Based on the many questions I’ve seen online, the lack of resources or available information, and my own search for answers, my guess is many people who are interested in van life or some variation of it, are curious as to how they can do it with their dogs. Especially for people who want to live in a vehicle while continuing to work full-time, this is one of those things that can be a deal breaker for trying out the nomadic lifestyle. Every dog is different and everyone’s situation is different. From my own experience I could not and would not have attempted living on the road without Jax. Since I adopted him he makes me feel safer than I do on my own. So it’s important to dog owners to figure out how to keep their pups comfortable in what can be a very small and uncomfortable space.
I worked part-time and full-time while we lived in the car so my biggest saviour was doggy daycare. Today there are services like Rover, which recently merged with DogVacay, is available in most cities so even if there aren’t brick and mortar businesses around. I had a lot of bad experiences with Rover (a lot of people get their dogs when they’re puppies and therefore have no idea what to do with a rescue dog that doesn’t just love and snuggle every human being he comes into contact with) and so when I started work with Avid4 I went back to using a physical dog daycare business. While it was a little more expensive than Rover, I never got messages or calls saying, “he’s barking and my roommate is mad” or “he doesn’t like m guests” or just anything that dealt with people’s personal crap. The owner, Steve at Planet Canine in San Rafael, understood Jax and he never made Jax do anything he didn’t want to do. Perfect.
One thing we did that helped with being in small quarters was going on a run or long hike every morning. Before I started at Avid4, we would begin every day by going on a 5+ mile hike or a run if there weren’t any dog-friendly trails around. That way he had expelled all energy for the morning and would relax for the rest of the day. It would give me time to do some deliveries or job hunt without having to worry about whether or not he was bored or feeling confined to the back of the car. Luckily California has trails everywhere and we both got something out of the routine.
Trying to live van life in the city while working is hard and adding a dog is another degree of difficulty but you have to figure out what works for you and what makes your dog comfortable. It’s worth it to have your best companion with you but each dog is different and so you need to get creative and find what works for your little family. Fortunately I haven’t ruined cars for Jax, despite all the difficulties. He still looks forward to going for a drive and he settles in once he sees we are on a highway. He knows that getting into that car with me will always be an adventure. And he will always be down to do whatever I have planned.
As long as it’s not a trip to the vet.