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    An Extra Four Legs on the Road


Dogs have become an integral part of our journeys and we couldn’t imagine life on the road without them.

One of life’s simple joys is sharing new experiences with others. For us, our adventure has been much more fulfilling with a furry four-legged friend along for the journey. Without a thumping tail on the comforter, the touch of a wet nose against your face or seeing two giant puppy dog eyes staring at you, mornings just don’t feel complete. It’s the perfect start to a day.

A VAN’S BEST FRIEND  We’ve been blessed with three canine companions in our time on the road. Our first was Remington, an English Springer Spaniel, followed by Shelby, an adopted Jack Russell Terrier who was with us until 2018. Today we share our cabin with Lucia—a Chihuahua, Dachshund crossbreed (or Chiweenie)—who joined our family this past winter.

Like with humans, new places offer new smells, new people and new friends, and all three of our dogs have loved this aspect of touring as much as we do. Running through open fields, beaches and mountains and even riding in our kayak have provided them endless enjoyment. They thrive on the variety that comes with the travel lifestyle.

PAWS FOR THOUGHT  One of the first things to consider when traveling with animals are the variety of pet accessories you’ll need to carry. This can be difficult when living in a small box with limited space. Smaller dogs are of course easier to travel with. They eat less, so you can pack less food, and their beds and toys are more compact than bigger dogs.

Another important consideration is pet insurance. There are many providers that will cover claims globally, and some even offer hotlines to speak directly with a vet. It’s incredibly reassuring to have an expert just a phone call away. We speak from experience, when having a sick dog at 10pm on a Saturday night, 100 miles (160km) from the nearest clinic.

Like any family member, the well-being of your furry friend will take priority over your plans, and occasionally trips will have to change direction or be cut short to suit their needs. At times, you may find they aren’t feeling a particular location or activity, so you’ll need to move on earlier than scheduled. Other times they get sick and you’ll need to drop everything to get them to a vet. It’s a real commitment having them with you, but one we’ve found is worth the sacrifice. 

You may also need to make modifications to your van to accommodate an extra companion. We installed air conditioning in the living area of our FUSO because it is crucial to have a safe, climate-controlled space, as even short amounts of time in an overheated vehicle can be dangerous for animals.

The last challenge with having dogs on the road with you is food. It’s advisable to keep your pet on the same food to avoid unwanted surprises from their digestive tract and to provide a source of comfort to calm anxiety in unfamiliar territories.

However, maintaining a steady diet can prove difficult when traveling. You’re living in a small space, so it’s impossible to carry a year’s worth of pet food, while at the same time, you don’t want to change their diet every time you move to a new location. Do some research; look at high-quality brands that are sold globally and try to stock a few months’ supply at a time. Remember, dry food is easier to store as it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, plus it’s less messy to serve on the road, but it does take up more space than wet food.

As in any relationship with a loved one… you have to make concessions for it to work.


CHOOSING THE RIGHT PARTNER  Much like the criteria you’ll have for your perfect overlanding vehicle, there are also some criteria to consider when choosing the ideal travel companion.

It’s not just the size of your dog that you need to think about, but also the breed, as each has its own unique characteristics. Some are more suited to living for extended periods in small spaces, without the need to chase everything in sight or “defend you” from other campers.

The age of the pet should be a factor you consider carefully as well. Do you want an older dog that’s already trained and requires less energy to look after? Or do you have your heart set on a puppy that you can have for as many years as possible?

Finally, consider adopting from a rescue shelter. We’ve chosen to adopt from shelters as we know we are saving lives by doing so. There are lots of happy dogs of all ages available, and most are there due to owner-related problems like a move or a divorce—they are just looking to be loved again. We get a huge sense of pride and satisfaction caring for an animal that was previously in need.

Having our dogs along for the ride has always made our adventures rewarding. They offer us companionship while off-grid and our bond with them grows stronger as we look out for one another in the wild. By anticipating their needs and making sure to plan ahead, our dogs have become an integral part of our journeys and we couldn’t imagine life on the road without them.

1. Carry extra food with you; remember, dry food takes up more space than wet food but doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

2. Get pet insurance that accepts claims globally and has a chat feature to speak to a veterinary expert.
3. Keep your pet secure while moving, especially on bumpy off-road paths.
4. Loving a pet is a lifelong commitment, so be ready for this when adopting.
5. Never let your dog off-leash when traveling until they have 100% recall and respond appropriately to verbal commands.
6. Protect your pet from the elements—make sure the inside of the van is cool during summer months and bring a doggy sleeping bag for cold conditions.
7. Accidents happen—we speak from experience. Carry extra sheets and towels.

ABOUT BEN & REBECCA  For more than a decade, life-long travelers Ben and Rebecca Pazdernik have enjoyed life on the road, venturing beyond the glacial beauty of their home state of Alaska to roam the vast North American continent. Having built an international online audience in the process, in 2018 the couple purchased a FUSO FG140 4×4 expedition vehicle to embark on an extraordinary around-the-world adventure. For more, follow the journey on their Outliers Overland YouTube channel.