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Adventure Inspiration

Tips for Living in a Tiny House with Big Dogs

When Laura Patton first moved into her tiny house, she brought her three large dogs with her (weighing 75, 70, and 60 pounds). It's safe to say, she had to get creative with house design, storage, and clean up. Now seven years into the tiny house lifestyle, she and her pups, Star and Colt, are masters at maximizing their space, exploring outside, and enjoying the togetherness that living tiny brings. We checked in with Laura to hear her top tips for living in a tiny house with big dogs.

Deciding to Live the Tiny House Life

To me, the main reason to choose to live in a smaller space, whether it's a van, a tiny house, or the back of a truck, is to be able to spend as much time outside as possible, and then to have a space to come sleep in at night. There are also financial and environmental benefits to living in a smaller footprint.

Three dogs sit on the front porch of a tiny house.

We decided to move into a tiny home at the end of our years of living out of cars, trucks, and vans. We had been traveling and moving from place to place for some time and decided to set down some roots. The tiny house was an affordable and logical transition from the van to something just a bit bigger and more stationary.

Designing a Tiny House for Big Dogs

If you’re designing your own tiny house, it’s really important to build in a few features for dogs. One of the trickier ones is the stairs if you’re going to have a loft that your dog will be using. Make sure they aren’t too steep, and if possible cover them with carpet or rubber so they have plenty of traction. Despite being severely arthritic, Star can still hop up and down our stairs into the loft because they are nice and deep as well as carpeted.

A big dog lies down on the floor in a tiny home.

It is also a good idea to design in specific places for their items, including their water bowl so it isn’t constantly being kicked over or tripped on. Using easy to clean materials when possible, like waterproof laminate flooring, walls that can be wiped down with a sponge, furniture with removable washable coverings, etc. will make your life much easier. Build in as much storage as possible!

Getting Creative with Storage

We try to be as practical as possible when choosing what gear the dogs need since we have limited space for it. Star pretty much needs a harness and a leash, while Colt needs a wider range of items. He needs multiple coats for winter because he gets really cold, hi-vis harnesses, lights, bells, collars, lots of training treats, ear cleaners (hound dog things basically), and more.

Two pieces of Ruffwear gear hang on a clothesline outside a tiny home.

We have a designated spot by the door where their gear hangs so it is always ready to grab when we head out. Their food and bowls have a designated cabinet and as soon as they’re done eating their dishes get put away so we don’t trip over them.

Tips for Keeping the Space Tidy

There is really no way your tiny house is going to be clean all the time if you have dogs! The nice thing is, a tiny house gets clean super quickly, so when things do get dirty it only takes a few minutes to vacuum and wipe down the entire house.

Two dogs sleep on a bed in a tiny house.

We use a Ruggable washable rug and a washable couch cover so when things inevitably get muddy, we can just throw them in the wash. Colt and Star are both messy drinkers, so we keep their water bowl in the shower so they can splash and slobber without getting the rest of the house too wet. Every once in a while, Colt will shake his head and his drool will actually spatter on two walls and the ceiling all at once; we just grab a sponge and wipe it off!

The Pups' Favorite House Spots

Star is a senior gal now, so she likes to spend most of the day sleeping on the queen bed in the loft. Colt likes to be where the action is, so he’ll usually end up wherever we are or outside sniffing around the property with his dog buddy Zuri who lives nearby.

Three dogs and their human sleep in the loft bed of their tiny house.

In the winter, Star will sleep with us in the loft at night, but during summer she gets too hot and prefers to sleep on her dog bed downstairs. No matter what the temperature is, Colt sleeps in the bed, under the covers with us. He absolutely loves to snuggle, and we usually wake up with his head on the pillow next to us.

Exploring Outside to Stretch & Play

I think the thing the dogs love most about the tiny house is that it promotes a lifestyle where you spend a lot of time outside. Because the space is small, you’re outdoors a lot and that is Star and Colt’s favorite place to be.

A man and two dogs walk on a trail.

We try to go on shorter family walks daily to accommodate Star’s range and supplement Colt with bike rides or longer hikes.

We live really close to lots of trails and forest service roads where the dogs can run around. They both love swimming in the summer, Star loves the snow in the winter, and Colt is happy any time he is running and sniffing.

A man goes skijoring with his dog on a snow-covered trail.

Small Spaces Encourage Togetherness

The best part of living in a tiny house is that your best friends are usually only an arm’s length away! In general, I think most dogs want to be close to their human companions, so whether your house is 100 or 5000 square feet, chances are your pup is going to be in the same room as you.

With the right amount of planning and thoughtful storage options, I think living in a tiny house with dogs is just as easy as any other size house!

A man pets his two dogs outside their tiny home.

Whether it’s living in a tiny house full time, or renting one with your pup on your next vacation, if you think you might like a smaller space with fewer chores, fewer possessions, and more time to spend with your pup, I highly recommend it!

As for us, after seven wonderful years of living tiny, we will be moving into a more traditional sized home next month to be closer to work. We’ll see how it goes!

Follow Laura, Star, and Colt at @mobileroamers to keep the inspirational vibes going.