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How To Do Van Life With A Dog: Our Complete Guide

The first thing to say here is, yes! Van life with a dog is not only possible, but it’s also one of the best adventures you can have with your furry friend.

The #VanLife just looks so much more fun with a pup, right?

That’s probably why a recent study by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) found that over 65% of motorhome owners bring pets on their trips with them.

If you’re wondering whether you could join their ranks and discover how to live in a van with a dog, then we’ve got you covered.

We’ll outline everything you need to know about smashing that dog vanlife. From determining which pooches are better suited to life on the road to where to put their bed.

Dog lies at the foot of the bed in a campervan overlooking the countryside

What Are The Benefits of Living in a Van With Your Dog?

Approximately 1 million Americans are now living that RV life full-time. Understandably, COVID had some part to play in that rising figure.

But for many pet owners, the thought of traveling around the country with their pup is the ultimate dream.

It’s also a very cute Instagram aesthetic too. But there’s more to this life than just piling cute snaps onto your grid.

Yes, there are several challenges (we’ll get to those), but there’s also a host of benefits to the poochy van life.

Benefits of Taking Your Dog Along For the Ride

So, what are those top reasons to get out there with Fido?

Unbreakable Bonds

As if it couldn’t get stronger, traveling with a dog deepens the bond between you and your pet. The shared experiences and constant companionship create an unbreakable connection.

Adventure and Freedom

Van life epitomizes freedom. With your dog by your side, you can explore new places, hike scenic trails, and enjoy the great outdoors without leaving your best friend behind.

Escape from Routine

It offers an escape from the monotonous daily routine. Van life provides a sense of adventure, spontaneity, and the opportunity to break away from the conventional lifestyle.

Stress Reduction

Dogs are natural stress relievers. Their presence and love can significantly reduce stress levels, making van life a therapeutic experience - you’ll probably also need that little stress ball at times when you’re on the road.


With a dog, you have the flexibility to choose pet-friendly destinations and cater to your dog's specific needs while on the road.

Which Dog Breeds are Best Suited To Van Life?

Whether you’ve already got your furry passenger or you’re trying to choose the best dog breed to travel with. It pays to do some research about which pups are better suited to life on the road.

However, that being said, sometimes it’s more about training and personality than simple genetics.

Before striking out with Fido, it’s best to consult a vet to ensure they are fit to travel. Plus, it’s also important to find the answers to these big questions before you go:

  • Do they suffer from car sickness?

  • Do they have an aggressive or reactive personality?

  • Are they normally good in the car?

  • Do they react well to new experiences?

  • Could you take them hiking if necessary?

  • Do they have good recall?

  • Are they potty trained?

Dog standing at the door of a yellow campervan. Photo by Norman Meyer on Unsplash

How to Live in a Van With a Dog: Our Top Tips

Now that you know more about the best types of pups for living on the road, why don’t we dive into some top tips for maximizing the good times on your cross-country canine odyssey?

1. Dog-Proof Your Van

First of all, you’re going to want to ensure that your van has enough room for you and your dog(s) to move around in. If you’re constantly living on top of each other, both of you are going to get frustrated pretty quickly.

Then, think about securing all loose items to prevent accidents or stressful situations for you and your pup during transit.

Installing features like window screens and barriers can also help keep your dog safe and prevent any escapology.

2. Plan Dog-Friendly Routes

The idea of doing things on the fly might go hand-in-hand with the vanlife. But your pooch won’t thank you.

Make sure to map out your routes before you leave. Plan in plenty of rest stops for bathroom breaks, walkies, food, and water.

Keep your eyes peeled for campsites and dog-friendly hotels along the way.

3. Stick to a Routine

As we alluded to above, pups are not great with spontaneity. Be consistent with your feeding, exercise, bathroom, and bedtime schedule.

4. Stay Safe

You’re going to want to practice good road safety out there. So, make sure to pick up your dog’s harness and seat belt. Or, if you’ve crate-trained them, use a secured crate as their spot while the vehicle is moving.

That crate can also act as a safe space during your trip. So, if your pup wants to get away from it all at any point, they have somewhere to retreat and relax.

5. Get Social

Allow your dog to get out there and meet other pups. The doggy campervan community is super friendly - that goes for the doggo’s too.

6. Keeping Your Dog Warm or Cool in a Van

One of the main challenges with acing the van life with your dog is keeping them at an ambient temperature.

Make sure you have properly insulated your van before setting off. But there are several other things you can do to regulate your dog’s temperature in the van:

  • Install air conditioning (if you haven’t got it already)

  • Invest in window covers

  • Install a roof fan vent for airflow

  • Make fresh water readily available

In addition, tools like DroneMobile are great for managing the temp of the van while you’re out.

How To Prepare a Dog For Van Life?

Those tips might have you thinking more about how to prepare you and the van for life on the open road.

But, before your tires even think about touching the asphalt, you should ensure your travel companion is comfortable. Let’s break down what you’re going to need to do to make the transition from home to the road as smooth as possible:

  • Health Check: Ensure your dog is in good health with updated vaccinations and preventive measures for fleas and ticks.

  • Behavioral Training: Address any behavioral issues through training, and reinforce basic commands for safety.

  • Familiarization: Let your dog explore the van gradually, making it a positive space with treats and toys. Then take them out on some practice runs, increasing the distance as they get more comfortable.

  • Exercise and Socialization: Prioritize exercise and socialization to build confidence and adaptability.

Essential Items to Pack For Vanlife With Your Dog

So, with all that in mind, what items should you definitely pack to ensure a great trip every time?

  1. Travel crate or harness

  2. Leash and collar

  3. LED light for their collar

  4. Identification

  5. Dog Bed or blanket

  6. Dog food

  7. Portable bowls

  8. Treats

  9. Dog first-aid kit

  10. Medications

  11. Health records

  12. Flea and tick prevention

  13. Grooming kit

  14. Poop bags

  15. Toys

  16. Dog boots or paw protectors

  17. Window screens

  18. Cleaning Supplies.

  19. Reflective gear

Can You Leave a Dog in A Campervan?

It’s fine to leave your dog in the van for 1 or 2 hours.

But that does depend on how well they cope on their own, whether they have access to fresh water, the outside temperature, and if there’s plenty of space for them to move around in the van.

However, leaving them for any longer than that is a no, no. And you didn’t craft this trip to think about leaving your dog on their own for long periods, right?

Lurcher dog sleeping on a bed in a campervan. Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash

Exploring National Parks With Your Campervan Dog

If you’re thinking of fitting your pups’ daily exercise into your trips to the National Parks along your route, you’ll need to know whether they’re dog-friendly or not.

Most parks limit dogs to paved areas like parking lots. However, there are exceptions, such as Acadia and White Sands National Park, where your dog can join you on many trails.

Visit the National Park Service website to check whether your park of choice is a green light or not.

Start Enjoying Your New Life On The Road Today

That’s it! You should now be pretty well set for acing your van life with a dog. Get out there and make those memories.

But, before you go, check out our guide on how to prevent car sickness in dogs. Don’t let a little upset stomach spoil your fun.


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