Van Life – travelling full-time with 2 large dogs

Let’s do introductions first!

Summer is a black Labrador retriever. She is a very active 3-year-old girl and we have had her since she was 2 months old. Summer is a true water dog and if she would have a chance she would never leave the water and continue to retrieve sticks and other things until the end of the days! She also loves mountain hikes, and days at the crag but is less keen on hanging out with other dogs (except for Shadow of course). A true outdoors dog!

Shadow is a rescue dog from Romania. We got him when he was 6 months old and he will be celebrating his second birthday soon. He was a very nervous puppy when we first brought him home with separation anxiety, fear of others and little disciple outside. We worked really hard over the last 12 months and with the help from Summer, he has become a confident young boy. Shadow still takes his time to adjust to new situations and doesn’t do too well when strangers want to approach him but we are making progress every day!

Both pooches were used to living in a big three-story house with beds on each floor (no joke!) until one day we moved into a studio flat on wheels that teleports them to new places every time it moves!

When we started looking for a motorhome, we wanted to make sure that the pooches had their own space to go to without having to make their beds every night. We were lucky to find a motorhome that had an island bed and it was perfect! They have their spots on each side of the bed and we initially re-used one of the beds from the house to give them sent of home they were familiar with.

Initially, they were not convinced. The early days of our trip involved a lot of driving and both of them showed some obvious signs of disapproval. Summer was never a fan of travelling and she clearly taught Shadow to hate travelling too so for a while a moving house was a horror house! It’s taken some adjusting time but fast forward a couple of months, travelling doesn’t seem to be too big of a deal now. There is a lot of excitement to get out every time we stop though which is another issue on its own!

We opted out not to have insurance as vets are pretty cheap in Spain and stocked up on 12 months’ worth of treatment to prevent ticks and other nasty bugs they can catch in Spain. Getting animal health certificates to leave for the UK was another expensive mission but I won’t include it here. We had to go through so many barriers to get them that it’s worth writing a short novel alone.

Our day to day life with dogs is pretty great. Summer probably has spent more time on adventures in the last 3 months than in the last 3 years! Hikes, swimming, sunbathing and chilling at the crag are the order of a typical day for Summer and Shadow right now. When we have to work, they would usually hang out around the motorhome if it’s a quiet spot or in the van with us.

When we arrive in a new place, we would usually put them on a leash until we know the place is safe for dogs.
Lots of people are travelling with dogs and they get a lot of time to socialise and spent time with other pooches which is another great benefit.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns though! Travelling with dogs full time in a van when the weather is bad is challenging to say the least. There isn’t enough space in the van for them to play when you can’t take them outside for long walks. And a wet dog smell with muddy paws after a rainy day in a van can really push you over the edge.

You also need to plan your travels around where dogs are allowed but we only came across a few places where you couldn’t take the dogs with you. I know most beaches in the season don’t allow dogs but it’s less of an issue for us since we prefer lake and river baths.

Shopping for dog food can be a bit tricky too. We are always on the road so we can’t return to the same place to buy the same food each month. This is not ideal as changing dogs frequently is not recommended. We try to buy it from big supermarket chains so we could find it wherever we go but it doesn’t happen all the time.

I truly believe Summer and Shadow are living their best lives and it makes me so happy to see them enjoy life every day. Whilst there are some challenging days, they are few and far between and I wouldn’t have it any other way! We are still learning to cope with all the problems that come our way but there is nothing we can’t solve when we put our mind to it.

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