Header image

Best Dogs For Van Life: 13 Top Breeds

Best Dogs For Van Life

Discover the best dogs for van life in our comprehensive guide. Unveil the Top 13 Breeds suited for adventurous journeys on the road.

Table of Contents

Which are the Best Dogs Breeds For Van Life?

Understanding van life with dogs

Van life is becoming an increasingly popular lifestyle choice for those with a passion for travel and exploration. The open road, diverse landscapes, and sense of freedom make it appealing to many. Adding a canine companion to the journey can enhance the experience, but understanding the dynamics of living in a van with a dog is essential. As you embark on finding the best dogs for van life, several factors must be considered to ensure a harmonious journey.

Importance of selecting the right breed

Choosing the right breed for your van life is paramount. Not all dogs are suited for the confines of a van or the nomadic lifestyle it entails. The best dogs for van life are those that can adapt to new surroundings, handle long drives, and thrive in a small living space. Selecting the right breed can significantly contribute to a joyful and fulfilling experience on the road.

Benefits of having a canine companion during travel

Traveling with a dog brings companionship, security, and joy to your van life adventures. A furry friend can motivate you to explore more, take healthy breaks, and create a sense of home on wheels. Moreover, the connection and bonding that happen on the road can deepen your relationship with your pet. In short, selecting one of the best dogs for van life can turn a simple road trip into a life-changing adventure.

In order to assist those looking to take this journey, we are focusing on the best dogs for van life. We want to help you find the breed that will enhance your travels and bring joy and companionship to your life on the road.


Key Factors to Consider

Size of the dog

Size matters when considering the best dogs for van life. Large breeds may require more space and can be more challenging to manage in a confined area. Conversely, a smaller dog may be more comfortable in a van, but size should not be the only determining factor. You must also consider the dog’s personality and needs to ensure a good fit.

Energy level

Energy levels vary greatly among breeds. Some dogs require hours of exercise and mental stimulation, while others are content with less. Understanding your dog’s energy level, and your ability to meet those needs, is crucial in selecting the best dogs for van life. High-energy dogs might need more outdoor activities, while a more laid-back breed may be easier to handle on the road.

Grooming needs

Living in a van means limited space for grooming, so understanding a breed’s grooming needs is crucial. Some dogs require regular grooming and special care, while others have minimal grooming requirements. Selecting a dog with grooming needs that match your ability to provide care in a van environment is vital to maintaining a healthy and happy pet on the road.

Personality and temperament

The personality and temperament of the dog are perhaps the most critical aspects to consider. Some breeds are more adaptable, relaxed, and easy-going, while others may be more anxious or reactive to new situations. When choosing the best dogs for van life, look for breeds that match your lifestyle, personality, and the unique challenges of van living.

In the journey to find the best dogs for van life, it is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. The right match depends on a careful assessment of various factors that align with your needs, lifestyle, and the unique demands of living on the road.

Understanding your canine companion’s needs and making informed decisions can lead to a rewarding and fulfilling van life experience with your four-legged friend.

Best Dogs For Van Life

Top 13 Best Dog Breeds for Van Life

Labrador Retriever

Temperament: Known for being friendly, outgoing, and adaptable, the Labrador Retriever is one of the best dogs for van life. With an easy-going nature, they often quickly become a beloved travel partner.

Size and grooming: Medium to large in size, they require regular brushing to keep their coat healthy. While they do shed, their grooming needs are generally manageable even on the road. Furthermore, they are an active breed that enjoys outdoor activities, making them a great match for van life explorers.

Why it’s perfect for van life: Highly trainable, Labradors excel in adapting to new environments. Their friendly disposition makes them comfortable with meeting new people and other animals. Therefore, if you’re considering the best dogs for van life, the Labrador Retriever is often a top choice due to its flexible nature and eagerness to please.

German Shepherd

Temperament: Intelligent, confident, and watchful, German Shepherds are often associated with protection and loyalty. As a result, they make excellent travel companions, especially for those looking for a more robust security presence.

