More and more people are turning to life in a tiny house. Regardless of if yours has wheels or not, living in that small square footage takes some adjustment, especially with dogs. The realms of this lifestyle are forever expanding as more and more people are testing the limits.
Us, we are testing the limits by cramming five bodies into one van.
It is true that vanlife would be worlds easier without our three rascals. More space, less stuff, and the ability to go anywhere we choose without second thoughts. Our dogs do limit us, a lot, but they also add an unbelievable amount of happiness to our life.
We decided to let you in on the things we’ve learned about how to make life in a van more livable with your pup.
Crossing the border
When crossing the US Canada border with your dogs the only vaccination they care about is against Rabies. All you have to do is go to your vet and get the paperwork. They will give you a piece of paper with the dogs information along with a rabies tag and a sticker off the bottle they used.
If this is the first time your dog is getting its rabies vaccine it will last for one year. After that it will be every three years you have to redo it. It is a simple shot. Your dog will become docile the night of their shots but recover quickly. Use this time to shower them with treats and extra love.
Do you need a passport to go to canada?
Yes! You do.
Every time we cross we hand our passports along with the dogs paperwork. This significantly reduces the border wait times. We cross the border a lot and it is never an issue for us. The guards rarely check the piece of paper and have never made a big deal about the dogs.
Check out the ways we keep our dogs cool!
Leaving your pups
This is the only, and by far the biggest, negative of living in a van with dogs. As your van/bus/car becomes your home there is no safe place to leave your pup while you are gone.
This presents a problem at simple things like the grocery store as well as more crippling things like National Parks and must sees like Antelope Canyon. I’m going to be real, this is the hardest part of having dogs in a van.
Our recommendation: when getting your dogs their Rabies vaccine, get them vaccinated against a couple other common illnesses such as kennel cough so you can opt for some doggy daycare. Ask your vet about which vaccines kennels require to board them. That extra hundred dollars will be well spent ensuring you are not sitting beside the Grand Canyon without a way to go see it.
It may sound silly but giving our dogs a bedtime is CRUCIAL. This is mainly true when we have new people with us, or are having a fire and staying up well into the night. When our dogs get tired, they get grumpy.
We don’t have a time but it is easy to see when the pups are starting to bark or get grumpy. Putting them in the van gives them the safe place they need in order to go to sleep. They feel more comfortable and are able to make their own bed and relax. We load our bed and floor with blankets and pillows so they have the comfiest sleep possible.
Let them out, a lot
This is by far the best part of having a dog. On driving days or days where you find yourself in a cement heaven let your pups out, a lot.
For us this has been great and has helped us to see parts of the world we would otherwise have not seen. We have had some of our greatest experiences in areas where we never would have expected to go. We stopped to give the dogs a break and rounded a corner to be surprised by a crystal clear lagoon or met some amazing new people.
This is by far the best part of vanlife with dogs. They inspire you to get outside more.
I can’t tell you how important this one is. Our dogs are our best friends, we want to keep them safe. We spend almost all of our time in completely foreign areas in which our dogs don’t know. Our dogs are pretty used to it, but the longer we stay in a place the more confident they get and farther they stray. Even if we stay in a place for only a few minutes we make sure to bring out the dog beds for them to get comfortable.
We definitely free range parent more so than most dog owners. We let our dogs roam to their heart’s content as they have mastered the rules of not going on the road and not going out of sight (they know just how dependent they are on us). That isn’t to say something still can’t go wrong.
Not too long ago, we had a horrible day when our one pup Freckles chased a bunny and ended up getting stuck or lost. We lost him for about 9 hours. The whole time we spent scouring our desert landscape thinking only the worst. We notified animal shelters and anyone we thought could help us.
It was an absolute nightmare. That reaffirmed that despite how good your dogs are, accidents happen and it is so unbelievably crucial to work hard to avoid them.
We have our dogs have a microchip and tattoo with their all of our information on their dog tag. We make sure that their collars are always on (except our lab who gets skin reactions – she’s micro-chipped though) and their info is up to date.
Our bed is not that big. When you couple that with three dogs that like to cuddle, you are left with no room to move. Roxy is a spooner. She lays length-wise like we do. Freckles likes to find a space near our legs while Bella usually sits on our head. Right before we go to sleep we like to spend some family time. We usually watch a movie or TV show with the dogs on the bed.
But when it comes time to actually sleep we rearrange the dogs. Our front passenger seat swivels and faces backwards. This has quickly become Freckle’s favourite spot. We put a blanket on the floor, with two pillows under it, for Roxy. Bella is small enough that she can fit on the bed with us. She doesn’t usually sleep on the floor since she thinks she needs four times the room she actually needs. Even though we have a lot of bodies we make it work.
When it gets really cold we bring the dogs on the bed for safety. We’ve slept in some frigid temperatures where the dogs needed to stay warm. When this happens Freckles and Bella end up under the covers near our feet while Roxy assumes her spoon position. It keeps us all warm and safe.
Road tripping with dogs has added endless rewards to our life and with these tips it can in yours too. Let us know how you find traveling with your dogs in the comment section below.
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