We I love travelling with a dog. One of the best things we I have done with our my life is rescuing a helpless and starving stray.
Travelling with a dog is something that can really only be done if your travel is vehicle based, but it is also rewarding, engaging and uniquely challenging.
Lets face it, deciding to take a year or longer to travel the world is a rare enough endeavor. Deciding to do it in a vehicle is rarer still and deciding to add a dog into to the mix puts you into a very niche category of travellers indeed.
Perhaps there are enough individuals who travel within the US or Europe, taking their dog along in the RV tour of Bordeaux or Southern Wyoming. But overland travel is slightly different. It panders to the call of the wild, combined uniquely with the comfort of a vehicle. We don’t want to sleep in a tent for two years, but neither do we want to wander the road in a converted bus with plasma screen TV’s and a bathroom that would be the envy of half the world. We want to be able to reach wild places, and we want to be able to relax and explore them at our own pace, with a cold beer in the fridge, a reasonable bed and a weeks supply of food.
So, adding a dog into the mix seems to be a no-brainer.
Dogs want to be in the wilds.
Dogs want to explore.
Dogs want a reasonable bed.
Dogs want more than a weeks supply of food.
Overlanding and Dogs seems a match made in heaven.
I pretty much do believe this. And our stray hound is an (almost) ideal companion for this lifestyle. He is calm on long drives. He does not miss or need routine. And he never, ever tires.
Travelling with him is great. He is in equal measures and when required; a guardian, a friend, and a warm teddy bear to cuddle on cold nights.
At least, that is the theory. The hound does make a wonderful guardian, if the only threats we ever faced were other dogs, squirrels and the occasional wasp. He is a friend, unless there is almost anything in the immediate vicinity that he wants to chase. He is, in his most redeeming feature though, always calm and cuddly with us, strangers, or children who take a shine to him.
Despite his shortcomings, I wouldn’t change a thing much and I certainly would not, were it in my power, travel without my furry companion.
There are, however, a few issues for those of you who may be thinking about taking the dog along on your next/first overland adventure. A few unique daily challenges that are unique to our unique situation.
Leaving the dog.
Not too bad in cold or mildly temperate climates. But in the summer or on a sunny day, he can’t stay in the car. Many a time this has meant us taking turns waiting in a Walmart car park or desperately searching a city for a restaurant with outdoor seating. As with all of the challenges, this is completely manageable but can be a little difficult from time to time.
As specific as our situation is, this one is even more specific to those travelling with a dog in the US.
But what the hell is up with dog rules in parks in the US? It occurred to me that the dog may cause issues on flights, at borders, or in restaurants. I never even began to acknowledge that there may be an issue with National Parks. You know, those vast expanses of Government protected wilderness where you go hiking for hours on end. In any other country they are the greatest place to take a dog. But in the US, for some reason, they are required to stay in the car, or in the developed areas.
I.E. you cannot legally hike with your dog in most National Parks.
Also, in many states it is illegal to leave a dog in an unattended vehicle (not that we would anyway).
So having a dog, means that for us, on this trip, it would have been illegal for us to hike in many of the national parks.
This one depends on which country you visit, but outside of the western hemisphere, every country I have visited has an abundance of stray or ‘community’ dogs.
These can be territorial, and as the hound was one of them, he must have learned to stand his ground. Once in Istanbul he got in an argument with a group of mongrel Anatolian Shepherds and him and I would have likely been ripped limb from limb had the traffic on the main road that separated us lulled before we could scarper.
A problem that only occurs when there have been other problems. Staying anywhere but a forest or campsite means that something has gone badly wrong with the vehicle.
When you have broken down in a Serbian industrial town at midnight, managed to flag a tow, got to a mechanic, got them to open up and got a taxi to the only hotel in 20 miles, the last thing you need to hear is that they don’t take dogs.
This ties in nicely with the last challenge. Usually, RV parks or Campgrounds are not city centre affairs. They usually reside in industrial areas or leafy suburbs. As we usually do not want the hassle of driving and parking in the city, a taxi or bus with the vehicle left behind is the best way to explore a city. In these circumstances it can be very difficult to negotiate passage for the dog.
Most dogs, and Frankie in particular need a lot of exercise. This is often no problem, we spend a lot of time hiking or wandering cities and he is happiest on these days when he gets to move.
Some days, however, involve long monotonous drives and seldom afford the hours needed to properly exercise ourselves or the hound. on these days, although he is happy enough, he can become quite restless or even depressed. This means adding more stops into already arduous drives to keep him happy. not the worst thing, but something to be considered.
Certainly not a problem in the west, but for those considering taking their Dogs further afield, it is to be considered. Some places do not even entertain the idea. Dogs eat scraps. this might mean you having to put the effort into buying meat and rice or whatever else you can find to keep him fed. I am sure that your dog wont mind being bumped up to this human diet, but your wallet might!
As I said when I began, most days are a veritable delight of walking and chilling. He starts many a conversation. Delights local children. Does his best to protect us. If it were up to him he would feed us. I would not and do not leave home without him and if it were up to
us me I would certainly add a few more furry friends and become follow the hounds.
Hopefully this will not dissuade anyone from taking their dog along on the trip of a lifetime, but will help you make a more informed decision on what is to be expected so that you and your dog can enjoy many happy years or months on the road together!