Complete guide to RV camping with your dog & easy tips for having more fun

Last Updated on July 23, 2021 by Christina

What’s better than RV camping in the great outdoors? RV camping with your dog!

Dogs are wonderful companions at home and on the road so it’s no surprise that many RVers include their pups in their camping plans. And you can, too! Our complete guide to camping with your dog includes tips for preparing, a packing list of essentials, and RV camping hacks. You’ll learn what to do before you go and how to plan for camping with your dog. Plus, we included fun activity ideas that you and your dog can do together.

A woman carries her dog, a Yorkshire Terrier, in her arms as they stand outside an RV. She is wearing sunglasses and a plaid blue shirt. The dog is light brown and looking directly at the camera.
Plan a road trip with your pup!

Want to go camping with your dog? First, schedule a vet appointment.

Keeping your dog healthy and safe is one of our biggest responsibilities as dog owners. Read our tips before you go camping with your dog to ensure they’re ready for your big adventure.

  • Schedule an appointment with your vet. They can assess your dog’s overall health and determine if there are any health conditions that might make camping uncomfortable for your dog (like arthritis or an unseen injury).
  • Make sure your dog is up to date on his or her vaccinations. This is especially important if you’re leaving for an extended period of time.
  • Refill any medications your dog may need. Don’t forget to pick up monthly preventatives for heartworms, fleas, and ticks, too!
  • Check your dog’s microchip. Microchips can migrate over time so ask your vet scan the microchip to ensure it still works and is easy to locate. Then, double-check the contact information registered on the chip is up to date.
  • Make sure your dog’s ID tags have current contact information. Additionally, consider printing two phone numbers on the ID tag in case you are out of service range or unable to answer. Choose a trusted friend or family member to be your pet’s backup contact.
  • Lastly, look over your dog’s collar, leashes, harnesses, and tie outs for wear. Replace any worn gear if necessary.
A happy dog sits on a colorful towel in the grass beside a picnic bench at a campground. The dog is wearing a green harness attached to a red harness.
Willow loves being in the outdoors!

6 essential tips for camping with your dog: Follow these to have more fun adventures!

Set your dog up for success! Make sure he’s comfortable before you go camping with your dog. If you have an adventure pup, like Willow (pictured above), you know your dog will have fun being outside and camping. But not all dogs are comfortable outdoors. Try these tips to make sure your dog has fun on your camping adventures.

  • Practice camping with your dog. If you’ve never taken your dog camping before, plan an overnight trip near home to test out how they do. This will give your dog an opportunity to get comfortable sleeping in a new place (even if it’s just in your driveway) and get a feel for camp life. Bring along familiar items, like a favorite bed or blanket, so your pup feels more at home.
  • Also, consider your dog’s personality and temperament. If your dog does not do well around other dogs or people or struggles with anxiety in new places, it may be best for them to stay home. He’ll be more comfortable with a dog sitter or at a familiar kennel, and you’ll enjoy your camping experience more knowing he’s safe and content.
  • Check the campground rules. Most campgrounds are dog-friendly, but each may have different rules and leash requirements. Make sure to look online or call ahead so you are aware of the rules upon arriving.
  • Help your dog enjoy the journey. Some dogs get motion sick or anxious in the car. Like our first tip above, take it slow and plan short drives with your pup to get him accustomed to being on the road.
  • Once you’re on the road, plan for breaks. This is especially important if you’re driving for multiple hours. Let your dog get out, stretch her legs, and relieve herself. You can also give her water but avoid giving food since it may upset her stomach once you’re back on the road.
  • Lastly, secure your dog to keep her safe. There are several ways to secure your dog in your RV or vehicle. The safest way is to use a harness that connects to a seat belt. This article does a great job of explaining your options and how to choose the right one for your dog.
A dog is curled up in her dog bed wiht a reindeer toy in her paws on an RV couch.
Help your dog feel at home in your RV. Bring her bed, blanket, favorite toy and other familiar items.

What to pack for camping with your dog:

Similarly to packing for yourself for a trip, you need to pack for your dog! Choose a duffel bag or some sort of bag that can be your dog’s designated travel bag. That way all his belongings are together and organized.

Here is a packing checklist for your dog, and some extra gear that is helpful while traveling:

  • Food and an air-tight container for storing
  • Water
  • Food and water bowls – we recommend collapsible bowls for easy storage
  • Treats and air-tight containers for storage
  • Snack-Duo – holds water and food/treats in separate compartments; great for an all-day adventure!
  • Toys
  • Leash and harness
  • Tie-out or tether
  • Glow collars/leashes, flashlights, or other visibility aids for after-dark walks
  • Bed/blanket
  • Towels, dog shampoo, and a brush for cleaning up (consider a PawSpa Handheld Washer if your pup loves to roll around in the mud)
  • Mudbuster for removing dirt from paws
  • Pet waste bags
  • Canine first aid kit (include a tick removal tool like the Tick Tornado)
  • Dog life jacket (if you plan to be in or on the water)
  • Jacket for rain or cold weather
  • Boots to protect paws in extreme weather

Bonus Tip: You can pick up the bolded items in the Parts department at your local General RV Supercenter. Before you go, check out our favorite accessories for camping with dogs.

