As I write this the rain is tapping lightly on the top of the bus. The sound of the rain is much more vibrant out here than it is in a house, and I love the feeling. Will sits to my right, typing away, and Hilde lays at my feet. I love looking out the window to see the weather change – as they say about Montana, “if you don’t like the weather now, wait five minutes.”
Lots of people comment about how difficult it must be to live in the bus with such a big dog. She has no yard to run in! Surprisingly to some, it’s pretty easy. Most of our moments in the bus are just like the one described above: Will and I carrying on about our day, Hilde snoozing somewhere. From our experience so far I’m convinced that living with a big dog in a tiny space is all about exercise, training, and managing expectations.
When we got Hilde at 8 weeks old, just a tiny 10lb ball of fluff, we were living in a great big five bedroom house with almost two acres of yard – paradise for a curious puppy! However, the yard was unfenced and acted as a thoroughfare for wildlife: deer, elk, black bear, raccoons, even mountain lions were known to pass through our little slice of heaven. Of course, this meant that puff-ball Hilde wouldn’t be spending any unsupervised time outside, we were always with her when she roamed the yard.
From the Boulder house we moved to a one bedroom townhouse in Fraser, Colorado with no yard whatsoever. Hilde, now a rambunctious teenage dog, couldn’t be left inside all day or allowed to roam, so we amped up our exercise schedule. In the mornings we strapped climbing skins on our skis and skied up the Mary Jane side of the Winter Park ski resort, with Hilde bounding out ahead of us. These morning jaunts meant that she got her zoomies out and so did we – skiing uphill is great exercise!
We’ve carried on the same schedule on the bus. Hilde gets a ton of supervised outdoor time, mostly running and hiking with us. If we’re moving slowly she can cover up to 20 miles, and if we’re moving quickly she tops out at around 10 miles. We live by an old saying that says “a tired dog is a good dog” – so long as Hilde gets her exercise in, she’s happy to snooze on the couch for the rest of the day!
Though exercise is great at mitigating the incredible puppy energy, no amount of exercise could make up for a poorly trained dog. We took Hilde to puppy kindergarten and three levels of basic manners classes at the Boulder Humane Society. Though she doesn’t know a lot of tricks, these courses gave us a great foundation and she is turning into an absolutely delightful dog. For whatever reason she has a hard time remembering verbal commands, so we use mostly hand signals to get our points across. Hand signals are great because I can communicate with her while holding a conversation with someone else!
Managing expectations is probably the biggest key to success in living with a big dog in a tiny home. Early on in Hilde’s life Will and I adopted the philosophy that Hilde’s mistakes were symptoms of our shortcomings, and it has been an incredible tool for us. If she peed on the floor as a puppy it wasn’t because she was a bad dog, but because we weren’t paying enough attention to let her out. These days, if she’s acting naughty it’s because we haven’t put enough effort into getting her exercise. If she grabs something off the counter, it’s our fault for leaving it within her reach. Viewing behavioral issues in this way really motivates us to be better dog owners, and truly results in a better relationship with our pup.
Another part of managing expectations is simply recognizing and accepting the effects that 85lbs of dog has on such a small space. Dog hair is a way of life for us, and we are constantly sweeping and vacuuming it up, but sometimes it’s just something we live with. (Speaking of – we got a the Shark Cordless Pet Perfect vacuum and it is amazing! The brush attachment pulls hair off the couch like nothing I’ve ever seen before!) For us, it’s no big deal because Hilde brings so much joy into our lives, but it might be a deal breaker for someone more sensitive to hair. Her food, toys, and bed take up precious floor and storage space, and she’s laid claim to the couch. At the end of a rainy day, this place gets damp and stinky, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Finally, traveling with Hilde does impact where we can and can not go. Dogs aren’t allowed off the pavement in most national parks, so we tend to stick with national forests instead. Some campgrounds are not pet friendly, so we obviously don’t stay there either.
Overall, living with a big dog in a tiny house is no different from living in a regular house with no yard; we still do all the same things we’ve always done! Have you ever lived in a tiny house with a big dog? We would love to hear your tips and tricks!