Confessions of a Dog Who Hates the RV Lifestyle

by Christy on

Because our dog has yet to learn how to type (he’ll get there though, just you wait!), I’ve decided to write this confessional on his behalf.

I initially hemmed and hawed at being his professional intermediary, mostly because we just wrote an in-depth article on why you SHOULD bring your pet along for a trip in the motorhome. And while it’s true that most pets do really well in RVs, I failed to mention that OUR pet doesn’t do well at all.

In fact, it probably wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that he hates it. Despises it. Probably plots our imminent demise nightly for bringing him on this dog-forsaken journey.

Unhappy RV Dog

Our dog (Koa) is a three year old border collie. Don’t know anything about border collies?  THEY’RE CRAZY. Widely considered the most intelligent dog breed, border collies are high-energy workers that need a job (any job!) to be happy, and can sometimes be a little neurotic.

Okay, I’m being nice – they’re often VERY neurotic. When left to their own devices for too long, border collies are known to entertain themselves in rather destructive ways… such as eating through your living room wall.

Thankfully Koa has never tended toward the destructive, but his Achilles heel is his skittishness; what he lacks in typical border collie problems he more than makes up for in his neurotic mistrust of anything he doesn’t fully understand.

Koa in Gulf Shores, AL

Falling acorns in Vermont caused him so much consternation that he spent days jumping into our lap whenever they hit the roof. The silver lining was that Koa cuddled in bed with us all night, but unfortunately he spent most of that time sleeping on my face.

And don’t even get me started on car rides… I would rather get my wisdom teeth pulled without anesthesia than ride in a car with my own dog. He is that bad. We have trained and bribed and cursed and cried, but still our dog insists on having a nervous meltdown every single time we drive anywhere. He considers our mobile home safe and cozy most of the time, but as soon as the engine turns on its all OMG APOCALYPSE!!!

His neuroses are a little less prominent when he’s well-exercised (in other words, exhausted and taking a nap), so we do our best to oblige his high-energy needs. However, this gets a little tricky on the road.

For most of our trip we’ve been able to find empty fields or at least a quiet piece of grass for some frisbee action, but since being in the southwest we’ve run into an issue: thorns.

Koa at Gulf Shores, AL

Dog parks are another option… for normal dogs. You see, our dog doesn’t always play well with others. Big dogs and medium dogs and sometimes even small teacup dogs make him nervous. Taking Koa to the dog park is like taking a two-year-old child who likes to throw sand in other kids’ eyes to the neighborhood playground — it’s just an all-around bad idea.

At this point I’m sure we come across as awful pet owners, and it’s possible that we are. But believe me, we’ve tried! During the first two years of his life we worked with SEVEN different trainers… many of which contradicted the others’ methods, some of which were downright awful, and none of which were able to make him a confident, well-adjusted dog. We learned all sorts of useful cues and fun tricks from some of these trainers, but his underlying nervousness remains; at root, our dog just worries too much.

He worries that the cats crouched under the RV are sinister villains planning their next nefarious scheme while licking hairballs. Campground golf carts are clearly ravenous beasts that eat dogs for dinner. The dude walking across the parking lot must be planning to invade our home, never mind the fact that he’s walking *away* from the RV.

Koa defends his home from these threats by sitting in Mayhem’s cab and barking at stupid shit THAT DOESN’T NEED TO BE BARKED AT.   And while I admire his dedication (this is the job he’s given himself, and he’s determined to do it well!), I’m less than thrilled with his methods.

Koa @ Herring Cove Beach, Cape Cod

The thing is, aside from all this he’s actually an amazing dog. Affectionate and silly and eager to please…. and so darn adorable! After we’ve exhausted him with a game of fetch and he comes and collapses in our lap in a big happy panting pool of drool, everything else just melts away.

We adore our dog, but for the sanity of this pack we really shouldn’t be living in an RV.

Koa playing at Honeymoon Island State Park, FL

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Brianatwitter: _TallyHo_ April 17, 2011 at

Hi Guys! :)

Today we moved back into our RV and Cali (our somewhat neurotic pup) refused to get back into the RV. We tried all sorts of begging then resigned to treats… which she would not take.

If she were a person she would be a teenage girl who was screaming about how we are “ruining her life!” and how much she hates us. I’m sure there would be a lot of slamming of doors. Sigh.

I just keep focusing on all of the AMAZING adventures we are providing to her. :)

Tally Ho!

Bree.

PS. we are at Austin Java right now. :)

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Christy April 17, 2011 at

Hey you two… yay for Austin Java! :) Cali’s reaction is so strange – dogs have the weirdest idiosyncrasies sometimes! And we tell ourselves the same thing… as much as all the new stimuli freaks him out, he does enjoy getting to smell and explore a new place every day or week.