A man kayaks with his dog. The dog is standing up to look out over the water and towards the camera.
Dogs enjoy lots of outdoor activities. Some even make great kayaking partners.

What can you do while camping with your dog? Lots!

The best part about RVing with your dog is being able to play in the outdoors together! Plan activities that you can both do when you travel or camp. This will make their experience more enjoyable and, honestly, everything is more fun when you’ve got your dog by your side.

  • Hit a hiking trail or go for a long walk. Remember to bring water, a bowl and snacks for your pup (and yourself)!
  • Go to a dog beach or get out on the water. Lots of dogs enjoy boating, kayaking, and canoeing. Make sure you have a life jacket for your dog if you’re taking them on the water. Check out this link for pet-friendly recreation opportunities in Michigan state parks.
  • Play some of their favorite outdoor games, like fetch. There’s more room to run in the outdoors and that means a happy and tired puppy at the end of the day.
  • Try an outdoor agility or obstacle course. You can buy agility kits or create your own DIY dog obstacle course with some supplies from home. This is great exercise for high-energy dogs!
  • Go exploring together! Visit bringfido.com for a guide to dog-friendly businesses, restaurants and destinations. Wineries and cider mills are some of our favorite places to go with our pups.
  • Record your adventures with a doggy cam like a GoPro. Not only is this an awesome way to remember or share your adventures, you’ll also get to see everything from your dog’s perspective!
A black and white dog lays in the grass with a red frisbee near the woods.
Pack a frisbee to enjoy a super-sized game of fetch with your dog in the outdoors.

Be prepared for the unexpected when camping with your dog.

Despite all of your advance planning, sometimes 💩💩 happens. Here a few ways to prepare for and handle unexpected bumps in the road.

  • Know how to remove skunk smells. Keeping your dog on a leash will help avoid unwanted wildlife run-ins, like porcupines and skunks. If your dog encounters a skunk and gets sprayed, here’s how to get rid of skunk smells.
  • Check for ticks. Ticks are one member of wildlife that cannot be avoided. Make sure to look over your dog at the end of each day. Keep a tick removal tool in your first aid kit; this will make it easy to remove any you find.
  • Keep a photo of your dog and any important medical files. Getting lost is never in the plans but having a high quality, current photo of your dog along with microchip information can make finding him easier. Bookmark PetBFI.org for free information and resources that can help you find a lost pet.
Two young women toast with wine glasses while sitting in the back of a Class B motorhome. A large brown dog stands between them.
Whatever your RVing style is – from boondocking to glamping – dogs can be a part of your adventures.

6 More safety tips for traveling with your dog:

Your dog’s safety should always be your top priority when traveling or camping. Here are more tips for keeping your dog safe on the road.

  • Follow local and state leash laws. Keeping your dog on leash is one of the best ways to ensure her safety.
  • Always ask before you let your dog approach other dogs or people. If you’re in an off-leash area and you see someone approaching with their dog on-leash, recall your pup and put him on leash.
  • Do not let your off-leash dog run up to or approach an on-leash dog. It doesn’t matter if your dog is friendly; other dogs may be reactive. Be respectful of everyone you meet on the trail.
  • Stay hydrated! Be aware of the signs of dehydration and make sure to take breaks to hydrate your pup and yourself.
  • Protect their paws. If it’s really hot out and you’re walking on pavement, feel the ground with your hand. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for their paws. Dog boots can help protect your pups feet from extreme temps.
  • Never leave your dog unattended. Do not leave them on a tie out at your campground while you are gone. Do not leave them inside your RV or vehicle alone.
A toddler picks up sticks with her two dogs at a campground.
Camping with dogs isn’t much different than camping with kids. With a little planning, everyone can have fun together in the outdoors.

Camping with your dog doesn’t have to be ‘ruff’

Taking your dog camping can be fun for everyone. And, just like camping with kids, there are some simple tips to follow for smoother adventures. Make sure to plan your trip, pack appropriately, and enjoy lots of activities together!

This blog post is part of our Project Rustic series. Paige, the explorer behind Project Rustic, helped put together these helpful tips while RV camping with her dog Willow. Paige and Willow are traveling and working in a Nexus Triumph Class C motorhome provided by General RV Center while they collect data about rustic campgrounds in Michigan. Stay tuned for more Project Rustic posts on our blog. And follow General RV Center on Facebook and Instagram for more exclusive content from Paige’s adventure across Michigan!