Size and grooming: This large breed requires regular grooming to keep their coat in optimal condition. Moreover, their shedding might be a consideration for those living on the road. However, their qualities as a loyal and protective companion often outweigh any grooming challenges.

Why it’s perfect for van life: The German Shepherd’s protective nature makes them great travel companions. As one of the best dogs for van life, they provide a sense of security and companionship on the road. Furthermore, their intelligence and trainability make them responsive to the unique needs of living and traveling in a van.

Golden Retriever

Temperament: Trustworthy, gentle, and friendly, the Golden Retriever is a family favorite and an excellent candidate for van life. Their loving nature and willingness to engage in outdoor activities make them ideal for those seeking adventure.

Size and grooming: Medium to large in size, Golden Retrievers require regular brushing to manage shedding and keep their coats healthy. Despite these grooming needs, they are often considered one of the best dogs for van life due to their gentle disposition and love of exploration.

Why it’s perfect for van life: Highly social and eager to please, Golden Retrievers enjoy outdoor activities and adapt well to various environments. As one of the best dogs for van life, they can transform a simple road trip into an unforgettable journey filled with love and companionship.

French Bulldog

Temperament: Adaptable, playful, and affectionate, the French Bulldog’s charming personality makes them an attractive option for van life. They’re great for those living in smaller spaces and typically get along well with other animals and people.

Size and grooming: Small in stature, their minimal grooming requirements make them easy to care for on the road. With a short coat and only occasional brushing needed, they’re an appealing choice for those with limited space and resources.

Why it’s perfect for van life: Great for small spaces and generally easy to care for, French Bulldogs fit well into the van lifestyle. Their adaptability and playful nature add joy to the journey, making them one of the best dogs for van life for those who prefer a smaller, low-maintenance companion.

Best Dogs For Van Life


Temperament: Boxers, known for their fun-loving, energetic, and loyal nature, are a joy to have around. Their spontaneous bursts of energy can light up even the dullest moments on the road, making them one of the best dogs for van life for those seeking an active companion.

Size and grooming: Falling into the medium to large category, Boxers are muscular and athletic. Surprisingly, they require minimal grooming. Their short coat can be easily maintained with occasional brushing, making them a low-maintenance option for van life.

Why it’s perfect for van life: Their innate love for physical activity makes them the perfect companion for those who love outdoor adventures. Hiking, trekking, or just playing fetch at a rest stop can keep them happy. Additionally, they are great with children, ensuring safety and companionship for families on the move.

Australian Shepherd

Temperament: Intelligent and remarkably cooperative, Australian Shepherds are often found herding in the countryside. But did you know they’re also one of the best dogs for van life? Their active nature and ability to work well with others make them an incredible travel mate.

Size and grooming: A medium-sized dog, the Australian Shepherd flaunts a thick double coat that requires regular grooming. This breed does shed, but with consistent brushing and the occasional bath, they can be kept looking their best even on extended trips.

Why it’s perfect for van life: Highly trainable, this breed thrives on challenges and new experiences. They’re not just content watching the world go by; they want to be part of the adventure. Their enthusiasm can be infectious, turning every new location into an exciting exploration opportunity.

Cocker Spaniel

Temperament: Gentle yet alert, Cocker Spaniels are often portrayed as the quintessential family pet. Their smart and content nature means they’re happy both exploring new terrains and curling up inside the van during rainy days.

Size and grooming: A medium-sized breed, their silky coat is a standout feature, but it also means regular grooming is essential. While this might seem challenging on the road, many van lifers find the grooming sessions a therapeutic and bonding experience.

Why it’s perfect for van life: One of the best dogs for van life, especially for families, the Cocker Spaniel’s adaptability is a strong suit. They quickly become accustomed to new surroundings and routines, making transitions from one destination to another seamless.

Shih Tzu

Temperament: A little bundle of joy, the Shih Tzu exudes affection, happiness, and an outgoing spirit. Despite their small size, they have a big heart, often becoming the life of the party wherever they go.

