It’s scientifically proven that dogs make everything better—especially road trips and outdoor adventures. Rachael and Nate Johnson, the duo behind the Instagram handle 2TravelingDogs, would know. The couple has traveled to each of the lower 48 states in a fifth-wheel RV with two dogs in tow. Along the way, they’ve learned a thing or two about how to enhance the experience for everyone. Here’s their best advice for anyone looking to spend time in an RV with furry friends.
1. Pick Dog-Friendly Destinations
This may seem like a no-brainer—but whether a campground, trailhead, or park simply allows dogs is just the start. Rachael suggests taking your research one step further. “Get online and search for the best dog-friendly activities in the area you’re heading to before you leave,” she says. Chewy, the online retailer of pet supplies, publishes an annual list of the top 10 dog-friendly vacation destinations, complete with details on the best hiking trails and even dog-focused pubs and cafés.
2. Help Your Dog Feel at Home
Dogs are creatures of habit. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), deviations from a normal routine can cause anxiety for some dogs. Because travel is inherently routine-breaking, it’s important to find ways to maintain normalcy whenever possible while you’re on the road. Do you usually take your pup for a walk first thing in the morning? Keep that habit while traveling. For the Johnsons and their dogs, mealtimes are the baseline. “We prepare fresh meals for our dogs, so we prep those ahead of time to make sure we’re able to feed them at the same time each day,” says Rachael. And on travel days, the Johnsons plan to stop at designated mealtimes regardless of how much driving may be left. Inside the RV, the Johnsons have created individual spaces for each dog to lounge on a favorite bed and blankets, further instilling a sense of place and belonging.
3. Elevate Your Pit Stops
Speaking of travel days, the way you plan bio-breaks should also be different when dogs are in the mix. While there’s no avoiding gas-station pee stops completely, Rachael and Nate prefer to look for calmer, more relaxing locations to let their dogs stretch their legs and do their business. “We like to find parks and restful places along our route instead of busy fuel stations because it’s nicer for the dogs—and us too,” says Nate. If your pooch is social and likes to play, the Johnsons recommend searching for dog parks in cities and towns along your route. In addition to the benefits for your dog, seeking out parks like this can draw you deeper into a new town, away from the interstate, and give you a chance to see the place you’re stopping in.
4. Know Your Dog
“Older dogs have different needs than puppies,” Rachael says. Case in point: the Johnsons’ two dogs, Fruitycakes, who’s two, and Brickle, who’s 13, have vastly different energy levels, so Rachael and Nate plan their outdoor adventures accordingly. If your dog is anxious around lots of people or other dogs, try to plan trips during less busy times of week or during the off-season. Pay attention to how your dog reacts in new situations and don’t be afraid to adjust as necessary.
5. Be Patient
Above all, Rachael says, remember that places and activities that seem trivial to you might be completely new, overstimulating, or even frightening for your dogs. So do your best to see the world through their eyes, slow down, and remember that dogs build confidence and habits over time, through repeated positive experiences. That last part is especially important, Rachael says: be sure to reward your dogs with treats and affection when they exhibit a desired behavior, whether that’s resting calmly in the back seat during a long stretch of driving or not reacting when another dog walks by your campsite.
“RVing is all about learning experiences. Give your dog space to adapt and watch their love of travel grow.”
Watch more about Rachael, Nate, and the pups on the road.
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