Tag Archives: road dogs

How to Train Your Dog to Live The Vanlife (Guest Post)

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Maker:S,Date:2017-9-26,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

The dog days of summer are over, but at the Rubber Tramp Artist blog, we’re still sharing information about vandwelling with dogs.

I was absolutely pleased when the good folks at Gnomad Home reached out to me with an offer to write a guest post I could share with my readers. I jumped at the chance, as I love a good guest post. I was especially pleased to find out Jayme and John had lots of experience vandewlling with pups. Their expertise fits right in with the content I want to share with my readers. 

Today Jayme and John tell you how they trained their doggies to share their van life. Whether you’re transitioning a house dog into a road dog or bringing a brand new pup into your rig, these training tips can help keep your nomadic pooch safe and happy.

Once you make the jump from dreaming about vanlife to actually making it happen, all the big, scary steps you imagined seem to become easier and easier to manage. Selling your items stressed you out at first, but now you have no problem accepting $20 for that trinket your aunt gave you for your 13th birthday. Many of these transitions become more exciting than nerve-wracking, and mentally, you are more and more ready to just take off and hit the road. But of course, you can’t leave without your best furry friend! As it turns out, dogs need time to transition just as much as you do, and a well-trained dog makes for a very fun and easy life on the road.

We are currently traveling around with our two pups Nymeria (3) and Delilah (7), but believe it or not, there was a time when the dogs in our van outnumbered the humans! We recently had to put down our girl Crow (#CrowtoriousDOG) who was just shy of 17. We gave her one hell of a final year out on the road, letting her stick her paws in all kinds of waters from the Atlantic to the Pacific!

Needless to say, we know quite a bit about packing your pups and hitting the road. Here’s all of the tips and tricks that helped us get our domesticated dogs ready to live out in the wild!

Re-establish Basic Training Skills

This is easily the most important step of them all. Maybe you can get your dog to sit and stay because they know you’re about to toss them a treat while you guys are comfortably hanging out in your living room.But do they know how to sit and stay in a large vehicle when there are other automobiles whizzing around and you are trying to unload the groceries from the shopping cart into your fridge without your dog taking off down the road after a squirrel that emerged from the bushes? That’s why honing these basic training skills is essential.

The main commands we drilled into our dogs’ heads before beginning our adventure were, “Stay,” “Come,” and “In the van.” We practiced these commands in multiple situations, not just in our backyard. We would go out to the woods to practice, we would begin training in the middle of dog parks…anytime we found ourselves in a situation that was new to them, we would find time for some training.

Living on the road is rarely equivalent to hanging out in someone’s living room or fenced-in backyard. There are always distractions, noises, movements, creatures, and more going on around you at all times – that’s why it was very important to us that our dogs were familiar with responding as we expected under any circumstances.

“Stay” is probably our most used command. This helps when the doors of the van are open, when they are about to get into something we want them to stay away from, if they see a creature we don’t want them getting involved with, and more.

“Come” is perfect for when we allow them to run around off leash (which we do a lot of the time). We are always responsible about when and how we allow them to galavant off leash, which means we certainly don’t allow it in Walmart parking lots or National Parks.

But there are some areas where we do trust them off leash: when we are on BLM (Bureau of Lang Management) land or we find ourselves in National Forests – and if the area and conditions seem acceptable to our standards – we let them free! They LOVE getting to explore all of the scents and different terrains we find ourselves in. It’s almost as if you can see heaven glowing in their eyes as they leap over fallen trees and jump at the sight of a bug they’ve never seen before.

Unfortunately they can’t be off leash 24/7, and we need them to return to us from time to time. That’s when “Come” truly comes in handy. If a hiker walks near our spot and seems uneasy about the dogs, calling for them to return (and knowing that they will) makes for an easy pass on a potentially confrontational situation. Or if we are ready to roll to the next location, we just have to give a little holler and they come running back to the van, ready for the next adventure.

“In the van” is just a great, simple command for them to know. Whether we want them to seek shelter from an incoming storm, get ready to hit the road, or whatever the case may be – if we tell them, “in the van,” they hop right on in!

