Newport Dunes Waterfront RV Resort and Marina offers everything an RVer would expect to find in one of Southern California’s most luxurious destinations, including bayfront RV sites, sailing and kayaking lessons, family activities such as movies on the beach Friday and Saturday nights and live entertainment.
It also offers the unexpected, including a dog-friendly restaurant called the Back Bay Bistro.
“If you want to have a Saturday or Sunday brunch at the bistro, you can bring your dog along,” Andrew Theodorou, the resort’s general manager, said of the restaurant, which makes its first floor available for guests to enjoy meals with their pets.
RVers are also pleasantly surprised when they discover the resort has a large dog-wash station, which was installed earlier this year. “People love it,” Theodorou said.
And while these kinds of dog-friendly amenities may sound a little out of the ordinary, privately owned campgrounds, RV parks and resorts across the country are increasingly investing in a variety of amenities to cater to people who travel with pets, particularly dogs.
Statistics show merit in taking this approach. A survey this year by Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) found that 40 percent of its campers said they were traveling with pets, according to company spokesman Mike Gast, citing a survey by Phoenix-based Precision Data.
RVers themselves are also requesting more pet-friendly features, prompting campgrounds to invest in amenities such as dog-walking areas and pet-wash stations.
Kit Fox RV Park in Patterson, Calif., recently added a 25-foot by 30-foot fenced dog run area that includes seating for pet owners, while the San Diego Metro KOA in Chula Vista recently completed a 7,200-square-foot dog park, complete with agility obstacle courses and ball play areas. Campland on the Bay in San Diego completed an off-leash dog park last year. “It’s a big hit,” said Michael Gelfand, president of Terra Vista Management, which operates the park. “It’s right on the waterfront.”
Independent campgrounds as well as parks affiliated with KOA and Jellystone Park chains are also increasingly offering special event weekends with pet-related activities, including pet costume contests and pet parades. The KOA in Harpers Ferry, W.V., planned a “Pet Olympics,” complete with a variety of pet agility competitions.
Some parks, of course, have not only been pet friendly, but have offered unique pet amenities for many years, which they continue to build upon.
Consider Four Paws Kingdom in Rutherfordton, N.C. The 40-site park, which sits on 34 acres, has eight separate dog parks, including a private dog park for people with dogs that “don’t play well” with other dogs.
“It’s one of the best additions we’ve ever made,” said Meik Bartoschek, who co-owns the park with his wife, Birgit. Other dog areas at Four Paws are designed specifically for big dogs or small dogs. They can also take a dip in the pond or creek and play in a dedicated agility field.
Four Paws does have restrictions on pit bulls, pit bull mixes and Rottweilers, due to “insurance company restrictions,” Bartoschek said.
However, MotorHome magazine found that parks’ restrictions are not uniform. Some parks, in fact, promote their willingness to accept any breed.
“We’ve had some of the sweetest pit bulls you’d ever want to meet in your life,” said Sandra West, co-owner of Edgewater Resort and RV Park in Kelseyville, Calif., adding that the only dog bite that ever took place involved a small poodle. They do ask that their customers’ pets be socialized, friendly and have no history of aggressive behavior.
Barbara DiPierre, co-owner of Crazy Horse Campground in Littleton, N.H., feels that pets are a part of the family and also accepts pets of any breed, as long as the owners bring proof that the pets have rabies vaccinations. “We feel that if they don’t give their dog a rabies vaccination, they’re not taking very good care of their pet,” she said.
DiPierre is also happy to report that she’s never had problems with big dogs. “In the 16 years we’ve been here, we’d had one person bitten and that was by a little dog,” she said.
But aside from the restrictions, it’s the amenities that keep pet owners coming back. Four Paws has a 90 percent return visitor rate, Bartoschek said.
West, of Edgewater Resort, said people love using her park’s beach area, which is open to dogs. They also come for special events, which include a “pet weekend” with a “hot doggie barbecue for people and pets,” as well as a dog trainer and a dog groomer.
Four Paws Kingdom has “dog days” every May, which feature training, lectures and seminars. “This year, we had a dog massage therapist and we did free Canine Good Citizen certifications with our campers,” said Bartoschek, whose wife, Birgit, is a dog trainer. “She gives free agility instructions on a regular basis,” he said.
But while parks are doing their part to accommodate RVers with pets, they also say it’s important for RVers to keep their pets on a leash, obey all rules and look after their pets.
“If you want to bring pets, you have to read the pet rules, and we ask people to pick up after their pets and not leave them unattended,” said West of Edgewater Resort. “We consider pets like children. If you don’t want to be with your pets, don’t bring them.”