VANLIFE: Road Tripping for six months with your dog

If there is one thing you should know about me – it’s that when it comes to my own life, I am not much of a planner. However, when it came to our next journey; camping and hiking across the U.S with my two-year old Husky, I knew there were a few things I needed to prep for before we set off on our six-month road trip.

THE VAN LIFE PREPARATION

While we’ve traveled quite a bit, and are by no means new to road tripping, what really made this adventure challenging was the addition of our newly-rescued Husky; Quinn.

We rescued him only six months before embarking on this trip, so if you’re keeping track, that will mean by the time we’ve had him a year, he will have spent half his rescued life with us on the move – that’s a lot of change for one dog.

What made the adventure even more emotionally challenging for me?

Rescuing an uncertain, questionably behaved Quinn (from a high-kill shelter in California) only came within six-months after very suddenly losing my five-year old well mannered, friendly husky/shepherd mix named Hunter. It was a lot to take on in a short amount of time, so our training had to be on point. That’s when I called Paw in Hand for help!

DOG TRAINING I’M GLAD I DID BEFORE THE ROAD TRIP

Structured Lifestyle – When we first rescued Quinn, he was picked up for roaming the streets of California and chasing cats. He wasn’t overly used to having structure in his life, and while this is easy to instil while you’re in a house, it can be a little more challenging when you’re living out of a vehicle, and camping for six-months. Ways we have kept structure in Quinn’s life while on the road: maintaining his basic walk-routine (once in the morning, and once at night), keeping his food and water bowls in the same place every night (even when we’re in a new spot), feeding him at the same time everyday, throwing the ball and implanting stimulating games for him after we have found a campsite for the night, and by waking up and going to bed around the same time every day. We have also made sure he has a ‘safe place’ everywhere we go, and that is his bed.

Whistle Recall – This one has saved us more than a few times! On the odd times we do go to a place where a dog is allowed off-leash, and we know there will be no temptations in terms of pray for him to chase, we are so glad to we have taught him that a whistle means a high-reward treat if he comes right away. It puts our mind at ease that he will come back in a hurry if it’s an emergency, and allows him some freedom as well.

Finding A Water Source – It sounds silly, but every time we are near a fresh water source, we say ‘Drink’ and if he is thirsty, he will go down and get a drink. This is particularly handy when we are hiking, and since we have started this, he will even listen for the water source himself and can lead us too it.

One Sniff, Two Sniff, “Let’s Go!” – Whether it’s meeting new dogs, or when he’s sniffing everything in sight, by saying “Okay, Let’s Go!” Quinn knows that its time to move on and keep walking because we make it worth his time. This saves us from unfriendly dog greetings, as well as keeps him focused on the hike/trail run when we’re out for an activity.

Leash Manners – Seeing as we are constantly in and out of the truck, hiking and exploring and often in a large open area camping, it was key that Quinn had good leash manners. It makes taking him for strolls in the city just as easy as hiking up a mountain – something Paw in Hand implemented from the start, and I am so glad she did!

Being Friendly with Humans and Dogs – When we first got Quinn, he was very aggressive towards unfamiliar dogs. It ended up being a combination of stress and frustration, and both of us needed to learn that there ere more appropriate ways of dealing with it. Now, with a lot of patience, he is friendly and happy to engage in play. We have learned which breeds he doesn’t engage well with (and avoid them to prevent conflicts).
When it came to greeting people, it was more myself that needed the lesson in terms of the correct protocol. Paw in Hand taught me that it was okay to say no, or ask that others slow down when they approach Quinn. Teaching children how to act around dogs will also help teach their parents, and increase your confidence in your dog when they are approached. Now, lots of people love asking if they can pet Quinn and I am more confident in telling others not to approach him if I see signals that could target an upset from Quinn.

DOG TRAINING THAT COULD USE IMPROVEMENT

Recall – Anyone who has a husky knows exactly what I mean on this one. His recall has improved tenfold from when we first got him, but it is still not to be trusted one hundred percent and could use improvement. We are keeping up with his training, and are constantly adding to the ‘treat bank’ while trying not to take out too many withdrawals, as Maren would say!

Prey Drive– Remember how I said Quinn got picked up for chasing cats? Well, cats are now the least of our worries. His nose can pick up scent paths from miles away, and he is so intent on following it that not even dangling a steak in front of his face would sway him to stop. We are still working on training with him at every moment, not just when it’s necessary to get a response.

Begging – This one is definitely our own fault. Quinn didn’t have any signs of begging when we first got him, but now that we’ve been on the road he is getting worse. This is mostly due to the fact that we are now eating at his level on camp chairs and not at a table, as well as us allowing him to clean our dinner plates on occasion (we’re on vacation, after all!) We are however consistent with him on begging when it comes to others. I feel like if we keep this up, and once we get back to an ‘at home routine’ we can easily help ease him away from begging.

To follow along on their journey, check out her blog.