Build Trust with Your Dog and Let Them Run Around Off Leash

This one is VERY important to us. Our dogs have a lot of energy, and a trail run on a leash is not enough exercise for them to burn all of their juice. However, you can’t just take the leash off of your dog and expect all to go well on the first try

This is a practice that took time for us. We started training Nymeria to behave off leash when she was a puppy. There was a wooded area not too far from our house that not too many people frequented, and we were able to practice with her there. We would have her on a leash for a little bit, then let her off. Anytime she would come back to us we would make a very big deal about it, with excessive praise and even a few treats (we don’t normally give our dogs treats, but we do when we want something to be a BIG deal).

When we took in Delilah, she was a Stage Five RUNNER! If a door was even slightly cracked, she would bust right on through it and be gone in a second. In the end, what it came down to was that she was just dying to explore and check out her surroundings. After we took her in, we let her off leash in the same area where we trained Nymeria as a puppy. Naturally, Deliliah took off, and it actually took about 15 minutes for her to return. Yes, it made us nervous,but this is part of the trust. Our dogs don’t want to be away from us forever – they just want to explore. When Delilah returned, we showered her with praise and treats!

The second time we let her off leash, she still ran off to explore, but when we called her name, she immediately sprinted back to us, tail wagging and excited for a treat and some praise (granted, she is a very food driven creature!).

Shortly after this second time of off-leash exploring, we were at John’s parents house. The front door opened, Delilah began to run out, and we called her to come back. She immediately stopped, turned around and sprinted back to us! Now, anytime we go into the woods and let her off leash, she tends to stay within ear shot. Delilah and Nymeria never adventure too far, we can typically see or hear them (they each have a bear bell on their collars, as well as lights that can be turned on to a solid or flashing light), and the second we call for them they happily trot on back to us.

Enjoy Exploring the World with Your Pup!

Establishing a strong and trusting relationship with your dog is essential for an easier life on the road with your furry bestie. Nothing about living a nomadic life is 100% easy, but these tips and tricks should help make the transition from domesticated life to living in the wild simpler for you and your four-legged buddies to handle!

Jayme and John from Gnomad Home live out of their 1996 Chevy Express van they built into a tiny home with their two pups Nymeria (3) and Delilah (7). They now create free content for others wishing to pursue a lifestyle on the road whether it be full-time travel or part-time travel. They have been living nomadically since the Spring of 2017.

Remember, you are responsible for yourself and your dog(s). Neither Blaize Sun nor Jayme and John from Gnomad Home are responsible for you or your pup(s). Use common sense depending on the regulations and conditions of your location.

First two photos coutesy of the authors. Other imags courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/landscape-clouds-mountain-dog-65867/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/portrait-of-dog-248273/.

Road Dogs: Living Nomadically with a Canine Companion

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A topic I’ve seen come up repeatedly on Facebook pages dedicated to vandwelling is that of living on the road with pets. The folks with questions usually fall into two categories. The first group wants to know how they can help animals they already have adjust to life on the road. The second group wants to know if they should get a dog with whom they can travel and share road life.

I’ve traveled with dogs. About a year into full-time vandwelling with the man who was then my boyfriend (let’s call him WHN, short for “What’s His Name), we got a puppy. The Man had six-year-old Jerico when I met him; the three of us traveled together in my van for most of 2017. I think these experiences with dogs on the road qualify me to tell you what you may be able to expect if you decide to bring a dog into your life and rig.

I don’t feel qualified to give advice on how to acclimate a house pet to road life. WHN and I actually got our puppy from traveling kids, so the puppy had been on the road almost his whole life. At six, Jerico was a seasoned road dog when I met him. He’d hitchhiked with The Man and done urban-stealth tent camping with The Man, and lived and traveled with The Man in a small sports car. When the time came, Jerico jumped right into my van and didn’t have to adjust to anything.

What I can tell you is how my life changed when dogs moved into my van.

Before dogs, I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. If I wanted to sit in a coffee shop for eight or more hours a day, I could. If WHN and I wanted to go to a music festival, we didn’t have to give it a second thought. WHN and I could go to a movie or the grocery store together in the middle of the day if we wanted. Like a couple with no children, we didn’t have to worry about anyone but ourselves.

