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van life and dogs


Original Post
Leslie McG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 420

So I am contemplating van life for the next few years, but I am tied to Vegas for the next two. I also have a dog. I am wondering a few things that I hope some of you can help with.

1) Do any of you leave your dog unattended in the van during the day, while you climb, work, etc?

2)  If you do, how do you keep your van cool for your pooch?

I don't even want to consider this if there is no viable way to ensure my dog's safety , so if you're gonna give me flack about leaving my dog in a hot vehicle, don't...I am looking for positive solutions not smart ass answers ( yes, I  realize this IS mountain project)


Anthony L · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 25

My wife and I did a three month test run with a dog in our van to see if we wanted to consider it full time, and we decided that not having a dog is the only cruelty-free option for living in a van. Thus, we will consider moving into our van once our dog has passed on.

Even if you can keep your van cool, is it really fair to your dog to constantly be leaving it in a confined space as small as a van? This isn't a little trip you're discussing, it's life.  A van is not enough space for a dog to be hanging out for hours at a time, especially given you're an active person wanting to adventure in the mountains.

Not to mention, travelling with a dog is significantly harder and more stressful than travelling without a dog. It's crazy how many places have explicit bans on dogs.

Adamant D · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 5

I have a well insulated dark red high roof van. I'm comfortable leaving my dog inside (with insulated, reflective window shades up, windows mostly open, roof vent / fan on) for about 2.5 hours in 80 degree heat, full sun, on a dirt parking lot. This assumes something like a morning bike ride, where the van temp was in the high 60s, low 70s to start. After that 2.5 hours, the inside van temp is about 75 degrees. I won't push it more than that, and I don't use that method for climbing, especially where things like stuck ropes can really slow down your day.

I figured those numbers out in advance - I work at home, so I put a remote thermometer in the van during the day, and left the receiver on my desk so I could learn the pattern. 

My opinion is that van life with a dog assumes the dog is almost always by your side. I'm sure people do it, but after having our van for a couple years, I wouldn't move into it full time with a dog.

ABB · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 0

How would a dog feel about leaving its' guardian in the van during the day? Dogs are more enlightened than given credit for as they live by The Golden Rule.

Leslie McG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 420

ABB wrote:

How would a dog feel about leaving its' guardian in the van during the day? Dogs are more enlightened than given credit for as they live by The Golden Rule.

I agree they're smart animals. If she/I had a choice she would be with me, or I with her, all day. She would much rather sit in the car while I am at the gym or at work than sit at home. ( she is always given a choice) But I don't leave her in the car unless it's below 70 outside. I would never want to harm her in any way- she' my girl!!!!

Leslie McG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 420

Adamant D wrote:

I have a well insulated dark red high roof van. I'm comfortable leaving my dog inside (with insulated, reflective window shades up, windows mostly open, roof vent / fan on) for about 2.5 hours in 80 degree heat, full sun, on a dirt parking lot. This assumes something like a morning bike ride, where the van temp was in the high 60s, low 70s to start. After that 2.5 hours, the inside van temp is about 75 degrees. I won't push it more than that, and I don't use that method for climbing, especially where things like stuck ropes can really slow down your day.


THANKS!!! Super helpful! 

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Anthony Lubetski wrote:

My wife and I did a three month test run with a dog in our van to see if we wanted to consider it full time, and we decided that not having a dog is the only cruelty-free option for living in a van. Thus, we will consider moving into our van once our dog has passed on.

Even if you can keep your van cool, is it really fair to your dog to constantly be leaving it in a confined space as small as a van? This isn't a little trip you're discussing, it's life.  A van is not enough space for a dog to be hanging out for hours at a time, especially given you're an active person wanting to adventure in the mountains.

Not to mention, travelling with a dog is significantly harder and more stressful than travelling without a dog. It's crazy how many places have explicit bans on dogs.

So true. I read about people crating their dog for the day, and I think that's cruel. They like to say that their dog is "used to it." Uh-huh. 

Anthony L · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 25

FrankPS wrote:

So true. I read about people crating their dog for the day, and I think that's cruel. They like to say that their dog is "used to it." Uh-huh. 

Human beings have a remarkable tendency to disregard empathy to rationalize their actions.  

MojoMonkey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 68

As noted in a previous post - I'd definitely do test-runs with temperature (plus CO or other, depending on your eventual systems) monitoring to convince myself of what may happen. And consider how any system fails and its impact to temperature in the van. Failover system? Aforementioned sensors with capability to alert you of temperature change (assuming you and the van have cell signal)? etc.

And then I'd still probably worry too much to trust it for extreme days or locales.

Big B · · Sin City, NV · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 0

L how old is Sadie? 

