Can I hire a dog friendly campervan?
Posted on 15th November 2020 at 17:02
100% you can - it's the ultimate dog friendly holiday
In our experience dogs love to travel, especially in campervans, as it keeps them super close to their human pack all the time.
We get asked lots of questions about taking dogs away in our campervans so we thought we'd try and summarise some top tips into a blog for you. It's a long one, get yourself a brew and cuddle up with the pooch!
You should also bear in mind that the photo is my dog, Winston in the back of one of our vans, he's a 30kg Hungarian Wire Haired Vizsla and he stands to my thigh so my perspective on space, and dog safety are shaped and contexted around a pretty big dog.
Lots of people ask us how to travel with a large dog and really, a campervan is ideal!
1) How can my dog travel safely in a campervan?
Here's the legal bit. So the same laws apply to animals travelling in vans as they do in cars. Rule 57 of the Highway Code states: “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”
There's mixed opinions on whether a dog should travel in the front of the van. If your pawfriend is small and happy to just sleep in the footwell of the van that might be ok.
Possibly even having him on a front seat in a harness might be ok but ultimately that isn't my decision or even yours...... it'll boil down to the opinion of the police officer who pulls you over.
Our advise is don't do it!
If I gave Winston the chance to sit in the front he'd be bolt upright surveying the landscape for pheasants through the windscreen!
Which means I'd not be able to see through the passenger window whilst at junctions and I'd not be able to see through the passenger side wing mirror either. A big no-no for us.
I put Winstons bed in the space behind the front seats as it stops him sliding around and I attach him, via a harness, to a seat belt fastening. From there he can see me, hear me and he can rest his nose on my elbow between the seats in true Velcro Vizsla style.
Please, please, please do not attach your dogs collar to a seat belt fastening: even a partial emergency stop or swerve would result in a sharp jerk to the neck causing spinal damage or a broken neck.
Harnesses are easy to purchase and a member of staff in a pet store will be happy to help measure you pawfriend up for a well fitting harness.
Crates or carriers are a good option: I can fit a Winston size crate in the back of the van easily if I needed to.
Ours folds flat so it can be stored under the van when we aren't on the move or I can store it in one of our inflatable tents or awnings. It will definitely need to come out of the van though so that I can get into the fridge for that all important first cold beer.
2) Where does everyone sleep?!
So there's space for two Winstons to sleep on the floor in the rear of the van with the rear seats in their upright position.
And when you pull the seat into the double bed position it then overlaps the floor area rather than eating into it......it's kind of creating a crate type space of the floor area. So there is still enough space for two Winstons to lie down but less space for them to sit or stand.
If you want to let the dogs have the whole of the downstairs floor space then the pop up roof converts into a penthouse for you - there's room for two adults to sleep up top if you like cosy!
Depending on the type of holiday you want to do then taking an inflatable tent or awning creates a lot more space alongside your van. The tents have two double sleeping pods on them which make for great dog hostels with or without a crate in them.
Lots of options to suit different numbers of human and animal travellers and we are always happy to advise you on what will work best for you and where to start if this is your first time in a campervan.
3) If this is the first time you've travelled with your dog.....
Winston needing no coaching to become a fully fledged van dog but even he started out life as a travel sick young pup, he just grew out of it.
If your pawfriend hasn't done much travelling then we recommend you start by trying him in your car or on public transport before you commit to a campervan holiday.
If travel sickness has persisted beyond the first year of pupdom then it's probably worth a chat with your vet to see if they can suggest something that will help align your itch to travel with your pups needs.
Like I say, Winston grew out of the travel sickness but not until he was about 9 months old so it may be that a little bit of patience is needed.
We do offer short term rentals (mid week is cheaper!) so it might also be a good idea to hire a van, take it home and just do some day trips out in the van with the journeys getting increasingly longer.
If it's anxiety that's making your dog poorly then helping him to associate fun walks and play time with the van might help ease that.
- Always take his favourite toys and bed in the van so that he has some familiar smells and home comforts with him.
- After a walk and some play time make yourself a brew using the van kitchen, kick back and read a book with some dog cuddles thrown in.
We reckon you'll soon turn an anxious pup into one that thinks that van life is brilliant.
We can also recommend some campsites that are less than an hour from our base that have truly excellent access to dog walks so if you wanted to enjoy some quality dog time without a long driving trek then get in touch, we can definitely help with that!
4) What do I need to take?
Some things are obvious, others a little less so and we are happy to lend you the less obvious ones free of charge!
