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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Training a Rescue Dog to LOVE a Motorhome!~

Well, as you all know, we have recently adopted a little rescue sheltie named Binney.  She is still very skittish and shy, and needs encouragement on facing new things.  Slow and Steady wins the race with a damaged rescue dog anyhow.

She has been with us now for just over a month and has come a long way already.  She is comfortable in the house and has started to look around and explore each room without us dragging her in by a leash.  She hangs close to us, and is usually glued to Finnegan's side.  He follows me everywhere, so she does too. They are really two peas in a pod.

With our upcoming vacation in just four more weeks, she needs to get comfortable with the motorhome as well.  I mentioned in yesterday's blog that we were going to start introducing her to the rig and get her used to seeing it, going in and out the door, and where the food and water dishes will be kept.

She travels well in a crate in the car, so we are pretty sure the actual motion and movement will be fine with her once we are underway while in their crates. Plus, she will have Finney with her, as he seems to be her "security blanket".  LOL

It has finally warmed up enough around here, at least above zero, to be able to wander out to the motorhome a few times each day.  I opened up the blinds to let the sunshine in, and turned on the furnace to warm it up a bit in there before heading out with the dogs.  It was pleasantly warm in half an hour, so I went back into the house and harnessed up the dogs.


Little Binney is in the red harness and leash, and little Finney the boy, of course, is in blue! You can't see the harnesses with all that fluffy hair, but they are there and separate collars with tags on them.

Shelties really need harnesses because their fur around their necks (the ruff) is sooo thick, and their heads so tiny. They can slip out of a collar with a quick backwards pull and flip of their head.  Duke used to do it anytime he wanted to sniff something that wasn't within leash reach.  LOL  But he always came back to me on a reliable recall.  With these new rescue dogs, we can not be sure of that, and they are not bonded enough yet to be trusted off leash for a long time yet.

Finney: "We're going in that big blue box!"
Binney: "WHAAATTT???"

We made a couple of laps around the motorhome, 
letting her sniff at it from all angles.
Binney: "It's big, but it's not so scary..."
Finney: "It takes us to new places to SNIFF!"

I was careful to make sure she was back far enough for the automatic steps to come down
without smacking her in the face or scaring her. 
 Finney; "Now we get to go INSIDE"
Binney:  "Inside what?????"

Finney scrambled right up the steps, eager to go inside. He KNOWS what the motorhome represents to him from vacationing and camping all last year.  Binney scooted up behind him, because she hates to be left behind!   Good deal.... They settled right down once they got inside, so I could snap this pic.

 Finney: "See???? I told you there was nothing to be afraid of!"
Binney: "Speak for yourself"

I had a pocketful of treats.  Binney was quite scared and didn't want any. That is, until Finney ate a few.  Soon her timid nature was overtaken by her jealousy of Finnegan getting something she wasn't getting.  She ate one.

Finney: "Just wait.. they keep a whole drawer full of treats in here"
Binney: "One treat is fine, thank you very much" 

She didn't want to move around too much or check anything out right off the bat.  So I came in, shut the door and dropped her leash, still leaving it attached to her harness.  I proceeded to walk around and put away some clean towels, make a list of items to pack, and check the supply of dvd's and power cords.  I acted like it was no big deal, and dropped a few doggie treats around on the floor as I went.  Soon Finney noticed the treats and was off like a shot to swipe them up before Binney had a chance!  Oh well, I tried.

The furnace had made it pretty cozy and warm by now, and I took of my jacket and made myself at home. I figured I would emit how relaxed and happy I was, then she would pick up on the vibes.  I even turned on the tv to make it sound like common household everyday noise.  Finney scooted over to the loveseat and hopped up to make himself comfortable.  Like a shot, right behind him, she hopped up too!  (dontcha love the woven Sheltie Throw I won at last year's Wisconsin Sheltie Rescue Reunion Auction?)

Finney: "See?? I told you it was just like home!"
Binney: "Shut up and stay on your own side of the loveseat, this side is MINE!"

After about half an hour, I pulled them both off the loveseat and let her explore around the motorhome.  She was sniffing here and there, and followed Finney around.  I had a water bottle and poured a bit in the dishes we keep in the bathroom.  She didn't drink any, but sniffed and knew it was there.  Establishing eating and drinking areas for her to become familiar with. 

