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Tips for travelling with dogs in a motorhome


Dogs are a major part of why people choose campervan and motorhome holidays; it’s so much easier to take your furry friends with you. To make things easier, we've collated everything you need to know about travelling with dogs in your motorhome

Follow our advice and your dog will enjoy motorhoming as much as you do and you’ll be more relaxed having your four-legged companion with you on holiday.

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Words by Peter Vaughan, Editor of What Motorhome


Motorhoming with dogs: the essentials

Motorhoming with dogs

(Photo courtesy of Peter Vaughan)

When packing your motorhome for touring you’ll need to think about your dog’s needs as well as your own, but some of these essential items can be left permanently in the motorhome.

  • Leads, harnesses, extending leads
  • Hook to secure a lead in the ground
  • Dog poo bags
  • Dog bed/crate
  • Towels
  • Food, including biscuits and treats
  • Toys and chews
  • Insurance details
  • Tick hook
  • Vet contact details

Always make sure that your dog is wearing a collar with a tag recording your mobile phone number, so you can be contacted if your pet gets lost.

Think about your dog’s needs before you set off, too – a good walk prior to travel, with plenty of opportunity for them to empty both bladder and bowels is essential.

Some owners teach their dogs, as puppies, to ‘go’ on command by simply adding a command to the natural event. If you give that command before travel, the dogs usually oblige.

Securing your dog in a motorhome or campervan

Lucky Dog Camper accessories

(Photo courtesy of Peter Vaughan)

So, what’s the law on dogs in motorhomes? The Highway Code (Rule 57) states, “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seatbelt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

While breaking the Highway Code is not an offence in itself, allowing a dog to distract you could be taken into account in the event of an accident.

Consider, too, that in a crash an unsecured dog will be thrown forward with significant force. This could result in injury or death for your dog and, depending on the size of the animal, it could also kill or injure the driver or passengers.

In an ideal situation, the dogs would usually travel in a crate (which also needs to be well secured). However, this may not be practical in some motorhomes, so harnesses, usually attached to the seatbelts or seatbelt clasps are another alternative. If choosing a crate, check the size is right – it can be tempting to go too large, in which case your dog won’t feel secure.

If travelling with a large dog, or dogs, in a motorhome, this is a matter to consider when choosing your motorhome. The best option will probably be a motorhome with a garage big enough for the dog crate(s) and with internal access from the living area to the garage. We’ve seen vehicles modified so that dogs can see their owners, or even windows added in garage doors.

Another precaution with puppies that may try to wriggle out of their harness, might be to place an obstruction so that they cannot get into the cab or around the driver’s feet.

Travelling in a motorhome with dogs

Securing a dog in a motorhome

(Photo courtesy of Auto-Sleepers)

To expect dogs to travel happily, it is essential to exercise them adequately beforehand and to ensure they have the opportunity to drink plenty of water. Planning stops on your journey for a drink, walk, play and perhaps a small amount of food, is vital.

If a dog travels badly it is best to avoid food until the journey is complete, but putting in some toys and chews, plus a familiar blanket will help. Sometimes, pulling the side window blinds down can also help a nervous dog.

Travelling in the UK

If you are planning to use any other forms of transport (apart from your motorhome) to get around whilst on holiday, always check on the rules with the bus, train or ferry company before you set off. If there are tourist sites that you particularly want to see, look online to see if they are dog-friendly to avoid disappointment. Rules regarding stately homes, castles, etc, vary and often ornamental gardens are out of bounds to dogs (but not always; at the fabulous Lost Gardens of Heligan, in Cornwall, “dogs with well-behaved owners are welcome all year round”!). If you’re going to the seaside, check for dog-friendly beaches (these are more common out of season).

When on holiday with your dog, try to keep to their regular routine as much as possible (same walk times, food, toilet breaks) and let them rest as well as enjoying all the fun and excitement of the holiday.

Foreign travel

When travelling with your pet dog abroad, what you need to do will depend on the country or countries you’re going to. The old Pet Passport scheme no longer applies since the UK left the EU after Brexit.

Now, when travelling to an EU country or Northern Ireland, your pet needs:

  • A microchip
  • A valid rabies vaccination
  • An animal health certificate (AHC)
  • Tapeworm treatment if you are travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway or Malta

These requirements also apply to assistance dogs. Always check the rules of the country you’re travelling to for any additional restrictions or requirements before you travel.

You’ll need a new animal health certificate (AHC) from your vet for each journey you make to Europe or Northern Ireland, whether your dog has travelled there before or not. A visit to your vet is required to get the certificate. This needs to be done no more than 10 days before you travel. You should plan well in advance, as vets can be busy and may not be able to fit in appointments at short notice.

