Full-size breeds make enjoyable travel companions, especially if their owners take time to prepare before hitting the road.
By Ruth Canutt, F495710
Camping has always been a huge part of our lives. From the old Army tent that leaked if we touched the canvas through the natural progression of equipment and vehicles to our current 36-foot Alpine Coach, our pets have always come with us.
When thinking of traveling with a pet, the typical image is likely a small critter, 10 pounds or less, that is transported in a fancy carrier or curls up on the dash or a chair to supervise the adventure. I have seen many an article about traveling with pets but haven’t seen one specific to owners such as us, who are dedicated to the “BIG” dog.
Now, when I say “BIG,” I mean giant breeds such as the mastiff, Great Dane, Saint Bernard, or our “babies” — the Newfoundland. Yes, our Newfies are hairy, slobbery, and weigh more than 150 pounds each on average. But many large dogs travel quite well and are just as manageable and enjoyable as their smaller canine cousins.
We regularly travel with three Newfies (approximately 460 pounds total). Specific planning, rules, and tips need to be taken into consideration to make the trips enjoyable: for the “pups,” us, and the thousands of fellow RVers we meet. We have learned several things over our 40-plus years of traveling with Newfies.
The following suggestions apply to any large breed, and much of the information lends itself to travel with any size dog.
Research Where You Are Going To Stay
Interview the RV park or campground you are targeting. Ask questions! For example:
- What is their specific pet policy regarding breed, size of dog, number of dogs, containment options, areas to exercise, swimming rules, etc.?
- Are there larger spots or end spots available with a little more outdoor space?
- Is shade available?
- *What is the water quality? (A large dog with digestive issues is no fun!)
- Is the staff averse to large dogs? Also ask about local points of interest, or do your own online research:
- What are the pet restrictions at these facilities?
- Are pet-friendly restaurants, wineries, or breweries located nearby?
- Are the city parks pet friendly?
- Is the terrain dangerous?
Choose And Prepare Your RV
Slideouts have become a necessity when traveling with large dogs. But in the case of a motorhome, where the dogs will be traveling inside with you, it’s also important to evaluate how much floor space is available when the slides are retracted for traveling. Confirm that your RV has enough floor space to handle extra “furniture” — dog crates. I know this sounds obvious, but you may be surprised by how much space you actually have versus what you think you have for such additions. Decide whether you want a hard-sided crate or possibly a soft-sided, collapsible crate that can be stored when not in use. Be sure your canine pal is familiar with the collapsible furniture to lower his stress and reluctance to use it.
Take a look at the flooring and furniture coverings in your RV. Do you need to prepare them for your trip? Leather/vinyl is easier to clean and doesn’t retain the “wet dog smell.” Our dogs are not allowed on the furniture, so that helps prevent potential damage. Still, we cover the furniture with old sheets and place a nonskid painter’s tarp on the carpet and tile flooring. Also, ours are restricted to the cabin area only — no sleeping on the bed when we’re traveling.
Outdoors, portable fencing is our containment of choice. For this, a large storage compartment is a must. Our Newfies stay outside as much as possible, but since they want to be with us, we are outside with them as well. Under the awning, a couple of lawn chairs, a happy hour cocktail table, and a propane fireplace work perfectly.
Extra water, leads, toys, dishes, grooming equipment, meds, and drool towels are always packed. We feed our dogs a natural raw diet and prep and freeze the food ahead of time, so a high-quality cooler is also part of our equipment.
Groom your dog before you go.
Keep your best friend(s) healthy. Before an RV trip, make sure all their vaccinations and flea/tick treatments are up to date. Carry copies of immunization records/certificates (especially when traveling internationally). Notify your veterinarian that you are headed out of town, so if an issue arises, they will be prepared to assist if you need a referral to a local vet clinic.
Plan your stops (usually every two to three hours). Most rest stops along interstates have pet exercise areas; after all, four-footed travelers need to stretch their legs, too. Carry extra waste bags, just in case. Always pick up after your dog and pick up any other piles you see. A big dog tends to be blamed for others’ negligence.
Be weather wise. For example, summer might not be the right time of year to travel in the desert with your dogs. And a wet, rainy climate means wet dog in the RV, so be prepared with many big, fluffy, absorbent towels on hand.
Train Your Dog!
Have your buddy on a leash at all times, and make sure he or she has received training to remain under control. Nothing is worse than seeing a large dog straining against the collar/leash and dragging the owner. It puts fear into anyone who sees that happening — even though the concern may not be justified.
Socialize your dog so that he or she is not aggressive toward other dogs and people — especially small dogs. Even though your fellas may think the little guy is their “house kitty,” the small-dog owner may panic and assume their pet may be harmed.
A constantly barking dog is not welcome, no matter what the size! Be sure your dog has been exposed to different noises and situations so that he or she can absorb the surroundings and not become nervous or frightened. Do not leave your dogs unattended, but if you do need to walk to the laundry or office without them, try to reassure them before you leave to minimize separation anxiety and prevent a barking event.
And You’re Off
Traveling with your “BIG” dog can be the most enjoyable experience there is. They are your full-size friends. So, be prepared and ensure they are well-behaved. You will be invited back to every place you discover.