Meet our dogs!
What is it like living in a bus with 2 high energy dogs? Insane. But so much fun! I should rephrase 2 high energy dogs as well to one extremely high energy, bonkers all the time dog and one relatively high energy but pretty chill dog.
Meet Meech, our two year old female Boxer, who yes got her name from a rapper in our favorite group. Meech is the extremely high energy bonkers all the time one, we like to compare her to a bunny, a kangaroo, and a cheetah all rolled into one. We got her as a baby as soon as she was ready to leave her litter and we knew she fit perfectly with our personalities and lifestyle right away. When researching the breed before choosing a Boxer we knew they needed lots of exercise and attention, were extremely loyal, intelligent, great with kids, and have a puppy stage that is the longest of all breeds(lasting 3 years). These facts are all accurate when it comes to our boxer and we really hope that the one about the puppy stage being done at three years old is true, but we kind of doubt it. Meech is extremely obedient and intelligent, full of character and energy and as well she has pretty severe separation anxiety, all manageable once we figured out what works best for her and us
and we are still learning everyday.
This is Rocco! He is our 5 year old male Staffordshire Bull-Terrier, the relatively high energy one but also a super chill guy. Rocco joined our family just shortly before he turned five years old, so about 1 full year now. Rocco is our seal, shrew, komodo dragon, rhino, and bear cub, amongst many other animals, dog. We find a new animal of which he compares to almost daily, it is quite hilarious and he is always putting a smile on your face with his goofiness. His favorite activity of all would have to be finding the largest log that he can possibly carry and run around wildly with it without a care in the world like he is a little puppy. You just have to be cautious to know where he is at all times or your legs may get swiped out. When he wants you to throw the log for him, he will toss it to you and we emphasize 'toss', you have to be ready for the 30 lb logs coming at you, but it is so much fun to play this game with him and to see how much joy it brings him. The noises he makes alone have people belly laughing for hours when they first meet him, no actually though wait until you hear a Staffy playing, or happy, or being sassy or trying to get your attention, you'll know what we mean. Rocco will straight up converse with you if you ask him questions. Rocco has been such an awesome addition to our little family, for Meech and us.
Rocco came from the same home as Meech which made their transition to living together very smooth. They are the best of buds and their huge personalities are hilarious to see come out as they interact. They act just like human siblings. Meech bugs the heck out of him on a daily bases by doing annoying boxer things like trying to take him down in a head lock or box him or poke and prod at him constantly with her jabs. Rocco, being almost 4 years older has a much calmer demeanor and just wants to relax and do normal dogs things like exercise and then sleep most of the day. When you learn the number of hours a dog is supposed to sleep per day, its about a third of that time for our boxer, were not sure how she does it.
Don't Bully my Breed
We chose to bring two beautiful bully breeds into our life as we knew they would be perfect fits for our personalities and we wouldn't change it for the world. Having two bullies keeps you on your toes, they are rambunctious and so very wise. When I (Brooke) walk them by myself when Logan is at work, I feel extremely safe, they are my personal body guards as any dog should be, your best friend and your protector we believe. Having dogs also makes you feel safe living in a bus when you are parked for the night in unfamiliar areas, no one is going to try to mess you when your personal body guards are the first one they would see and be greeted by. People either act 1 of 2 ways around these breeds, they literally shriek and come over and ask us to pet them saying how beautiful they are and just want one of their extremely slobbery kisses, or the other reaction is the people that purposely move out of the way or across the street to avoid them. We are used to it and don't judge anyone for their personal experiences with animals. Though, the stigma around uneducated people giving a new breed a bad rep every decade is rather annoying and wrong. 'Bad' dogs are a result of a bad owner and how they are treated, not by the type of breed that they are. We just want to
show people how amazing these dogs are to work with and what they are capable of.
