Dogs are said to be the first animal to be consciously domesticated by human beings, apart from those considered as livestock. Ever since they were domesticated around 27,000 to 40,000 years ago, dogs have been a part of human lives, not just as pets but as part of the family. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we involve them in our daily lives and activities, including the Vanlife experience. Dog breeds have been created for almost every human activity and so it is time we learn what are the certain dog breeds that are fit for the van life experience.
Beagles, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Dachshunds, and Chihuahuas are widely regarded as the best dogs for the van life experience. Intelligence, Temperament and Size are the main factors to consider in choosing the best dog companions for the vanlife.
There are a lot of dog breeds around the world, some of them were made to work while some were made to guard or herd. It is important to know what your dog was originally bred for because that mostly tells its temperament, obedience, and energy. Having the less ideal dog breed with you on the road can be burdensome, and in some cases can greatly diminish the van life experience.
The Factors To Consider
There are at least three (3) top factors to consider when choosing the best dog breed to tag along in your van life journey. These factors are important as having dogs are a long term commitment, just like the van life experience.
You should never own a dog just because you feel or like to because that would just be irresponsible. Now, adding the van life into the equation, you should be careful in choosing the right dog breed for you.
Temperament Is Very Important
There are various dog breeds recognized around the world. Some of these dog breeds are known to have good temperament, while some are noted to be quite hot headed or impatient. Dog temperament refers to the overall personality, makeup, nature, or disposition of the animal.
The nature of the van life experience requires a dog that would be very patient but also adventurous. Depending on how experienced you are with handling and training dogs, you could stretch the limit and opt for the dog breeds that are more on the adventure side and lesser on the obedience.
For beginners, you should go for the dog breeds that are very easy to train and are generally known to be obedient. Dogs that fit this category usually belong to the working class of dogs, specifically the Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, Poodles, and the German Shepherds of the world.
The van life requires you to have a dog that would, at the very least, tolerate crowds of people. When you live on the road, travelling and camping in RV parks and similar places, you are bound to have strangers around. You cannot afford to have an accidental bite, just because a neighbor RVer or Vanlifer got too close for comfort.
This would, as a general rule, rule out guard dogs as ideal companions for the van life. Dog breeds like Cane Corso and Dogo Argentino are already a handful for experienced dog trainers at home. The stress and difficulty level of having and training them on the road could be astronomical!
Aside from having a dog conditioned to tolerate noise and crowd, you need a dog breed that is known to be obedient. Remember that dogs have a powerful sense of smell, and in most cases, you have to overpower that nose by having a close trainer and dog relationship. You cannot afford to have your dog chase off other people’s pet.
Lastly for dog temperament, you need to have a dog that is intelligent and adventurous. There are certain dog breeds that are recently noted for being couch potatoes. So unless you actually plan on cuddling with your dog on the back of the van all the time, go for playful dogs.
Dog Size And Space Availability
Your dog’s size is very important to consider because the van life experience already puts a cap on your space availability. The ideal dog size for you depends on your van’s setup. As a general rule of thumb, go for the miniature or extra small, small, or medium sized dogs.
A mini or extra small-sized dog would usually be around 22lbs. A small sized dog is around 22-33 lbs, while a medium sized dog would be around 50lbs at the maximum. Dogs breeds that are considered mini or extra small include the following: Affenpinscher, Brussel Griffon, Chihuahua, Mini Pinscher, and the Mini Dachshund.
These extra small dogs are the best when you have very limited space. You could actually just carry them around or have them sit on your lap. However, the risk of having a bite-sized dog on the road is obvious. They can easily be hurt or injured by road accidents, even minor ones.
For small sized dogs, they are much more robustly built when compared to the extra-small ones. In fact, some of these small sized dogs fall into the working class of dogs. The standard Dachshund was, for instance, originally bred to hunt badgers and rabbits to remove them from grasslands and farms. Other dog breeds that fall in this category are the following: Beagles, Basenji, American Eskimo Dog, and most of the Terrier Breeds.
Lastly, the medium sized dogs are also ideal choices because most of the popular and widely spread dog breeds fall under this category. They are not gigantic but they are also not under the threat of being accidentally sat on.
