5 Suggestions for Ensuring a Good Transition to Tiny Living for your Dog

5 Suggestions for Ensuring a Good Transition to Tiny Living for your Dog

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.

Our Dogs

First a little more background on our girls!


Patti not enjoying getting her photo taken on her spot on the couch

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 waiting for her walk

Penny waiting for her walk

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
    Penny in her favorite spot...under the dinette

    Penny in her favorite spot…under the dinette

  3. 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.
    Both girls sleeping next to our bed. It's a tight squeeze but they're happy.

    Both girls sleeping next to our bed. It’s a tight squeeze but they’re happy.

  4. 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.
  5. 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.
The girls say hi!

The girls say hi!

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?

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  • Steve on April 7, 2016

    Lovin’ the shot of Patti being a loud mouth in the last photo! 🙂

    • Courtney on April 7, 2016

      She is a loud mouth but a cute one 🙂

  • Elaine on April 7, 2016

    I love the last photo too! Glad your dogs are settling in well. Our dog really does not like the car. We’ve never been able to figure out why – maybe he gets motion sickness? We drive him lots of fun places like the dog park, so I don’t think it’s fear of the destination. So I don’t know how he would do with life on the road. But dogs are pretty adaptable, so maybe he would get used to it!

    • Courtney on April 7, 2016

      O no! Poor pooch! He would probably adapt but might be unhappy while doing it.

      Our dogs do pretty well in the car. Penny sleeps once we’re on the highway, so she’s easy. Patti is awake and panting most of the trip, but not unhappy. We’re hoping when we’re moving every couple of weeks she will get more comfortable and sleep too. We shall see.

  • Laura Greene on May 27, 2016

    Just found your blog (via instagram) and have been reading through it. It’s really great and, being that we are just a few months behind you in these plans, very helpful to us.

    This post is especially relevant because one of the things we are most worried about is how our (very anxious) dog will adjust to living in an RV. We’ll definitely give some thought to these suggestions. I know we’re just gonna have to take it as it comes, but it will be interesting figuring out how to best acclimate her to her new lifestyle.

    I also saw your post about how much stuff dogs have and we will be dealing with the same challenges. In our current 1100 square foot house, our dog has 3 full sized beds. Ridiculous, I know. But… she’s our baby and we love her to death and she can have anything she wants because she’s adorable and we’re suckers for dogs. 🙂

    In any case, great blog.

    • Courtney on May 31, 2016

      Hi Laura. Thanks so much for your comment! I’m glad our articles might help with your transition, that’s the goal. 🙂

      Yup. My best advice is patience and taking it slow. Our more anxious dog is still adjusting after 2 months of living in our Airstream. Most days shes fines but on moving days sometimes she’s very nervous and doesn’t want to get out of the truck once we have settled into our new spot. Having a few safe spots in the Airstream certainly helps. Good luck and if you figure out some good tips for your dog I would love to hear them. The more advice the merrier!

      I’m glad we’re not the only one with LOTS of dog stuff. They have their own cubby now in the Airstream which doesn’t hold very much but when you only have so much storage space, every cubby is prime. It’s funny. We met another full time couple whose rescue dog has an entire cabinet of toys in their 5th wheel. We all treat our babies right!

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