RV Camping With An Adorable, Anxious Dog (Part 1)

This is the first article in the “Hairy Barry Chronicles,” a series about RV Camping with a newly adopted, absolutely adorable, extremely lovable, anxious dog.  

Hairy “Houdini” Barry is the sweetest, most cuddliest dog I have ever met about 85% of the time.  It’s the 15% that we struggle with and it occurs almost exclusively when we camp. Here are Barry’s trifecta of not-so-good behaviors that make camping/RVing with him a bit, errr… challenging.

  1. He is a “Runner.”
  2. He has Separation Anxiety.
  3. He constantly barks at other dogs and wants to chase and pounce on all small furry things.

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Before I go into detail about the “not-so-good” behaviors, I’d like to introduce you to The Hairy One.  Hairy Barry earned his name because he is a Flat-Coated Retriever, which is a black lab-related cousin to the Golden Retriever.  He has many of the features of a “Flattie,” including an abundance of dark fur all over his body (even on his fuzzy feet), which reminded us of Barry Gibb’s lion-like appearance from the Bee-Gee’s heyday.  And so he was named, “Hairy Barry.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABarry has a big happy dog grin, bright amber-brown eyes, and a silly, sweet personality (when he’s not sleeping).  He jumps on his toys, likes to roll around in blankets and is frequently found laying next to me or my husband getting his ears rubbed.  Barry may be a mix breed of some type, but we’ll never know because we adopted him one year ago from Northeast Ohio Lab Rescue, an incredible organization led by a woman with a mission to help and find good homes for many, many lovable labs.

Being kindhearted toward animals, we’ve adopted most of our dogs from shelters/rescues.  Barry was adopted about a month after losing our beloved elderly Black Lab, Sammy.  At the time, it was a comfort to us knowing that we could help another animal, which could also help to ease the pain of the passing of a truly special dog.

After the loss, we spent lots of time on Petfinder and researched the “right time” (if there is ever one) to adopt another pet.  We didn’t expect Barry to replace Sammy, but in retrospect, I think we weren’t prepared for a dog that acted so differently.  Sammy was such a smart, well-behaved dog.  Sammy never ran away.  In fact, he didn’t even need a leash.  We acknowledged that it’s rare to find a dog with those attributes, but it didn’t sink how special he was (and how easy we had it) until a week or so after we brought Barry home and he ran away for the first time.

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While researching this article, I went back through my Facebook posts at that time. Enjoy these Barry moments!

Run, Barry, Run!

Barry is a runner.  I’ve heard about dogs that are “runners” throughout the years.  People would say, “Oh, my dog was a runner.” I would nod my head in sympathy, which seemed appropriate at the time, but I didn’t really get it.  Sure, dogs run, but mine always came back. Now, I understand.

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More Barry Facebook Moments

The first six months or so of Barry’s stay with us, he took off quite a few times from our house and from our campsites.  The nickname “Houdini” might give a hint about his magical ability to escape from whatever confines we placed upon him.

It was uncanny that he seemed to know the very moment he could break free from our grasp when his leash was unhooked from his collar.  Like a shadow, he would squeeze past us and zoom out of a barely opened door. We’d take him for a walk and he would slip his leash.  As our brain tried to process what just happened, we’d catch a glimpse of a black streak bouncing down the road at top speed, like a beautiful gazelle. Boing! Boing! Boing!  It was astounding.  And terrifying.

This seems like a good time to mention that Barry was rescued after being found running down the road in a neighboring community.  Surprisingly, no one claimed him despite lots of effort to find the previous owners.

Separation Anxiety

You would think that a dog who is so eager to run away would have no problem with being alone. This is not the case with The Hairy One. Whenever we took him camping, we had to bring him everywhere with us or else he’d panic about being left alone in the RV.  He barked incessantly and frantically jumped from window to window, knocking everything over in his path, scratching surfaces with his nails, desperately trying to find us.

