DIY Dog Crates

Using dog crates has many advantages that we didn't fully consider at the beginning of our journey. In this article, we would like to provide a glimpse into why we have a fixed dog crate in the car, how we built it, and why we wouldn't want to be without it anymore.

Momo, our German Shepherd, sitting in her box. The door is open, and she's looking out our bed there is Nelly's Box as well as storage.

First and foremost

A clarification on the dog box in the car - The well-being of our four-legged friends comes first! 🐾❤️

We understand that the use of a permanently installed dog crate in the car can be controversial for some people. However, we would like to make it clear here that our decision is in no way the result of ignorance or inconsideration towards our dogs. On the contrary, the well-being of our two furry noses is our top priority and we take their needs very seriously.

Safety first

First and foremost, let’s take a look at the guidelines. For Vandogs, the StVo (traffic regulations) is relevant. Paragraph 23 states that dogs are considered as cargo and must be secured. This regulation also applies abroad, by the way.

It is a mandatory requirement, and rightly so, as an unsecured furry friend can quickly become a projectile during a hard braking.

Initially, we purchased a dog seatbelt for Momo. This allowed her to sit on the backseat and travel with us during the first few months. There are also suitable dog seats available for smaller and medium-sized dogs. However, since Momo is neither small nor medium-sized, this solution didn’t work for us.

Cargo Securement

Every Vanlifer knows it, cargo securement. Everything, absolutely everything, must be well and securely stowed during the journey. And that includes those beautiful flower hanging planters we sometimes see in pictures.

Our furry friend is considered cargo as well, and thus, they too must be secured. But how often do we forget something on the shelf, or something slips out, or the fastening breaks?

Yes, in such cases, while a secured dog may not fly through the van during braking, they might get the scare of their life if cups, frying pans, or anything else comes tumbling down on their head.

Why a Dog Crate when there are other options?

At night, Momo used to sleep on the front seats, and during the day, she had her “bed” on the floor between the backseat and the front seats, while sitting in the backseat during the drive. As you can gather from this description, Momo never had her proper place, and it was distressing for her.

Eventually, we tried strapping her to the floor where her bed was during the day, but even there, she couldn’t find peace.

In our first weeks, we quickly learned that Momo needed her own designated spot where she could retreat when necessary. We hadn’t initially realized the importance of having a specific place for her, not just for her well-being but also for ours.

Momo was 1 ½ years old and in the midst of puberty when we set off. Serenity wasn’t exactly her strong suit, and letting her sleep between the windows may not have been our best idea. Even during the day, she couldn’t relax. Whenever we stopped, she would be on high alert, barking at anything she found spooky (which seemed to be just about everything).

As we planned to convert our van, we accidentally came across a borrowed dog crate, which we tried out for a few days. Momo quickly took to the box, and by the second day, we restructured our van plans to integrate Momo’s new dog crate.

The dog crate has been a game-changer for us, providing Momo with a secure and comfortable space. It has not only brought her peace but also significantly improved our van life experience. Now, Momo has her safe haven, making our travels together much smoother and more enjoyable.

Momo’s self-built wooden box. The door is open, and you can look inside
Momo’s self-built wooden box. The door is open, and you can look inside

A DIY Dog Crate? Is that Possible?

When we were in search of a suitable dog crate for our van, we encountered a small problem - most crates were too large for our vehicle, which offers limited space at just 4 square meters. Our quest was to find a crate that fit perfectly into our van while still providing enough room for Momo.

We scoured the internet and visited pet stores, but none of the standard crates met our requirements. So, we decided to embark on a DIY solution! The idea of building a custom dog crate for Momo was born.

Thankfully, Momo is a slender German Shepherd weighing only 25 kg, which made things a bit easier. We carefully planned and utilized every inch to ensure she had enough space to move comfortably.

Constructing the DIY dog crate was both challenging and exciting. With plenty of patience and attention to detail, we successfully designed and built a crate that fit perfectly into our van, providing Momo with a cozy retreat.

The DIY project has been a labor of love, and the end result was truly rewarding. Momo now has her own personalized space in the van, tailored to her needs. The custom crate not only serves as a secure spot for Momo during our travels but also brings a sense of satisfaction knowing we created something special for our beloved companion.

Building the Crate

For the base of the dog crate, we used a sturdy plywood sheet and then added the side panels made from multiplex fir wood. To complete the structure, we added a lid made of the same material.

To ensure sufficient light and air circulation, we carefully cut holes with a diameter of 2.5 cm at the back, front, and in the door. This allows Momo to always enjoy enough fresh air and brightness.

One particularly practical feature we incorporated was the installation of lift-off hinges for the door. This allows us to completely remove the door and store it elsewhere when needed. In a small van, space can sometimes be tight, and removing the door prevents it from getting in the way. We were thrilled to discover that the detached door creates a convenient tabletop precisely between the steering wheel and the seat! This has proven to be extremely useful.

To further enhance the functionality of the dog crate, we attached a large tile on top of Momo’s crate. This surface serves as a table inside the van, especially during bad weather. It allows us to create a cozy indoor space when the weather is less than ideal.

The Benefits

The addition of a dog crate brought a sense of calm and tranquility to our van. Momo now has her designated spot, whether it’s during the day or at night, and she even retreats into it when feeling unsure. As an active dog, it’s crucial for her to get enough rest, and to this day, her crate remains her favorite resting place. She truly enjoys having her cozy spot, and now that Nelly also travels with us, it’s equally important for both of them to have their individual crates.

For us, the dog crate is far from confining our dogs. Instead, it provides them with a secure place, not just during our travels but in any situation. It serves as their safe haven, offering a sense of security they appreciate.

We highly recommend planning for a dog crate in your van, especially if you have an energetic and curious canine companion. It’s more than just a confined space; it’s a valuable addition that contributes to their overall well-being and happiness during our adventures together.

Our experience with the dog crate has shown us its priceless value, especially for lively dogs like Momo and Nelly. It allows them to relax and fully enjoy our travels together. The dog crate has become an integral part of our journey, and we can hardly imagine life without it.

Momo’s finished box in the van. The box fits perfectly behind the driver’s seat
Momo’s finished box in the van. The box fits perfectly behind the driver’s seat