“Which dog breeds are best suited for life on the road with OTR truckers?”
The road is a lonely place for anyone. It can be especially brutal for truck drivers.
One study found that 44% of OTR truck drivers reported symptoms of depression. To make matters worse, studies have found that truck drivers experiencing depression double their risk of causing an accident.
So, what can be done to combat depression in truck drivers?
While mental health professionals have a wide array of recommendations for coping with the stress and loneliness that comes with the open road, we also wanted to hear from fellow truck drivers on how others found relief.
What was one of the most popular replies?
“Get a dog.”
While most of the benefits of having a dog are fairly self-evident, many of their needs are shared by truckers looking to avoid loneliness on the road.
Dogs Require Exercise
Most dogs need to be walked. While this may seem like a chore for most, daily walks don’t just benefit dogs, but also their trucker owners. One study found that the odds of being happy are 2% higher for each additional hour one spends walking every week.
Dogs Require Routine
Most pets require a form of routine to remain healthy and happy. In helping support a dog’s routine, truckers may that this schedule helps them form their own healthy routine.
Dogs Require Companionship
Though there are physical reasons why having the companionship of a dog on the road is nice (such as spikes in the hormone oxytocin, etc.), sharing the road with anyone—even a four-legged furry friend—has a significant impact on breaking the severe feelings of isolation that solo driving can bring about. As we’ll discover in this guide, by taking care of a dog on the road, you will begin to realize just how much the dog begins to take care of you.
Dogs Increase Most Health Stats
More than just another pulse in the cab, pets have been found to provide immense health benefits to their owners. One health guide reports an array of health-boosting effects of having pets. Pet ownership not only increases mood-boosting chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine, but on average, pet owners have lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and even cholesterol.
Now that we know having a dog with you on the road as an OTR truck driver can have immense health benefits, it is important to remember that not all types of dogs are well suited for long stretches in a truck cab. For this reason, we decided to go straight to the source for the best dog breeds for trucking. Here, in no particular order, are dog breed recommendations from actual professional truck drivers—including the positives and negatives of owning each breed.
Labrador Retrievers are a favorite among truck drivers for their patient temperament. They’re known for being loyal, intelligent, and fairly easy to groom. While all of these are true, they are still fairly energetic and in need of regular exercise—which may not be a bad thing for most truck drivers looking for an excuse to get in more steps.
For truck drivers looking for quiet and affectionate dog breeds, English Bulldogs may be the ticket. They’re known for being low energy and not in need of too much exercise, which may be good for longer trips. English Bulldogs are also easy to groom and don’t experience too many health problems. While all of this is true, the trucker recommendations we consulted also recommended finding an English Bulldog without breathing issues—which can result when they’re not bred from a healthy line.
Shih Tzus make great trucker dogs as they are small, don’t shed, and are typically fairly mellow—not requiring too much exercise. Though all of these perks exist, they can be somewhat loud and “yappy” from time to time—which could be a problem if you’re trying to get some sleep.
Doodle mixed dog breeds are favorites among truck drivers who own them for their calm nature and intelligence. They can be quite affectionate and enjoy playing. On the other hand, Doodle mixes tend to shed quite a bit and can have a loud bark. They can also be quite expensive to procure.
As described by a seasoned trucker, Heeler mixes are "Not too big, not too small. Way too damn smart for their own good most of the time.” This breed's loyalty and ability to adjust their activities to their owners can make them a great fit for the trucking lifestyle. On the negative side, some Heeler mixes can be overly energetic and may become destructive if they’re too bored.
Due to their stumpy legs and cheerful disposition, Corgis may seem like they were bred to be perpetually smiling trucker co-pilots. They’re also highly intelligent, easily trained, and low maintenance. Some of the only downsides are that they can be a little bit barky and have higher energy.
West Highland White Terriers
Much like Corgis, West Highland White Terriers (or “Westies” as they’re sometimes called) are among the smaller and more chipper breeds of dogs—making for a happy, compact buddy on the highway. However, like Corgis, they can be barky and are known for reacting to moving objects. They’re also somewhat trickier to train.
These are just a few breeds that were recommended by actual truck drivers. There are obviously many others that may be just as good. Overall, the best traits in a dog for the road include,
- Dogs that are small to medium in size for getting in and out of the cab.
- Dogs with short hair or that don’t shed too much.
- Dogs that aren’t susceptible to chronic health conditions.
- Dogs that are relatively calm, quiet, and adjust easily to new surroundings.
- Dogs that are affectionate with their owners.
Keeping Your Dog Clean & Healthy
To keep your dog happy and your truck from not smelling like…well, dog all of the time, you’ll need to bathe them regularly. And there are as many approaches to this as there are truckers that we consulted. Some recommend setting out for local dog grooming services, sometimes connected to national pet supply chain stores such as Petco and Petsmart. Others recommend keeping an eye out for dog washes from farm animal feed stores, car washes, or even keeping gallon-sized sprayers available for ease of cleaning on the road.
Even more than it seems like you need it, your dog needs exercise. This is key to keeping them healthy and happy for many years down the road. For this reason, keep an eye out for truck stops with dog parks or fenced-in areas if you want to let them run off-leash. However, taking your dog for regular walks is just as good for you as it is for them in terms of getting fresh air and some blood flow to your legs.
Dog Potty Training
To keep your dog from using your truck cab as its own personal restroom, potty training will be essential. It is recommended that puppies are not potty trained on the road, as such conditions require more of our attention than at-home potty training would allow. Other tips from dog-owning truckers include starting as early as possible, and using a schedule to create consistency and positive reinforcement for them so they relieve themselves in the right place at the right time.
Dog Accessories for Care
If you’re thinking about taking a dog on the road, keep in mind all of the items you’ll need to take with you. Obviously, your dog will need food and water but also chew toys and other items to keep them occupied and less likely to destroy other items in your truck.
Keep in mind any grooming supplies and cleaning products for cleaning up accidents when they occur.
Many truckers also recommend having a designated carrier or crate for a dog (depending on its size) if you don’t wish them to sleep with you in your bunk or chew up items in your cab at night.
How long will it take to train my dog for life on the road?
Transitioning to life on the road is hard enough for most people, let alone dogs. Most dog-owning truckers will advise you to be patient with your dog during the transition period. It will simply take as long as it needs to. And for some dogs, they may never be well suited for life on the road—which is something you need to be ready to accept.
"It's going to take time for the dog to adjust. However, not every dog will be able to adjust, and you need to be conscientious of that dog's well-being if it cannot." - Actual Trucker
Taking a dog on the road is a two-way street.
At first, it may seem like you’re almost taking care of your dog more than you’re taking care of yourself. In some ways, that balance may fall one way or the other. But as time goes by, you may begin to notice the balance of care heading toward the center as you and your dog begin to take care of each other—both physically and emotionally—as you head down the highway.
Need a dog-sized truck?
If you think taking a dog on the road would serve you well, but your current rig isn’t the best fit, perhaps its time for an upgrade. And your friends from My Little Salesman have your back. Since 1958, My Little Salesman has been connecting buyers and sellers of commercial trucks and heavy equipment—just like you!