How is Living in a Bus with A Dog? We wondered this same thing before moving into the bus and wanted to share our experience so far with you!
Living in a bus, tiny home, van, or anything smaller than your average abode comes with its list of challenges, even for us humans. When you introduce a dog friend to the mix, there are other special considerations that need to be made on a daily basis.
On the flip side, there are opportunities for exponential joy in experiences shared with your four-legged friend.
So how is living in a bus and doing so nomadically with a dog? REALLY? With almost a year under our belts we can say with confidence that we couldn’t imagine it any other way. He makes it better.
Meet our dog, Moose!
Our pup is no teacup Yorkshire terrier (although one of his BEST friends is!), we named him Moose and rightfully so. He’s a 75 pound American Staffordshire terrier mix that lives and travels full time in our 165 sq/ft bus conversion tiny home.
Every dog has their quirks and every dog is different. Some days we’re like, “MAN! I wish you were a lab, labs are so easy!”
For some dogs it’s an uncontrollable prey drive, for others it’s barking at anything that moves, some can’t help but jump and basically double-punch you right in the gut with all their weight. Mmmmmmm, love that. Anyway, as dog owners we deal with these traits, train and adapt to the best of our ability and their ability and usually it’s an ongoing effort.
Traveling can be a stressful experience for humans and pets.
Traveling can take the familiarity and comfort out of life and replace it with uncertainty. Depending on who you are, this is either exciting or kind of a challenge. The latter is more often to be the case with dogs, it certainly was for Moose. Gradually, he became more comfortable and confident with this new lifestyle as we did too.
Remember, your dog reads into your energy and feeds off of that.
Moose KNOWS when we’re stressed about navigating somewhere in the bus or when we’re having a fight about something. Especially now that everything is packed into such a tiny space. He puts us in check, almost as if he’s saying, “Hey guys! What’s going on?! Is it really that big of a deal?!” and for that, we love him.
Working with your dog’s personality
Moose is a naturally nervous dog. This used to be a real challenge with new people and places. I’m not sure what went down in his first three and a half months of life but we imagine that it wasn’t exactly positive.
It’s been our mission, since we adopted him to give him a great life, to show him that new people and places can be enjoyable. He’s come a long way but in certain situations, (large groups in particular) we still have some work to do.
Sometimes you have to honor your dogs limitations and keep working through them together. Gradual exposure goes a long way. We also find being upfront and honest with new people about your dog's personality helps a lot. There's NO shame in that! "Hey, Moose needs a big happy hello at first with new people. We'll give you a cookie to give him when you meet." Something along those lines...
Find what makes your dog SMILE & do more of it.
Doing MORE of the things that makes you dog happy will help alleviate the stresses of new this, unfamiliar that all the time during your travels.
Moose is a dog dog. If there’s a dog around a new situation, we’re THRILLED because he’s IMMEDIATELY comfortable and happy. He doesn’t care about anything but playing with and getting to know the dog.
Hiking and running were also key elements to shift his nerves to excitement and energy. These activities changed his life and I guess they changed ours too. We're REALLY lucky that he loves it as much as we do. It’s how we love to experience each new location together. It’s how we stay healthy and happy.
You need those things to share in life! Find your pack activity and do more of it.
Progress takes time.
Moose has TRULY evolved this year of living in the bus. This required a lot of work, training and patience, but it’s worth it every day.
To be honest, living and traveling in the bus has exceeded our expectations in terms of Moose’s emotional growth. Hah, I guess it has been that way for our own growth too. 🙂
You really learn what’s best as you go. At first, everything is overwhelming but you WILL catch on. If we can, anyone can.
On our first cross-country trip we didn’t stop AT ALL on long driving days except for fuel ups. It wasn’t fun for any of us. Now, we always find time for a trail run or walk now and it’s helped tremendously.
When we’re parked somewhere, we found over time that running or hiking in the morning and evening is a must, for all of us. The middle of the day we’re usually caught up working.
If we dive into work from the start, sometimes we forget to get outside and give Moose a good run and sniff. Moose keeps us on track with our physical and mental health! 🙂 “Hey guys, I NEED this!”
Routines are KEY
It really helps to stick to a few key daily routines like meal times and daily exercise. Dogs love consistency.
Try to offset any stresses with something they’re comfortable with, like a quick training session with praise or a nice long walk.
Check in with your dog often, this experience is as new to him/her as it is to you.
Healthy food and good treats help too.
YOU are Home to your dog.
Ben, Moose and I are a pack.
Our crew is what he knows and loves. We’re a team, we spend a lot of time together and it makes us all happier to know that with confidence.