In fact, we learned a valuable safety lesson when we left Barry in the RV for 20 minutes while we visited the shower house.  Check out the Facebook post:

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Tried the Thundershirt while we left him alone. He freaked out and almost blew up the RV. Poor Hairy Barry.

This could have ended so badly, but we are grateful that we caught it in time and nothing bad happened. Now, we turn off the propane if Barry is going to be in the RV for any amount of time.  Other RVers remove the knobs from their stoves when they have little ones (furry or otherwise).

Barry’s Separation Anxiety complicated family outings and basic things like running errands. Unless we brought him with us (which doesn’t work for restaurants, a day at the pool, excursions, etc.), someone always had to stay back to keep Barry company.  It can be a bit of a bummer when we want to enjoy family activities.

Barking and Preying

The first few months that we had Barry, he was virtually silent.  It wasn’t until he began to feel more comfortable with us toward the end of the camping season that he began barking at all the dogs in the campground.

In one way, I took this as a good sign.  Maybe he was starting to identify us as a part of his pack, making him feel territorial.  But mostly, I felt frustrated by my inability to get him to stop barking, despite our constant attempts to block his line of sight, reassure him, or speak sternly to him.  And I really felt sorry for our neighbors and those who walked their well-behaved dogs past Barry, who got the brunt of his obnoxious barking.

Another new concept that Barry introduced us to is a dog’s “prey drive.”  Having a prey drive is a natural thing for a dog, particularly for a retriever who is bred to chase something and bring it back to their owners.  However, it’s a difficult behavior to manage in a tree-filled campground.

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Good times.

Barry’s prey drive translates to him being overly aware of furry critters that move within his line of sight.  The moment that they move, he stops, and stares at them with adorable intensity.  His ears go up, he stands still at complete attention.  And then he EXPLODES into action, racing after the animal- Boing! Boing! Boing!  If we aren’t ready, he’ll easily rip the leash from our hand (or our shoulder from the socket) as he charges after every squirrel, chipmunk, and in one case, a teacup terrier dog.

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Hairy Barry in full “prey drive” mode. Such intensity before he EXPLODES into action! Boing! Boing! Boing!

In sharing some of these behaviors and experiences, we hope that we can help others who might be in the same boat with an adorable, anxious dog.  We love Barry very much and feel fortunate to have found him.  Although it hasn’t been easy,  I am happy to report that The Harry Dude is doing better these days. The next article in the series provides details about what we learned through the process of adopting an adorable, anxious dog.

Update 4/17/16:  This is difficult news to share.  We lost Hairy Barry to Cancer.  We were completely stunned to learn of this development and heartbroken to say goodbye to our beloved furry friend.  Thanks to all for your delight at his antics and for caring about our journey with Hairy Barry.  We’ve decided to leave these posts up for the time being because they help us to remember him with a smile.  Also, because we want to help other RVers with anxious dogs.  Hug your furry friends for us and say prayer for Hairy Barry.

 

Check Out All Of The Hairy Barry Chronicles:

Part Two:  Nine Tips For RV Camping With An Adorable, Anxious Dog: What’s Working (so far)

Part Three:  Four Strategies That DIDN’T Help Our Anxious Dog

 

 

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16 Comments

  • Reply explorvistas April 11, 2015 at 6:38 am

    Hairy Barry reminds me of my sister’s dearly departed FCR. He was boundless energy until the day he died! She had an ‘anxiety shirt’ she would put on the dog to calm him down. I’m looking forward to Part 2! 🙂

    Jim

  • Reply explorvistas April 11, 2015 at 6:41 am

    Oops….now I see you do have a Thundershirt! 🙂

  • Reply Chris Hughes April 11, 2015 at 9:20 am

    Hi! Thanks for the comment! Was your sister a RVer too?