Dog breeds like the intelligent Border Collie, the German Shepherd, Labradors and Golden retrievers, Akita Inu, Chow Chow, and Portuguese Water Dog fall under the Medium Sized category. These are excellent dog breeds because most of them are working dogs. They have endurance, speed, and intelligence.
To close the discussion on dog sizes, it is not impossible to go on the vanlife experience with a large or extra-large dog breed. If you can actually adjust your van life setup to accommodate a large furry friend, then why not. However, for beginners it would be a struggle to go on a van life journey with big dogs like Cane Corso, Pyrenees Mountain Dogs, or Newfoundlands.
Grooming Is A Major Concern
You should seriously consider the shedding of fur in certain dog breeds. Since you would be living the van life experience with a dog, the tendencies of having your limited living space filled with dog fur can greatly sour the experience.
Dog breeds like the Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute are a handful when it comes to shedding. These dog breeds are known to shed the most. Dog fur can get into the van’s ventilation, interior, or on the appliances which can be stressful.
As a general rule of thumb, go for manageable dog breeds like the Dachshund, Greyhound, Pitbull, and the Terriers. These dog breeds are known to shed the least because they are bred to be in warmer climates as compared to the Siberian Huskies or the Malamutes that have winter coats.
Recommended Dogs Breed #1: Beagle
Beagles are ideal dogs for the van life experience because they pass the basic three factors previously emphasized. They are known to have good temperament and are generally amazing around children and strangers. The adorable beagle is small to medium-sized and is not a shedding problem.
An unprovoked bite is almost impossible because they are not known to be aggressive. Neither are beagles known to be extremely territorial or defensive, except for its tendencies to nibble ankles when they are feeling afraid or clingy.
These dogs are also amazing for the van life experience because they are manageable when it comes to shedding and grooming. Beagles have short coats and even though they still shed for their winter coat, it is almost unnoticeable. They are generally considered as among the cleanest dog breeds in the world!
Beagles are also easy to train despite having a powerful nose. A puppy beagle would have no problem learning the ropes on the road. You would not have a problem with a beagle when it comes to convenience because they are small and can easily be carried around.
Lastly, beagles are charismatic, friendly, and playful dogs which makes the van life experience even more fulfilling. Imagine the campfires you can have with a loving beagle!
Recommended Dog Breed #2: Labrador Retrievers
Labrador Retrievers are amazing dog companions for the van life because they are hardcore loyal, very intelligent, and most important of all, very obedient. An obedient dog, as already discussed above, is ideal for the van life experience because you are always on the road interacting with strangers and crowds of people.
A Labrador Retriever would have no problem listening to your instructions when interacting with strangers. These dogs are, after all, famous for their obedience and loyalty. An accidental Labrador bite results not from disobedience but from lack of exercise and training.
Lucky for you, the van life experience guarantees that your “lab” has a healthy amount of exercise, and then some! It would not be an overstatement if I say that the Labrador Retriever is the perfect van life dog just by the fact that it is probably the dog breed that enjoys outdoors and exercises the most.
As for grooming problems, a Labrador Retriever’s coat does shed but not to the point that can be a problem. Labs and other retrievers are known for their waterproof coat, thus the lesser degree of shedding.
Size can be a bit of a problem because Labrador Retrievers fall under the Medium to Large Category. They are also quite energetic and so you might want to spend more time outside the van. Ideally, you can travel whenever your lab is tired and asleep!
Recommended Dog Breed #3: Border Collies
Ah, the dog that was touted as the most intelligent dog by most experts. Border Collies are famous for being the rocket scientists of the dog world, not that they can build actual rockets or whatever!
Border Collies are uniquely included in this discussion because they are known to be both working and herding dogs. A herding dog is not ideal for the van life experience because it is in their nature to be protective, territorial, aggressive, and timid.
However, Border Collies are unique because they are too intelligent and obedient to fall under that stereotype. Border Collies are intelligent enough to know friend from stranger, and usually they don’t resort to barking or biting. Collies herd using positioning and strategic bites to corner cows or sheeps, rocket scientists indeed!
Border Collies are also ideal for the van life because they have the energy and willingness to work for you. If you want to hike with them, they are game! If you want them to sit back and relax, they are also willing to obey! They are intelligent but they are nowhere near stubborn, like some intelligent dog breeds are.
