Pets on the road by Harry Gephart.

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.

Leave a Reply


  1. John Mastbrook

    Reward her when she goes out. Start out with a trail of treats that leads to the bottom step and to ground. She may run back in, but it would be a start.

  2. We are new RVers and have now taken our two dogs on two major trips. They really seem to enjoy coming with us. However our Pekinese is does not want to go outside to do her business. We have to pick her up to take her out and if she knows we are going to take her out, she will pee on the floor! We have had to trick her and pick her up quickly before we show any signs of going outside! Anyone have a idea of why she would do this? I know it is new territory and all but we have had her on the road now for a week and a half! She is fine once outside but getting her outside is a challenge.

  3. Leslie Boisvert Huskey

    What I don't understand is why people pick-up the poop and then leave the bag by a pole or some…really do they think the poop fairy comes and gets those.

  4. Chris Mays

    Everywhere we go as "almost-full-timers", the biggest complaint from most park owners is that "people don't pick-up after their dogs" even with the convenience of bags provided on posts through out the park or they leave their little bagged presents for someone else to pickup rather than in the trash. I love dogs. It's their owners that need to keep in mind that each rented RV space is someone else's "personal space" for their stay. I really agree with Ilean Danby.

  5. One of the things (as a multiple-dog owner) that really bothers me is the people who might pick up after their dogs, but seem to consider that it is okay to let their dogs pee on everything including garbage cans and tents. Get a grip people . If it has to be handled or used, or lived in by people – it is not a pee post. A male dog can do just fine without having a garbage can to pee on.

  6. Alain Lacroix

    My 9 year old dog behaves well except when leaving her alone in the trailer while we do sight seeing. We walk her before leaving close the shades and put the radio on but she will bark the whole time we are gone even with a vibration collar. What else can we try to change this behaviour?

  7. Alain Lacroix

    Thanks, Larry DeBlieux I forgot about these shirts. I will try to find one and give it a try.

  8. Larry DeBlieux

    Have you tried a Thunder Shirt? It is a wrap that goes on the dog which helps with Anxiety issues such as Storms or being left alone and it may help. You can find them at Pet stores and some Walmarts. It helps my chiwennie which is terrified during storms but I have heard it works for anxiety separation also.

  9. Actually, none of the state parks here in Pa. are free, all charge a camping fee and less than 35% allow dogs and then only in restricted areas, primarily the bad sites.