They bring security, or at least an alarm system and they can usually find your camping spot when you get turned around. My 10 year old dog Booboo and I retired from our dog walking business in Toronto, cashed in our city life and hit the road in our camper van. We left Toronto in May 2018 and arrived on Vancouver Island 18 days later. Although we do house sitting gigs here and there we are technically full time RVers since our van is our home. Travelling with a dog is pretty easy if your dog does not have any separation issues and you’re prepared to forgo all the touristy things that don’t allow dogs. This is also Booboo’s retirement and she has health issues so I’m happy to just hang out with her as she enjoys her golden years.
The first thing I did when I purchased the van was remove the passenger seat behind the driver to make room for her bed. It’s important that your dog has a designated space in the vehicle. It could be a bed, blanket or crate, whatever makes them comfortable. We only brought 2 toys and all of her food and meds are in one big storage tote that doubles as a door stop while we are in motion. We also have a collapsible food dish and spill proof water container as well as a couple of 4 litre jugs of fresh water.
I had Booboo fitted for a harness. These are great for when you’re walking in new areas, which will be pretty much be everywhere. If your dog is like mine they get excited and pull. A harness will alleviate any pressure on their neck and throat. Consider a "disco collar" or a light attachment for nighttime walks. And always have a flashlight when venturing out into the dark.
Be aware of your surroundings, even the best trained dogs can get spooked and bolt. You don’t want your friend lost in a vast Canadian forest. Please have tags with your contact info on them and leave the collar on your dog. If you don’t have tags those plastic key fobs that you can write on are a great alternative. Even if your dog is micro chipped they would have to get to a vet or shelter to read the chip so best to make it easy to be reunited.
We made regular stops while on the road and tried not to drive longer than 5 hours. There are a multitude of provincial parks with amazing trails and creeks. Most parks allow dogs but they must be on leash. Let’s be honest, if your dog sticks around you probably let it off when there’s no one around. Keep in mind that if you do see someone coming that it’s your responsibility to call back and secure your dog, not everyone is dog ga ga and technically you’re breaking the law. Booboo also wears a bear bell when we are hiking. BC is quite a bit different from the City parks n Toronto. It took me a while to remember that. Actually it was the time I saw the big Newfoundlander up ahead on the trail. When I queried why its owner was nowhere in sight my friend informed me that it was a bear. So, yeah be aware out there. Of course there’s the ocean but remember its salt water and if your dog drinks enough they will get the runs. Not fun in a van! Not to mention the havoc the salt will wreak on the metal tags and collar.
We spent 6 months travelling around the island and it’s various off islands resulting in 20 ferry rides. Dogs are not allowed above deck on BC ferries. Since our van is an oversize vehicle we had to park on the lowest deck and I had to vacate the vehicle. I could leave Booboo in the van and go up top but I wanted to be with her so we opted for the pet area on the ship. It’s really not ideal; situated on one of the car decks, you are in a small area with benches and crates. It’s boring and if you get stuck with a dog that’s not well trained it can cause extra stress to you and your pooch. If you are travelling in a car you can stay in the vehicle with your dog. Best to check with the ferry and plan your trip accordingly.
As I mentioned, Booboo has heath issues so we need to set up vets as we move along. We had one in Sidney for the time we were bouncing around the island. If you don’t need regular checkups for your pet at least make a note of any vets nearby just in case.
This is a whole new lifestyle for us and it’s been amazing. We are building great memories and I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather do this with.