RV, Not Kennel!

June, 1998

Barbara Foley

You just bought the RV of your dreams. It is brand spanking new or perhaps just new to you, and you want to keep it looking that way always -- but you travel with a dog! Help! Here are a few tips:

Decide if your dog will be allowed to move freely throughout the RV or will his movements be confined to a certain area. Like anything, there are pros and cons to each option. Complete freedom means less physical movement for you. It is, however, less safe when the vehicle is in motion and whatever mess your dog makes will be spread over a greater area. If you chose to confine your dog's movements, you must decide where and how you will separate where he can and cannot go. Clean up is obviously easier in non-carpeted areas! There are a variety of gates one can buy or make to confine your dog to a particular area. Make sure whichever gate you choose is sturdy enough to hold your size dog and still work for you (will you have to completely remove it to pass through, does it feature and opening and closing feature, is it short enough that you can step over it, etc.). Remember, whatever you choose should work to make your life easier, not harder or more hazardous. (I have small dogs and choose to confine them to the linoleumed areas of my RV. I use a wood-framed adjustable window screen as a "gate" to keep my dogs off the carpeted area. I attached pretty brass hinges to the wood frame of the screen and mounted those on the walls of the RV. Works great--but I have little dogs who do not jump. The point is to consider other things as potential gates. With a little imagination and adjustment, your problems can be solved and your RV need not look tacky.) If you confine your dog to a certain area, make sure it is spacious enough that your dog will not feel overly confined, try to situate the dog so that he can see what is going on, and ensure he has plenty of ventilation. If he cannot see you, he is likely to loudly let you know.

Admit that accidents are bound to happen from time to time. If you have male dogs who MIGHT lift their legs inside, wrap table legs, etc., in plastic wrap to protect their finish.

You must decide if your pet will be allowed on the furniture. If your dog is allowed on the furniture, you will have pet odors and hair on the fabrics. Buy large towels that match or compliment your RV upholstery and lay them on top of the furniture as a first line of defense. These are easily laundered or replaced. Scotchguard protection also helps. If you are handy with a sewing machine, you could make slip covers for your furniture which could be removed and washed as necessary. Even inexpensive bed spreads or throws can enhance an RV's decor as it protects your furniture. (When I ordered my RV, I was stubborn and wanted the original upholstery to show. I found one can order upholstery material from the RV manufacturer {you will need to know the RV model, year, and interior colors.} I ordered the fabric and sewed covers for the sofa and dinette cushions which basically encase the cushions and stay on with hook and loop tape. It was not cheap to buy the original fabric and, yes, the upholstery fabric must be dry cleaned occasionally but it does protect the original fabric if you want to retain the "all together" look.)

Keep pet food and water containers where they won't be tripped over and spills can do little damage and easily be cleaned up. Using a "water hole" travel water bowl will eliminate spills when the RV is in motion. Disposable place mats are great for pet feeding areas.

A good vacuum cleaner is a must with pets, and use it often. Of course, this will depend upon the shedding capacity of your breed of dog! You are almost always better off to keep well ahead of the "shedding rate!" Frequent grooming outside will go a long way to minimize dog hairs in your RV. There are a variety of pet hair removal tools and systems on the market. Vacuuming your furniture, not just the floor, helps tremendously. Lint brushes are also very helpful for removing pet hair from furniture and clothes.

Giving your dog a comfortable bed upon which to lay down in an area where he can see you may discourage him from trying to lay on the furniture. The bed should be made of washable material and frequently washed to control odors and fleas.

Placing a mat inside your entrance door not only minimizes dirt you track into the RV but the leaves and grass your dog tracks in as well. If your dog must go outside and it is raining, dry his feet off on the mat to keep mud out. Keep a doggie towel handy by the door to dry your dog off should he get wet in the rain--and you had better get to him before he shakes!.

Occasionally you must treat your RV for fleas is you have a dog. I particularly like the foggers, but make sure to select one that kills both the adult and pre-adult fleas. Make sure you follow the instructions on the package and ventilate the RV after treatment before you re-enter the coach. Of course, make sure all pilot lights, stoves, etc., are off before setting the fogger off--and turn off any gas detection alarms (foggers will set them off) just for the duration of the fogging. Otherwise, you may have to listen to the alarm for three hours. Remember to reset them after the coach has been treated! And it goes without being said, remove all pets from the RV before you treat it. It is also a good idea to protect dishes, glasses, etc. as the chemicals could settle on them. Completely remove the dog's food and water containers. Also don't forget to close your roof vents--no point fogging your RV if it all drifts out through the vents!

Odors can be combated with ample ventilation, eliminating their source, sprays, and deodorizers. You are always better off eliminating an odor then covering it up. It is wise to keep a spray bottle filled with an Odor Ban (Sam's Club) solution handy. And keeping your dog clean and bathed will minimize the "doggie odor." Air neutralizing sprays also help eliminate odors.

Be prepared for the inevitable accident. Have a supply of paper towels, rags, and carpet and upholstery cleaners on hand, as well as floor cleaner. (Whenever you use soap or chemicals, first try them on an out-of-sight corner to make sure they do not damage your fabrics!) Of course, the sooner you discover the accident the more successful you will be in cleaning it up.

If your dog has a "solid" accident (let's face it, it could come from EITHER end!), use a paper towel to lift the material from the surface--don't rub. Lift as much as you can before you start the cleaning process. Then, without imbedding the stain, clean the area with a mild soap and water mixture, followed by a mixture of vinegar and water to neutralize odors. A final treatment with an odor remover will help to discourage the dog from returning to the same area.

If your dog has a "liquid" accident, sop the fluid up immediately with a paper towel. Clean the surface as described above. With older carpets and depending how deep into the fabric you cleaned, wicking can occur whereby latent stains are pulled to the surface as you try to clean up the accident. To prevent this, after you clean, get the fibers dry as soon as you can or place clean paper towels over the cleaned but wet area. Then place a heavy book or flat object on top of the towel to encourage the moisture to move into the towel and not to the bottom of the carpet. This doesn't always work, but hopefully when the area dries you aren't surprised by a brown ring on your carpet.

Of course, make sure your dog is reliably housebroken and that you take him outside a regular intervals (but especially after he wakes up, before he goes to sleep, and after all meals). If your dog tends to get car sick, avoid feeding him right before you plan to drive--and keep paper towels handy.

Just as we occasionally have to childproof our homes, Rvers must petproof their homes. Make sure extension cords cannot be chewed on nor candy or medication eaten by your pet (chocolate is toxic to dogs!). Likewise, keep cleaning supplies and insect repellents out of reach of pets. Make sure tablecloths do not hang over the edge of the table where a pet can pull them and all your china--and perhaps dinner--can come crashing down. Of course, if you spray the inside of your RV, remove your pet first! If you smoke, make sure ashtrays are not reachable or your inquisitive pet could suffer a burn--let alone set your RV on fire!

Sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it? Well, it is. There is no doubt about it. But most of us feel our traveling pet companions are worth it. Hey, all that bending over is good for the waistline, right?!

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