RV going across country

Q. We’re taking a road trip in a rented RV, and we want to bring our dogs. What can we do to make them comfortable on the road?

A. Before I talk about comfort, I want to make sure safety is covered. Before you begin traveling, you’ll need to make sure they’re in good health, with all their preventive care up-to-date, including vaccinations and parasite control. Make a folder with information on each dog, including vaccination records, especially rabies. Talk to your veterinarian about the regions of the country you'll be visiting to determine if your dog needs additional protection, or if there are regional risks you should be aware of, such as rattlesnakes. Put a clear photo of each dog in the file, in case you need to make a “lost dog” folder on the fly.

If you haven’t already, get your dogs microchipped for permanent identification, and check that their ID tags have your cell phone numbers on them, since your home phone won’t be that useful if you lose your dog on the road. Tune up your dogs’ leash manners, since they’ll likely be on leash more on the road than they’re used to. If you ever need a veterinarian on the road, you can locate one easily here on Vetstreet.

Making Your Dogs at Home

Now … comfort. Last year I traveled across the country on a book tour for Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual, and with us on the tour bus was McKenzie, a 6-year-old Flat-Coated Retriever belonging to my coauthor, Gina Spadafori. McKenzie handled the tour well, in large part, I think, because she is happiest with Gina, and she was with her all the time. But we also worked on keeping her in a routine as much as possible.

McKenzie had a comfortable bed on the bus, and her water dish — we got a nonspillable kind — was always in the same place. As much as possible, we tried to feed and walk her on a consistent schedule. We kept her on the same food and treats, and didn’t share our meals or snacks with her, to prevent tummy upsets. McKenzie also spent a great deal of her “downtime” in a crate, giving her a safe, quiet space that was hers alone to rest in while we rolled along. And this is what I’d recommend for your dogs: routine and room of their own.

Of course, for your dogs' safety, make sure they are in their crate while the RV is moving, or, if someone can supervise them, use a pet safety-belt harness to prevent them from harm in case of sudden stops.

Healthy dogs are highly adaptable and well-suited to the nomadic life — and have been from the beginning of the partnership between their kind and ours. I’m betting your dogs will love their new life, and you'll love having them along on your journey.