Your pet’s animal health certificate will be valid after the date of issue for:

  • 10 days for entry into the EU or Northern Ireland
  • Four months for onward traval within the EU
  • Four months for re-entry into Great Britain

If your pet hasn't previously travelled, or their rabies vaccination is out of date, you'll need to visit your vet at least 21 days before you travel. Your pet must be at least 12 weeks old to get the rabies vaccination. After the rabies vaccination, you cannot travel for 21 days.

You'll also need to microchip your dog as this is the best chance of returning your animal to you if it gets lost.

You should also find out about the diseases your pet may encounter abroad that it wouldn’t be exposed to in the UK. And think about how your dog will cope if you’re travelling to a hot country. If your dog is elderly or has any health issues, it may be kinder to leave it at home with someone else looking after it.

Laws on dog ownership vary between countries. In Italy, for instance (as well as aboard some ferries), dog owners can be asked to muzzle their pet in public, so you will need to purchase one and ensure your dog is trained to wear it. In Spain, dogs are often not allowed on buses but, in France, we have found that dogs are accepted in far more cafés and restaurants than in the UK.

If you are travelling using LeShuttle, dogs remain in the motorhome with their owners and there are dedicated exercise areas for dogs at either side of the crossing, which owners are encouraged to use.

If you’re going by ferry, the rules vary, so check before you book. Some ferry companies have dog-friendly cabins where your dog can stay with you for the entire journey, others have dog-friendly areas (but your pet might be required to wear a muzzle). However, on some ferries, pets are required to stay in your vehicle on their own for the duration of the trip, which can be distressing for them and could even be a risk to their health.

For more information on taking your dog to Europe, read the Government's guide to taking your pet abroad, or call the Pet Travel Scheme helpline on 0370 241 1710. You can also email the Government’s pet travel helpline at [email protected]

Day-to-day life in a motorhome with a dog

Looking after a dog in a motorhome

(Photo courtesy of Peter Vaughan)

Space – especially floor space – is at a premium in most motorhomes but it is beneficial that dogs understand which space is theirs. Some owners will restrict their dogs to the cab, with a board to close off this zone, others might keep their dogs in a garage (as long as it has internal access), but many motorhomers will simply cover a sofa with a blanket or throw and that will be where the dog lies.

It's worth thinking about space for your dog when choosing a motorhome as some models and some layouts will have a lot more floor space than others – that could be crucial if you have a large dog or more than one pet!

Once you’re on site, to alleviate boredom in the motorhome, games like hiding a treat for the dog to sniff out or simply a few toys to play with will help.

Some motorhome companies (such as Hymer) offer specific dog accessories, designed to fit your vehicle.

Dogs on campsites

Managing your dog on a campsite

(Photo courtesy of Peter Vaughan)

Most campsites are dog-friendly, indeed that’s often a key reason for people choosing to go motorhoming. But remember that not every site allows dogs, and others limit the number of dogs per pitch, so check before booking. Most sites will require your dog to be on a lead at all times, while some will have an exercise area where they can run free and some will have dog showers.

When you arrive, your dog may be excited, so it’s often a good idea to walk around the campsite and to visit the dog walk area to familiarise your furry friend with its surroundings.

Often owners secure their dogs outside their motorhome, but check that you do not exceed maximum lead lengths for the site rules and that your dog cannot reach the neighbouring pitch or the campsite roads. Dogs should never be left secured outside the motorhome unattended and remember that excessive barking will annoy others on the site.

Dog-friendly motorhome hire

Find a dog-friendly rental motorhome

(Photo courtesy of Sharon Brown)

We always recommend hiring a motorhome before you buy your first home on wheels, to ensure that you choose the right size of vehicle and layout for you, but what if you want to take your dog on this exploratory trip, too?

Not all rental motorhomes allow dogs, but many hire fleets have some dog-friendly vehicles (check whether extra charges apply), and some platforms for hiring privately owned motorhomes (such as Goboony and Quirky Campers) offer a selection of vehicles in which your dog can go, too. Just remember that, if you don’t return the vehicle clean and tidy, you may be subject to extra cleaning charges to get rid of those muddy paw prints.

A quick Google search is all you need to find a pet-friendly rental vehicle in your area.

Dogs love motorhoming, and so will you!

Dogs love motorhoming

(Photo courtesy of Peter Vaughan)

Follow all our advice here and your dog will enjoy your home on wheels as much as you will. Taking a dog motorhoming is sure to get you talking to other dog owners and walking more to see the locality you’re visiting. Motorhoming and dogs make a perfect partnership.

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