Food. Can you imagine forgetting the dogs food?!?!?!?!? Winston is raw fed but when we are in the van I use a pre-packaged wet food that doesn't need to be refridgerated and top it up with eggs and other raw food. I can get about 7 days of raw 'top-up' food in the onboard fridge and still have plenty of room for my own food (and wine).
Things move about in the van when you are travelling so if you use dried food then make sure you've got a bull dog clip to seal the bag or put the bag inside a bag else you might find yourself picking dog kibble out the cupboards and into the dog bowl!
Other obvious things: short lead, long lead, lots of poo bags, collar, whistle, toys, sunscreen, cooling mat, fold flat water bowl, bed, towels. medication, insurance details.
The less obvious things which we can loan to you:
First aid kit: there's a first aid kit as standard in the van that can be used for both human and animal purposes.
Buddy wash: essentially this is a plastic water container with a manual pump on it that means the water travels down a hose and can be used as a shower to wash mud off your dog. This goes everywhere with me......it really is a life saver!
Dog tether: A piece of metal shaped like a corkscrew which you screw into the ground. You can then attach your dogs lead to the bit protruding from the ground giving the ability to roam a little bit free around the van without you having to watch his every move and whilst also complying with normal camp site requirements to keep dogs under close control.
Fold up paddling pool: On hot sunny days you need to be able to keep pawfriend nice and cool. An inflatable paddling pool will last minutes with dog claws so feel free to borrow our fold up one. Covid rules mean that campsites have installed more taps on their sites to avoid cross contamination, often one per pitch, so these days a water supply is readily to hand but please use it sparingly.
I keep everything dog related in a plastic box in the van, it keeps everything in one place and keeps it all dry.
5) Can I leave a dog alone in a van?
It's no different to a car. Never, ever leave your dog inside a van on a warm or sunny day: it will get hot really quickly in the van and your dog can dehydrate and die in the van in minutes.
Beyond that you need to use your judgement.
Winston, being a Velcro Vizsla rarely leaves my side, he even has to accompany me to the toilet! But I know I can leave him in the van whilst I pop into a shop and he'll be absolutely fine yet I still wouldn't plan to do this unless he'd already been thoroughly walked first.
- an anxious dog
- a dog that hasn't had all their energy burnt off
- a dog that needs constant attention
- a dog that is being teased by a cruel passerby or
- a pup that's teething
can very quickly make light work of seatbelts, seat belt locks, handles, gearsticks, seats, cupboard doors, curtains, steering wheels, indicator sticks and the contents of the bin.
Now, none of these things digest particularly well so you could all too easily find yourself in search of an emergency vet and a taxi to get you there if the gearstick is no more.
Once we know pawfriend is safe and well, you might then be calling your holiday short because the van is no longer safe to drive or carry passengers. Included in the hire is RAC cover so they will cheerfully recover you back to base to assess the damage.
We want all of our cients to have an amazing CamperHoliday and it's tempting to think these things don't happen but, trust us, campervan owner groups are full of photos of dogs who have been charged and found guilty of these offences!!
So, if it's a dog friendly holiday you are after, then we suggest lots of dog walks to tire him out, dog friendly pubs when you eat out, or fish 'n' chips on a seawall so that your pup can lap up being fully in your company and you don't need to give a second thought to the mischiefs he might be creating in the van!
6) Other top tips that spring to mind
Beaches are great for dog holidays, so much space for your dog to run around but do check, especially in summer, that dogs are permitted on beaches. It's not uncommon for touristy areas to ban dogs from beaches from Easter through to October.
Remember as well that dogs should be on short leads when walking across farmland to protect both crops and livestock. This just doesn't work for a busy working breed like Winston so I avoid public footpaths across farmland and seek out forestry commission sites and woodland walks instead.
Think about other people too. If your dog is protective of you and barks at every passerby then perhaps ask the campsite if they can tuck you away in a corner pitch that's away from the toilet block, that way there will be fewer people walking by for your dog to protect you from. Winston isn't a barker but he's a big dog who stands tall and alert and I whilst I know he's a gentle giant I have to respect the fact that both children and adults can find him intimidating so in summer months I consciously avoid family sites and stay much more off the beaten track, often on unadvertised sites that I know through my campervan network.
I'm sure that there are questions that I've not answered, and if anything springs to mind don't hesitate to give us a tinkle on the number above or ask a question in the comments below.
Pawsome travels to you all!
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