Living The Van Life With Dogs

Living The Van Life With Dogs

Posted by Jayme Serbell on 9th July 2018

Hi there! We’re Jayme and John from Gnomad Home, and for the past year we’ve been living the #vanlife in a self-converted camper van with our two dogs (we just recently lost our amazing dog, Crow, who lived to be 17, so for a long time we lived with three dogs!).

What’s that you say? You live in a van?
With two dogs?!

This is a common reaction we get when we tell
people about our lives. While there are plenty of challenges to life on the
road with dogs, we think the joy of seeing our best friends explore the world
and be themselves is more than worth any difficulties.

If the idea of living and traveling in a van
full-time sounds great but you’re not sure if you can bring your dog - or if
you’re already living van life and are thinking about inviting a furry friend
into your home - then we’re here to tell you that van life with dogs is not
only totally possible - it’s a lot of fun!

Our Canine Van Life

As we said, we now have two dogs - Nymeria (3),
Delilah (7). Before we sold all our
belongings and moved into a van, we were engulfed in our 9-5 lives in the
suburbs when we finally got fed up with watching our dogs stare longingly out
the front window all day.

We just knew they were meant for more adventures
than neighborhood walks and frisbee in the backyard. We had seen them off leash
before in wild areas, and we had watched them turn from caterpillar to
butterfly with big smiles on their faces. We knew we couldn’t keep them from
that any longer. “Let’s sell everything and travel the continent in a van,” we
said. “Then they can always run in the wild!”

But how do we make life work in a van with two dogs? Doesn’t that get a little wild and crowded?

The brief answer is yes, at times - but not at
all as much as you would think. We try to live outside of the van as much as
possible. The van just holds all our belongings and our big comfy queen-sized
bed that we cuddle up on at night. Most of the time, you’ll find us running
between trees or splashing in a nearby river.

Here are some tips and tricks of ours to make
life on the road with dogs much easier.

Reinforce Basic Training

This is probably the most important tip. Basics
like sit, stay, and come are vital for life on the road. But it’s also a good
idea to heavily reinforce certain commands.

For example, we’ve taught our dogs to never exit
the van until we give them permission. This is helpful when we find ourselves
in parking lots, gas stations, or anywhere near busy roads. This means we can
have the doors to the van wide open and know that our dogs will not try to make
a grand escape and run around like wild animals.

We’ve also heavily reinforced coming when
called. We enjoy letting our dogs adventure off leash, and we need to know that
they’ll come back to us when we need them to. Making sure to give them treats
and plenty of praise whenever they come back is a terrific way to reinforce
this behavior.

Choose Your Travel Route
Based on Your Dogs’ Comfort

You won’t find us in Alaska in January, nor will
you find us in South Florida in July. We tend to stay in the areas with cooler
temps, because two dogs, two humans, and one van can lose a lot of its joy
and magic when we’re all dripping in the discomforts of extreme heat.

We also have some methods for making the van
bearable in extreme heat. We have a ventilation fan for airflow, reflective
window coverings to keep the sun’s heat out of the van, an ample supply of
water, and cooling towels for our dogs. We also try to camp in shady areas near
rivers and lakes.

But ultimately, we try to restrict our travel to
areas where the temperature tends to be lower. Before heading to a new
location, we scout out all our temperature possibilities and see what seems
most appetizing for us all to be comfortable instead of miserable.

Seek Out Epic Dog Parks
Wherever You Are

There are some truly awesome dog parks out there
and scoping them out is a wonderful gift to give your dog. Not only will they
get a ton of exercise, they’ll also be able to socialize with other canines. All
this stimulation will get them nice a tired, and, as we like to say, a tired
dog is a happy dog.

We’ve been to some epic dog parks, from a
135-acre wilderness dog park nestled in the mountains outside of Santa Fe, NM,
to Portland, OR’s famed 1000-acre dog park.

Create a Storage Area
Just for Your Pups

When you live in a small space, it’s easy for
things to get messy and disorganized. That’s why we have designated storage
spaces for everything, including our dogs’ stuff.

Building dedicated dog storage was one of those
random ideas we had when building our van, but it’s really become a handy
feature. We built a storage box that we mounted on one of our side doors, and
it holds everything from leashes, toys, food, medications, and more. It’s a fantastic
way to keep their items organized, and also keep the rest of the van much

Make Sure You Have
Vaccination and Vet Records Organized and Accessible

You never know when you’ll need to run to a vet
and having your dogs’ records on hand really smooths the process of visiting a
new location. As well, if you need to board your dog with a sitter for a day or two,
you may need to provide vaccination records.

Go Out and Give Your Dog
a Life of Adventure!

Day-to-day, van life with dogs isn’t all that
different than living in a house with dogs. Our daily routine is very similar.
We still go on a walk or hike in the morning and evening. We squeeze in rounds
of fetch or tug-of-war in between our work schedule. And we cuddle hard in our
bed every evening.

But taking them on the road gives them so many
more places and opportunities to adventure and explore. We’ve never seen them
with bigger smiles than when they’re running and sniffing around a new wild

The minor headaches we are faced with when it
comes to traveling with our dogs pales in comparison to the amount of joy and
happiness that shines across their faces every single day that we’re on the
road. Our pups are finally living up to their true wild nature, and they thank
us every day with the most elaborate kisses and cuddles!

John and Jayme of Gnomad Home love traveling, adventures, new experiences, and finding the joy in life. They don’t love being tied down or squeezed into "little boxes," which is why they decided to sell everything and travel the country with their dogs and their van. Follow their adventures at

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