Size and grooming: Being on the smaller side, Shih Tzus are ideal for van life in terms of space. However, their long and flowing coat demands regular grooming. Investing in some basic grooming tools and setting aside a little time each week can ensure they remain tangle-free and comfortable.

Why it’s perfect for van life: Perfectly suited for small spaces, the Shih Tzu doesn’t demand much room. They thrive on companionship and will often be content just being near their human companion. For solo travelers or couples seeking a small but lively companion, the Shih Tzu is an excellent choice.

Best Dogs For Van Life

Poodle (Miniature and Standard)

Temperament: The Poodle, whether Miniature or Standard, is celebrated for being intelligent, active, and alert. They are among the best dogs for van life due to their remarkable adaptability and keen intellect.

Size and grooming: The size varies significantly between Miniature and Standard Poodles, but both require regular grooming. Their curly hair can be prone to matting, so regular brushing is a must. However, they are hypoallergenic, a plus for those with allergies.

Why it’s perfect for van life: Poodles are adaptable to various environments and their hypoallergenic nature makes them suitable for those prone to allergies. Whether city streets or wilderness trails, a Poodle can comfortably be part of your van life adventure.

Border Collie

Temperament: Border Collies are tenacious, intelligent, and observant. As one of the most intelligent dog breeds, they make fantastic companions for those who enjoy mental challenges and tasks.

Size and grooming: Being medium-sized, Border Collies fit well in a van setting. Regular grooming is required, but it’s a small price to pay for their agile and engaging companionship.

Why it’s perfect for van life: If you’re an active traveler, a Border Collie can be your perfect partner. They love tasks and mental stimulation, which can turn ordinary travel into a fun and challenging experience. A Border Collie can certainly spice up the best dogs for van life category with its energetic presence.


Temperament: Curious, friendly, and joyful, Beagles are known for their sociable nature. Their inquisitive personality makes every new destination a chance for exploration.

Size and grooming: Falling into the small to medium category, Beagles are relatively low maintenance. Regular brushing and the occasional bath will keep them clean and happy on the road.

Why it’s perfect for van life: Their friendly disposition and love for exploration make Beagles great with families and solo travelers alike. If you’re looking to add some excitement to your journey, a Beagle’s love for scent trails and new environments will undoubtedly enhance the adventure.


Temperament: Calm, courageous, and affectionate, Bulldogs are loved for their easy-going nature. They are surprisingly gentle and form strong bonds with their human companions.

Size and grooming: Medium in size and requiring minimal grooming, Bulldogs are perfect for those seeking a relaxed and low-maintenance companion on the road.

Why it’s perfect for van life: Bulldogs fit well with the relaxed van lifestyle. If your travel includes plenty of leisure time and relaxation, their calm and affectionate nature makes them one of the best dogs for van life.


Temperament: Dachshunds are curious, brave, and playful. Though small in size, they have a big personality and an adventurous spirit.

Size and grooming: Small and low-maintenance, Dachshunds are easy to care for. Regular brushing and the occasional trim will keep them looking their best.

Why it’s perfect for van life: Their small size and adventurous spirit make Dachshunds great for travel. They are easy to carry, love exploring, and their energy adds liveliness to any journey.

If you are considering van life, picking the right canine companion is vital. The relationship between you and your furry friend will be a close one, with many shared experiences and adventures. So, understanding the breed that best fits your lifestyle is crucial.

Each of these breeds, with their unique characteristics and temperaments, brings something special to the table. Whether you’re looking for an active companion to share in outdoor activities, a loyal guardian for your family, or just a furry friend to share in the joys and challenges of van life, there’s a perfect dog for you. Understanding their needs, grooming requirements, and temperaments can help you make the best choice for your lifestyle.

Moreover, with the increasing popularity of van life, having a canine companion by your side can enhance the experience manifold. But it’s essential to choose a breed that aligns well with the challenges and joys of life on the road. After all, the journey becomes all the more special when shared with a four-legged friend.

