Travelling in a Campervan With Your Dog

Some simple steps to follow for your best break yet

Travelling in a motorhome, campervan, or RV has a lot of advantages. For a dog owner, one of the biggest ones is the ability to bring your furry friend along on your open-road adventures! Most vehicles will provide ample room for pets and the vital supplies you need to bring along, and a journey featuring lots of exciting new open-air destinations will be a big hit with your family's pets.

Making a campervan comfortable for your four legged friend is easier than you might think and won't need to leave them with a pet sitter. With a little advanced planning and a good list of essential supplies to pack, you can ensure your canine companion enjoys your next trip as much as you do! This guide is primarily focused on bringing a dog along on your next campervan holiday, but you'll find plenty of useful information for travelling with other sorts of pets, too.

If you don't have your own campervan and intend to rent one, you'll be pleasantly surprised to find there are a lot of pet-friendly options available to you. You'll also want to check the pet policies at any campsites you're planning on visiting, but here again, you'll find plenty of dog-friendly campsites to stay.

Requirements For Taking Your Pet Abroad

When planning a campervan holiday that includes your dog (or other pet), the first thing you need to sort out is your legal obligations depending on your destination. Thanks to Brexit, the rules and regulations for travelling with pets have changed.

campervan travel with a dog ireland

If you're headed to an EU country or Northern Ireland, the requirements are fairly straightforward. Your dog needs to have a tracking microchip, a current certificate for rabies vaccination, and an animal health certificate. If you have a 'pet passport' issued in the EU or Northern Ireland, that can stand in for the health certificate. For certain destinations (Ireland, Northern Ireland, Finland, Norway, and Malta), you'll also need veterinary records verifying that your dog has been treated for tapeworm.

For travels outside the European Union, your dog will need an EHC, or export health certificate.

Keep in mind there may be special health requirements depending on which borders you cross with your dog, even within the EU. Entering Norway, for instance, requires you to get your dog a specific worming treatment from a vet which must be recorded in pet passports.

It's a good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as your travel plans are set. Your vet should be able to provide specific guidance on all the regulations you'll need to follow.

Dog Safety On The Road

No matter where you're headed, you want to make sure your dog is safe and secure while you're driving. This is one time when the extra interior space of a campervan or a motorhome becomes a liability. It might encourage your dog to wander about while the vehicle is in motion, but this is a safety hazard. You need to keep dogs restrained -- gently and comfortably -- so that they stay safe.

There are many ways to achieve this, including dog seat belt harnesses, van cages, dog guards, and pet carriers. Take the time to experiment before you launch your trip; find a restraint method that keeps your dog in place without causing any discomfort. Don't forget to study product reviews and other pet travel guides before you invest in a new carrier or cage.

Safety restraints are another area where legal requirements vary from country to country. Dog owners need to check the laws of the countries you'll be travelling through to make sure your restraint methods comply with them.

Bringing Your Dog's Home On The Road

Just like dog owners, dogs react to new surroundings in varied and sometimes unpredictable ways. To keep your dog from having adverse reactions to your vehicle and the places you stop, you want to bring along as much familiar material as possible.

The best way to do this as a dog owner is to pack along as many of your dog's home accoutrements as you can. Bring their regular bowls for food and water, some of their toys, and any blankets they regularly curl up with. All of these items carry your dog's smell, which can be powerfully reassuring on the road. Because you're trying to provide an olfactory reminder of home, resist the temptation to wash your pet's toys and bedding before packing them into your luxury campervan on your camping trip.

Managing The Heat For Dogs

Most responsible dog owners know very well that a closed vehicle can get uncomfortably or even dangerously hot for dogs. This holds true for campervans, motorhomes, and RVs as well. One of your most important responsibilities when travelling with your dog is managing the temperature to keep them comfortable. This is particularly important on summer trips when the weather is at its hottest.

When your vehicle is in motion, always leave windows open to deliver plenty of fresh air for your dog. Don't stay on the road for more than two hours at a stretch; your dog needs a break to walk about, drink some water, and get some fresh air.

campervan travel on a hot day

If you must leave your dog in your vehicle, keep the time as short as possible. Park in the shade and keep the fresh air coming via vents and open windows. Close the blinds or curtains, though, to keep direct sunlight out. Leave plenty of water available. Above all, if you are at all uncertain about the length of time you'll be leaving your dog inside, don't take the risk. Take your dog with you.

