Wolf's Motorhome Modifications

... and Other Stuff

Taking Pets Camping



Beautiful Puppies (30182 bytes)I can't imagine camping without our dogs.  They give us a reason to go find parks.  They get us out walking.  They appreciate going to the store with us.  That's a lot more than I can say for the rest of the family, especially my teenagers.

There seems to be a large percentage of our camping population who unstake "Brutus" from their back yards and stake him out at the campsite.  You can see Brutus coming.  He's probably crated.   They have to feed him by pushing bowls of food at him with sticks.  He barks all the time.  He lunges.  For some reason, there are so many of these dogs in the summer.


The Ground Rules

You have to:

Obedience Training

You don't need a UDX rating on your dog.  A UDX is a very high rating won by a dog through competitions set up by the American Kennel Club.  You do need to control your dog.

The best campground dogs are part of the family.  That means the dog is actually in the family hierarchy somewhere.

Our Irish Wolfhound (IW) thinks of herself as a functioning member of our family somewhere between my older daughter and younger son.   She eats when we eat, tries to sleep on the bed and wants to go with us when we leave.  She has the run of the house and the motorhome.

We also have a poodle who weighs in at 7 pounds.  Due to the IW attaching herself to me, we had to get a dog for the wife.

A good first sign of a bad dog is that the dog is crated unless staked outside.   Not part of the family!

There are many resources now available through books and the Internet on dog training.   One of the best is "clicker training".  It's amazing.  If I can teach an old Irish Wolfhound how to jump over or under a stick within five minutes, you can teach Brutus to behave himself!  Search for "clicker training"!

I've never had a barker but many friends report success with barker collars and barker stoppers.  The collars give the dog a short electrical jolt every time it barks.  They report it's one of those tools that you use for a week, cure the problem and then store for the next dog.  Same with the stoppers.  The stopper gives the dog a blast of high frequency noise every time the dog barks.  This is unpleasant and the barking stops.

Leaving a Dog

Never, ever, ever stake a dog out and leave it.  What trouble you're asking for!

When we leave our dogs, we do a number of things to prepare.  First, we make sure we walk them, especially if we're going to be gone for a long time.  The shades come down and we put the air conditioner fan on.  That both provides circulation and noise cancellation.  The air is set to come on to keep things cool.

They don't bark nor do they care what's going on outside.  If you were to knock on the door, they would crab at you.  Short of that, you won't hear them.

I would not leave them in the summer without the air conditioning.  We almost always, when stopping on the road, start the generator to provide air.   Motorhomes heat up fast.  They also get quite warm after parking due to residual engine heat.

I also wouldn't leave them without a fan.  I'm not talking about a bathroom fan.   I'm talking about a fan like a "Fantastic" that will suck a toupee or hair piece off when someone walks under it.  Set up with a thermostat, these fans provide excellent ventilation should the air fail.  Leaving the vent and a window open, the fan will kick on automatically and provide more than enough air.  I have two.

I have an excellent alarm system.  I doubt I would leave the dogs without it.  However, if you really want to steal a 157 pound IW that will first attempt to keep you from invading her domain, have at it.  IWs go for the neck.  She needs 10 to 15 cups of high protein dog food a day (it's on the shelf marked "rocket fuel" ).  She poops twice that (which makes me wonder what else she is eating).  When she gets sick, you don't mop it up with a napkin.  Her vet bills seem to be triple the little poodle's bill.  Ever give a 7 foot tall, 170 pound dog a bath?  Dog napping is more urban legend than fact.  It happens, but rarely.  Still, I've my alarm.

We've never seen a reason to use crates.  We don't "store" our dogs when we're not at home and we don't store our dogs when in the motorhome.

Desensitizing Your Dog to Dogs and People

For some reason, there is always a contingent at the campground that seem to need to introduce their dog to your dog.  As mentioned before, my dog doesn't think of herself as a dog.  As far as she's concerned, she really doesn't want another dog sniffing her butt.  Luckily, they normally ask, "Is your dog friendly?"   I just tell people my dog just doesn't like her butt sniffed and sometimes tells other dogs about that preference.  Normally the get the hint and pull Muffy back.

Kids will come up and hug your dog.  If that's a problem, you better leave Brutus in the crate.

You need to desensitize your dog to having other dogs and people around.  This is easier than it looks.  Spend a couple of weekends at an http://www.akc.org dog show.  Watching the confirmation trials is fun but the real fun is in watching the obedience trials!  Before long, Brutus will not have a problem with other dogs and crowds of people.  I've never competed in shows but all my dogs have spent many a weekend at shows and are better for it.

Rehoboth Beach, DE:  I Got Bit!

There was a clown with a very large and expensive rig.  He really was a clown; he worked for Barnum and Bailey Circus.   On the front of his motorhome was a sign:  Beware of Attack Dog.  Outside, chained to a stake, was the guard dog, a doberman pincer.

I was walking with my daughter in a backpack.  My wife was walking with my son in a backpack.  I was walking my golden retriever.

We were committed to passing by the time we saw the dog.  Unfortunately for us, the doberman broke the chain in a lunge and tried to attack my golden.  I got in the middle and took a bite on the upper leg.  I learned some things from this.

