that gives you a visual of your RV interior and also keeps track of RV temperature, so you are alerted if the unit is getting too hot or cold for pet safety.

Fun treats such as the Busy Buddy Treat Dispenser Dog Toy or others like it are a great distraction tool to keep them occupied in the RV, so they don’t miss you too much.

The best tip is to not leave any pet unattended for more than a few hours. The reason is that, unlike your home, an RV can have mechanical issues at any time.

You could lose shore power and the heater or air conditioner. A waterline can get overpressurized and blow a pipe, flooding out your rig, or propane could leak or not be venting correctly.

5 Tips for Traveling With Dogs (Video)

Best Pets for RV Living

The type of pet you choose to take RVing depends on your level of daily activities and whether or not you also want your pet to act as protection.


Dogs are the number one RVing pet. Folks love to camp with their dog. Many RVers often travel with two, so they can keep each other company when you’re out and about.

For avid hikers and explorers, a Labrador Retriever fits the bill for an energetic trail buddy who will also keep a lookout for trouble. Border Collies, Beagles, and Fox Terriers are also high-energy breeds that excel at RV living.

The best dog breeds for RVers who are more sedentary and are looking for a sweet and loving companion are:

  • Pekingese
  • Shih Tzu
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Jack Russell Terriers
  • Dachshunds

These breeds have a more gentle temperament, and the Pekingese and Shih Tzus need little exercise to stay healthy.

Dog Breeds that Campgrounds Won’t Allow

I haven’t been to a campground in my RVing years that didn’t allow pets, but some do restrict dog breeds, namely the Pit Bull, Rottweiler, Mastiff, Doberman, Chow, and wolf-mixes.

If you own one of these breeds, don’t be discouraged, as many parks only request that you stand behind your statements that your dog is trained and well-behaved. Some may ask you to muzzle your dog while out on walks within park boundaries.

Remember that in the RV world, nearly 80 percent of people bring along pets. RV parks and campgrounds cater to this demographic, which is why RVing is so popular among pet owners.


Cats are great RV pets as most are accustomed to living indoors, so the transition to an RV is no big deal.

Cats still need some form of entertainment and exercise, so trick out your RV with some great cat ladders and nooks for them to explore or hide.

The best cat breeds for RV living are:

  • Japanese Bobtail
  • Tiffany / Chantilly
  • Chartreux
  • Scottish Fold
  • Pixie-bob

All of these breeds have a serene temperament, adapt well to smaller spaces, and do well socializing with new people.

The Scottish Fold is also an excellent mouser, a plus in an RV in areas where pests can be a problem.


Birds come in third for most common pets of RV owners, which many people find surprising.

Birds will need a large enough cage to get enough exercise, as letting them out inside the RV may be a risk if someone accidentally opens the door.

The best bird breeds for RVing are:

  • Cockatiels
  • Parrots
  • Budgie (or parakeet)

Dog in Travel Trailer While Driving

A cute small dog near the camper

People often ask if it’s okay to let their dog be in the travel trailer while it’s being hauled down the road.

The answer is no. It’s best to never allow any pet to travel in the towable while driving.

There are no state laws that restrict such a practice, but it’s risky. Europe has stricter regulations regarding pet transport in travel trailers, so check with each municipality in which you plan to travel for specific instructions.

If you don’t have room in your tow vehicle for a pet, consider boarding it instead, as the temperatures inside your travel trailer can get very hot or cold and harm your dog.

Exhaust fumes also build up inside the travel trailer, which could kill your dog if the levels get high enough.

Lastly, if you fail to restrain your dog in a tied-down crate inside the trailer, any sharp lane changes, turns, or braking can send the animal into a wall or furniture, causing severe injuries.

Always keep your pet with you in your tow vehicle at all times while on the road.

How to Keep Dogs Cool in an RV

RVs are not the best when it comes to climate control. Keeping your dog cool inside an RV on a hot or even warm day can be difficult if you have to keep the doors shut to prevent escape.

