This week I’m planning a road trip with Mort -nothing long, just a 9 hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, to Portland Oregon for the Women in the Pet Industry conference. There are many resources written about what you need to take along when traveling with your dogs, such as First Aid Kits, crates, food, and water. But what about training? This week we will explore some of the dog training essentials for when you travel with your dog.
Special Announcement: The Mort Report will continue all week! Mort and I are traveling this week, and will be reporting about what happens here on DOGthusiast! This is the start of our week, with a special edition of Training Tips Tuesday. If you have been following Training Tips Tuesday lately, I have been writing a series on Flyball. That Flyball series will continue next week!
And guess what, Mort has a plan up his furry sleeve that will conclude this week’s activities in a very special way. And it won’t happen here on DOGthusiast (but we’ll let you know what it is, of course). So stay tuned, come back, and make sure you follow us on the DOGthusiast newsletter to find out what scheming Mort is up to.
When I travel with the dogs, often room service, drive-thru windows or sending in a significant other for take-out is the norm. Or taking a crate for the hotel room, and dashing out quickly for some take-out (assuming the dog isn’t a barker). When traveling alone, as I’m planning this week, drive-thru is most likely. But what about eating out, for when fast food grows tired and… gross?
Eating out is a key training step for any dog on the road. I made a point to start this training practice early on, and here are some of the steps I took to train the dogs to eat on patios and other outdoor venues.
- Start training at home. Key practice includes incompatible behaviors (such as “sit”, “down”, and “wait” which is incompatible with jumping up on tables or wait staff). Very important for the essential dog manners at dining establishments.
- Practice “go to place” at home, and in busy areas. This may include a mat or target spot to go and sit or lay down on.
- Practice calming your dog, perhaps with tossing the odd treat on a mat during a down stay.
- Start restaurant practice when patios aren’t busy: dine during cold months, or choose a restaurant when the patio is mostly empty (off hours, small patio with only one or two tables, or unpopular destination). This lets you practice manners with dining staff and basic training without needing to worry about other diners or their dogs.
- Progress to busier establishments.
- Choose tables in the corner or slightly away from other diners. Even after lots of practice, I’ll always scan a patio for the best spot for us and the dogs, ideally with a corner or spot I can tuck the dogs in away from other tables as much as possible.
Always anticipate the unexpected when dining out, and prepare for needing to work around stresses such as another dog at a nearby table, or someone or something that throws off your dog’s behavior. To do so, take something along that can distract your dog. If you’re unsure that it’ll work or things go south, don’t be afraid to change your plans (take your food to a nearby park, or change restaurants). Remember it’s really not the end of the world, and you can always try again.
Travel in the car
Traveling distances with a dog means a lot of pit stops. Prepare to take a bit longer to get to your destination, but enjoy the pace! It’s wonderful to be able to expose your dogs to new environments and smells. If your dog is sensitive to these changes, again distractions are key. Take familiar toys and treats to use if needed, but otherwise let your dog explore if he or she is comfortable!
And if your dog has anxiety in the car, of course you need to work on this in advance of any long road trip. Experiment with various forms of calming remedies, such as Thundershirt or other anxiety remedies, such as homeopathics or a crate that limits visibility. And when you do go on a longer trip make sure to bring these along with backups.
At the hotel check in
If you are able to have a travel companion check in for you, do so. This avoids needing to negotiate a dog who wants to explore a hotel lobby with filling out any forms and paying for the room. When traveling alone this isn’t always possible. I try to plan a tour of the lobby before arriving at the desk to check in. Mort is so excited to be in a new location that his sits and stays are sometimes interrupted by curiosity or people who want to visit. So we do a tour and get it over with, before heading to the front desk. This means Mort is more keen to watch the goings on than sniff and explore by the time we get to the desk, which makes things a bit less awkward.
But really, Mort is usually so excited to be on such a great adventure he isn’t the best in this scenario. In fact, he can be a bit of an awkward pest.