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jill- Jack and JIll Traveltwitter: jacknjilltravel April 17, 2011 at

Hmmm, he sounds like a very, very horrible (albeit an adorable-looking) dog. I think you should give him to us :)
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Christy April 17, 2011 at

Hahahaha! Sneaky….. ;)

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Dalene - Hecktic Travels April 17, 2011 at

Great post, you had me LOL. He’s so adorable, love the photos!! The biggest thing we miss, because of our travels, is the companionship of pets. It was those quirky traits that we remember most, and we sometimes see little reminders in other pets and it brings back great memories.
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Christy April 17, 2011 at

Koa is staying with Kali’s family when we travel abroad in a few months, and we’re already getting nervous about how much we’re going to miss him. As much as he drives us nuts, he also brings so much happiness and silliness into our lives. *tear*

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Cherie @Technomadia April 18, 2011 at

Oh goodness.. so so adorable! Traveling with pets has its challenges, for sure. But their companionship and love is so special. We keep putting off extended international travel for not wanting to part with our cat, Kiki – who we raised to be a traveling cat.
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Christy April 18, 2011 at

Raising your pet to be travel-savvy definitely seems like the way to go! I just wish we had known that sooner, lol.

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Triciatwitter: geekyexplorers April 18, 2011 at

So cute! We are a little nervous about taking Samantha – she has her ‘issues’, but really I am more afraid of the cats. We already have ruined their lives countless times with our moves, I can’t wait to see how they will plot our demise when we move them into an RV. :-)
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Christy April 18, 2011 at

I would imagine cats are a little more difficult to RV with… a cat we had a few years ago (pre-RV) would wedge herself under the seat whenever we drove anywhere and would refuse to come out! I guess it’s a little scarier for cats because they often don’t get acclimated to vehicles as much? Good luck with Samantha and your kitties, though! I’m rooting for you and your sanity. :P

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Melissatwitter: longhaulproject April 18, 2011 at

Koa is so cute! We’re owners of a somewhat neurotic dog, too, and know how hard it can be. Sounds like Koa will enjoy a break from the road, even if you’ll miss him like crazy.
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Christy April 18, 2011 at

It’s kind of reassuring to know that other people have neurotic dogs as well, Melissa! Makes us feel a little better, even though maybe it shouldn’t. :P

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Akilatwitter: theroadforks April 18, 2011 at

Awww . . . Koa is so cute. Well, speaking as an owner of a dog who totally freaks out around new people (our younger dog, not our older one), have you considered trying the ThunderShirt? We haven’t bought it yet but it’s supposed to significantly reduce anxiety and we’ve heard from several people that it works VERY well. It might work for her to wear it if there’s something that’s specifically freaking her out. They’re about $30 and the reviews on Amazon are amazing. We’re thinking about getting one for Abby during thunderstorms because Abby totally freaks out — to the point that she starts pacing around the bedroom and looking for a place to wedge her huge body.

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Christy April 18, 2011 at

I’ve never heard of the ThunderShirt, Akila, but I’m definitely going to check it out now – thanks for the suggestion! And I hear you about thunderstorms; thankfully Koa’s reaction with those is to just quietly climb in our lap and stay there till it’s over. As long as he’s not barking or carrying on, I don’t mind that too much…. and it’s good cuddle time. :)

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Akilatwitter: theroadforks May 18, 2011 at

Christy, just wanted to let you know that we bought the Thundershirt a few weeks ago and tried it last week on Abby. It is a miracle. Seriously. We put it on her on a night where: (1) we had guests (which freaks her out); (2) one of the guests was a rambunctious six-year old (which seriously freaks her out); and (3) there was a thunderstorm (which normally pushes her right under the bed or pacing for hours until the storm ends). It basically wraps around her very very tightly and she felt comforted. It was almost immediate – we put it on and she instantly felt better and we took it off and she felt worse. Definitely consider getting it for Koa if there’s something he especially freaks out about (such as acorns).

