Niko and Jess are high school sweethearts from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, who recently jumped on an opportunity to move across the country with their two dogs, Oakley and Everest. They love exploring the mountains, traveling and capturing life’s most precious moments on camera. They currently live in a Jayco Eagle Fifth Wheel in Colorado.
Our First Month Sharing an RV with Two Dogs
This is the exact moment the adventure bug hit us: in 2016, Niko and I took our first road trip to visit my sister in Iowa. And the thing about the adventure bug is that once it bites you, it doesn’t let go. More road trips followed as the years passed, each one longer and more intense than the last.
We explored small towns in West Virginia and hiked big mountains in Washington, sleeping under the stars and meeting up with friends and family along the way. I’d grown up with dogs, and I was determined to find a breed that would thrive in our new, adventurous lifestyle. That’s where Oakley and Everest enter our story. Siberian Huskies require a lot of activity; their breed adapted to take long runs over the tundra. Needless to say, having such active dogs pushed us to get outside even more, to the point that we became not just adventure travelers, but constant weekend warriors.
Still, the adventure bug demanded more from us. It wanted the trip of a lifetime. So in February, 2020, we set out with our dogs and our RV, waved goodbye to our East Coast home of 24 years, and began an epic trek to make new lives for ourselves out west.
We had been sleeping in our Jayco Eagle Fifth Wheel for weeks before we departed, trying to give Oakley and Everest time to adjust to their surroundings. We’re fortunate to have dogs who share a great temperament and who have had lots of exposure to an unpredictable lifestyle, which helped make an easy transition into our life in the RV. We did have to do a bit of dog-proofing after Everest took a shine to chewing the screen door and our bed comforter, but other than that, the adjustment was smooth.
We kicked off our voyage and set out for our first destination: Moab, Utah. We had a bit of time between jobs, tourism was in its off-season and desert weather is ideal for northern-bred dogs, making it the perfect destination. We spread the 30-hour drive over three days, taking frequent breaks to fuel up, and let the dogs stretch their legs and go to the bathroom. We kept plenty of chews on-hand to keep them busy, but Oakley and Everest mostly slept as we drove. When they weren’t sleeping, they loved to watch the scenery go by out the window.
Pulling our entire home behind us made the trip so much more enjoyable, knowing that after a long day of driving, we could pull into a truck stop and climb into familiar beds. Our family was able to relax, unwind, and recover so we could wake up early the next day and do it all again––much easier than setting up and breaking down campsites every day.
After Moab, we left for a couple of days to see southwest Utah. In Zion National Park, we got to do our dream hike, Angels Landing. If you’re familiar with the National Park Service, you know that they are not super pet-friendly, but we finally had the perfect solution. Zion has convenient RV parking, so we were able to leave our dogs in the climate-controlled fifth wheel just down the road from the trail. They were safely in a familiar space where they wouldn’t get stressed out or into trouble, like they might in a vacation rental, and we knew the temperature would remain steady inside the RV, unlike leaving them in a car. Having the RV meant our huskies could comfortably nap while we did a short climb on our own.
Our two week vacation flew by in a flash. We packed down our fifth wheel and made our way to our new lives in Golden, Colorado. It’s one thing to vacation in an RV, but when we told people we planned to live in it indefinitely with two huskies, we got some major side-eye. And their concerns were all valid.
For instance, the shedding. It’s not cute when you can’t catch a break from it, but it’s completely manageable with regular vacuuming and brushing. Everest and Oakley are high energy dogs, it’s true. But we’re high energy people, and we take them on a bike ride or a run at least three times a week, plus a hike at least once a week. I’m fortunate enough to be able to work three night shifts a week as a registered nurse, which means the dogs always have someone around for company and mental stimulation.
So far, we absolutely adore our new home and we’ve already had a whirlwind of adventures and special memories. Although there’s no telling where life will take us, we dream of buying some land in the mountains and building ourselves a home with ample space for the dogs to roam. In the meantime, we will keep loving the present and taking full advantage of our cozy fifth wheel lifestyle.
Here are our top tips for keeping dogs happy in an RV:
Ease into a transition period. Make your new living space as home-like as possible. Dogs with separation anxiety can feel less stressed just by the scent of their humans. Sleep in your bedding before you leave your dog alone in the RV, and make sure they have a space where they feel safe. For Everest, it’s the couch, where she can watch people from the window. For Oakley, it’s the bedroom where he can nap in a dim corner. For other dogs it may be a crate, a dog bed or curled up with a favorite blanket. If possible, start by sleeping in the RV with your dogs, then gradually spend more time in it before leaving the dogs alone inside for a short test period.
Get to know your dog’s body language. Dogs communicate non-verbally (most of the time), so it’s important to watch the cues your dogs are giving you. Have water readily available when you’re on the road, and make frequent potty stops. Learn the clues that signal when your dogs have had enough for one day. Our dogs make very different sounds for “I’m bored” and “I NEED THE BATHROOM NOW.” If they’re getting restless or grumpy with each other, it’s time to pull off the highway for a bit. If they’re panting a lot, we adjust the temp and offer them water. Every dog is different, but all dogs give clues to how they’re feeling.
Set your dogs up for success. When dogs act out, it’s not always their fault. Various breeds need different amounts of novelty, stimulation, routine and company. But there are some things you can do to set dogs up for success. Make sure they get enough physical and mental exercise for their breed. Dog-proof your rig by keeping items organized and stored away. Ensure water is always available and the temperature in the RV is good for your dog pals. Make sure they have the kind of mental stimulation they need: some dogs are happy with a rawhide while other breeds of dogs are constantly searching for a challenge. And with those dogs, if you don’t provide one, they will take it upon themselves to seek one out. So be prepared.
Consider what you may need for a pet-friendly RV. Depending on your pet’s diet, you may want to consider augmenting or upgrading your fridge and freezer. We also decided to replace the lower half of our screen door with plexiglass to prevent Everest from chewing or barging through the screen. It still lets in lots of bright sunshine and we have peace of mind knowing our huskies are safe inside when we need them to be.
You don’t need to do it all on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask nearby family or friends for help, especially in the beginning. If you are traveling or stationed somewhere you don’t have contacts, there are apps you can download on your phone to have a reliable pet-sitter stop in and take your dog for a walk to break up their alone time.