Overlanding with Dogs

Cooper, front. Floyd in the back.

Overlanding” has become pretty big in the USA over the last few years. I think that van life as well as tiny houses have also followed that same upward trend. Whatever you drive, it’s likely your dogs are with you.

Along with our gear, and all important electronics we as people love to bring our goodest of friends.

I’m going to dive right into this one. I purpose built the back seat area of my Sport Trac specifically to accommodate our two dogs, Cooper and Floyd. Now that my Sport Trac is sold I have done the same thing for my F-150.

Cooper is the golden boy and Floyd is bat-dog casually dressed for a funeral. Ellie is our only current dog here in Virginia, as the other two stayed with Katrin’s parents.

Katrin loves to take the dogs along and for me this was something that I had done in the past, but not with this level of consideration. When dogs have come along on hikes or hunting trips they usually only have to squeeze in with the rest of us for the drive to one location and then the drive home at the end of the trip, being able to hang around the camp.

Now however, they are spending prolonged periods in the cab of the truck. Hours on end while we drive from place to place, they sleep there overnight, and most importantly they are there while we off road. With this in mind I removed the seats from the Sport Trac and threw them away. (crazy I know).

I built in a new platform that flips up to allow access under it for storage and down into the travel position. The construction is wood, but in the future, I would like to use an aluminum. On top of the wood, I used a double layer of foam sleeping mat from Wal-Mart and a 3M spray adhesive to bond the layers together and to the top of the platform. This made it nice and soft for the dogs. On top of all that, I used a dog seat cover from Amazon as the upholstery. I was very lucky with the Sport Trac since there are factory hinges that made attaching the whole thing to the truck and making it perfect to flip up and down. (Scroll to the bottom to see what I built for my F-150)

If you don’t want the dogs to get their muddy paws all over your seats, this net has been great to keep them in the back and store some extra stuff. Like sunscreen. Also, a dog seat belt system might be something you didn’t know you needed. I can’t say that I use mine all the time but I know I should use it. I would feel terrible if one of the dogs died by flying out of the truck or through the windshield.

Now that they have a nice place to travel and sleep, don’t forget their water! I use a 7 gallon water jug from REI on our trips. It’s not anything fancy but 7 gallons usually will cover 2 people and 2 dogs for a few days. Including dish washing and any other tasks. There are always collapsible water bowls in the truck too.

Dog food is usually brought in one or two large protein containers. Yes, those protein powder containers. I always use the same scoop to measure the dog food for them at home. Following the dog food bag instructions, cups of food per pound of dog. For our dogs they get 1 scoop for breakfast and another for dinner and usually some treats during the day. I bring that same scoop on the trips to ensure they get the same amount of food while we’re out as they do when we are home. This also makes it easy to plan how much food they will need for any trip. 2 days out with 2 dogs means I need 8 scoops.

Cooper has been a really big pain while he was a young pup. Getting him to stop and eat is like pulling teeth. Even on longer trips where he has been running non stop for multiple days. To fix this we started bringing the same dog bowls from home and not the collapsible food bowls. This helped a little, but he was still very picky. Even when we were in the same camp spot for multiple days. Wet dog food didn’t help either. Floyd had no issue eating at all, because he’s a good boy.

Cooper Right. Floyd Left.

If you’re anything like me, then you don’t simply drive past stuff if it’s on the way to somewhere. For example, while driving around Washington State and checking out Ghost Towns, Coulee Dam was along the way. Katrin and I stopped in and checked it out. This excerpt is from that trip “...if you must leave your dogs somewhere, you can always ask a manager or the front desk if they can baby sit a couple of the goodest boys. Or bring a 2nd key and leave the AC on with the doors locked.

No one should leave pets in a locked car on a hot day and in most states, it IS against the law. Depending on the state, a bystander or the Police, may be protected from liability if they break into your/a car for the safety or well being of an animal. See something, say something.

Call ahead to find out if Parks/Trails/Businesses are dog friendly. Mt. Rainier National Park allows dogs in the park and campgrounds, but not on most hiking trails. Similarly, Shenandoah has limitations on dogs too. If there is something you must see, take turns checking it out.

Ellie running back to Katrin

Once you get to camp, make sure you have something for your dogs to do. Bring some tough toys, we like things that we can clean easily and that are bright so we can find them when we are packing up.

If your dogs are like ours, they get curious and want to wonder off. We have multiple segments of rope with carabiners, each being 25 feet long. One end is usually attached to a recovery point on the truck or a big tree. Then depending on what we need we give them either 50 feet or just 25 feet in smaller campsites. Also, sometimes we use a Y type set up for 2 dogs. Where one rope is around a fixed object and the other rope is run through a loop of the first rope, so the 2 dogs get the first 25 feet, but can also get 25 feet from each other. I am not a big fan of the zipline method. Where you take one length of rope and tie it between 2 objects while having the dogs on leashes. (Running the rope through the leash handles)

Light up collars have been great, to avoid stepping on the dogs in the dark around camp too. Especially Floyd who is impossible to see at night.


Lastly, don’t forget…

-Collars with tags

A harness


-Poo bags

-Dog boots

-Local vet locations/baby aspirin/doggy first aid supplies

What do you do with your dog(s) on long trips? .

Ellie suited up in some Ruff Wear

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