As she gets older I would imagine that this option is going to get increasingly more difficult to deal with...bladder(pee stops), hip pain, ability to do the approaches, ability to deal with the heat if it is warm...thoughts to def think through before commiting her to it.

Leslie McG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 420

Big B wrote:

L how old is Sadie? 

As she gets older I would imagine that this option is going to get increasingly more difficult to deal with...bladder(pee stops), hip pain, ability to do the approaches, ability to deal with the heat if it is warm...thoughts to def think through before commiting her to it.

Sadiegirl is 9...but she wont be climbing, just trying to live MUCH cheaper. 

mountainhick · · Black Hawk, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 120

We travel with our 2 old dogs. It's difficult. They can't run and play to speak of any more, and mostly lie around. I think they are generally quite bored regardless of where we are living. We need to give one a boost getting in the van, and going upstairs at home, so kind of same difference there. And, we travel in winter and have some COLD nights, so have jackets for them and an extra blanket that at least one likes and doesn't kick off herself at night. 

It's hard to know what they need at this point in life, their equivalent age in human years is in their 90s. We do leave them in the van for hours at a time as long as temperature isn't too hot, but I don't feel at all good about it. We try to make up for it by giving them lots of love and attention, comes down to physical touch/contact and just being kind to them these days, they can't run or rough house any more.

Mason Stone · · Boise, ID · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0

Give your dog to someone who can care for it. Then you will be free to live the van life. The dog might appreciate the change of scenery and new routine. What is best for your dog?

Russ Keane · · Asheville, NC · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 150

Why can't the dog come to the crag?  Or hang with you when you are outside?    I think it's totally doable.   The van is just a springboard for a life lived outdoors.

Leslie McG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 420

Mason Stone wrote:

Give your dog to someone who can care for it. Then you will be free to live the van life. The dog might appreciate the change of scenery and new routine. What is best for your dog?

Certainly what is best for my dog is not to be taken from her human after we have shared 8 years of our life together!! 

She has lived in my car with me  for several summers and LOVES it. 

My only concern at this point, is the Vegas heat, not whether she will love a van.

K. Le Douche · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2008 · Points: 100

I'd say your schedule will be the biggest factor in whether it's a good idea to vanlife with a dog.  If you are going to be working full time, or even part time, I'd say it's a terrible idea.  No matter what you do to the van, you'd never be able to guarantee the van would stay cool enough to be safe for the whole work day.  Especially in Vegas.   Since you have to stay in Vegas for two more months, I assume that means you're working for two more months.  If your schedule gets to the point where you don't need to work, then I'd say go for it, as the dog will be able to be with you 100% of the time.  Personally, I used to feel bad keeping my dog in an apartment all day because she couldn't go in and out as she pleased.  I would think being locked up in a van all day would be pretty shitty.  If you truly have the well being of your dog in mind, probably best to give the dog to someone else while you vanlife, or live in a regular, dog-friendly house.  

DR · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2014 · Points: 540

These two folks have 2 dogs and live in a van nearly full time(https://www.instagram.com/briannamadia/) their dogs live a pretty great life and they obviously choose a location that works to let the dogs run a lot and still have a chance to climb and go on other adventures. I think you can make it work if you are willing to bring the dogs with you everywhere and prioritize them as much as you do climbing.

Cron · · Barrington, NH · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 45

DRusso wrote:

These two folks have 2 dogs and live in a van nearly full time(https://www.instagram.com/briannamadia/) their dogs live a pretty great life and they obviously choose a location that works to let the dogs run a lot and still have a chance to climb and go on other adventures. I think you can make it work if you are willing to bring the dogs with you everywhere and prioritize them as much as you do climbing.

What folks post on Instagram is hardly representative of reality. 


DR · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2014 · Points: 540

Cron wrote:

What folks post on Instagram is hardly representative of reality. 


I fully understand this but, I am not going to be the one to assume what is real or not. I know several folks who live a similar lifestyle and the account i linked the husband works doing wilderness therapy and the wife is a freelance writer so they both work remotely and have time off which gives them the freedom to live how they do with the dogs. 

Russ Keane · · Asheville, NC · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 150

(instagram.com/briannamadia/)

^^ It's awesome how much they love their dogs!  What a cool collection of photos.   I feel very inclined towards their vision:   If the dog can't go, it's not worth going!

the schmuck · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 110

During the summers we usually hook up with a loose group that lives part time on the road, many of whom have dogs. We/they usually frequent dog friendly locales, and when the objective for the day(s) does not allow Fido to come along, there is always someone who is happy to dog sit. If you go on the road in a van, it is very likely that you'll run into folks such as these. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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