I put new linens on the bed, and once it was made, I popped both dogs up on the bed with me!  That was fine and dandy with Binney, and she cuddled up close.  It was a good rest, and she relaxed enough to put her ears up and look around and be curious of the surroundings. 

Finney found the basket of toys and had to sniff and drag out one or two. He got a far-away look in his eyes, and I KNEW he was thinking of his old pal Duke, who played with those toys with him.  Games of TUG and FETCH and CHEW and CHASE.  Duke passed away in November, and it is still fresh in Finney's mind.  I know he misses Duke, but little Binney doesn't yet play such rough and tumble games with him.  In time...  in time...

I took Binney off of the bed and let her sniff at the toys.  She was all immersed in the scents coming off them!  I am sure many even smell like Duchess, who passed away they year before in June. She didn't know either dog, but I imagine that she was wondering "where are those other doggies???"

After an hour, we went back into the house.  When Steve got home from work at 4:30, we all went back out again to let her know that Steve is also a part of this motorhomeing thing.  We hung out there another half an hour.  I plan to go in and out a few times each day now so she gets used to being in there.  Ater a week or so, I will set up the video camera one day and leave them both in there alone, to see what they do. 

Setting up a video camera is a great method to see how your dog behaves in your camper when your are gone. The last thing you want is a barking howling distressed dog while you leave to go sightseeing or get groceries.  It is not good for your pet to be so distraught. Plus, it will make you VERY unpopular with your camping neighbors and might get you fined or kicked out of a park!   

We have done the video camera monitoring with our other dogs to "test" them. and they "pass" each time.  We make sure we have all of the windows shut, shades drawn, a fan on for air movement and a tv or radio playing loud enough to drown out any outside noises. Our test videos are very boring... sleeping dogs.. yawning dogs.. up for a lap of water... turn around three times and lay back down.  That is the extent of it. 

These next four weeks, we are also going to practice going potty on the end of a leash out in our yard instead of her secure fenced-in potty area out of our backdoor of the house. That is a "must" once we get underway, that when we take a break, they both need to do their duty in strange places. (and yes, we have doggie pickup bags attached to our leashes at all times)

My oh my, what we go through to take our fur babies camping! But hey, they are part of the family, and I wouldn't want it any other way! 


  1. You have so much time and love to give those pups. It's obvious you're cut out for the job of Sheltie rescue home. So sweet.

  2. How special. It is so important that they are comfortable in both homes, just like you're teachings them. You really are a good fur mom! Becki

  3. What a great introduction for Binney. When we picked up Olivia, we were in the motorhome and she just thought it was where she was going to live (before we began full time travel). Our return to sticks and bricks three weeks later, she had to "adjust" to sticks and bricks living.....

  4. I LOVE this post. It always makes me happy when a puppy has parents who truly understand doggie behavior and work to make the dog comfortable. I agree with everything you said and appreciate how you are going about acclimating Binney to the motorhome. Great "public service announcement." Our two mini-Aussies have the same type of thick fur and we always harness them and have their ID on a separate collar - and yes, they are chipped!! It will be 1 year next month since they came into our lives and we are still dealing with some fearful behavior in the male. They are so worth it though. I hope you have a wonderful trip with Binney and Finn.

  5. Always nice to see when people make a caring effort & take the necessary time to welcome new best Pals into a household. You are doing it right with the least amount of stress or trauma. So important for new family members to feel loved, wanted, & welcome. Good for you guys in taking the time & knowing how to do that:))

  6. A great post and a great look dog ... good on you for rescuing. I have never thought about a 2nd color just with tags, good idea.

  7. I have no doubt that Binney is going to love RVing as much as all your other dogs. In addition to being given a great introduction to RVing, dogs are real quick to pick up on their people's feelings about things. The dogs look so cute sitting there.

  8. Super info and ideas. Our Lil' continues to exolve and reveal her true self. Been a little over a year but when we lost the Tobs she kicked her new personality development into hi gear! Sure can take some time for them to totally feel comfortable. Great job Binney!

  9. Beautiful shelties. It sure makes it easy when the new one has an experienced dog to follow. Hope you get out of Wisconsin okay.

  10. congrats on your new addition! she is a beauty!
    I am sure she will adapt very well with travelling down the road in 'style'..you have the right idea by breaking her in slowly!


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