Vanlife with your pup means the joy of not leaving your fur-baby behind when hitting the road for an adventure, but bringing your pup adds an additional layer of planning and considerations. Betty, aka @BettyBooInTheWild, has spent well over 30K miles traveling in our Tofino. She is a very anxious traveler so we have learned a lot about how to ensure our travels are as smooth as possible for everyone. In this “Tips From the Road” we are sharing ways to set yourself up for success when traveling with your dog.
6 Things to Research Before Road Tripping With Your Pet: Know before you go!
Weather: Knowing the forecast and historical averages of not only your destination, but points along the way is important for your pets safety. With no AC in the Tofino when we are parked, hot weather is a big concern. We drive during the day when we can have the AC running and try to arrive at our destination in the evening when it is cooler.
In the warm months a cooling vest can be essential and in cooler months bringing a warm jacket or sweater for your pup can make them more comfortable, especially when hanging outside. Ruffwear and Kurgo make great adventure ready products for dogs.
Bathroom Breaks: Again midday can be tough during the summer so finding rest-stops or gas stations with shade is essential. Check the pavement to make sure it will not burn their paws, if your pup is “dancing” from paw to paw chances are good the ground is too hot.
Air-Quality: While there may not be wildfires where you are staying, the impact of the fires can have far reaching impacts on the air quality. If the air quality is bad you should not only limit your cardio activity, but your pups too! The smoke and fire maps on airnow.gov are a great resource.
Pet-Friendly Destinations: Not all camping locations are pet friendly – be sure to check the pet policies before you book a spot. Trying to find a spot with shade is always a bonus, pup or no pup. Using websites like BringFido.com can be helpful in your research, many KOA’s offer their pet friendly Kamp K9 option. Boondocking? BLM and Forest Service land are great options.
Pet-Friendly Activities: While some places will let you camp with your dog, you may be limited in your exploration. For example, most National Parks will let you camp with a leashed pet, but you cannot go more than 100’ from the campground or road. This means no hiking or exploring the beauty of the park with your pup. On the other hand, BLM and National Forests are much more welcoming to dogs… we have even seen adventure cats on trails!
Thinking Outside the Park: Because of the pet restrictions at National Parks you can often find pet boarding or daycare options near the park entrances. This can be a great option for a dog already used to boarding or daycare.
4 Tips to Reduce Your Pet’s Anxiety While On the Road
We might find comfort in having our furry companion with us when traveling, but traveling can cause anxiety and confusion in your pup – this should be an important consideration in deciding whether or not to bring your pup. Betty loves adventuring and sleeping in our Tofino, but she is very anxious when we are driving. Here are some of the things we do to help alleviate her stress.
Bring familiar comfort items from home. Items could include a favorite blanket, bed, toys, crate (if already crate trained)
Treats to provide positive reinforcement. Make everything about the van positive and fun with rewards…getting in, settling in, when you leave and come back, this is especially important in the beginning,
CBD treats to take the edge off. We usually start giving these treats a day or two before we leave to give them time to work. Also this helps with the anxiety caused by watching us pack up the van.
Avoiding abandonment issues. Do not leave your pup alone for extended periods of time in the van, especially in the beginning and NEVER when it is hot out.
4 Ways to Create a Comfy Van Home for You and Your Pup
Designate a Spot: We use the space between the captain’s chairs for Betty’s bed… we appreciate this may not be an option for bigger dogs.
Water: There is always access to fresh water in her splash free water bowl. The only time it has spilled is when I’ve stepped on it – clearly not the bowl’s fault.
Dirt Management: Dirty dogs are the sign of a good adventure! Before hopping in the van we have a towel handy to wipe off first and water. We also make sure in addition to Betty’s cozy snuggle blanket, we use a waterproof pet blanket on our bed on top of our bedding.
Waste Management: How to take full poop bags with you when there is nowhere to throw it away… you can use an exterior magnetic poop holder which works great when there are no trailhead or roadside trash options. When hiking we repurpose a small tea or coffee tin that fits in the side pocket of our backpack – full disclosure we stole this brilliant idea from a friend.
Last, but not least, here is a checklist to use before you head out!
Pet Travel Checklist
- Food (enough for entire trip, unless you know you can get it on the road)
- Critter Proof Container for Food
- Splash Free Water Bowl
- Food Bowl
- Collar & Tags (with current contact info)
- Harness (optional)
- Poop Bags
- Poop Container (to pack it out)
- Pet Medical Kit
- Copy of Vaccination Records
- Vet Info
- Flea/Tick & Heartworm Medication (if needed)
- Supplements (optional)
- Prescription Medications (if needed)
- Dog Brush (optional)
Adventure & Comfort Items:
- Dog Bed
- Waterproof and Stain Resistant Blanket/Throw for Bed
- Snuggle Blanket
- Favorite Toys
- Collapsible Crate (if already crate trained)
- Cooling Vests (warm weather)
- Jackets (cool weather)
- Life-Jacket (for water activities)
- Hitch System and/or Long Lead for Camp
- Light for collar or harness
Saveria Tilden is the founder and CEO of AdventurUs Women a women-owned & led company dedicated to providing opportunities for women of all ages, races, sizes, backgrounds, and experience levels to learn new skills and try outdoor activities in beautiful locations. She is a Leave No Trace Master Educator, Wilderness First Responder, outdoor educator, and guide. Saveria is also a co-host of the Almost There Adventure Podcast. She loves being on the road in search of adventure in her Tofino!
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