Have Dog Will Travel: Life on the Road with Monty
Jennifer Langille has been overlanding full-time throughout the US with her one year old Vizsla named Monty. Read more about the ups, downs, ins and outs of a life on the road with a four legged friend.
Story and Photos by Jennifer Langille
Getting Ready for the Road Less Traveled
You don’t have to look far to see wonderful images of people adventuring and traveling overland with their pups. Social media is a non-stop stream of beautiful sceneries, incredible rigs and majestic dogs doing rustic outdoors things.
But when it comes to our four legged best friends in the outdoors, is all as picture perfect as it seems?
After living in a Jeep with my Vizsla, I can say definitively… Yes. And no. It’s both. And no matter what, much of the experience has to do with planning and training!
"...I do believe there have been more ups because of the amount of time and effort spent setting us up for success prior to hitting the road."
To be clear, traveling full-time with Monty cross-country these last few months has had its ups and downs. But I do believe there have been more ups because of the amount of time and effort spent setting us up for success prior to hitting the road. We spent six months preparing Monty, the jeep and myself for our plans to overland full-time.
I began training Monty as soon as he was old enough to be outside and on trail. Being a working dog by nature, he took to training exceptionally well, and I made sure he was an ace with basic obedience (sit, stay, come, etc).
Additionally, Monty is trained both on-leash and off-leash via an electronic training collar. This is extremely useful given the remote destinations overlanding often leads us. It’s a lot like having a radio to communicate with your fellow overlanders on trail. Monty’s eCollar is purely a means for me to “talk him through” situations. Like that one time I recalled him to my side because a pack of coyotes was up ahead…
Vehicle Preparation is Key
And then there’s vehicle preparation. I went into building-out a 2017 Jeep Unlimited Rubicon with my dog in-mind. I let go of the romantic vision of a RTT and built an interior sleeping/storage platform system instead. This has worked very well, not only allowing us to stealth camp, but also allowing Monty a comfortable place to be when off-road.
Training Monty to be a well-behaved “overland hound” and configuring my Jeep was the easy piece of the puzzle. Convincing Monty the Jeep is the coolest way to get around was another story. In fact, traveling with Monty can be as wonderful as getting a tooth pulled. He sounds like he’s going to kill something when I stop to fuel up, and he cries in my ear when we turn off pavement and hit dirt. (I’m pretty sure it’s not of joy.)
Because driving is not Monty’s favorite part of overlanding, it’s up to me to ensure a balance of road time and outdoors time. I remain patient with his dramatics because his level of happy and joy when we arrive to camp is next level. This dog has no problem living his best life outside. It’s also in those moments I feel traveling with a dog as a companion enhances the experience. Monty’s presence helps me see the locations we visit differently.
Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Dog
Tending to him has also led to spending more time outside of the Jeep hiking and exploring, which is a nice change of pace when vehicle-supported travel is the name of the game. If we spend all our time behind the wheel we miss the hidden gems. When you travel with a dog, you have to stop, get out and take a walk about! Some of our best campsites have been found all because Monty sniffed them out and found the otherwise hidden access road. He also makes me more aware of hidden dangers, signs and hints the location is not ideal and we should move on.
And now that we’ve been on the road for a chunk of time, we have our routine down. Every morning I get some work done, and then Monty and I get out for a hike before hunkering in behind the wheel for the next leg of travel.
Having a daily routine on the road is important, and make sure your buddy gets plenty of opportunities to run and stretch. And nap. (Don't forget the naps.)
All the Little Things
We stop often to ensure he’s drinking plenty of water especially as we explore terrain at higher and drier elevations/regions. We carry twice the recommended volume of water. He’s fed a high quality dry kibble to ensure he is physically up for the day’s adventures, always. I can not stress enough feeding your pup the best you can afford.
I also have a beefier than normal first aid kit on hand for his potential injuries. Whenever we get to camp, I inspect his paws and nails for any sign of damage, cuts, scrapes, etc and tend to anything before it has a chance to become a Yelp search for the nearest vet. I also travel with a paper copy of his medical history, vaccinations and necessary flea/tick and heartworm medications.
And Lastly... Don't Sweat the Mud
Here’s the most important thing to remember when overlanding with your dog – PLAY with your overland hound every chance you can. Let them snuggle with you at camp and get over the muddy/dirty paw prints all over your leather seats. Accept you’ll wake up to their rear-end in your face, but also know they will love you more for bringing them on adventure with you. I would not want to imagine my overlanding dreams without Monty by my side. I look into his eyes at the end of each day and it’s a blast to see how far we have come.
Jennifer and Monty are traveling across the country to photograph and document the stories of those fighting cancer in some of the most remote regions of North America. She spent 2017 working with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation collecting photo stories of women battling cancer and its impact on their daily life.
Learn more about Jennifer’s work and her plans for 2018 and beyond on her website www.photosthatunite.com.
To contribute to her efforts, please visit her GoFundMe page.