Here are the top tips for keeping your dog cool:

1. Park in the Shade

If possible, choose a campsite that offers tree cover that will help reduce the heat inside your RV.

2. Close the Blinds

Lower all the blinds to cut any intense direct sun coming into the RV. Closing off the exterior view will also reduce barking and stress that can overheat the dog.

3. Open Windows and Vents

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When you don’t require the air conditioner, open windows several inches on both sides of the RV on temperate days so a cross breeze can cool down the interior.

If you have a ceiling vent with a fan, turn this on to draw fresh air through the camper.

4. Use Technology

Many RV pet owners find peace of mind by purchasing a smart dog collar that sends your dog’s temperature to your smartphone so that you can monitor for any distress. Alerts can give you time to get back to the RV and take care of your pet.

5. Add Some Ice

Always leave your dog plenty of water in a spill-proof bowl. If you plan to be gone for a couple of hours, add a few ice cubes to keep the water cold.

RV Mods for Dogs & Cats

A small dog in the camper van

The best RV mods for dogs and cats are simple, so you aren’t wasting time setting them up or taking them down with every trip.


The best modification you can make to your RV is to swap out the door and window screens with tear-proof versions made to stop pet damage. A metal or plexiglass lower door insert should be another priority, especially if you like to keep your main door open in nice weather.

Wash Station

The next item you should get is an outdoor pet bathing kit that hooks up to your water spigot. Rinsing or washing your dog or cat off after walks or muddy adventures is much easier outside and keeps your RV interior clean.

Feeding or Litter Box Station

Permanent feeding stations and litter box holders are both valuable modifications that will make your RVing life simpler when floor space is already at a premium.

Removing a cabinet door or wood facing that has some hidden space behind it is all you need to tuck away containers so they aren’t underfoot.

No Cabinet to Use?

Find an odd nook and build a hinged top, open-front box to fit. Build it tall enough to double as a seat or side table or deep enough to hold cat or dog food or extra kitty litter in a large plastic bin behind the dishes or litter box.

Potty Pad

Pick up a square of fake grass at any home improvement store or online and carry it with you at all times.

It is not so much a modification but a creative solution for pets who have an aversion to going to the bathroom on rocks, cement, or dirt when used to grass.

Just toss it out on your campsite and let your pets do their business. Before packing it away, wash and rinse it with a hose with a gentle disinfectant to avoid odors.

Bed or Couch Stairs

RV beds are high for smaller pets to jump onto, as most offer a large storage bin underneath.

Even couches can be difficult for older pets to climb up, so adding in some pet stairs where needed will avoid whining or injury and instead allow your pets the independence to hang out where they want.

Kitty Shelves

Cats love to lurk, especially up high, so adding in some easy DIY shelves will keep them happy.

Get some carpet remnants and cover inexpensive wooden shelves. Pop them onto your RV walls (make sure they are secure) wherever you have extra space.

Stair-stepping several in a row looks neat, and cats find it irresistible.

Final Round-Up

RVing with a cat, dog, bird, or another pet is a joy! You save money by not hiring a pet sitter, and you can put aside any worry they are not being cared for properly.

Knowing the rules, following the advice of RVers with pets, and using the tips above will get you on the road to fun and adventure that you and your pet can enjoy together.

RV Camping with Dogs (Video)

Related Questions

1. What are some of the potential risks of leaving your pet unattended in the RV for extended periods of time?

There are several potential risks, including mechanical issues such as a loss of shore power which could affect the heating or air conditioning, a waterline that could get overpressurized and cause a flood, or there could be a propane leak.

2. What precautions should be taken when traveling with pets in an RV to ensure their safety?

The pets should not be allowed to roam free in the RV while it is in motion. It is recommended to use an approved pet harness or travel crate. Pets should be leashed at rest stops or gas stations to prevent accidents.

3. Are there any specific breeds of dogs that are not typically allowed in campgrounds?

Yes, some campgrounds restrict certain breeds, including Pit Bull, Rottweiler, Mastiff, Doberman, Chow, and wolf mixes. However, some parks only request assurance that your dog is trained and well-behaved.

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide

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