In just a short time, Americans traveling and RVing with pets has become as accepted as traveling with kids. That does not mean pets in campgrounds should be considered a right and not a privilege, even though many Good Sam campgrounds display that little terrier symbol for “Pets Welcome.”
When traveling with a pet, it is imperative to remember that you are an ambassador for all pet owners and your pet’s good behavior will help ensure continued access to campgrounds in the future. So take the campground rules seriously. As hard as it is for pet lovers to believe, not everyone loves dogs, and dog owners are still fewer in number than non-dog owners in America.
A well-behaved pet is one that feels safe and secure. Never leave a pet alone in a campground, even if it is one you have visited many times before and she knows the territory. Before leaving home, pack familiar bedding and blankets, a supply of your dog’s regular food, and some favorite toys. If your RV is at home, start a routine of feeding inside the RV a week or so before a trip.
“A tired dog is a good dog” is a well-worn maxim, especially for young, energetic dogs. If you can include daily hikes during your campground stay, it will go a long way to keeping your dog calm and quiet at night. If you can’t, use the trails. A good game of fetch or a long-lasting chew toy can do the trick as well.
Dogs are territorial and you need to strike a balance between letting them know your campsite is their new “territory” where they can relax and feel comfortable and reigning in the barking and growling that can go with the desire to protect that territory. One way to do that is to expose your dog to as many distractions as possible at home before setting up in a busy camp. Even a few hours walking around an active playground or park can simulate a camp environment.
Of course, you should always pick up and properly dispose of any pet waste from the campground and trails – there is no quicker way to see a slash go up across that terrier sign than ignoring this task. If your dog is used to eliminating waste only in a favorite spot in the backyard it may require some special remedial training to get her comfortable eliminating in camp. This will entail cues and treats before your road trip so you pet will eliminate in unfamiliar territory.
This will all help acclimate your dog to your campsite. There are things you need to do to acclimate yourself to camping with pets. Have all your papers in order, including proof of licensing and shots. Have ID tags with current contact information on your pet and all medications at the ready. Scout out and bookmark emergency animal clinics along your route, especially if you are traveling with an older pet.
And always follow the simple rules of common courtesy—keep your dog from barking, don’t let him roam about the campground and pick up messes. Do that and we can all expect are pets to be welcome in campgrounds.