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Camping with a dog in our campervan

We are Joa & Diede (@joa.and.diede) and together with our Australian Shepherd, Joep, we travel fulltime through Europe in a self-built house on wheels.

We are Joa & Diede (@joa.and.diede) and together with our Australian Shepherd, Joep, we travel fulltime through Europe in a self-built house on wheels. Our Renault Master is a small house of just 8m2, but we have 2 opening (back)doors to the biggest backyard, which changes daily. Sometimes our view consists of mountains then a few days later it gives way to a view of the ocean. Sometimes we see kilometres of asphalt for days. We stick to no plans and never know where we’ll sleep tomorrow.

No dog, no motorhome.

With our arms crossed, we looked at our newly finished campervan and at each other. We had been preparing for our journey for months. A journey through Europe in our campervan. Joep, our puppy (who is not a puppy anymore), would come along. Is the dog coming too?” was a question we heard a lot. For us, it was clear – Joep was one of the reasons we got a van. We wanted to camp with a dog and travel longer, but what was the best way to travel or go camping with a dog? A campervan was the solution for us. The only question we asked ourselves just before we left was: 'Those four 15 kilo bags of dog food, will they fit?’

Our first weekend away with the dog.

We planned our first attempt at camping with a dog that weekend. The bus still smelled of freshly dried wall paint, nothing had its own place yet, we were still in the Netherlands and there was less than 50,000km on the odometer of our second-hand Renault Master. This was a try-out weekend. Will the van be everything we expected? We lay on our stomachs on our self-built bed, chin resting on our forearms and looked at Joep. He was lying in front of the sliding door, a bit uncomfortable at first because he had to get used to his new home. Shortly after, he lay on his side in a very deep sleep.

Seeing the dog so relaxed made us smile. We felt like two little children who were allowed by mummy and daddy to spend the night in a self-built tree house in the backyard.

And just when we were falling into a deep sleep, Joep was sick everywhere. The new wall-paint made place for a sour smell, Joep looked unhappy and we didn't have any cleaning products in the van yet... We looked at each other... If this is what camping with a dog will be like, we’ve got some more planning to do.

Be well-prepared on the road.

All of our worries were unfounded, as Joep became the easiest travelling companion you can imagine. Except for one thing. Food. When he was six months old he was on the treatment table at the vet's more often than in his own basket. So we had to prepare ourselves well, because as we learned the first weekend, a sick dog makes your campervan even smaller.  

A year before departure, we already started looking for the right (travel) food. We looked for a European dog food brand, so that we would have a better chance of finding the same food abroad. And fortunately, we now know which food makes for an energetic dog with a glossy coat. Just under a week before leaving, we knew exactly how many kilos of kibble we needed for our trip.

Only one small obstacle remained. The kibble had to fit into the campervan, no matter what. In the end we left behind two extra chairs and packed a smaller table, to make sure we could store all of Joep’s kibble. And Joep? He is doing great. We don't know if it’s possible, but he probably enjoys travelling even more than we do. And we haven't missed those chairs and the big table at all.

Can you bring your dog in your campervan?

Many people say that bringing a dog limits your options. These are probably not people who own a dog themselves. We are surprised at how spontaneously and how often people react to Joep. When we arrive at a campsite, Joep often makes sure we meet new people, because he immediately approached them wagging his tail, which almost always results in a chat.

Sometimes we second guess whether it’s a good idea to take Joep along. For instance, when the solar panels on our roof are not producing much electricity, we have to go into a restaurant to charge our laptops to be able to work. But as soon as the waiters see Joep, with the black spot on his right eye, fluffy tail and flurry coat, they never refuse him. 

Even when shopping for a new surfboard in Portugal, Joep helped us score a discount. In Slovenia we could hardly walk down the street with Joep, because people liked him so much. They reacted to Joep as if he was a celebrity. A lot of pictures were made of him and the most big and tough men sank to their knees to cuddle with Joep. This made our trip through Slovenia even more fun, because even in a gondola up the mountain to one of the most beautiful hikes in Europe, dogs were allowed. We had not expected dogs to be allowed so often, but we soon learned that rules are more relaxed than we expected, which makes travelling and camping with a dog extra fun.

We also slept in a two-person tent in Scandinavia together with Joep. And if you compare camping with a dog in a tent with camping in a camper van, then our house on wheels really feels like a luxury villa. 

And despite the fact that Joep weighs almost 25 kg and will always be in the way in a campervan, we’ve managed to have more dogs and four people in our van. 

We never leave our dog alone.

When does a dog restrict travel? Well we never leave Joep alone in the bus. Especially in summer it is way too hot, despite our fan and good insulation. When surfing, that means that someone always stays with Joep, but that means nice conversations with people walking along the coastline while the other is surfing. Shopping in a supermarket is always done alone, but we try to stick to local outdoor markets when we can. 

After a sunny day, strolling along the beach and the markets, Joep is tired and content, so he still falls asleep in front of the sliding door every evening. And we still smile every evening when we watch this together.

Do you want to see more of our travels with Joep? You can follow us on @joa.and.diede on Instagram.

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