Tips for Traveling with a Dog in a Van/RV
Updated: Sep 20, 2019
I post a lot of pictures of my travel and in a lot of my pictures people can see that I travel with an adult doberman a lot so I get a lot of question about how I travel with her in a van, do I leave her in there, do I mountain bike with her, and what do I change about the van for her. So I thought I would make a guide of things I have learned about traveling with her.
First off if there is a chance of one device failing and putting her in harm I wont take that chance. That means I would not leave her in the van with the AC running (engine running in my case) without a remote monitoring system. Police K9 units have some of the best monitoring systems/cooling systems and even those lead to death on rare occasions. So relying on just an A/C system by itself is not an option for me.
I do mountain bike with her a lot, where allowed. When I don't she does stay in the van, but for that to happen certain criteria have to be met:
1. Ambient outside temperature has to be acceptable
2. Two fans running non-stop with enough reserve power for them
3. Plenty of water available to her that wont spill
4. Windows of vehicle covered (for heat and anxiety)
5. Signs stating dog is in vehicle with water
1. If the van is in the shade this number changes, for me its usually around 80 degrees, but that depends on humidity and sunlight. This is my "if everything fails" number. If its 70 degrees, but the van is in direct sunlight and everything fails the time frame I would leave the van drops drastically.
2. My van is equipped with a MaxxFan in the roof that exhausts air based on temperature. If she is in the van I just set it on high in exhaust mode. The front two windows of my van are vented with these really cool window vents that keep the van secure, yet vented. Also I picked up this 12vdc fan at a truck stop and love it for forcing air from the front vents towards the back of the van. Its pretty powerful.
3. For water I have used a few things. The one I like is rather large, 3 gallon water bowl, but would be hard for her to knock over and holds plenty of water. You can use a small bowl, but keep in mind if the dog knocks it over then there is no water for her.
4. I also cut window shades out of Reflixtic material and use suction cups to hold them in place. I have a passenger van so there is a lot of windows. There are two reason for this. First is obviously the heat blocking. A lot of heat comes in through my windows and this stuff does a great job of blocking it. Secondly, for the dogs anxiety. If you have certain breeds, like a doberman, they tend to go into patrol mode and can't relax if they are on alert for every passing person/dog. With all the windows blacked out she relaxes much easier and is always fast asleep when I return to the van. If you dog has separation anxiety I imagine this would help also and may even consider a smaller living area for the dog within the van. Mine prefers the bed, but others may not. Also with both fans running on high it creates a soothing environment for her and rarely does she bark or show any signs of anxiety.
5. Lastly, and this seems to be overlooked a lot, is a sign stating that there is a dog in the vehicle, the vehicle is climate controlled, and the dog has plenty of water. This is very important I feel to prevent people from "rescuing" your dog. I have been traveling a lot with her and have yet to have an issue or anyone raising concern for her being in there. I had my sign made at FedEx/Kinkos and laminated it to make it look even more professional. Another important thing to list on the sign, that many people misinterpret, is that barking is not a sign of distress. I have a doberman, she is protective and will bark aggressively if someone gets close to the van or tries to enter the van... and at the occasional passing dog. This is not her in distress, this is her being protective of the van and I think that is also important to include on the sign.
I have done a lot of traveling with a dog in my camper van with no issues. Sometimes you miss out of something if its too hot or you have to take turn sitting with her. It is definitely a sacrifice to bring a dog, but there are a ton of benefits too. You just have to know your dog. Mine loves long trips and can chill in the van for long periods of driving with no issues. Some dogs cannot, which is something you need to know before embarking on a long trip.
Remote Monitoring Systems: I have yet to find one that I like, but I am in the market for one for my van. The monitoring is not the issue, but the communication is. Most systems rely on cell service, which both cost money (monthly fee) and is unreliable in a lot of the locations I go. There are a lot of options out there, but many are extremely costly. As I am not relying on an AC system to keep my dog cool it is not as important to me. If there is a complete failure of my setup she will be fine for the amount of time I leave her. That being said a monitoring system would give more peace of mine.
Here are a few options on the market for remote temp monitoring:
-Temp Stick - Requires WiFi for sensor and cell for receiver (cell phone) which may work if you park near WiFi or have a hotspot. Device is $150
-RV Pet Safety - Uses 4G for sensor and receiver (cell phone), 12 months free than $15 a month after that. Which may be fine if you could just pay for the 1-2 months you are traveling. Device itself is $300
-Sensorlife by MarCell - multi-use sensor (temp/humidity and additional probes) that plugs into 120vac and has built in battery. Sensor uses cell network ($15 a month) and receiver is internet or cell phone. Device is $200
-King Pigeon 3G Temp Alarm - Uses SIM card from cell service provider (Verzion, ATT, T-Mobile). It uses cell network (3g/4g) to send SMS alerts and you can make a phone inquiry into the current temp. Device cost is around $110 and you can get a T-Mobile SIM card for $10 and get a pay as you go plan for $3 a month. This would allow 30 messages a month or $0.10 a message after that. So as long as you don't get more than 30 alerts or inquires a month you would be fine and you can load the SIM card with extra money in the event you get more alerts.
Products I use for traveling with a dog:
Coming Soon: Tips for Mountain Biking with a Dog