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Christy May 18, 2011 at

I’m so glad you mentioned it again! I had looked into it and have been meaning to buy one, but for the last two months we haven’t stayed put so it was hard to figure out where to ship it. So your timing is just perfect to remind me again – this weekend we’re taking Koa on a long car drive to stay overnight in a strange place with three new dogs and tons of new people… pretty much everything that makes him freak out! I just bought one online and shipped it overnight, so we’ll have it in plenty of time to get him acclimated and use it this weekend. I’m really hoping it works for Koa as well as it does for Abby! :)

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Scott - Quirky Travel Guytwitter: quirkytravelguy April 18, 2011 at

Sounds like you have your hands full… hopefully when this is over, you’ll look back fondly and laugh at how he drove you nuts.
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Christy April 18, 2011 at

Ha, we probably will. In those moments (particularly when he whines non-stop as we drive) we want to strangle him, but it’s kind of funny when there’s some distance. :P

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Anne McKinnell April 18, 2011 at

We have 2 beagles and whenever we go travelling we find that only one of them can be good at a time. My husband and I each have a beagle, we had them before we met. This works well because each of them has an ultimate master and they are each someone’s favourite dog :) Anyway … when we are driving, my dog Oscar (who is an old man now) just sleeps and could care less what’s going on. Sometime he looks out the window at the sights passing by like the mellow-ist dog in the world. Meanwhile Ray’s dog, Angelina, has to be in a seatbelt otherwise she will crawl under the driver’s legs. She sits there panting and shaking with her head hanging low and is totally miserable the entire time. And god help us if Ray gets out of the vehicle because she will let out the most piercing shriek that will break your ear drums. Usually I have to get in the back and cover her eyes and then when Ray gets out she doesn’t know what’s happening. Yep, she’s that stupid.

Then, when we arrive at our destination, Angelina turns into the angel she was named after and Oscar turns into whiney, crying needy dog who wants his dinner NOW. He wants out, he wants in, he wants food, he wants cookies, he wants up, he wants down. And he will whine the whole time there is any food anywhere.

At the end of the last trip I said I wasn’t doing another trip with the dogs. And now we are about to leave for a year. This time we bought a 5th wheel and I think we’re going to leave the beagles in their kennels in the 5th wheel while we are driving! That should help Angie while we are on the move and if not at least it will ease the pain for us. There’s no helping Oscar and his food obsession.

You are not alone with neurotic dogs! At least you only have one!
Anne McKinnell recently posted: Boxes- lovely boxes!!

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Christy April 18, 2011 at

Oh my word, that’s such a handful, Anne! It’s so funny how each dog has its own unique neuroses… and the clever ways we adapt to deal with them. :P We’ve tried keeping Koa in his crate while driving, but he gets so freaked out… and there really isn’t a good place to keep it near the front of the motorhome, so he’d have to be in the back bedroom. So instead we make him lay down in between the seats, and then when he whines too much we tell him to “go on” and make him go to the back of the motorhome. He hates being back there by himself, so there’s major incentive for him to stop whining so he can join us again in the front (when we give him the cue “free”). It can get sooo exhausting, though – I can’t imagine doing it with two! :)

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Teresa April 18, 2011 at

Sounds like Koa could use a homeopathic remedy! :D I’ve also heard that lavender is really calming for some pets – maybe you guys could make a pillow for her filled with dried lavender? I hope you guys are still planning on heading to Phoenix!
Teresa recently posted: Moving On Up!

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Christy April 18, 2011 at

Haha, he does like using pillows, so filling one with lavender is a great idea! And we’re definitely still heading to Phoenix…. still no idea when (I think soon, though!), but I’ll let you know as we get closer. :)

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Teresa April 18, 2011 at

Sounds great! Please tell Koa I apologize for calling him a her. :)
Teresa recently posted: Moving On Up!

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Christy April 18, 2011 at

EVERYONE does! We even kept accidentally referring to Koa as “her” for the first six months of his life, lol. I think it’s his coloring, or the fact that he’s so darn cute. ;)

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Jeremy Btwitter: budgettravelsac April 18, 2011 at

You definitely have a dog with a unique personality. Have you considered counseling for the dog? :)
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Christy April 18, 2011 at

I wish counseling was an option! We thought training would be the next best thing, but apparently not. He did enjoy learning how to herd sheep, though, so I guess all was not lost with those. :)

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Nina April 18, 2011 at

Awwww…..darn nice pictures

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Christy April 18, 2011 at

Thanks, Nina! He’s our favorite subject to photograph. We have 10x more photos of our dog than we do ourselves, lol.

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Jan Ross April 18, 2011 at

I’m sure she is much happier with you than being left behind, even though it may not seem like it!
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Christy April 18, 2011 at

We worry about that sometimes, but I think you’re right. He’s still affectionate, so at least we know he doesn’t hate us entirely. :P

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Andrea April 18, 2011 at

I so miss having a dog! Koa is adorable =)
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Christy April 18, 2011 at

Thanks, Andrea. Dogs are the best.

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Lisa April 18, 2011 at

Oh my gosh, this is hilarious and crazy. You are such good dog parents! I really give you kudo’s for giving such care and love to Koa. I hope you will all find a peaceful way to travel as a family.I plan to take my dog Tanner to Italy for a few months this fall.

