Big Dog, Small Travel Trailer

big_dog_4

Harper is no minute mutt, but camping with the canine is now the norm with a some smart training and the right gear.

Russ and Ellen Steele
March 29, 2012
Filed under Top Stories, Trailer Camping

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 There’s nothing better than sharing traveling adventures with the ones you love, but what happens if the one that you love most has four legs and a tail? Sharing the camping lifestyle with Fido, Bowser or Rover isn’t as difficult as it may at first seem, as long as you prepare and adapt accordingly.  

We’ve always favored large dogs – setters, Labradors, Rottweilers and now a standard poodle. When we purchased our Airstream trailer, however, we didn’t think too much about space for a dog. If we had, there might have been a few more feet added for their comfort. Instead, we’re learning to live with a large dog in a small space normally occupied by two humans.

When we bought the trailer we had a black Rottweiler. It was soon evident where he liked to lay – under the table – as the rug had a ring of black hair that resisted every removal effort by our vacuum cleaner. We soon realized the cream-colored rug, or the dog, had to go. We replaced the rug with some engineered wood flooring, which we wrote about in Trailer Life some years ago. 

Now we have a standard poodle, a breed that is welcomed just about everywhere, and he does not shed. Realizing that our new puppy, Harper, was going to be a constant road companion, we started his training early. 

We wanted Harper to have his space and go there when commanded to “find your bed.” We also placed some emphasis on making potty stops on command. The command, “Harper, go potty,” usually produces the desired results. Well, most of the time. As he matures the results are growing more consistent. 

Taking Harper for a walk around the Nevada County Fair Grounds RV Park Lake.

Taking Harper for a walk around the Nevada County Fair Grounds RV Park Lake.

Traveling often brings many distractions, noises and unusual situations; the more your dog is exposed to these situations as a puppy the easier he’ll adjust. We found that taking Harper with us on short trips in the truck has helped him adapt to new situations when we are on the road for a long RV trip.

Harper has two beds, one in the truck and one in the trailer. When it’s not possible for him to be in the truck, such as when it’s being repaired or serviced, we take his bed into the waiting room and he knows that is his space. 

We are fortunate that the back seat in our crew cab pickup folds flat and makes a nice platform for Harper. He has a harness and we clip it to the hard points the manufacturer provides for baby seats. This keeps Harper safe in the back seat during hard stops yet allows him to come forward for some love and attention. 

After a long day on the road, Harper looks forward to some exercise. While a walk around the RV park is good for both dogs and owners, we are finding RV parks with dog runs a most welcome addition to the parks’ amenities. The opportunity to run off-leash is a big benefit for large dogs in need of exercise. On a recent trip across the country, we discovered one of the nationally known RV parks to have recognized the need for fenced-in dog runs.

Heat can be an issue for dogs when traveling, especially when a 30-amp power source is not available for the RV air conditioner, or the tow vehicle engine breaks down. We have a small Stanley shop fan that can be directed toward the dog’s bed in the trailer. We also discovered a raised bed called a Coolaroo, which allows airflow under Harper, keeping him much cooler. In damp and muddy campsites it also gives him a dry place to lie. This is a real blessing for the dog, especially when the only other place to lie is on the blacktop or concrete in some campsites in the summer. 

The Steele family trailer.

The Steele family trailer.

Organization is another essential element of living comfortably in small spaces with a large dog. Harper has his own monogrammed canvas tote bag, which includes a collapsible water dish, a bottle of water, small towel, brush, spare leash, bags for potty stops, treats, a 25-foot plastic covered cable with snaps on both ends and, if need be, a screw-in auger for anchoring him on a grassy spot while we picnic. During cold and rainy weather we include his raincoat in the tote bag, along with several days’ supply of food in resealable plastic bags in case we get stuck somewhere.

One concern we had was the availability of restaurants that accept dogs. Everyone likes to eat out occasionally, and we hoped traveling with a large dog would not preclude that enjoyment. We were pleasantly surprised to find a number of eateries with decks and patios that welcomed our dog. We recently ate dinner on the deck of the Boathouse Cantina in Salida, Colorado, overlooking the Arkansas River, where four dogs lay quietly while their owners enjoyed a meal al fresco.  

Many families travel with their dogs, and restaurants and hotels are becoming more accepting of pets. One of the reasons so many families have RVs is because pets are part of the family and must be considered when traveling. 

 

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