Essentials for Small Space Living with Dogs


What were we thinking?

Clearly, we’re insane. Living in 180 square feet with two dogs and a baby on the way couldn’t possibly work. We get that a lot.

Fact is, living in a small space with dogs is wonderful. They keep us safe, reinforce healthy routines, and shower us with unconditional love.

And with a few tricks, sharing a tiny space with dogs is easy.

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Bailey with her Busy Buddy Barnacle

Bailey with her Busy Buddy Barnacle

Dog Puzzles

Small spaces don’t give dogs as many opportunities for stimulation. So, it’s helpful to have some activities available for rainy days when long walks aren’t practical, or just when your pup needs something to do. There’s a ton of different busy toys available for dogs. Our current favorite is the Busy Buddy Barnacle, which dispenses treats or kibble when it’s dropped, pushed, or rolled. We keep two busy toys around so both dogs can play at the same time without competing.

Splash-Proof Water Bowl

Our dogs are messy drinkers, especially Bailey, our jowly hound. With a regular bowl, she tends to get at least as much water on the floor as she actually swallows. The Slopper Stopper Water Bowl solves the problem perfectly. It has a small opening in the center, so she gently licks up her water rather than splashing it all over the floor. It’s also spill-proof, so if it gets kicked or flips upside-down, the mess is minimal.

We still get occasional drips on the floor from Bailey’s jowls after she’s finished drinking, but the huge pools of water on both sides of the bowl are gone for good.

Long-Lasting Chew

Firewood. Also a popular chewable

Firewood. Also a popular chewable

For their dental health and general sanity, dogs need to chew. Pizzles are by far our dogs’ favorite thing to chew, but they’re gone in one sitting. So, we reserve pizzles for a special treat. Antlers last longer than bones, but a heavy duty chewer can get an antler down to an unsafe size fairly quickly.

Our favorite chew for our dogs is a large nylon wishbone style Benebone. Nylon chews last a long time (months in our experience), and they don’t break into sharp shards that could be dangerous if swallowed. They aren’t digestible, so like all chew toys, you need to monitor your dog’s chewing and take the toy away before it gets small enough to swallow. Larger is safer, so get the largest one your dog can handle.

Gear for Walks

The outdoors is one of the best parts of our tiny space. Since we’re mobile, it’s always changing, and if we don’t like where we’re at, we can always move. Our dogs love long walks, and it’s as good for them as it is for us.

Bailey and Luna both used to be serious leash pullers. Using a harness with a front attachment or a gentle leader helps keep walks manageable, but won’t address the root cause of the problem. The solution is loose leash training.

Lots and lots of walks

Lots and lots of walks

The best thing I ever bought for training was this treat bag. Having a separate pouch for training treats makes it easy to reinforce good behavior while we’re walking. The treat bag easily clips onto your belt or pants, or you can use the included shoulder harness to wear it like a satchel. It also has a pocket for dog bags.

I haven’t found a leash or harness that I love, but I have some preferences. A hands-free leash is incredibly helpful for hiking and jogging. We’ve been using this one, but it’s not ideal. The elastic in the stretchy bit wears out after a year, and when paired with the matching harness, it’s possible for the clip on the leash to tangle with the harness attachment in a way that causes the leash to unclip. We had a few exciting episodes of Bailey escaping on a walk before we bought a different leash with a locking clip.

For longer hikes, it’s helpful to have a dog water bottle. We used a flip-down style water dispenser for a while, but it tended to leak and it eventually broke. We replaced it with the LumoLeaf water dispenser, which we’re much happier with. The LumoLeaf seals tightly so it doesn’t leak in our bag, and it fits all kinds of water bottles, so you can change out the bottle if you like.

Gear for Cold Weather

Luna’s apartment on a cold night

Luna’s apartment on a cold night

While we had hoped to follow 70 degrees as much as possible, cold weather living has been unavoidable. When camping off-grid or on a 15A power supply, it can sometimes get cold at night.

Since the dogs can’t cover themselves with blankets, we bought them dog coats to keep them warm on cold nights. I’m generally not one to dress up my dogs in cute outfits, but coats are very practical when they need a little extra insulation. We also got Luna a cave bed, so she can tuck herself in if she wants to.


Aside from regular vet visits, vaccinations, and heartworm treatment, our dogs need a couple of extra medicines regularly.

For periodic itchy or gunky ears, Zymox Otic is a miracle solution. The hydrocortisone works immediately to help sooth the ear and stop the dog from scratching, and the enzyme treatment breaks down the bacteria or yeast in the outer ear that are causing the issue. Luna has gotten to the point that if her ears are bothering her, she will beg for her ear medicine.

We spend a lot of time in the woods, so ticks are a problem from Spring to Fall. In the past, we used topical tick medicine like Frontline, but it was kind of gross, irritated our dogs’ skin, and it didn’t really work. We’d still find ticks biting our dogs after treatment. When we started using NexGard, we’d still find ticks crawling occasionally, but not biting. The dogs love to take it because it’s a tasty chewable, instead of a gross topical treatment, and it doesn’t wash off. NexGard is expensive, but it’s worth every penny because it actually works.

Keeping Clean

Washable throw blanket on the couch

Washable throw blanket on the couch

Keeping the dogs clean is always a priority, but it’s even more important in a small space.

Regular brushing helps to keep the fur problem under control, and to keep the pups comfortable. Different coats require different brushes. For Luna’s medium hair, The Furminator works wonderfully for annual shedding, and a slicker brush is best for a gentle brushing fresh out of the bath. Bailey is a hound, and her short coat responds best to a rubber curry brush for shedding. For dogs with longer and thicker hair, an undercoat rake is best for gently removing clumps of their Winter coat — I made great friends with the rottweilers at the Kentucky farm by raking out their itchy Winter coats.

For the fur that does end up in the house, we have a couple of strategies. We sweep every day with our Dyson V6 vacuum, which takes just a minute or two. We keep a washable throw blanket on top of the couch cushion to help keep the couch clean, and we use a rubber dish glove to rub any accumulated hair off the couch upholstery.

Neither Bailey or Luna are big fans of taking baths, but in warm weather, our outdoor shower makes it easy. We use our outdoor rug as a shower mat and wash with biodegradable dog shampoo before drying off with a towel and brushing for maximum fluff.

Are you living tiny with dogs? What are your tips and tricks? Leave a comment below.