By taking into account your travel patterns, the regions you’ll be visiting, and the activities you enjoy, you can choose the perfect furry partner. But no matter which breed you select, the memories created, the bond formed, and the adventures shared will undoubtedly be unforgettable.

Preparing Your Van for a Dog

Safety Measures

Selecting the best dogs for van life isn’t merely about the breed; it’s about ensuring your van is equipped for safety. Firstly, consider installing barriers or safety nets to keep your dog from distracting you while driving. Car harnesses that clip into seatbelts can also provide safety for your furry friend.

Comfort Considerations

Comfort is crucial, especially on long drives. Make sure to have a cozy bed or designated area where your dog can rest. If you have a larger breed, factor in enough space to accommodate their size. Ventilation is essential as well; windows should be easily opened to allow fresh air, but not so wide that they become a safety hazard.

Food and Water Provisions

Just like humans, dogs need access to food and water during travel. Keep an adequate supply of your dog’s favorite food, and don’t forget a spill-proof water bowl. This ensures that even during bumpy rides, your companion stays hydrated and well-fed.


Training Tips for Van Life

Obedience Training

Training is paramount when considering the best dogs for van life. Basic obedience skills such as sit, stay, and recall should be mastered. These commands are not just handy but can be life-saving in unfamiliar environments. A well-trained dog also minimizes potential disturbances if you plan on staying in campgrounds or populated areas.

Socialization Techniques

Socialization is about more than just meeting other dogs; it’s about exposing your dog to different sights, sounds, and smells they will encounter on the road. Regular visits to various environments such as parks, busy streets, or nature trails will help your dog become accustomed to different stimuli.

Exercise Routines on the Road

While on the road, maintaining a regular exercise routine is vital. Plan your stops at places where your dog can run and play. Portable playpens or tethering systems can provide secure play areas. Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog, especially in the close quarters of van life.


Legal and Health Considerations

Cross-Border Travel with Pets

When planning to travel across borders, ensure you’re aware of the requirements for bringing pets. Documentation, quarantine periods, and specific restrictions might apply, depending on the country. Research and preparation are key to a smooth transition from one country to another.

Vaccination and Health Checks

Before embarking on your journey, a check-up with your vet is essential. They can advise on the necessary vaccinations and health checks required for travel. Keeping a copy of your dog’s medical records with you is also advisable, as it can facilitate care if an emergency arises on the road.

Understanding Local Laws and Restrictions

Different countries and regions may have varying rules and regulations concerning dogs. From leash laws to specific breed restrictions, understanding local laws is vital. Apps and websites are available that can guide you through the local regulations for each area you visit.

By paying close attention to safety, comfort, training, legal, and health considerations, you can make your van a home for your dog and yourself.

The time and effort you invest in these areas are crucial in ensuring that both you and your furry friend enjoy the van life experience. The best dogs for van life are those that are well-prepared, well-trained, and well-loved. They become not only your companions but part of your lifestyle, sharing in the adventures and memories you create on the open road.

Conclusion: Best Dogs for Van Life

Selecting the best dogs for van life is an exciting and important decision. As we’ve discussed throughout this series, breeds like Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Poodles, and Boxers, among others, are often the best fit for van life due to their temperament, size, grooming needs, and adaptability.

But beyond the breed, it’s also essential to consider the individual dog’s personality and needs. The best dogs for van life are those that are adaptable, trainable, and can comfortably live in a smaller, moving space.

Encouraging Responsible Pet Ownership During Travel

Choosing the best dogs for van life doesn’t end with selecting a breed. Responsible pet ownership during travel is essential. It encompasses providing proper safety measures, ensuring comfort, maintaining a healthy diet, and adhering to regular exercise routines. Furthermore, you must stay informed about legal and health considerations, like cross-border travel requirements and local laws concerning pets.