    • Reply explorvistas April 11, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      No, and given what you’ve described of Barry, along with memories of her dog…..we don’t know how you do it. That boy was possessed! Previous to that, they had three very well behaved Golden Retrievers. The stress level definitely went up with the FCR. Best of luck with Barry. 🙂

      • Reply Chris Hughes April 11, 2015 at 11:21 pm

        Thanks! Barry really is a good dog the majority of the time. Being mostly wonderful really does help us to keep the bad stuff in perspective. We’ve never even heard of a FCR until we found him. In doing research about the breed, Barry’s behavior is pretty consistent with other FCRs. We sure do love him. 🙂

  • Reply Bill Miller April 11, 2015 at 10:59 am

    I just loved your description of life with Hairy Barry and his traits.. Sorry I have no clue for a fix other than hog tie his legs LOL

    • Reply Chris Hughes April 11, 2015 at 11:29 pm

      Ha!!!! We love him. As you know, he’s a super sweet dog. Just has a few “quirks”. 🙂

  • Reply Sandi Thomas Preddy April 11, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Oh my gosh….I’ve never had a dog quite like that! We did have a Pomeranian who loved to cut loose and run…always to a neighbor but never to us. When she got older she couldn’t do that anymore. I guess my only suggestion for when you leave home is using one of the metal crates. We started our last few dogs off in one until they were house broken. By then, the crate was home when we leave home, we come back to find Joey in his crate and sound asleep. We also usually leave the TV on. That helps him hear voices, making him not feel so alone, but it also masks outside sounds so he doesn’t hear outside notices as much.

    • Reply Chris Hughes April 11, 2015 at 11:25 pm

      Hi Sandi! Thanks for your comment and for your wisdom on kennels. The discussion of Kennels provides an excellent segway into Part 2 of this article. I’ll try to have it ready within the next couple of days. 🙂

  • Reply renekipp April 11, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    We’ve had large dogs for the past 25 years. We’ve trained them all and they were all great dogs. Our last Rottweiler was put down in December and we miss him dearly. Wanting another dog, we thought it would be nice to have a smaller one this time. We’ve just adopted a 20 pound terrier/mini schnauzer mix from a local rescue. He’s been with us for only a week. We notice he’s improving with some of his old habits that we’re trying to break him of, like jumping up on people. Other habits are going to be a bit harder: he is also a runner. We find that a choke collar works well. It’s only used for walks and it doesn’t come off until we’re inside. I, too, am looking forward to Part 2.

    • Reply Chris Hughes April 11, 2015 at 11:14 pm

      Hi Renekipp!! Sounds like we are in the same boat. I’ll try to have the second article up within the next couple of days. I think parts of it may be encouraging to you. Thanks for sharing your story. I hope things get better every day. 🙂

  • Reply 9 Tips For RV Camping With An Anxious Dog: What’s Working (so far) – CU On The Road April 16, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    […] Introducing Hairy “Houdini” Barry to a new household was stressful for our new furry friend. Add a handful of a quirky dog personality and blend with a family who likes to divide time between a house and a frequently moving RV. The result is the perfect recipe for dog anxiety, which was manifested in some not-so-good behaviors, including frequently running away from our house/campsites, severe Separation Anxiety, an over-active prey drive, and obnoxious barking at other dogs. […]

  • Reply 4 Strategies That DIDN’T Help Our Anxious Dog – CU On The Road April 21, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    […] Part One: RV Camping With An Adorable, Anxious Dog […]

  • Reply The Hairy Barry Chronicles – CU On The Road April 21, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    […] One: RV Camping With An Adorable, Anxious Dog goes into detail about Barry’s history and his […]

  • Reply Hairy Barry: Still An Anxious Dog? – CU On The Road November 27, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    […] Hairy One is a fun-loving Flat Coated Retriever who had some, uhhh, difficult behaviors in the first year that we adopted him.  In addition to running away from us every chance he got, […]

  • Reply Helping Hairy Barry: Surgery, Steroids, Ice Packs & Essential Oils – CU On The Road January 10, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    […] might remember Hairy Barry from articles that I wrote about his not-so-good behaviors that made RVing challenging.  He was a “runner,” had Separation Anxiety and barked at […]

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