Then we got the puppy.

Close-up of Black DogWe got the puppy in winter. We were in the Southwest United States, so the winter wasn’t brutal, and we could leave little Bruno in the van while we did other things. He never had an accident and only chewed a couple of things, so we didn’t worry about leaving him in the van until the seasons changed and spring moved into summer. Of course, life got hotter for us all, and leaving Bruno in the van became dangerous.

According to PeTA,

On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to 100 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 109 degrees in less than 10 minutes.

Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes. Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting.

I’ve seen several different wannabe or soon-to-be vandwellers ask in Facebook groups how to make a van safe for a dog to stay in it during the daytime in the summer while the person is off doing other things, usually working. I’ve never seen a fully satisfactory answer. There is always a faction up in arms over the idea of a dog being left in a van during the summer who tells the writer of the post how dangerous it is to leave a dog in a vehicle in hot weather.  (The writer of the post knows it’s dangerous to leave a dog in a van in the summer, that’s why s/he is asking how to do it safely.) Another faction gives advice like leave the windows rolled down or install a ceiling vent, but I’ve never seen anyone lay out a step-by-step plan for making a van summer-safe for a dog staying in there alone for several hours at a time.

Last summer The Man and I worked at a campground store in a remote mountain location. We usually went to civilization once a week, sometimes only every two weeks. We had one vehicle (my high-top conversion van) between us so 95% of the time, we went to town together. The Man was sleeping in a tent, and he knew if left to his own devices for six or seven or eight while we were in town, Jerico—a Houdini of a dog—would have escaped from the tent, possibly through a hole of his own creation or via a zipper he busted with his snout. We had no choice but to take Jerico with us.

It was warm on the mountain, but it was scorching down in the valley. As the summer progressed, the temperature soared. Early in the season, we’d leave Jerico in the van with all the windows open and a bowl of water. Jerico takes his job as a guard dog seriously, so we never worried about anyone getting into the van through the open windows to steal anything while he was inside.

By mid-July, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him alone in the van, even when he crawled under the bed for the coolest, shadiest spot he could find. The Man and I started taking turns going into stores so someone could always keep an eye on Jerico. When it was my turn to stay in the van, I’d usually sit in the driver’s seat holding the door open with my foot and wishing I could crawl into a cool and shady spot.

The following are things you’ll probably never be able to do in the summer if you’re a van or car dweller with a dog: Relax in a cool movie theater during the hottest part of the day. Splash in a public pool or water park. Enjoy the air conditioning in a museum or mall. Sit in a coffee shop sipping iced lattes until the heat lets up after dark.

The other thing you may not be able to do in the summer with a dog in your rig is work. Most employers aren’t going to let you run out to your van every hour or two to make sure your dog has water and hasn’t disabled any cooling system you’ve rigged up.

Often camp host is give as an example of a good job for nomads with dogs. Being a camp host can be a good choice for people with dogs, depending on where the job is located and what the duties are.

The company The Man and I worked for last summer does allow hosts and other workers living on site to have dogs. My boss told me once that because the company is based in California, he is not allowed to ask potential employees if they plan to have a dog with them. However, if a camp host has a dog, the dog still has to be somewhere while the host is working. If it were too hot for a dog to sit in the van, a quiet, nonaggressive one could be tied up outside a restroom while its person was inside cleaning toilets, but if Bruno or Jerico had found himself in such a situation, the barking would have been incessant and woe unto anyone who approached the restrooms while one of these guys considered himself on duty.

If you’re looking for a doggy companion to share your vandwelling life and you think you might want to work as a camp host, consider what traits you want and don’t want the dog to have. If I found myself in such a situation, I’d choose a dog that didn’t bark much and certainly one without the propensity to bite. I’d want an obedient dog that could wait calmly while I completed my tasks. backlit, beach, clouds

The Man was not a camp host last summer. He and I were both clerks in a campground store. We worked the same hours on the same days, so Jerico spent his days in the van. Luckily, we could park the van outside the store where we could see it from the front door, and we had the freedom to check on him throughout the day when we didn’t have customers.