Being a responsible pet owner also means that you should invest in proper training and socialization, as these are key to a fulfilling and safe van life experience. Remember, a well-trained dog is not only a joy to travel with but also less likely to encounter problems on the road.

In conclusion, the best dogs for van life are those that are lovingly cared for, responsibly handled, and wisely chosen. The bond you share with your furry companion on the open road can be one of the most rewarding experiences of van life, and it’s worth every bit of preparation and consideration. Together, you can explore new horizons, create lasting memories, and enjoy the unparalleled freedom that van life offers, all with your best friend by your side.

Best Dogs For Van Life

FAQ: Best Dogs for Van Life: 13 Top Breeds

What are the Best Dogs to Live in a Van?

The best dogs for van life are breeds that are adaptable, have a moderate energy level, and can comfortably live in smaller spaces. Some top choices include Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, French Bulldogs, and more.

How Do I Prepare My Van for Traveling with a Dog?

To prepare your van for traveling with a dog, ensure it has safety measures like barriers or safety nets. Create a cozy and comfortable resting area, and provide food and water provisions. Additionally, secure any loose items that could become projectiles during sudden stops.

Are There Specific Training Needs for Dogs Living the Van Life?

Yes, dogs for van life should undergo basic obedience training. Commands like sit, stay, and recall are crucial. Socialization is also important to expose them to various environments and stimuli they’ll encounter on the road.

How Do I Handle My Dog’s Grooming Needs While on the Road?

Regular grooming is vital, especially for breeds with longer coats. Pack essential grooming tools and find pet-friendly groomers along your route. Regular brushing, baths, and nail trims can be done in designated areas.

Can All Dog Breeds Adapt to Van Life?

While many breeds can adapt to van life, some are better suited than others. Breeds with a calm temperament, moderate energy levels, and smaller sizes tend to adjust well to life on the road.

What Legal Considerations Must I Be Aware of When Traveling with My Dog Internationally?

Cross-border travel with pets involves specific requirements such as documentation (pet passports), vaccinations, and potential quarantine periods. Research and comply with the regulations of each country you plan to visit.

How Do I Keep My Dog Entertained During Long Drives?

Provide interactive toys, chew treats, and puzzle games to keep your dog entertained. Frequent stops for bathroom breaks and short walks can also help alleviate boredom.

What If My Chosen Breed is Not on the Top 13 List?

If your chosen breed isn’t on the top 13 list, it doesn’t mean they can’t thrive in van life. Consider their temperament, energy level, and adaptability. Consult with veterinarians or local dog experts to ensure they’re a suitable choice.

How Can I Manage My Dog’s Diet While Traveling?

Stick to a consistent feeding schedule and pack your dog’s regular food. Portable bowls and spill-proof containers make feeding on the road easier. Be cautious with changing their diet, as sudden changes can lead to digestive issues.

What Emergency Precautions Should I Take When Living the Van Life with My Dog?

Have a first aid kit for both you and your dog. Familiarize yourself with emergency veterinary clinics along your route. Additionally, keep a copy of your dog’s medical records in case of unexpected health issues.

What is the Best Dog for a Camper Van?

The best dog for a camper van is one that matches your lifestyle. Consider the van’s size, your travel preferences, and the dog’s needs. Breeds like the Beagle, Bulldog, or Poodle could be good options.

Can You Leave a Dog in a Van All Day?

Leaving a dog in a van all day is not advisable, even with windows cracked open. Vans can become hot quickly, leading to heatstroke. If you must leave your dog, ensure proper ventilation, shade, and short durations.

What Dogs are Best for Traveling?

Breeds that enjoy new experiences, have moderate energy levels, and are comfortable in various environments are best for traveling. The top 13 breeds listed earlier are excellent choices for van life adventures.

How Stressful is Traveling for Dogs?

Traveling can be stressful for some dogs, especially if they’re not accustomed to it. Proper training, socialization, and creating a comfortable environment can help reduce stress. Start with short trips to acclimate your dog.

