Ever hear you can do the job easier with the RIGHT tools? Well, the same applies for traveling with your pets. Having the right tools can make or break your trip. Although there are tons of pet stuff you can buy, here are a few "essential tools" you might want to consider to make RVing a little easier on you and your pet:

dogcageCRATE/CARRIER: Crates come in various sizes and construction and serve several purposes.

. In a vehicle, your dog's crate is essentially his safety belt. In an accident, his crate will keep him from being thrown about and, by keeping him contained, will prevent him from being thrown into the road and perhaps hit by another car.

. Also in a vehicle, his crate keeps him in one spot so that he is not putting his head out the window or crawling under your feet as you drive.

Finally, his crate becomes his "home away from home." It becomes his personal space which is familiar to him and to which he can retreat when he is tired.

Other than the temporary cardboard carriers supplied by veterinarians, crates are either molded plastic (cheapest) or wire (more expensive but not bad).

Molded Plastic: These are the cheapest, can be bought at your local discount store, and are easiest to clean. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to assemble them (fit the door between the two halves, then attach the two halves to each other with the supplied screws). Soap and water and perhaps a little disinfectant keep them clean. They are lightweight and many are approved for airline use (check with the airline before buying yours if you plan to fly your dog). Most have permanent or detachable food and water receptacles. In cold climates, the plastic crates shield your dog from cold chills better than wire crates. Naturally, they are lighter weight than the wire crates.

Wire Crates: Since these are constructed a little more sturdily, they are likewise more expensive. Many fold up for easy storage. Obviously, they are heavier than plastic crates. Wire crates are more durable than plastic crates, and they allow air to flow freely around the animal. Wire crates usually do not come with food or water receptacles, but they usually have a removable metal pan to catch any droppings. Wire crates are generally not as widely available at local discount stores as are plastic crates. There are covers for wire crate which one can obtain when you don't want your dog exposed to as much air (in the winter).

I have both but long ago replaced my molded plastic crates with wire crates. I like their sturdiness. Most of my traveling is during the summer, so my dogs need all the airflow that I can provide. I still use my plastic crates in the winter or when I have a sick dog which I would not want to get chilled. Whichever crate you choose, make sure it is big enough for your pet to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably.

EXERCISE PENS: These are the next best things to sliced bread! An exercise pen is made of wire, comes in a variety of sizes and heights, and folds up accordion-like for easy storage. Essentially, an exercise pen is a portable, temporary dog pen. They are free-standing. The standard models feature eight interlocking panels (each about 24 inches wide). They come in a variety of heights, and the taller ones come with a door. Since they are made of wire, they are not lightweight, but they are certainly nothing the average person could not handle. Exercise pens can be set up anywhere, and by removing one vertical pin, you can connect two or more pens to make quite a large enclosure. On sunny days, you can create shade for your penned dog by affixing material to the top of the pen with clothes pins. Unless coated, exercise pens used extensively outdoors will eventually rust, so if you plan to use yours outside, buy the vinyl coated type. One can also buy floor grids for exercise pens which provide a raised surface upon which your dog may walk (handy in muddy, rainy weather). Wire tops can also be ordered to foil climbers.

POOPER SCOOPERS: What goes in, must come out--and we have to deal with it! If your dog is confined to an exercise pen, pooper scoopers will let you avoid a lot of climbing in and out to keep his environment clean. A pooper scooper is essentially a two-part tool. One half functions as a shovel; the other, a rake or pusher. Used together, one is able to either pick up or scrape the droppings into the shovel part for easy removal and disposal without actually have to touch the droppings. The higher your exercise pen, the more dependent you become on your pooper scooper! Obviously, they are handy even when you do not have your dog in an exercise pen. The only drawback to pooper scoopers is that when you pack up to go home they must be washed before you store them or they will be stinky, stinky, stinky!

NON-SPILLABLE WATER CONTAINERS: These come in a variety of designs and construction. One of the handiest I have found is called a "water hole." It is inexpensive and made of a plastic bowl covered by a lid which has a hole in the middle through which the animal drinks. Since the bowl is squatty, it is very had to tip over in a moving vehicle, and with the lid on it is almost impossible to spill. Another handy water container is a small bucket which you can hang on an exercise pen or fence with a double-ended snap. The bucket can be hung at whatever height you need depending upon your dog's height. Both of these containers prevent spillage and help to keep your dog's water fresh and clean.

Where do you get all this neat stuff and how can you succumb to the lure of buying tons of pet stuff, you say? Although I don't vouch for any of them, the following are mail order suppliers of the above equipment and tons of other neat stuff upon which we can unload our hard-earned money. They also stock equipment for other pets.

JB Wholesale Pet Supplies (1-800-526-0388)

Jeffers Pet USA (1-800-JEFFERS)

Omaha Vaccine (1-800-367-4444)

RC Steele (1-800-872-3773)

The Dog's Outfitter (1-800-FOR-DOGS)

Wholesale Pet USA (1-800-4PET-USA)

Wholesale Veterinary Supply (1-800-435-6940)

You have more fun if you have the right tools!

Select this link to return to Traveling with Pets

All articles by Barbara Foley

RV Chassis Master, Inc.