Traveling with your dog can be an exciting adventure. But a successful trip, whether you’re staying in a fancy hotel or a tent at a campground, depends on your dog’s behavior. Before you pack Rover’s bags, here are five training tips to help ensure you have an enjoyable and worry-free vacation.
1. Crate Training
For trips in the car, having your dog in a crate can help keep him safe in case of accidents or sudden stops. For plane travel, it’s mandatory. If you’re staying in a pet-friendly hotel, you might also be required to crate your dog when you’re out without him. Even if crating is not required, it’s a good idea because you never know when housekeeping might accidentally open the door to your room.
Teaching your dog to love his crate before you leave for your vacation will ensure he feels relaxed and secure inside. Help him associate the crate with wonderful things by feeding him inside the crate or giving him special toys whenever he’s crated, such as a Kong stuffed with peanut butter. Start by closing the door for only short periods, then gradually increase the time he’s inside.
2. Waiting at Doorways
It’s bad enough if your dog bolts through open doorways at home, but in a new place, it can be downright dangerous. He could run into traffic or be lost in unfamiliar surroundings. Be sure to teach him to wait at open doorways before heading out on your trip, including the car door, and the door of his crate.
Start teaching “wait” with the crate door or with a door inside the house. Stand beside your dog and slowly open the door. As soon as he starts to move toward it, close it again. Eventually he will realize that moving toward the door is pointless. Once he begins to wait patiently, you can open the door and give him permission to pass through. Consider teaching him to sit before you open the door, so he’s calmer, and you have more time to shut the door before he tries to make a break for it.
3. Potty Cues
When you’re traveling, letting your dog know when and where you want him to go to the bathroom is helpful for him and convenient for you. It will also help prevent him from going in inappropriate places. For example, if you’re staying at a campground, having your dog potty beside your tent might not be the best choice.
To teach your dog a potty cue, choose a word you will be comfortable saying in public, such as “hurry up” or “go potty.” Then join your dog outside and watch for signs he’s about to go to the bathroom. Right before he goes, say your potty word, then reward him when he’s done. After enough repetitions, your dog will begin to associate the word with his toilet behavior, and you will be able to use the cue to ask him to go.
4. Coming When Called
Having your dog come when called is particularly important whether you’re traveling to a new city or are out in the woods. Your dog will be surrounded by exciting new sights and smells and could become lost in an area that neither of you are familiar with. Teach him to come when called before your trip, or you risk having him ignore you when you travel.
One of the keys to having your dog come when called is making sure he thinks you are the most exciting thing in the area. If you sound like you’re having a party, your dog will race over to see what fun he might be missing. And set your dog up for success. Don’t try competing with squirrels or other dogs until your dog has mastered the skill in quieter environments. Also, stay positive. If you get angry, your dog will be less likely to come when called in the future.
5. No Barking
Your dog will experience many new things on vacation. And that means many new reasons to bark. That’s annoying in the car and a terrible nuisance to your neighbors at a hotel or campsite. A cue that tells your dog to be quiet can keep the noise level under control.
Teach your dog a “quiet” cue by saying the word when your dog is barking. As soon as he stops, even for just a second, pop a treat into his mouth. If he won’t stop, place the treat right in front of his nose so he will pause to take a sniff. To increase the length of time your dog stays quiet, continue to feed tiny treats, making the time between them as long as possible without allowing barking to resume. Pretty soon your dog will realize that it’s rewarding to stop barking when asked.