I realized our myopic vision of the last month or so may need some explanation...
So many people live with dogs (of all sizes) in their RVs (also of all sizes). We’ve seen folks unload their tiny Airstreams at campsites with three German shepherds, or their motor coaches with six chihuahuas! We even met a couple who took out their couch to put in two extra large crates for their malamute show dogs. Hard to imagine, but people love their dogs and they make it work.
Living without a dog is definitely easier in so many ways, and cheaper. But living with a dog somehow makes us more human. Certainly more humane. The care we need to give her often makes us take better care of ourselves too. We can’t take excruciatingly long day trips without stopping to let her out and so we have to stretch our legs too. At home we can’t get too comfy in front of the TV or the computer for too long without going for a walk. The love and attention we give her gets reciprocated. What goes around, comes around.
We’ve been living with Honey now for almost 2 months and I thought I’d share some experiences of how living with a puppy has effected our lives.
When we lost our golden retriever Kona in 2013 we debated for quite awhile whether to get a dog her size again, or look for a smaller breed. One full sized golden, at about 70 lbs, takes up a sizable chunk of floor space when stretched out. But we love the breed, so we stuck with it. A smaller dog would really be easier.
Kona didn’t have a crate when she traveled with us, so we never had to consider where to put one before. Honey initially had a tiny crate that fit easily between Rick’s recliner and the dining table and chairs.
Well, she outgrew that one in about 15 minutes and now has a larger one in its place. It’s a tight squeeze. We hope it will be the last one we need.
Puppies also love to be underfoot, all the time. It only takes one or two close calls to increase one’s spatial awareness to include the floor all around your feet, all the time. Eventually, dogs find their places and become a little less unpredictable that way. But a puppy wants to be everywhere you are.
During waking hours, we are very fortunate to have a small living space to keep our eyes on. At first we kept our bedroom door closed so that at least one of us and Honey were in the living room at all times, except overnight when she slept in her crate. This makes it so much easier to monitor her explorations and it made house training faster too I think. Because we were always with her we learned her signals faster and she got a sense that everywhere inside was her home, and not a place to go potty.
Now that she’s house trained she has the run of all of the RV, (all two rooms of it) except the bathroom and the closets. One of the benefits of full-time traveling is that we don’t have a lot of stuff lying around for her to get into. Basically everything is put away in safety-latched cupboards, closets and drawers. We don’t have to worry about her getting into dangerous things or places. The puppy rule - "what’s on the floor is hers" - works well in our house.
Puppies need to be attended to almost 24/7 for the first few months, maybe longer. At first they don’t sleep through the night, so sleep is disturbed for awhile and nighttime potty breaks are usually a necessity. In an RV park you’ll never be able to just let the her out in the nice fenced in backyard and tell her to go potty. It always requires a leashed walk. Many times a day at first. Because we can’t leave her home alone yet, everything we do is tag-teamed. We take turns doing everything. Parents will recall this from the days of young children. We were very fortunate to have puppy-godparents who puppy-sat for Honey occasionally during the first few exhausting weeks she was with us. As much as we love her, what a blessing it was to get away for an afternoon together without Honey!
Every day we try to fit in some kind of training experience, whether it’s practicing simple commands like Come, Sit, Stay, Lie Down, Touch or Heal, or just learning how to take a civilized, comfortable walk. This definitely takes time but is SO valuable in the long run. You need a well trained dog to live in a small space together, and enjoy the RV community and recreational opportunities traveling provides.
Because our lives involve a lot of driving, we need our puppy to be a happy traveler.
We started taking Honey for rides right away, and now she loves to be in the car or truck, and needs almost no attention once she’s in the back seat. She sleeps much of the time. If your dog does not adjust to riding in the car, you’ll have a hard time. Imagine if you had one of those dogs that has to have his head out the window, or barks at every motorcycle that goes by, or worse yet, gets car sick.
One limitation that we deal with often is the hot car. We can't just stop at the store or any restaurant for lunch because we can't leave Honey in the car during the day. At night, it's possible. So we do more tag-teaming, or we use an app like Bring Fido to help us find dog friendly restaurants (and dog parks).
Puppies need to adjust to RV parks too. They need to be comfortable with people living and walking close by, and sharing community space with other dogs. They need to not be barkers when alone in the RV. You’ll have unhappy neighbors if your puppy can’t settle down once you start leaving her home alone.
In 4 years we have found only one RV park that did not welcome pets of any sort. 99% of them say explicitly that dogs must be on a leash at all times, and must be picked up after (of course) and many request that you not tie them up unattended outside of the RV. But I think it’s safe to say that traveling with a puppy will not significantly change the choices you can make about where to park your RV. (I do think that RV park websites should make a bigger deal about advertising if they have a fenced in dog park. So many RVers would appreciate it. I'd think it would be a great selling point.)
Yes, food, occasional dog care, grooming, vaccinations and other veterinarian bills are no small financial matter. They do add up. Puppies eat a tremendous amount for being such little guys. Well, maybe little breeds don’t eat so much, but Honey sure does. Since we don’t have a regular vet, due to traveling, we often look for vet clinics at Petco or Petsmart for vaccinations, which saves a good deal. Just watch out for those toy and treat aisles while you’re in the store. (Geez, puppy toys are expensive!) The good news is that if you are a full-timer, you don't need to get your pet licensed for any particular location. We plan on having Honey microchipped so that in case she gets lost she may be easier to locate.
With a dog you spend a certain amount of recreational time attending to their interests and needs. With our last golden, who loved to swim, we did our best to find her water she could enjoy wherever we went, and that is easier in some locations than others.
So far, with Honey, the focus has been on finding dog parks. (Again, Bring Fido has been a big help finding those.) She needs lots of play time with other dogs to learn good manners and burn off some of that puppy energy. We've even found a couple of RV parks with great fenced in dog parks, but those are hard to locate.
The flip side of this is the change a puppy may make in your own recreational pursuits, be they reading, couch surfing or more vigorous styles of exercise like hiking, biking or kayaking. We’ve had to put some of our favorite pastimes on hold for the moment. We’re not going to be able to fit her in one of our new inflatable kayaks for very long. But she's eager to come with us, no matter where we go.
Honey is not a great walker just yet either. She’s learning, but it will be awhile before she goes on any hikes longer than 100 yards or so. We know that when she's older she’ll be a great hiking companion.
Note: Hiking with dogs is not possible in US National Parks, so looking for doggie daycare near any Park you want to visit becomes essential, and sometimes costly.
Walking a dog, especially a puppy, in the RV park is one of the easiest ways to meet people. Everyone wants to meet the puppy! People with dogs usually like other peoples’ dogs too and are happy to meet and greet on the street. Same with dog parks. Sitting or standing around with other dog owners, watching the happy doggies do their thing is one of the most relaxing social experiences ever.
...and this has a flip side too. Sometimes the attention can be a little overwhelming, and we've needed to find quiet alternative locations to take her for walks to do her business.
Bottom line...having a puppy in the RV is definitely doable, and takes patience and flexibility. But when things get tough, remember they are not puppies for very long and it's worth all the effort because they will be fun, loving traveling companions for the rest of their lives.