28 min read

Is it Safe to Leave a Dog in an RV?

Published: 11/05/2020

Nothing is as exciting as hitting the open road, and for 25 million Americans, that means traveling by RV. Being able to bring your home with you wherever you go is certainly attractive for families and those who want to switch to a nomadic lifestyle. And if you’ve got a canine furiend in your life, a house on wheels is the pawfect solution.

In fact, a recent study has revealed that over 60% of RVers are bringing their dogs along for the ride. For some, RVing with a dog means extra time with their furry bestie, while for others it cuts the cost of boarding while away. Whatever the reason, no pup pawrent can deny that a road trip with their dogs makes the adventure even better!

While traveling with a dog is certainly fun, there are a few additional things to consider, such as extra stops for potty breaks, and finding dog-friendly accommodations at campgrounds and state parks

Eventually, you will be faced with the big question of what to do with your dog when an activity or errand prohibits them. Can you leave your dog behind in an RV? Is it safe? Is it legal? In this guide, we’ll answer all these questions, and make sure you have all the information you need to make taking your dog on a road trip fun and safe!

Life in an RV

Living in an RV definitely has its challenges. For short-term vacationers and work trips, these are often offset by the limited amount of time spent in the RV. But for those who want to forego mortgages for a tether-free life, living fulltime in an RV means many changes, such as the availability of electricity, water, and heating and cooling. This can mean a juggling act with your RV’s battery and generator to keep from freezing or roasting inside the RV.

While there are some pet pawrents who plan their trips with dogs in mind, there are just as many travelers who think it’s as easy as throwing them in the vehicle and heading out. Always plan ahead, and be sure you and your dog are ready for the journey. And when you are doing something without your dog, have a plan to keep them safe. 

Can Dogs Stay in an RV Alone?

Whether a quick trip to get groceries, catching some dinner, or sightseeing, you’ll inevitably come across a time while RV camping with your dog that you’ll have to leave them behind. So, is it safe to leave your dog in an RV alone?

The short answer is no. While it may seem like an obvious choice, there are too many dangers that face your pup when you are not there. 

Reasons dogs should never be left alone in the RV include:

Temperature -- Though it seems obvious that a parked, closed car can heat up or freeze quickly, many people assume that if the weather outside is nice, their pup will be fine. It may be mild when you leave for a hike in the morning, but temperatures could soar throughout the day. In just 30 minutes, an 80-degree day could create a balmy 114 degrees inside a closed vehicle. While heatstroke can cause brain damage and death, your pup could also die from exposure to extremely cold weather

RV Malfunctions -- If you leave on the air-conditioning or heater to regulate temperatures inside the RV, you’ll be assuming nothing will go wrong. But if there’s a power failure at the campground, or with your generator, that temperature regulation could stop. Other dangers like wiring shorts could cause fires, and storms or floods could also occur, though they are rare.

Boredom and Anxiety --  While some dogs can snooze the time away, others could become bored or anxious and act out. Some may bark and whine until the campground is furious, or exhibit destructive behaviors like chewing on furniture, items like medicine or cleaners, or even window screens. If you’ve left the windows open for ventilation, that means they could jump out of the RV and wander off. Loud noises could further upset an anxious pooch, such as fireworks, thunder, or those from other campers.

Illness or Injury -- While these unfortunate situations can happen at any time, if you are not with your dog, you won’t be able to help them. They could get sick from something they ate, or could injure themselves trying to get out of the RV in fear, or to find you.

Dog Theft -- We never want to think about it happening to our furry bestie, but dog theft does happen. There’s no way to regulate who stays at public campgrounds and parks, and if you’ve left windows open for ventilation, access to your dog is even easier.

It may not be legal -- If you are in one of the 31 states that prohibits leaving an animal behind in an unattended vehicle, you could be breaking the law. While some statutes state that the animal cannot be confined under dangerous conditions, which include a lack of food and water, poor ventilation and extreme temperatures, others simply need an imminent threat to be enforced, which can leave a lot to interpretation. Furthermore, most of these states also allow the animal to be rescued, which could involve forcible entry into your RV. Regardless of state laws, there are also several counties that prohibit leaving a pet in a confined vehicle under any condition. 

Campground Rules -- Each individual campsite will have its own rules regarding dogs. Some may only require your dog to be quiet while you are away, while others may prohibit leaving them alone at all. It’s best to make sure what’s allowable before you set up camp.

Even with all these considerations, there still may be times when you need to leave your pup behind. In those situations, some extra planning can help increase your pup’s chances of staying safe.

Travel Tips for Dogs

While RV travel with dogs can have some unique challenges, you can maximize your pup’s happiness and health when left alone with these tips.

  • Be sure you leave plenty of water and food.
  • Take your dog for a long walk or play session before locking them up in the RV to work out any energy and reduce anxiety.
  • Further reduce anxiety by turning on music or the tv, leaving out a favorite blanket, or drawing the blinds.
  • Keep boredom from becoming life threatening by leaving out safe toys, and keeping anything hazardous out of your dog’s reach.
  • Consider getting your dog microchipped in case they get out!
    You can also invest in a GPS collar to track them instantly.
  • Quiet a barker by using a white-noise machine or fan to block outside noises, or train your dog to curb their barking.
  • Plan shorter outings so you can come back to check on your pup often.
  • Install an alarm system to ensure no one messes with your precious pooch.
  • Use a pet camera or monitor to keep an eye on your dog while you are away.
    Two-way cameras with audio are great to send a few soothing words their way too!
  • Tell your neighbors or a park ranger you’ll be away for some extra eyes on your pup.
  • If you can, pick a campsite with shade to temper the sun’s rays.
  • Consider installing remote temperature sensors that can alert your phone if the RV gets too hot or cold.
  • Add outdoor shades to reduce the amount of UV rays affecting your RV to help keep temperatures cooler.
  • Consider a smart dog collar that can send updates about your dog’s temperature to your phone instantly.

While these tips can provide extra layers of protection, hiring a local dog walker or sitter may be the best option to ensure your furry pal’s safety. 

Taking the time to make sure your dog stays comfortable not only keeps them safe, but also lets them enjoy the adventure. Click here for more tips and dog-friendly road trip ideas that will help you and your pup make memories that’ll last a lifetime!