When you and your dog are both leaving the van, keep the temperature in mind. For extended stays and walks, keep an eye out for shade. Protect your dog's paws by avoiding hot pavement. It's easy to check the temperature of pavement: simply put a bare foot or hand on it. If the surface becomes uncomfortably hot within five seconds of skin contact, it's too hot for paws.

Consider using thermal screens when you're travelling with dogs. These work to keep solar heat out just as much as they do to keep heat in. Thermal screens covering the cab windows or a screen blocking the bulkhead gap can do a lot to make your dog more comfortable.

If your vehicle is equipped with roof fans, take full advantage of the ventilation possibilities and use them to pull cool air in. If your van has the battery life for it, you should strongly consider leaving the roof fan running if you have to leave your dog inside for a short period.

For exceptionally hot weather, you can invest in a cool jacket. These doggy garments lower the temperature around your pet's core. Wet the dog cool jacket thoroughly and chill it in the fridge, then suit your dog up before going out into high temperatures. If it does get too much a visit to a lake or beach is good idea - try Keem Bay on Achill Island where the Banshees of Inisherin was filmed or Inch Strand in Kerry.

Travel Mats for Your Four Legged Friend

A dedicated, waterproof travel mat is a must when you take a dog along on a campervan holiday. A good, durable mat will protect your vehicle from muddy dogs. (Expect muddy paws no matter how nice the weather forecast looks!)  Travel mats will also help contain any accidents your dog might have due to travel anxieties. You can clean the travel mat between excursions and also wipe it down during travel stops.

If at all possible, get your travel mat well before your trip and familiarize your dog with it. Encourage them to sleep or stay on it and reward them when they do. This will build positive associations with the mat and give it your pet's familiar smell.

Travel Crates to use as a dog Owner

As noted above, you may be legally obligated to use a dog crate depending on where you're travelling. We strongly recommend bringing a good crate even if you're not required to do so. If nothing else, a crate will protect your dog on the road in case something gets dislodged and falls on them.

campervan travel crate

To get a properly-sized travel crate, measure your dog from the ground to the top of their head and from nose to the base of the tail. Increase each of these measurements by four inches; this is the proper interior size for a comfortable crate. Resist the temptation to get a larger crate, even if your vehicle has space for it. Excess space can make dogs more anxious. As with travel mats, crates can and should be introduced to your dog well before you hit the road.

Dogs And Campervan Cleanliness

A lot of vacation destinations will wind up getting your dog a lot dirtier than ordinary life at home. After you've been exploring on a sandy beach or a wet trail, you want to have the equipment for cleaning your dog up at the ready! Pack a collapsible bucket at a minimum, or ideally, a travel shower for a dog shower. You should also lay in some towels dedicated exclusively to your dog. Whenever your dog returns to the vehicle in a muddy state, rinse them thoroughly and towel-dry them. If you know you're in for rainy weather, try to park on a hardstanding pitch to lessen the frequency of muddy paws.

Dog hair can rapidly become a problem in an enclosed space, and many dogs shed more in warm temperatures. Make sure you bring your dog's brush so you can regularly clean them up before bringing them inside.

No matter how experienced and toilet-trained your dog is, pack cleaning supplies (paper towels, odour and disinfectant spray, old newspapers, and so forth) with the assumption that you're going to have to deal with potty accidents and travel sickness.

Dog Accessory Checklist

Here's a basic list of all the necessary items discussed above. You can use this as a starting point for your own dog's travels; feel free to add to it!

* Collars, harnesses, and leads (pack spares)

* Dog tags -- make sure these have a valid contact number (i.e. a cell phone) while you're travelling

* Bags for dog poo

* Cleaning supplies for accidents

* Bowls for food and water

* Food and treats (pack brands your dog already knows)

* Any medications your dog needs

* Familiar toys

* Dog bed/blankets with familiar scents

* Dog brush

* Collapsible bucket and/or travel shower

* Dog shampoo

* Towels specifically for dog-washing

* Restraint equipment -- harness, carrier, crate, dog guard, etc.

* Dog first aid kit (with antiseptic, bandages, and treatments for fleas and ticks)