How To: Travel with a dog in a campervan

Road Trip Dog

10 Things to know to take a road trip with a dog

So you want to know how to travel with a dog. While this article focuses on how to travel with a dog for a road trip in your campervan, a lot of it is also applicable to cars and camping so fear not – we should be able to help you out with any type of road trip with your dog. 

Road tripping in your camper with your dog is such a rewarding experience and little Miss Pooch gets to spend all day with her favourite people,  constantly explore new and exciting places and watch the world go by outside the van window.

However as with all things, a little preparation goes a long way to making the experience enjoyable for both you and the dog.

Once you’re done here you’ll be all set to take 5 Epic UK Road Trips with your best buddy in tow!

#1 travel with a dog in comfort and safety

So the first thing to consider when road tripping in the camper with Mister Fuzz is where will he travel safely and comfortably, and where can he relax when you’re not on the road.

We’d fully recommend a seat belt clip and a proper travel dog harness (we have a great one that we really recommend  – see below). 

That way if you have a bump he won’t be flying out of the windscreen or onto any passengers, and a proper dog harness will help disperse the forces imposed on him. This will hopefully keep him much safer than if all the force is exerted on his neck. While not pleasant to think about it is important.

Una wears a harness buckled to the seat belt and she’s happy to relax under the table no matter how long the drive is – we’re very lucky that she’s a good traveler. 

Of course not all dogs like to chill out for journeys so you need to work out where best works for your dog in your campervan.

Additionally it is important to think about where there will be space for a comfortable doggy snoozing space once you’ve parked up. So find somewhere nice and set up a bed if there’s space or some snugly blankets and cushions if not.

We use a tough and wipe-able bed for Una – great for transferring outside so that she can stubbornly lie next to it for when it’s nice enough to sit outside.

#2 Outdoor shower solution

washing the dog

Now let’s be real, if you live in the UK or any similar climate, we all know that our dogs love to get as wet, muddy and generally disgusting as possible when out on walks at the first (and last) possible opportunity. 

At home this isn’t necessarily a problem as most of us have worked out how to manage this to prevent mudpocalypse happening in the house.

However this requires a little forethought when on the road. We’ve found the answer to be two fold – an outside hose and an equafleece (see #7). Even if your van doesn’t have an outdoor (or even indoor) shower this is still very easily achievable. 

We used to use a little device to convert the tap into an adapter for an expandable hose. Easy. It’s not the most elegant solution and the water pressure out of the hose isn’t the best. But it works. The hose folds up into a neat little bag to be tucked away somewhere and it also doubles up as our hose to refill the water system.

We’ve recently switched and started using a Mud Daddy – check out our full review here

Then once cleaned off, crack out the equafleece to prevent wet dog shakes all over the van and to help warm up/dry off your little pal.

For more tips on winter travel check out how to keep warm in a campervan in the winter and our essential packing list for winter touring.

#3: Extra dog food

travelling with dog food

So this one needs to be decided on, on an individual basis. 

For us, Una does a hell of a lot more exercise and is generally alert for far longer when out in the van compared to at home. 

We’ve found that, particularly for longer trips, we try to feed her about 10% more than she normally gets at home. 

Of course some dogs won’t need this but we felt it was worthwhile mentioning. Particularly for those of you with high energy dogs that struggle to keep their weight up.

#4 Anti-spill travel dog water bowl

These things are magical. We used to be forever forgetting to empty the dog bowl before setting off on any journey, now we don’t need to. This little travel dog bowl prevents water spillages whilst moving, and it does work. Really, trust us.

#5: Outdoor dog tethers

Now once again all dogs are different, and people like to handle this one differently. There are many ways to secure your dog when sitting outside your van. While not all of them work for everyone, hopefully if you’re struggling then one of these methods will help you.

    A common one is to use a ground spike and a long line. Personally we’ve found that too often to ground is too hard to drive it in, or too soft to keep it in. We also find that this is an excellent way for tables to get knocked over when covered in food and drink. That said some people swear by these and so if you’re struggling and haven’t tried this yet then why not give it a go.

    Small folding travel dog crate, like this one. I guess this is probably a great solution for those of us with larger vans to store the travel dog crate and smaller dogs. We’ve personally never tried this but it looks like a good solution for the correct dog/van combo.

      For the more settled dogs out there, a simple lead tucked under the corner of a camping chair is plenty good enough – we do use this method from time to time when Una is tired and one so will remain sat for a period of time.

    A long line attached to the van in some way is what we normally do. Whether that be hooked through the door handle, or round the tow hitch usually works well.

Let us know if you have a different method that we haven’t covered above – we’d love to hear your success stories (and massive failures!)

#6: Dog Chews

We never really bother with chews at home as Una is pretty settled around the house in the usual routine. 

But I think some dogs get so stimulated being out and about in the van all day that sometimes they struggle to switch off a bit and relax. 

Chews are a great, natural stress reliever for dogs – plus it keeps them busy if you’re rushing around cooking before the rain arrives! 

Our favourite chews are nylabones (for Una – we’ve never tried them… we promise!):

#7: Dog coat & dog jumper

equafleece for dogs

Despite previously being sceptics about the usefulness of doggy apparel we humbly offer our apologies and beg forgiveness. Wet dog – stick it in a jumper, muddy dog – stick it in a jumper – no more muddy shakes in the van, house, pub or café.

Plus – equafleeces and/or coats are water resistant and so can also help prevent the dog getting in too much of a mess to start with, which is particularly useful if you just want to take them for a quick 10 minute walk and not have to spend 20 minutes afterwards washing them down. 

Una’s coat (below) is great as you can remove the fleece for those really wet but not too cold walks.

#8: What to do with you!

vandog

Sometimes, we can’t take our dogs with us to places we want to visit. And this sucks. While we fully endorse taking dogs everywhere that allows them we can understand why the “national museum of fine china, breakable ornaments and clean floors” don’t allow dogs.

So, what can we do about this when out in our camper? We don’t want to skip stuff purely because it isn’t dog friendly.

Well first things first, make sure that your dog is comfortable and happy being left alone in the van for medium lengths of time. Practice at home a few times to make sure this is the case. If your pal isn’t comfortable then you need to do some work to correct this. We don’t feel qualified to give out advice on how to do this but check out numerous dog behavioural resources online or speak to a qualified pet trainer. 

You obviously don’t want to be leaving them in the van parked in an insecure carpark with a dog barking the place down. Two things – this means your dog is stressed out and unhappy – not cool. Secondly, it advertises to the scum that are dog thieves that your van has an unattended dog in it – not ideal.

So, once you’ve ensured that your dog is happy to be left alone in the van, make sure it’s not too hot. If it’s too hot then sorry but you’ll just have to ensure that everything you do is dog friendly – part of the deal we’re afraid. This is one of the many reasons we love winter touring – our post about winter touring will be coming soon! 

We recommend when you do leave the dog – close the blinds to prevent prying eyes and crack the sunroof/leave the cab vents open.

#9: Security

Keeping your van safe and a deterrent for thieves is especially important if you’re leaving your little buddy alone in the van

This isn’t the place for a full on rundown on the various types and implementations of campervan security – but we do have a post for that.

However, here are few security ideas to get you started:

#10: The Best dog Walks!

Finally, yeah you know it by now, Go Explore! With Mister Mutt! You’ll all have a great time so get after it without delay as touring with your dog is surely one of the main reasons that we love what we do.

If you’ve got your pooch in tow then really you have no excuse not to really Go Explore!

jumping dog
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