Full-Time Traveling With a Dog

By Carolyne Whelan,

Sometimes I do really feel like my dog is my best friend. We go most places together, and our favorite place to be is by each others’ side, unless there’s a squirrel or other dog nearby, or a bike ride I want to go on. My husband and I live in a camper with our medium-sized mutt, a Boston Terrier/Boxer mix named Major Tom, who’s almost 11 years old. On a lot of RV forums, people post concerns over getting a dog, or hitting the road with their favorite pooch, but it really isn’t too hard to keep everyone happy as long as some steps are taken. Heck, some folks even travel successfully with cats.

Make sure your dog’s food is widely available. Chain pet stores carry a wide variety of foods these days, and our dog is on a specific diet of limited ingredients for a small older dog. We buy in bulk when we see a Petco, and break it up into smaller, more manageable containers. For treats, we give Major Tom peanut butter in a Kong. It goes a long way for calming his nerves, and is cheap and easily found in just about any store. If we are going on a long drive, I will treat him to a stick of rawhide to help distract him. Just don’t leave your pooch alone with rawhide, because they are potential choking hazards.

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Make time for exercise. A tired dog is a happy dog. Even our senior pooch gets restless on drive days, so I make sure to take him for walks in the morning before hitting the road, even if that means doing a few loops of the Walmart parking lot. When he was younger, long runs were a must, but his legs get tired more quickly nowadays. Additionally, we stop at least every two hours for potty breaks and to get exercise. It’s good for us humans, too, because it keeps our blood flowing by going on quick runs back and forth across a truck stop lawn or playing some tug-o-war. Once you are stopped for a while, treat your pup to a trip to the dog park. The app “Paw Parks” is a helpful tool to find the closest one to your temporary home.

Dogs are creatures of habit, and can get stressed out if they suddenly go for house pet to road dog. Make the transition easier for your canine bff by going for car rides together leading up to your epic voyage. When the time comes to take off, bring creature comforts like her favorite blanket or toy, as well as articles from the house that will remind her of the home she knows. Major Tom instantly calmed down once he got to nap on our comforter and eat from his own food bowl. Additionally, give your dog her own space where she can feel safe. Whether that’s a bed or a crate, as long as your dog has a place to go where she can feel safe, that will save everyone a lot of stress.

Finally, set your dog up for success. if your dog always goes to the bathroom in the house now, or tears up the furniture, and needs to be crated, continue crating your dog. If your dog has separation anxiety, make sure you are setting yourself up for a lifestyle where you can take your dog with you most places, whether it’s to pet-friendly campsites or pet-friendly cafes and bars. Most importantly, think critically about your pet as an individual and what she wants in life. Is this going to be a good life change? Major Tom loves car rides and basking in the sun. The longer drives can get a little tiresome, but the payoff of meeting other dogs, hanging out with his favorite people all the time, and  sunbathing in the American Southwest rather than being holed up in a cold city in the Northeast is worth long naps between points A and B.

carolynewheelerABOUT: Carolyne Whelan is an adventurer and freelance writer who usually hangs her hat in a camper. When she isn’t working as a bike mechanic in Pittsburgh, PA, she can be hard to locate without a compass but is most easily found at her blogs Lifting Weights at Midnight and Roadside Fires Burning. Her poetry can be found at carolynewhelan.com.