Life on the road wouldn’t be the same without my intrepid adventure dog, Lemhi.
Lemhi turns twelve years old in August. He’s a 65 pound, furry, geriatric member of this nomad family. Keeping Lemhi happy and healthy is goal #1 on the road. Here’s a list of tips I use to make sure his experience as a nomad is top notch.
Food and Treats
Keep it Consistent: When I change Lemhi’s dog food his digestive system gets out of whack. Do your best to keep your dogs food consistent on the road. Mike, my husband, is in charge of tracking down Taste of the Wild for Lemhi. In advance of your nomad departure, make sure the food you are feeding your pet is readily accessible throughout your travel area and adjust as necessary (do this with any supplements, too).
Set a Schedule: Lemhi eats breakfast each morning at 7:00AM, and has dinner promptly at 6:30PM. He also has a bone before bed – and if you don’t give it to him, he’ll let you know. Living on the road offers little comfort for creatures of habit, which can be stressful. Setting (and keeping) feeding times will help adjust your pup to being mobile.
Water, Always: Lemhi always has access to water, unless the van is in motion. I picked up a small ceramic bowl with a plastic lid at Home Goods, and I keep the bowl capped when we’re moving so it doesn’t splash everywhere. Once the van stops, the lid comes off.
Make a Space: Create a spot in your camper that belongs to your pet. Lemhi’s dog bed tucks in between the drivers seats and the living area. He picked the spot: on every drive we took when prepping for our journey he settled in between the driver and passenger seats. As soon as Hobbes fires up Lemhi moves immediately from wherever he is to his bed (he also sleeps on the bed at night). Having a home base makes being in the camper much less stressful for him.
Anxious Pets: I’m lucky that Lemhi is a good traveler – he gets neither carsick nor anxious on the road. I’ve met other nomads who work with their veterinarian to get medication to help their pets travel comfortably.
Walks and Waste
More Walkies: When he lived in a brick-and-mortar house Lemhi had the luxury of a dog door. He picked when he wanted to go out to pee, to poo, or to lay in the sun and try to catch flies. Life as a nomad dog isn’t so simple. Sometimes I’ll luck out with a campsite where Lemhi can wander (if we are somewhere remote without neighbors) but more often Mike or I take him out on leash. Lemhi goes out with one of us every couple hours to attend to business. It also gives him the chance to stretch his legs and get fresh air.
Pick it Up: Mike and I always, always, always pick up Lemhi’s waste (even in those remote campsites with no neighbors). It’s simply part of being a good pet owner. Lemhi’s leash has a small bag dispenser attached, so there’s always a poo bag handy.
Leaving Pets Solo
Temperature Control: Lemhi often chills in the camper solo for an hour or two while we are sightseeing or running errands. Apart from making sure he has water and has taken care of any bodily functions, temperature in the camper is my number one priority.
Lemhi’s comfort level, being an Idaho dog, ranges from about 40 degrees to 70 degrees. Your pet may differ based on how much fur he or he has, and the temperature they are used to. I keep a small digital temperature display in Hobbes which records a 24 hour high and low. On cold days, Lemhi wears a down jacket. On warm days, I use a combination of sun-blocking window shields and our Fantastic Fan to keep the camper comfortable. It’s crucial that there’s good ventilation, too.
Where to Park: Seek out parking that is quiet, shaded, and away from other vehicles or busy intersections. With less distractions outside, Lemhi will snooze happily in the van (and is grateful for a break from us, I’m sure).
Find Dog Friendly Adventures: Being a nomad should be an adventure for your pup, too! Lemhi joins Mike and I on adventures whenever he’s allowed to. He’s walked the Turquoise Trail in Tucson, camped on the dunes in White Sands National Monument, and played fetch in the Valley of the Gods.
Dogs are often allowed on the trails in state, county and city parks, some national monuments, and on BLM and Forest Service land. They are rarely allowed past the parking lot in national parks. Dogs are also welcome on many outdoor patios at restaurants and bars. Check out the app BringFido to find locations while on the road.
Dog Fitness: Cultivate a realistic understanding of your pets level of fitness. Lemhi, as a geriatric pup, can hike about two miles before his hips start to hurt. He can play a raucous game of fetch for about 10 minutes before he lays down for a break. Many dogs need a lot of exercise to match their energy level. Know your dogs limits and needs…and stick to them.
Talk to Your Vet: Before hitting the road I brought Lemhi into his vet and discussed nomad life. Lemhi received a bevy of vaccines that he didn’t need as an Idaho dog. Be sure to tell your vet where you’re going, and what activities your pup will be doing.
First Aid: Lemhi is a bit of a klutz. He frequently tears his pads, gets cactus spines stuck in his legs, and trips over sagebrush. Stock a small dog first aid kit to keep in your camper, and know how to use it.
My nomad life is so much sweeter with a furry companion. While constant travel can be stressful for pets, it helps to keep a consistent schedule, to make sure their needs are met, and to prioritize their comfort every day.
Disclaimer: I am neither a vet nor a dog whisperer. These tips do not constitute medical or expert advice. You know your pet best!
What are the tips and tricks do you use to keep your pup happy on the road?