Coco and I are on this epic van journey that I do about once a year. Currently we are in California, but we are about to head back to the east coast shortly. There is a lot of stuff on the #VanLife movement these days, but not a ton on dogs.

Disclaimer: my dog is amazing. She will jump up and kiss you, and jump all over you, but she is relatively regular when it comes to going to the restroom, is vocal she needs to be and holds her business like no one else.

Here are some tips and tricks that we have found that are successful for us as we live together in a pretty small space.


This is the most important tip. Coco (my dog), requires a fair bit of entertainment and exercise each day. There is no other way around it. If you don’t exercise her, she won’t eat, she won’t be happy. Need to get her moving.

Playing with other dogs is the best form of exercise for Coco, but safari walks where she can stop and smell things are also great. She also enjoys a flirt poll which is like a giant cat toy. Getting her tired makes her a better dog both in the van and when I bring into places.

Noticed how I used the term “safari” walk. This isn’t the same as walking for distance. If you get your dog to move for distance and just train distance, you have to keep on adding more and more distance to keep draining her energy and her stamina gets better. Safari walks require you to cover less distance, but they allow for time to for the dog to smell. These smells trigger all sorts of thoughts and questions, and these questions tire out the dog (at least this is how it was explained to me).


We have a routine that we try to keep. This allows Coco to know when are good times to go the bathroom and when she might be out of luck. I make sure she gets out every couple of hours during the day if we are driving. If we are stopped I will try to get her to walk every couple of hours. Giving her opportunities to go the bathroom means she doesn’t go to the bathroom in the van.

Door Mat

I have towel or door mat right by the stair in the van. When Coco goes into the van, her paws have to step on the mat and we get some of the dirt and moisture off the feet. Wetness is the enemy in dark van. The goal is try to keep things and dogs dry.

Place Poop Bags Everywhere

I went on a trip without packing poop bags. I had to use things like a Starbucks pastry bag and anything else I could find. I went to Walmart when they opened the next day and bought a big pack. These are things you will run out of, so I have a ton and keep on replacing them when they run out.

Watching the water intake

I stop refilling the water bowl earlier in the day when we are spending much of it in the Van. This means I don’t need to take her out to pee in the middle of the night. She has been able to hold it better than me.

Toys and treats

Coco loves to chew on hard things. The problem is that these hard things either break up and end up all over the bed or get sharp edges and end up pilling and roughing my comforter. This year we kept the hard chews to places that weren’t in the bed. Soft and squeaky toys stay on the bed for her to play with.

Morning Showers

Because the dog owns the bed, I tend to try to shower in the morning. I don’t worry as much about the bed staying super clean and just focus on getting my morning shower to stay clean.


This is only my second extended trip with the dog in the van. We do about one a year. This means I still have ton to learn, but we are both pretty happy and survived this adventure.