While Steve and I wholeheartedly chose tiny living and the move into our 30ft Airstream Classic Limited this past weekend, there are two members of our family who had no say in the matter. For Patti and Penny, our two dogs, this past weekend was a strange and terrifying one. Imagine one day your people get up early and are gone for most of the day. They get home and are in and out of the house every few minutes for that night and the next morning. They even bring you over to this little room to eat dinner. Weird. Then they pack you into the big truck and take a ride. You sit in the truck a while once they get to their destination and then they bring you into that little room again. AND YOU NEVER GO HOME. That sounds scary even to me.
Our girls are adjusting little by little to their new living situation. I know there are a lot of people thinking of living this lifestyle in the future and wondering how they’re dogs will do. We certainly did! Everyone told us they would adjust and they are, but I thought I should share some of our learning experiences.
First a little more background on our girls!
Patti is our 10lb miniature poodle mix. I adopted her (from an awful past) in 2008. She is all attitude and believes the world revolves around her. She acts a lot like a cat except is total dog when it comes to food. Talk about food motivated! She is happiest on the sofa where she can see me but doesn’t have to be right next to any of us.
Penny is our 50 lb boxer mix. We adopted her in 2014 (also from a bad past). She is scared of almost everything: wind, new things, people, noises. She is NOT food motivated. In fact often she could care less about treats (weirdest boxer ever). Her favorite thing to do in the house was roam the backyard and lay in the sun. When she was scared she’d run to either her bed in the living room, her crate in the bedroom, or under the desk in the office.
It’s a dog’s life… in an airstream
As you can imagine from the descriptions above, Penny is having the most difficult time adjusting to our new living situation, though we are seeing progress every day! Here are some of our best suggestions on helping your dog adjust to living a tiny life!
5 Suggestions for ensuring a good transition to tiny living for your dog
- Know your dog. Know what makes them happiest, where, and why. Know what scares them. Know what motivates them. Some dogs are obviously more easy going then our girls who have had trauma in their pasts, but it’s important to know your own dog so you can anticipate some of the issues that might occur with the downsize. We made sure both girls had safe spots in their new home. We put their same bowls with food and water out prominently so they didn’t have to worry about eating or drinking. We’ve also been rewarding them with treats after walks to help with the no backyard adjustment.
- Dogs understand routine and we’re suddenly changing that. So as early as possible set the new routine. When do they get taken out for walks? Where do they sleep at night, during the day? When are they fed? Where? Having a routine will help the dog’s adjust, just like us humans! The girls are already starting to understand our new morning routine which includes a quick run outside for immediate business and then later a more leisurely stroll. They also are beginning to understand that the walk after dinner is the last of the night and they settle into bed afterwards.
- When setting those routines listen to the dogs. We knew Penny would be very afraid but we figured the dinette would be the perfect solution. We put her bed under it and lo and behold she was under there and much more content, that is until we went to bed. She decided the dinette was much to far from the bedroom (it’s like 4 steps) and she came in and sat by the side of the bed. Once we realized she was not going to go back to bed we moved her bed from under the dinette onto the floor by the side of our bed. She is much much happier. Patti we assumed would sleep on the couch. She has for some of the nights but sometimes she wants to sleep next to her sister in the bedroom. So we are flexible and the girls are happy.
- We love our girls and they are very good dogs, but they do have some bad habits that we’ve never trained out of them. In particular Patti is a bit of a barker. She always alerted when someone came near our house or made noise in the front yard. It wasn’t a huge deal in the house because we would leave the front door shut. Airstream living means a lot more noise and activity around you plus windows and doors open a lot more. So we’ve had to deal with behavior issues we’d been ignoring in the past. This one is a work in progress (as is all of life). Patti barks to alert us. So we are attempting to praise her and acknowledge her every time she does this by petting her (opposite of what you would think but it’s what was recommended). It’s really confusing her. She was used to being yelled at (and she’d just keep barking). Now we reach down and pet her and she actually does stop! I’m hopeful this method with time will lead to less barking. Steve is doubtful but nothing ventured nothing gained. In general while you may have been able to ignore an issue in a larger space, once living in a small one it is a lot harder. So whether your dog jumps on you when you get home, chews things, or gets on furniture they shouldn’t; you’re going to have to deal with it.
- Don’t risk it! We know our dogs are not the type to wander. In fact they don’t let us leave their sight when off lead. However being in a new place we weren’t going to take any chances. For the first few nights while sitting outside the Airstream on our patio we kept the girls leashed. It led to a tangled mess at the end of the night but it meant we didn’t have to worry about them getting spooked and bolting. Now that we’ve settled a bit we are letting them outside without a leash as long as we are there. Officially this is against the rules of the campsite but it seems that as long as your dog doesn’t cause issues it’s not a problem. When we move our new home to a new location we’ll be extra cautious the first few days there too. In general it’s better to be safe then sorry. You may think my dog would never…. but in such a new situation you would hate to be proven wrong.
So that’s our 5 best suggestions on helping those important canines in your life adjust to a new tiny life. I would love any suggestion from other people who have made this transition and live tiny with their dogs! Is there anything you learned that surprised you?