For the first month of the 2018 camping season, The Man worked as a camp host and collected access fees at the parking lot of a very busy trailhead. Jerico mostly stayed in The Man’s minivan while The Man performed his work duties. Most days were not yet hot then, so Jerico was comfortable (although bored) in the minivan with a bowl of water and the windows open.

Boredom is an important factor to consider. Even if you work in a mild climate or you can rig a cooling system in your van so your dog is safe while you’re at work, the dog is still going to be bored. If your dog mostly sleeps all day anyway, it will probably be ok in your van, but if the dog has a lot of energy and likes to run and play all day, what’s going to happen when you stick it in the van during your eight hour shift? Decrease the chances of your dog destroying your precious possessions by picking up any items you don’t want your dog to chew and give it appropriate chew toys to keep it occupied while you are gone. If you have a very energetic dog, make time to take it for a long, vigorous walk or fetch session after work and again in the morning before work in hopes of wearing the dog out so it will sleep while you’re away.

Some folks think if they order a service dog certificate and vest off the internet, they’ll then be able to take their dog wherever they go. I think more and more businesses are catching onto people pulling this trick, and I’ve seen signs (literal paper signs on the doors of businesses) prohibiting people from bringing in dogs that are not trained to perform specific tasks. I think it’s going to get more difficult to pass off a pet as a service animal.

If you want to be a nomad primarily to see the natural beauty of the U.S.A., consider that many National Parks prohibit pets on their trails. When The Man and I visited Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, we had to pay $10 to leave Jerico in an onsite kennel, which was little more than a bunch of wire cages in a storage room. Pets are allowed at the Grand Canyon only the South Rim. If you’re traveling with a dog, you might find yourself relegated to national forests and BLM land.

If you’re more into the music scene, please note that dogs are not allowed at many festivals. (Chochella doesn’t allow non-service animals in the campground. Boneroo also bans pets. Oregon County Fair does not allow pets on site.) After WHN and I got Bruno, we scrutinized the website of any music festival we wanted to attend before we bought tickets. If we didn’t see an announcement specifically stating dogs were welcome, I called and confirmed canine acceptance before we confirmed our tickets. It wasn’t just a matter of I don’t go anywhere my dog isn’t welcome; we didn’t have anywhere to leave him, so if Bruno couldn’t go, neither could we.

Bruno could be a pain in the neck even in places where he was welcome. He was super sweet when he was alone with WHN and me, but in public he barked incessantly at everyone we encountered. He never bit anyone, but we lived in fear of a kid approaching him while we were distracted and getting nipped. I didn’t know how to train him and WHN wasn’t interested in doing any kind of work, so it became easier to just leave Bruno in the van if we were somewhere cool enough. If it wasn’t cool enough to leave hem, one of us stayed with him. Of course, isolating him didn’t solve any of his socialization problems. Dog Looking Away

Every so often, The Man tells me I should get a dog. You’d love it and Jerico needs someone to play with, he says. I keep telling him no. As long as I spend even half a year living in my van, I can’t see trying to fit my life around a dog’s needs. I’d have to give up too much of myself, and the dog would probably suffer too.

Of course, I’m not telling folks not to get a dog or move their dog into a van. I’m just suggesting people think long and hard about how they will meet the dog’s needs, especially the need for a cool place to hang out in the summer. If your life is not complete without your dog and van life isn’t right for your dog, van life may not be right for you.

Blaize Sun has lived in two different vans with two different dogs, so she knows a thing or two about being responsible for another living creature. She is not currently living with a canine companion. Sometimes she sees a cute doggie and experiences a bought of puppy love, but then she thinks about never being able to spend a hot summer day in an air conditioned coffee shop, and she moves on.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/photography-of-three-dogs-looking-up-850602/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-short-coated-tri-color-dog-879788/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-of-black-dog-257519/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-short-coated-dog-drinking-water-160740/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-canine-cloudy-container-218825/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/backlit-beach-clouds-dawn-531089/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/tricolor-bernese-mountain-dog-132665/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/dog-looking-away-257570/.