Tips for Successful RV Road Trips with Dogs

Meet Sheldon - USA Adventure Gear’s Road Tripping Maltese

 Sheldon @ Ridgeway State Park CO

Anybody who knows us, knows Sheldon, our 10-year-old rescue. This is his story.  After our 9 yr old Maltese died unexpectedly, Dino, our older Maltese, circled the house every night searching for his buddy. Not only was it heartbreaking to watch, we were losing ALOT of sleep. I finally located a rescue organization for Maltese and next thing I knew, we were flying to Omaha. The minute Snowflake, now Sheldon, came into the room, I was a goner. I have never seen such big soulful eyes. Little did we know how much this little rescue would blossom and melt our hearts.

We drove back to Denver with this terrified little dog who had only known the life of a cage. During the 8 hours of the drive, there was no movement or sounds from the back of the car. Looking back, it turns out that snowy cold drive from Omaha to Denver was the first or many road trip Sheldon would take.

Today, we believe he equates his freedom to the road. When he sees the RV, he runs towards it like it’s the biggest bone in the world. There have been times when we’ve been Rv’ing for weeks and when we come home, his tail drops and those brown eyes look back at with, “Why? We were having so much fun!” I hug him tight and promise the next trip is just around the corner.

The key to successful road and RV trips starts with positive experiences such as this. For a rescue, it couldn't get any better or could it? Sheldon’s been doing extended RV trips for 8 years now, covering 9 states, 6 National Parks, 30 State Parks and more than 25k miles. Not bad for a dog stuck in a crate for the first 2 years of his life. We have a few tips that have really made the difference for pleasurable RV trips with Sheldon.

Start Small

If you have a puppy, rescue or are new to RV'ing and road trips, keep the trips small at first. I think this is the biggest key to future travels. Start with a trip to the mountains or beach, a new city a few hours away. Get them used to the feel of the car or RV, gas and stretch breaks and going potty in strange places. Truck stop noises and too many dog smells can freak them out. This can lead to them holding everything and then everyone is stressed. If they won’t go, don’t keep saying “Go Potty” over and over. Just put them back in the crate and try again at the next stop. Trust me, eventually they go.   

Get them out on the trails with you, walking the parks and campgrounds so they understand this is all fun happy stuff. This all sounds logical but don’t wait, thinking you need to train them first. Get them trained on the road! Also, find the right gear that fits your pup. We went through 3 or 4 pack backs before finding this one Petsfit Comfort Dog Carrier Backpack. You clip him in and he can take in all the sites. The mess sides keeps him from getting hot and panting from the hot days. By the look on his face, this panting was caused by spotting a pretty little poodle. 

 Lake Havasu AZ Petsfit Packback
Jerry walking Sheldon in Lake Havasu AZ

Prepare with Actions and Words  

The same logic applies here, start small. Remember, this is all new to them. A few short RV trips will reassure them this is a new fun adventure with the humans. Those future longer road trips will be full of excitement and joy instead of anxiety and stress. Dogs are so used to routine, and it can really throw them off if anything is new, especially with older pets. For example, you know that dinner stare? That look? God forbid if Sheldon’s dinner is at 5:40 instead of 5:30. How he knows the difference by 10 mins is one of the biggest mysteries of my world.   

Do start preparing them with excitement using the same words! Happy fun voices, lots of head and belly rubs and smiles stating the next trip is coming. We start a week or so before with “Who’s ready for camping? “Do you want to go bye bye in the camper?"  "Pretty soon we're going on our road trip!” Sheldon totally understands based on tail wagging and happy face look of “Heck ya!, it’s about time!” I love that excitement from him! Plus, truth be known, I’m just as excited as well after planning and planning and wow, more planning.  

Food and Supplies

We have an Outward Hound Bag that holds his dry and wet food, his just in case medicine, bones, treats, toys, blankets, nightlight …pj’s….ok, just kidding on some of this but you get the picture. Seriously, we pack for him like we did for a weekend trip with our kids when they babies. As you can see, he’s a big helper getting his things together.  

Milk bones Brushing Chews
Sheldon helping with his packing for his next RV road trip

For a day of traveling, I keep the bag right behind me for easy reach of his lead, treats, dog bags and dry food. I always keep his harness on him along with his collar showing name/phone number. This is critical for quick potty breaks. I just clip the lead to him and he’s out of the truck.  Always have their full identification on them. Dogs on the road can be nervous and anxious and God forbid they pull away from you and get loose. We keep fully updated vet records in that bag too and of course, please make sure your chip information is current as well.

For long RV trips, we use the 2/2/2 or 3/3/3 rule, 200/300 miles a day, stop every 2/3 hours and stay 2/3 nights to keep the trip comfortable for all. We’ve pushed it a few times, driving 5-6 hours and honestly, it’s hard on everyone including pets. Our two legs get stiff from sitting so image four of them being tucked in a small area. My joints hurt just thinking about it.

Treats and bones are also key for successful road trips. As we all know,  snacking on the road is one of the best parts of the drive. I keep some special "travel" bones in his bag just for this reason. I double wrap them in a ziplock because he can smell them and won’t stop searching for them until he gets one. When I pull out lunch or grab a snack for us, he gets one of his special bone as well. Nothing like eating in front of someone and not sharing am I right? 

Have I mentioned doggie bags? You can never have too many. I keep a stash in the RV, in the truck and in his bag. I often find them in my jeans and jacket pocket and then in the washing machine. Heck, where aren’t they?  I think it goes without saying be a responsible dog owner. Pick up the poop!

Car Safety


Sheldon has a Noz2Noz Sof-Krate which he loves and I love how lightweight and portable it is. Moving it from the RV to the truck is a breeze. He also knows it’s travel day when the crate goes into the truck.  It opens on top for ease of refilling food and water in his bowls, has mesh on all sides and an easy zip up side door to pop him in and out for his potty breaks. We keep the top open so he can stare at me all day. It makes both of us happy. I know he’s comfortable and he knows his food source is close by. A win win for us both. Noz2Noz Sof-Krate comes in all sizes so big and little dogs can be safe and comfortable. As you can see, Sheldon is cozy and snug with his favorite toys and blankets ready for a full day of road tripping. I’m still trying to track down a good solution for his small water and food bowl since the soft crate doesn’t have an area to hang bowls. It’s been hit or miss so far. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know. Since he’s a smaller breed, I need small bowls for him that don’t take up a lot of room in the crate.      

The final safety tip I have is for leaving your dog in the car. We avoid this as much as possible. We are just too concerned for his well being. When we run into the store, gas station, one of us always stays with him. If you do have to go in together, lock the car, open windows. I think that goes without saying. Most of time, we get food to go while on the road instead of dining in. We'll open the RV and have a quick dinner at our table instead.  Maybe we are over cautious but this little guy has our heart and we rescued him, promising to protect him forever. 

Sedona AZ with Denise and Sheldon

Hopefully these tips help you and your dogs have fun and more adventures on your RV road trips. If you have other tips, we would love for you to share.  

Happy trails with happy tails.