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Christy April 19, 2011 at

Thanks for the comment, Lisa! And good luck traveling with your pup to Italy this fall… is he a small breed that would fit in a carry-on for the plane ride?

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Grace April 19, 2011 at

Christy I have actually been wondering how it is like to travel with a dog. I have a small shih tzu (her issue is that she is too chill) that I take along during road trips but have you actually taken Koa to overseas trips or perhaps one that requires a flight? I think Koa is super adorable and photogenic. Dogs are the best!!
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Christy April 19, 2011 at

Hi Grace, we’ve only traveled w/ Koa by car and RV. It would take a lot for us to consider traveling internationally with him, mostly because it would be so hard to justify putting him through the ordeal of flying long distances in a cargo hold.

Akila & Patrick (who blog at The Road Forks) just started a brand new blog focusing on international travel with dogs – The Road Unleashed. I think it will be a great resource… and who knows, after reading how they handle certain issues, maybe we’ll give it a try. :)

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Jilliantwitter: ishouldlogoff April 19, 2011 at

The great thing about dogs is that they love you despite the RV! haha. Sounds like it’s a trip traveling with a dog, but I have to agree with the others, he’s much happier with you than without you!

We’re settling in to get a dog in the near future. Keep these kind of posts coming!
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Christy April 19, 2011 at

That’s so true – a dog’s unconditional love is one of their best qualities. :)

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robin April 21, 2011 at

Bless him – sounds like a real personality!
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Christy April 21, 2011 at

Haha, so true. :)

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Shaun April 22, 2011 at

This sounds all too familiar. Our dog was a stray that we rescued off the street so he is very protective, yet terribly skittish. Luckily he likes car rides, but the longest trip we’ve ever taken him on was a 4 hour drive to the gulf from Austin. Though, we totally feel your pain.
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Christy April 23, 2011 at

Koa is exactly the same way – skittish and protective is not a good combination! Every dog has their quirks, though… :P

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Hitekhomeless (jenn) May 22, 2011 at

Our border collie/cattle dog is constantly looking for direction and nervous about whether she is doing exactly what we want of her 80% of the time. Thankfully, she has never been destructive. It’s just not in her.

We got lucky. She absolutely loves this lifestyle. It’s all she has ever known. Things could change, though. She’s still a pup. Her first b-day is the 25th.

Your boy is absolutely beautiful. If he ever gets a hankering to be a road dog again, he can hitch a ride ;)
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Christy May 26, 2011 at

We were just looking at your photos and caught a glimpse of your pup…. and oh jeez, those adorable puppy eyes melted us in a heartbeat! That’s so great she does well in the RV, and especially as such a young dog. If that has always been her “normal” then there’s a heck of a lot less adjustment she has to go through.

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hitekhomeless(jenn) November 12, 2011 at

Thanks. Those eyes get me too… daily. There wasn’t any adjustment time really. As she was only a few weeks old, she slept all but about four hours of the day. That made it really easy to get her used to it. Now, at 17 months, she just sleeps when ever we drive.

How is Koa doing now? He has really left a mark on me. He is such a beautiful dog.
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Christy November 12, 2011 at

Koa’s doing well! I think he’s so happy to be out of the motorhome, lol. We spent a month with family in OR and tried to help him adjust as much as possible before we started traveling abroad. They have cats (and, like we mentioned, Koa is convinced they’re evil masterminds), so that’s been interesting…. but they have so much property that Koa is just thrilled to be out running and rolling in deer droppings every day. :) We miss him like crazy, but he certainly doesn’t seem to mind!

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Mike Skirvin January 6, 2013 at

Returned from our first major trip (Indianapolis-Seattle-LA) just before Christmas. All three of our dogs accompanied us. The two Jack Russels were (unexpectedly) model traveling companions. Our third dog (who we describe as a Jack Daniels – there’s some strange parentage involved) was pretty sure the trip was taking him straight to doggy Hell. On the third day out, he squatted on a cactus. After that, everything was suspect. Until we returned to the safety of his own backyard, he refused to go to the bathroom anywhere that wasn’t paved.

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Steve February 5, 2013 at

We feel your pain! We have an Australian Shepherd mix. There is a lot of debate on whether Aussies or Border Collies or maybe Australian Cattle Dogs are the most bat-shit crazy. Our boy displays all the behaviors you describe. We are afraid to leave him alone in the RV (even if we’re just outside) for more than 5 minutes because he will wake the whole campground. We have tried trainers, and multiple training methods. This season we are going to try the soothing puppy collars as well as soothing music. I love that he has identified a job and is so dedicated, but we need to find a way to put him on vacation. We also have a Siberian Husky who is no help. He would sleep through a nuclear attack and the Aussie views him as a complete slacker who only makes the Aussies’ job harder, and more important.

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