OUCH!  (57218 bytes)First, Boppo the Clown (or whatever his name was) was of no help.  He and the wife were inside, half tanked, watching TV.  It was up to ONLY me to end the confrontation.  To end the confrontation required me to escalate my use of force to above that which the doberman was using.  Pushing and shoving doesn't help.  Only you are going to end such a confrontation and you might have to kill the dog.

Second, the Rehoboth Beach police were useless.  I would have liked to put Boppo into a situation where was he hesitant to take his dog camping.  Delaware has enough laws to do that.  Unfortunately, the dispatcher refused to send a car until I demanded it.  Then they sent the runt of the litter.  He took a report but didn't know how to charge a suspect.

Third, the campground was spineless.  They wouldn't do more than yell at Boppo and make him promise to keep his attack animal inside.  There were quite a few circus workers they wanted to keep in the park.

Looking back and knowing what I know now, I should have taken the police problem up the chain of command.  With respect to the campground owners, they were as young as we were and we didn't push the issue as we might have.  Boppo was doing some advertising on the side of his motorhome and I might have had cause to complain to Ringling Brothers.

Isolated Case?

This might be an isolated case.  It happened in 1985.  I do have other cases where the pepper spray was effective at communicating to an owner that I wasn't kidding.

Just look around at any mid-summer campground that allows dogs.

On the camping trip just before writing this, in August of 1998, there was a family down the lane who had a doberman who was barely in control.  I cock the trigger every time I see a doberman, even now.  They stopped by to chat.  Turns out the doberman is quite uppity.  To quote them, "He sure behaves better after long walks!".  The family rescues dobermans from people who can't handle them.   See any red flags?  I sure do.  Here is a family that is harboring a psychologically butchered animal they acknowledge they can't handle and they brought him to a family campground that had many very small children.  Jeeeeeesh!

What I Do Now

I carry pepper spray and at first sight of an unleashed dog it comes out of its case to the ready.  In Canada I carry a walking stick with a sharp end.

Campground That Don't Allow Pets

The state parks in Pennsylvania and Florida are among the state parks that don't allow pets.  Very few commercial parks prohibit pets.  Those that have size restrictions will ignore them when they see either your money or a credit card.

As for us and our money, we won't patronize parks that don't allow pets.

There ARE Rules!

The following has been adapted from an anonymous posting on the Internet:

1.  The dishes on the floor with the paw prints are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Please note, placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

2.  The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Beating me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn't help, because I fall faster than you can run.

3.  I cannot buy anything bigger than a king size bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue to sleep on the couch to ensure your comfort. Look at other dogs and cats sleeping. They can actually curl up in a ball. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other stretched out to the fullest extent possible. And sticking tails straight out and hanging tongues out the other end to maximize space used is nothing but sarcasm. When I move, it means go someplace else, not switch positions so you are still in the way.

4.  For the last time, there is not a secret exit from the bathroom. If by some miracle I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge and try to pull the door open. I must exit through the same door I entered. In addition, I have been using bathrooms for years; canine/feline attendance is not mandatory.

5.  The proper order is kiss me, then go lick your butt. I cannot stress this enough. It would be such a simple change for you.

Rules for Non-Pet Owners Who Visit and Like to Complain About Our Pets:

1. They live here. You don't

2. If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture.

3. I like my pet a lot better than I like most people.

4. To you, it's an animal. To me, s/he is an adopted son/daughter who is short, hairy, walks on all fours and doesn't speak clearly.

5. Dogs and cats are better than kids. They eat less, don't ask for money all the time, are easier to train, usually come when called, never drive your car, don't hang out with drug-using friends, don't smoke or drink, don't worry about buying the latest fashions, don't wear your clothes, don't need a gazillion dollars for college, and if they get pregnant, you can sell the results.

An Aside

This was posted to rec.outdoor.rv-travel by Dick (& Geri) Campagna, Mt Laurel NJ  campagna@nothinbut.net

Dear Abby reported that the following sign was seen framed, above the registration desk, in a small hotel:

"Dogs are welcome in this hotel.  We never had a dog that smoked in bed and set fire to the blankets.  We never had a dog who stole our towels, played the TV too loud or had a noisy fight with his traveling companion.  We never had a dog that got drunk and broke up the furniture.  So if your dog can vouch for you, you're welcome, too."

A campground owner could post the following above the registration desk:

"Dogs are welcome in this campground.  We never had a dog that left a campfire burning.  We never had a dog who shoplifted from the camp store. Although SOME dogs bark too much, none have played the TV or radio too loud or sped their car or truck through the campground.  We never had a dog that got drunk (despite prohibitions against alcoholic beverages) and resisted arrest.  Although dogs pee and poop on the ground, owners usually clean up after them . . . regardless, we've never had a dog pee or poop in the pool, or leave pull tabs and cigarette butts all over the place.  And we've never had a dog stop up the campground's sewer system with discarded sanitary napkins, etc.  So if your dog can vouch for you, you're welcome, too."   

Return to Motorhome Index     email.gif (5698 bytes)      Email Steve Wolf, W8IZ