In the hotel room
Barking is sometimes a concern with some dogs, like Mort. If he hears things that he thinks I might be interested in, he might let me know with an “uffff”. If something seems to pass really close by this may progress to a full on “bark”. For this I use my training that reminds him I’m aware of things and have it under control. Of course, this isn’t real “training” – it’s relationship based reminders. Tone of voice that lets him know “that’s fine, I got this. Stand down little man.” This generally seems to work, and reduces his anxiety level in the new setting. As such, barking hasn’t really been a problem after one or two alerts, and my reminder to him to “Thanks! But you can calm your jets.”
Familiar blankets and toys can help reduce anxiety levels, as can simply staying close to you if staying in unfamiliar locations is new. Mort loves to tuck in very close at first, to feel safe and secure at night.
This is more management than training, but having a crate with limited visibility can help calm your dog. Take a towel to drape over the door of the crate, and this can vastly reduce the amount of anxiety your dog feels and can help reduce barking if it’s a problem.
And oh yeah, if you have a rollaway bed brought to your room? This can very easily bring on that barking. Tenfold! Even if you go hang out in the bathroom until the bed is in place.
In the restroom
That’s right, sometimes you’ll need to visit a restroom with your dog if you’re traveling alone. Many dogs are very uncomfortable in tight spaces, like restroom cubicles. But for safety, you need to take your dog along. I always try to find an option that doesn’t involve a row of cubicles – such as a private stall with four walls (the larger the better, as for a dog it’s not much different than a small room at that point!). Sometimes it’s simply not possible to find something like that.
If you have a very fearful dog, or a somewhat fearful dog, and need to use a cubicle – there is sometimes no other option than to work through the fear because nothing will rise above it. You can try the ultimate treat, whatever that might be, for distraction – but it might not be enough. If you don’t have a travel companion, the only options I’ve managed is to hold the leash while it runs under the stall door and my dog (Tig) stands outside. She manages through this, and it’s generally my only option as sharing the cubicle is way too scary for her if I don’t have someone I can leave her with.
If you have the option to practice this before hand, it’s certainly a useful training exercise. You can approach it like crate training – make each episode progressively longer and end on a very positive high note. Don’t make a big deal out of the practice – keep it matter of fact. And if you can, start with restrooms that are extremely quiet and isolated before progressing to busy locations.
Other fun discoveries
You will probably encounter new things on your journey. One I ran into with a few dogs were stairs that you could see through to the ground below, usually found at motels where the stairwell is outdoors. Every dog I have had has done a double take at such stairs, and has been nervous to go up them at first. Think about being a small dog and seeing through to the ground below at face level! Quite disorienting!
With scenarios like this (and this is just one example), remember patience is key. The first dog I experienced this with was a Mastiff that was bigger than I was. He didn’t want to go up the stairs… so we didn’t. I just waited, sat with him on the stairs, and it took us at least a half hour but he finally decided it was OK. We took it slow. Account for things like this along the way, and don’t rush it. Plan a buffer, and enjoy the ride – literally – and make memories with your dog. It’s a bonding and rewarding experience, whatever it might bring.
Training Tips here every Tuesday!
DOGthusiast and Tiffany’s Diamond Dogs host Training Tips Tuesday – new training tips and ideas brought to you on a weekly basis. Make sure you check back each week for something new about building a solid relationship with your dog.
Do you blog about training and behavior too? Or just want to learn more by posting a question you have? It’s easy to join the Training Tips Tuesday blog hop. Simply write about dog training, behavior, or any related topic. You don’t need to be an expert – you can even ask a question for reader feedback. Anything is fine!
- Grab the badge: Download (right-click to save) or Link to it using the following code, your choice!
- Link to your hosts, DOGthusiast and Tiffany’s Diamond Dogs. For ease of use, copy this code (there’s a copy button in the top right corner of the code box!):
This post is part of the Training Tips Tuesday blog hop, hosted by DOGthusiast and Tiffany's Diamond Dogs.
- Add your link to the hop! Click “Get the Code” below, add your information and link to your post, and you’re in the hop!