When you combine their intelligence and strength for good, humane purposes they are
amazing athletes and brilliant animals. Possibilities are endless for them; protection work, search and rescue, agility and much more! In our opinion, having a dog is like having a baby, they are going to turn out a certain way according to how you raise them, how you teach them, how you influence them. They look up to you and pick up on behaviors just as much as a human kid does and this couldn't be more true.
How do we tend to all their needs while living in a bus?
When we chose to buy and convert our bus into our tiny home, we were not just thinking of ourselves and what we wanted for the next stage of life. Every decision we make that effects the whole family, our dogs are 100% a part of. Not every dog is going to be best suited living #vanlife and alot of people probably would guess that our dogs would not be suitable because of their energy levels and so on. And we probably would have thought the same too, before getting to know them better ourselves. Though it is how you make the necessary changes and adaptations for you and your dogs to be just as comfortable as they would be living in a house. Our dogs comfort and happiness at all times is our top priority. For example we didn't have a backyard in any of the last 3 places we lived that was ours solely to use with our dogs. It is such a dog friendly world now, any dog friendly area, is our huge backyard to explore now and that is exciting!
Our dogs are not small, being a combined weight of about 115 lbs they take up a fair bit of space. Its funny too because they were restless being cooped up in the tiny condo we lived in, but they have adjusted so well to bus life already they don't feel that way in our even smaller space now. The key we have found is making sure that everyone still has their 'own' space within the bus so that everyone can be together but have their own place to go and relax and have alone time so that we are not all crowding each other 24/7. To ensure this was possible
we made the dogs their own kennel in the bus that is their bed and safe space that is just their own to have down time. As well we built our bedroom higher up so that we are on a separate level from them at night time and they aren't able to jump up into our space unless we invite them and bring them up.
How do we keep them properly exercised?
We use a number of different training techniques to keep our pups well exercised, their brains and their muscles. The training styles we use range from, obedience training, quick burst exercise, endurance exercise, search and rescue exercises and protection work. It is so important to exercise dogs physically, but mentally stimulating them as well is such an amazing way for them to exercise and truly shows how much they are capable of. For example, our boxer needs an excessive amount of 'attention' exercise throughout the day compared to some other breeds of dogs. Whereas our staffy would rather just chase a ball for an hour straight, our boxer would in most cases prefer to do obedience training and be told what to do next to make her think and exercise her skills. Yes, she still needs to run and burn off energy physically but when done correctly incorporating physical work into her obedience training she will be just as fatigued as if she played fetch, but she does need both. We also create puzzles for her with treats in them so that she can independently work/play on her own when we are busy.
Living in a bus in very small quarters means that we have to be a bit more strict on inside rules/behavior guidelines as well as our dogs knowing that inside time means rest and relaxing time. Having these guidelines is super beneficial for them and us, and only makes them more attentive, alert and allows them to clearly separate playing/training time from relaxing time which has actually made Meech get more of the amount of rest and sleep that she needs in a day. Let us know if you would like more details on our training techniques that we use with our pups and how they work!
How do we make sure they are safe when we leave?
When you live in a van, your van is your home, your tiny home. This being said, leaving our animals alone in our 'house' is just the same as leaving them alone in a stationary traditional house. We take the exact same precautions and care into their comfort and safety while they are alone with slight adjustments of course for being in a bus in comparison to a house. That being said we have worked a job where we had to be away from our dogs for 8-12 hours a day while we were living in a suite, which is not a comfortable routine for any dog. We would never recommend that anyone choose to enter into #vanlife with a pet knowing that they would have to be away that long, without someone else looking after the dogs needs. This lifestyle for us, being a lower budget one, is giving us the opportunity to not have to both be away from them that long for a job ever again. Our goal is to be able to make enough of an income ourselves to be able to stay with them and be doing more of what we love more often, but at the moment we are lucky enough that one of us can be with them during the day everyday. A family (pack) functions better when they are all together and our pups respond to this as they get to stay more on top of their training.