We are home to him, no matter where we travel. The bus, too, is his safe place. It remains constant and comfortable even though the landscapes and people change around us constantly.
Moose was terrified of the bus at first, nervous, unsure. Just like any new thing, this is how Moose is. It took time, patience and a willingness on our part to continue trying.
Now he loves it. This is Moose’s bus. Watching this journey evolve over the past year has been a wonderful experience!
Exercise on the Road
A friend once said "A tired dog is a good dog". That couldn't be more true. They NEED exercise, new sights and smells, just like us humans. Otherwise we get restless and act out.
I know exercise is not a requirement to “live” but aren’t you so much happier if you’re active and healthy and get outside? We try to keep that in mind.
A lot of what we do and where we go revolves around Moose’s happiness and health, but it coincides with our goals too which is nice (running, hiking, waking up early, taking it slow sometimes).
He is part of the family. He is full of unconditional love as are we for him. He makes us smile and laugh on a daily, almost hourly basis. Which, especially on some more challenging days, is just priceless.
Travel days are more challenging, when we’re just trying to get from point a to point b. Sometimes we’ll hop on AllTrails and look up a nearby trail to go for a run/walk. We ALWAYS try to get outside, even on those long driving days.
When we’re rooted in a place for a day or more, Moose gets to run in huge open spaces, explore new smells and meet new doggo friends along the way.
The Gift of Proximity
Ben and I worked full-time jobs before 2018 requiring us to be away from home for most of the day. This is normal but if you asked Moose he prefers his life now. Moose is now with us all the time since we work remotely and online.
Our connection with Moose has strengthened over this past year from being able to spend so much time with him. We’re sure that his increased confidence and improved demeanor are in part because of this life change too.
A Few Challenges to Note
There are certainly challenges and restrictions that come with the territory of living in a bus with a dog, but Moose is worth the extra effort.
We find we don’t WANT to leave Moose alone in the bus, so we don’t do a lot of indoor activities like museums, shows, etc. — once in a while. I suppose this helps keep our budget in check too.
Many National Parks are restrictive with their pet policies, understandably so. Luckily we’ve found plenty of locations and public lands just outside of National Parks like state parks, national preserves, national forests, etc. that are pet friendly. Check out our apps blog for more information about how we find all the great spots.
We do our best to choose activities, trails and locations that are dog friendly. This also means we’ve had to say NO to beautiful places and exciting hikes because we can’t take Moose.
We’re around NEW people, locations, wildlife and situations all the time. It’s not just our safety we need to worry about. Whenever we’re in doubt or not watching closely, we leash Moose, have him on a lead or he’s in the bus with us. Sure, he’s well trained but you just never know who or what you’ll encounter.
We try to use our judgement and be courteous of others at all times.
Why we love using an E-Collar
Love it or hate it, an e-collar is the BEST piece of training equipment that we own for Moose. It’s come in handy the most since moving into the bus and traveling around the country.
Moose thrives on routines, jobs, tasks, direction. He wants us to guide him. He wants to do the right thing and be told how awesome he is after. 🙂
He had formal on-leash training with the e-collar first (heel, easy, sticky sit, etc.) and we gradually worked on his recall off leash on hikes. We’ve seen a night and day difference in his attention, response time and connection to us. It makes us feel so much more comfortable on runs, hikes, or if we’re just out and about off leash together. Just our two cents.
ONE MORE NOTE on Safety:
We also keep Moose’s ADORABLE orange bandana on at all times too, even outside of hunting season. We're always somewhere new; it's just easier to spot him, keep him safe and bonus, he looks super handsome.
The Good FAR Outweighs the Challenge
Living in a bus with a dog and traveling through this wild nomadic lifestyle experience is the only way we can imagine it for ourselves! Moose enhances the experience and reminds us to stay positive.
I would say that it requires more work and planning to live in a bus with a dog. Be prepared and accepting of that if you're considering this lifestyle with a dog. They deserve that and so do you.
We love the challenge of patience, growth, taking the time to consider our pup in our decision making, and finding the best situations for the health and happiness of our pack.
Everyone is different and it’s all about finding what works and feels the best for YOU and your crew.
It’s a process, a commitment, an adventure, one we’ll never forget!
I hope our experience and tips help out in your tiny living with a pet journey!
Visit our Amazon Storefront for our pet gear and food recommendations. Just a few of the things we use and love with Moose. We have his regular food (normal activity) as well as his hiking food (lightweight dehydrated food for long hikes and backpacking) on there too!
Follow us on Instagram @wilddrivelife for many a story posts of the adorable Moose in action!