Lastly, Border Collies shed the same as Labradors and Golden Retrievers do. They mostly shed twice a year, so you would have to watch out when they “blow” their fur off.
Recommended Dog Breed #4: Chihuahuas
Easily belonging to the recommended list, Chihuahuas are no problems because they are too small to cause space and logistics issues. You can easily manage them or carry them around.
Chihuahuas, like other designer dogs, are ideal for traveling and in fact were bred to be small purposely. They were intended to be dogs that you can carry around in places or situations where other dog breeds cannot be brought.
Chihuahuas also eat less because they are so small. Therefore, your chihuahua won’t be taking much space at all! They are also protective of you, and so will bark if there are threats but not really bite.
As for shedding, Chihuahuas do shed everyday but luckily they have short fur. They also don’t drop their fur coats like how Labradors, Goldens, and Huskies do.
Recommended Dog Breed #5: Dachshunds
It is time to tackle our favorite hotdog dog, the dachshunds of the world! The wieners dogs are popular for vanlifers and RVers because they are small and manageable. Furthermore, these jolly hotdogs won’t cause you much of a problem in terms of shedding.
Weiner dogs are ideal for the van life because they, just like the Chihuahuas and Beagles, don’t take a lot of space. For a dog that is bred to hunt badgers and rabbits, dachshunds are surprisingly calm and collected dogs. They can easily settle around a campfire with kids and adults.
As for temperament, dachshunds are calm and collected, especially whenever their trainer is around. However, they do present a bit of challenge in the obedience side of things. These dogs are not that aggressive but if poorly trained will stubbornly follow their strong noses.
The Van life exposes your dachshund to various scents ranging from the stench of roadkill to the attractive scent of rabbits. You should properly train your Weiner dog to follow instructions and if possible, leash them always.
Recommended Dog Breed #6: Dalmatian
Dalmatians may have surprised you in this list but do not underestimate the resilience and adaptability of this dog. The fact that Dalmatians are resistant to extreme temperatures, whether it be the hot summer climate or the cold winters of the north, makes them valuable companions inside the van.
Dalmatians are loyal and obedient dogs with mild to good temperament. They can easily be trained to get along with other people which makes them perfect for the van life experience, especially given how affectionate they are.
These dogs are flexible in the sense that they can both be potato couches and energetic playmates, depending on how you want to interact with them. If your vibe is to just travel and enjoy scenery, this dog will accompany you. If you like traveling and hiking, then worry not because this dog has a lot of energy to keep up with you.
Dalmatians do shed a lot! They have a thick and dense fur coat and so it is important that you brush them regularly. Furthermore, Dalmatians are included in the medium to large category, so you have to adjust.
They may have tripped up a little bit in the shedding and size category but their obedience, loyalty, and willingness to please you makes up for it!
Recommended Dog Breed #7: Golden Retrievers
If the Labrador Retriever makes the list, you can surely count its fellow retriever to also make it. Golden Retrievers, just like the Labrador and other retrievers, are bred to work and retrieve game birds and other hunted animals, usually fowls.
Golden Retrievers or Goldens are famous family dogs because of how loyal, obedient, outgoing, and docile they are. Everybody knows that Golden Retrievers are perfect pets but few actually know how resilient they are. They can easily adapt to either cold or hot climates because of their waterproof undercoat.
Goldens are also known to love riding in cars and travelling which makes them perfect for the van life. They are just as intelligent and obedient as other top dogs are.
The problem does however lie on the fact that they shed a lot during the summer and the fact that they are quite big. They are bigger than Labrador Retrievers and so you have to seriously consider leg space on that van.
The Gist: Dog Breeds Matter
Choosing the ideal dog breed for the van life experience is important because most dog breeds lean towards certain levels of temperament. However, this is not always the case because there are instances when it is not the breed that is the problem, but rather the trainer. For instance, the Pitbull got a bad reputation due to its history of being involved in dog fighting pits. The true nature of man’s best friend appears when it is given affection, care, and time. If you want to have a dog on the road, living the van life, you must commit to it. Make sure that the relationship and setup works for both you and the dog. Choosing the ideal dog breed starts the process of making the right setup but it shouldn’t end there. Give time and effort, and you will truly maximize the van life experience with your furry friend!