Our dogs have a kennel inside the bus where they have enough room to stretch out and relax. We also make sure that if we have to leave them that we are parked in shade(though we don't leave them if its too hot), they have water and windows are cracked and covered so as little heat as possible gets in. If its too warm for us its too warm for them which all pet owners should follow. They have leads attached to the wall to make sure they remain safe and cannot be running around, especially our boxer as she suffers with severe separation anxiety, she will get way too stressed out if she were left out to roam while we are gone. We also have a wire kennel with us that remains strapped on the roof at the moment until we need to make use of it. Having such a tall dog, the kennel has just enough space to open up inside the walking space of the bus for use when we need it. We are also very thankful that our dogs do not bark, they love to sit and watch people and dogs walking and cars going by and they don't bark which is amazing. Our boxer will whine if she really badly wants to play with a puppy that goes by but we'd still take that over barking any day. They will let us know if they want to warn us of something near with one low 'growl' and when we leave them alone they will not bark which is phenomenal.
This lifestyle like we said earlier, gives us the opportunity to all be together more, which means that we plan our adventures according to our dogs coming with us as much as they can. They are our 'kids' we plan accordingly to what we can all do together. When we want to go on excursions that we absolutely cannot take them with us, we will find a place that we feel safe boarding them or leave them with family, though we try to do this as little as possible as they are a handful. We have had Meech for two years and Rocco for one and we have left Meech once in that period of time for a week long trip, and thankfully she was able to stay with family.
Difficulties of living #vanlife with dogs?
1. You are outdoors more often and in campgrounds more often, this means that you have to deal with irresponsible dog owners that don't respect on leash/off leash areas. Thus, letting their dogs roam free running through your campsite, sneaking up on your dogs which can result in unwanted altercations with your animal and theirs. We love off leash areas, it allows us to let Rocco walk freely beside us without a lead and be social with passing by dogs. It allows us to train with Meech as she is still training on respectful skills in off leash areas and that not every dog wants to be boxed and played with all the time.
2. Keeping your dog cool in hot temperatures and warm in cold temperatures is slightly more difficult in a van than a house. For winter/fall and when were in colder places we have built a mini wood stove that we will be installing ASAP. We don't need it at this exact moment in time which allows us a bit of time to acquire the rest of the piping and necessary parts that we will need as well as some adjustments to our kitchen in order to have room for it. As well we have extra blankets just for our pups and sweaters for them for being outside. We live on the west coast right now, which means rain a lot of the time. Our dogs aren't a huge fan of this when it is chilly and you get soaking wet as soon as you step outside, so they wear rain coats out to keep their fur as dry as possible and to stay warm. Summer time means finding
lots of creeks, lakes, etc to swim in to cool off. Rocco especially, loves to swim even when its cold out. We also are looking at options for a fan to have in the bus to cool everyone off. We experienced just how the summer heat will effect us all while we were in Squamish a few weeks ago, it was about 30 degrees everyday. By using our emergency roof hatch we can create a great air flow as well that has helped us all stay cool so far. Feeding them ice from the cooler also is one of their favorite options as they think it is a treat. Logan and Rocco run hot all the time and Meech and Brooke run cold all the time so finding a balance for everyone can be a challenge but we find the best ways to make it work!
3. Keeping your tiny space tidy is a challenge, not a challenge that we weren't used to though. Living in our condo and two smaller suites showed us how hard it is to keep the floors clean with two short haired pups that shed a lot more than one would expect. When it comes to living in our bus, this means sweeping and shaking out the rugs and dog blankets/mats daily. As well as we use our vacuum whenever we get the chance, though with our smaller battery bank at the moment, this means that we can only use the vacuum when the bus is plugged in. Living in a bus with pups also means, windexing paw prints and nose/tongue prints off of the windows from them sitting a little to close up to the windows.
Overall this experience with 2 dogs has been incredible so far! Though everyone needed their time to get used to some changes, everyone is happy to be together more and outside more and we are all learning everyday.
Brooke & Logan.