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German Shorthaired Pointer sticking its head out of a hatchback car on a road trip.

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Traveling with your dog can be an exciting adventure. But whether you’re staying in a fancy hotel or a tent, the success of your trip depends on your dog’s behavior. Before you pack your bags, here are five basic skills to teach your dog to help ensure you have an enjoyable and worry-free vacation.

Crate Training

For trips in the car, having your dog in a crate can help keep them 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 need to crate your dog when they’re alone. Even if crating isn’t required, it can still be a good idea. You never know when housekeeping might accidentally open the door to your room.

Teaching your dog to love their crate before you leave for your vacation will ensure they feel relaxed and secure inside. Help them associate the crate with wonderful things by feeding them inside the crate or giving them special toys whenever they’re in a crate, such as a KONG stuffed with peanut butter. Start by closing the door for only short periods, then gradually increase the time they’re inside.

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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. They could run into traffic or get lost in unfamiliar surroundings. Be sure to teach them to wait at open doorways before heading out on your trip. This includes car doors and the door of their 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 they start to move toward it, close it again. Eventually, they’ll realize that moving toward the door is pointless. Once they begin to wait patiently, you can open the door and give them permission to pass through. Consider teaching them to sit before you open the door. This will give you more time to shut the door before they try to make a break for it.

Potty Cues

When traveling, letting your dog know when and where you want them to go potty can be helpful. It will also help prevent them from going in inappropriate places. For example, if you’re staying at a campground, you won’t want your dog to go potty beside your tent.

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 they’re about to go to the bathroom. Right before they go, say your potty word, then reward them when they’re done. After enough repetitions, your dog will begin to associate the word with their toilet behavior. Then you’ll be able to use the cue to ask them to go.

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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. They could become lost in an area that neither of you are familiar with. