6 Best Dogs for Van Life


Many people live in vans now, whether by choice or necessity. It can be a pretty lonely and challenging lifestyle choice, but dogs can help alleviate this. If you’re currently living in a van or plan to, you may wonder if your current dog is suitable for the lifestyle—or which dogs are better suited to it.

Some of the best dogs for van life are Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Border Collies, Chihuahua, Jack Russell Terrier, and Dalmatian. There are many factors to consider when choosing a dog best suited for van life, and they can vary a lot from dog to dog. 

This article will delve into the details of why some dog breeds are better for van life and general tips for having a dog on the road.

Dalmatians

Dalmatians are well suited to living in a van, as they’re very resistant to extreme temperatures. This is important because life in a van subjects you to a wider range of temperatures than people with traditional homes. 

Dalmatians are also relatively easy dogs to train, which is very handy to van life because you have enough stress in this lifestyle without a disobedient dog. Dalmatians are generally friendly dogs with a great deal of energy and affection, making them great overall traveling companions.

Jack Russell Terriers

Jack Russell Terriers are great dogs for van life due to their compact size, requiring less food and water than larger dogs. These dogs are typically adventurous and are especially suitable for a wide range of outdoor activities, which many van dwellers seek out. 

These dogs are fearless and won’t cower when faced with a threat like some more timid breeds. While not big enough to do much actual damage, their fierce bark may deter potential threats. If you’re spending much of your time outdoors, this breed will be your best friend.

Chihuahua

A Chihuahua may not be the traveling companion you envisioned, but they may be your ideal match. Being very small, they don’t take up much of the valuable space in your van home. As an added perk of their size, they eat less food. 

Chihuahuas have high energy and are quite protective of their owners, meaning they can keep up with any activity you throw at them—and they’ll alert you of any threats! This compact travel size companion may just be your best friend on the road.

Border Collies

Border Collies have been honored with the title of most intelligent dog breed in the world, which makes them a fantastic dog for van life. Able to learn at an unprecedented rate and gifted with high energy, Collies won’t ever have trouble keeping up with you and your ever-changing routines. 

Border Collies are traditionally herding dogs and show unshakeable loyalty to their families, which is another huge plus when considering dog breeds. If you want a highly adaptable dog, Border Collies are the breed you’re looking for.

German Shepherd

Famed as K9 dogs, German Shepherds have a somewhat unfair reputation as an aggressive breed. This can be true, but properly trained, they’re extremely sweet and loyal breeds capable of fending off any assailants via bark or bite.

German Shepherds are considered the third smartest dog breed. This makes training them a cinch, which is important for any dog you consider bringing into your van home. Their huge size makes them great for snuggling too! Definitely consider choosing this breed if you are looking for an extra snuggly layer of security. 

Labrador Retrievers

Labrador Retrievers are possibly the best dogs for van life. They’re mostly friendly dogs, but they become extremely attached and protective of their owners. This makes them great to take anywhere dogs are allowed, as they’re less likely to show undeserved aggression.

Labs as a whole were bred for a variety of outdoor tasks, making them especially good company for anyone planning on hunting—they can be trained to retrieve fish, fowl, and other games. This is perhaps the ideal dog breed for a hunter. Like other large breeds, Labs are handy to have as a portable heater in the winter.

Tips for Having a Dog on the Road

Keep Your Dog Comfortable

No matter what dog you choose to live with you in your van, keeping them comfortable can be somewhat of a challenge. There is limited space, food and water, and weather that need to be considered. Dogs are intelligent creatures, so they need toys to keep from getting bored too.

Here are some ways to keep your dog comfortable:

  • Create a space just for your dog that they can retreat to.
  • Do not leave your dog in the van for extended periods.
  • Regularly take your dog out for potty breaks.
  • Install a portable fan for hot days.
  • Provide blankets for cold weather.

Different dogs may be better suited to van life, as listed above, but all of them need to stay happy and comfortable in their environment. Always be on the lookout for ways to make your dog’s life in the van cozier.

Don’t Leave Your Dog in the Van

While short trips into stores may be okay, you don’t want to leave your dog in the van for long. Your dog can become very hot or cold and even die depending on weather conditions, not to mention they’ll become very lonely.

Another concern is that a concerned citizen may see your dog left alone in the van and call the police or possibly damage your vehicle. After all, they don’t know your particular circumstances—they just see a dog that may be neglected.

Watch out for places that are dog friendly. Dog parks are the biggest example of this, but pet stores and some other public spaces are known for allowing pet pals.

If you need to go somewhere for a long period that doesn’t allow dogs, try leaving the dog at a friend’s. If this isn’t possible—and your mobile nature means it often isn’t—check out Rover. Rover is a service you can use to locate suitable dog sitters to take care of your dog for various periods of time.

What Does Your Dog Need?

Proper planning is a key part of bringing a dog with you into the van lifestyle. Dogs are emotionally intelligent creatures with a multitude of needs. The good news is that with just a little foresight, you can get together everything your dog needs to stay the perfect company for your van lifestyle.

Here are the things that your dog needs:

These items can be easily acquired and are well worth the money—it’s your dog’s happiness, after all!

Final Thoughts

Van life can be hard at the best of times, but it doesn’t have to be lonely! When considering what dog to get, you have to consider their temperament and size first. The dogs listed above are ideal for their own different reasons, but all are well worth their weight in gold as furry friends. 

An important note: This list doesn’t mean other dog breeds can’t be good for living in a van. Every dog is as unique as human beings, and a dog from a different breed may well be the perfect fit for you. This list takes into account the general demeanor and personalities of certain dog breeds to give you a good place to start.

With proper planning and the right dog, life in a van can be fun!

Hivan Team

As an independent team of travelers, we do share positive and negative observations as we find them and make our best to help and inform other vanlifers around the globe.

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