How Long is Too Long for a Dog to Be in a Van?

The length of time a dog can be in a van depends on factors like temperature, ventilation, and comfort. Generally, avoid leaving them for more than a couple of hours. Plan breaks for exercise, bathroom breaks, and playtime.

What Can I Give My Dog for Anxiety Before a Car Ride?

Consult your veterinarian before giving any medication to your dog. They can recommend safe and appropriate options to help alleviate anxiety during car rides.

How Do I Prepare My Dog for a Long Car Ride?

Gradually acclimate your dog to car rides by starting with short trips. Make the car a positive space by offering treats and toys. Use familiar blankets and create a comfortable resting area. Maintain a calm and reassuring demeanor during the ride.

Is Vanlife good for dogs?

Absolutely, van life can be fantastic for dogs! Dogs love the constant companionship and new adventures that come with life on the road. Many breeds thrive in the nomadic lifestyle, enjoying outdoor activities and exploring new places alongside their owners.

How do you have a dog while living in a van?

Having a dog while living in a van requires careful planning. You need to ensure your van is dog-friendly with safety measures, comfortable resting areas, and provisions for food and water. Proper training, socialization, and regular exercise routines are also key to a successful van life with your furry friend.

Best pets for RV living?

While many pets can adapt to RV living, dogs often make the best companions due to their social nature and adaptability. Cats and some small pets can also thrive in RV environments, but dogs tend to enjoy outdoor activities and exploring new places, making them ideal travel buddies.

Best car carrier for small dogs?

For small dogs, a soft-sided, well-ventilated pet carrier or a safety harness that attaches to a seatbelt can be suitable. Look for options that provide comfort and security for your small dog while ensuring they’re safely restrained during car rides.

What are the 5 key van life dog essentials?

The 5 key essentials for van life with dogs are safety measures (barriers or safety nets), a cozy resting area, food and water provisions, proper training, and regular exercise routines. These essentials ensure your dog’s comfort, safety, and happiness on the road.

Best dogs for living on the road?

The best dogs for living on the road are breeds that are adaptable, have moderate energy levels, and are comfortable in smaller spaces. Some top choices include Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Poodles, among others.

What are 5 best small dog breeds for vanlife?

Five great small dog breeds for van life include French Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, Poodles, Beagles, and Dachshunds. These breeds have the right temperament and size to comfortably share the van life journey.

What are some great activities for a dog whilst driving?

Engage your dog with interactive toys, puzzle games, and chew treats to keep them entertained while driving. Make frequent stops for bathroom breaks and short walks to stretch their legs and prevent boredom.

What are some good travel tips for different dog breeds?

Good travel tips include: Different dog breeds have varying needs, so tailor your travel plans accordingly. For example, active breeds may need more exercise stops, while smaller breeds may appreciate extra warmth during colder weather. Research your breed’s specific requirements to ensure a comfortable journey.

Can you save money traveling with dogs in a van?

Traveling with dogs in a van can save money on pet boarding or accommodations. However, remember to budget for their needs, such as food, healthcare, and any unexpected expenses that may arise during your journey.

Are RV dogs similar to Van Life dogs?

Yes, RV dogs and van life dogs share similarities in adapting to life on the road. Both require proper training, socialization, and comfort measures. However, van life dogs may need to be more adaptable to smaller spaces and frequent movement compared to RV dogs.

With these frequently asked questions answered, you’re better equipped to embark on your van life journey with your furry companion. Remember that responsible pet ownership, thorough preparation, and a strong bond with your dog will make your van life experience not only enjoyable but also unforgettable.

About the Author

Roger Bann

Roger Bann

Roger Bann, an accredited dog trainer with 35 years under his belt, is the proud owner of a dynamic canine trio: a spirited Shih Tzu, a loyal Golden Retriever, and an energetic Border Collie. When not adventuring on family camping holidays with his furry entourage, he's spoiling his Ragdoll cat at petessentials.guide.

More Articles By Roger: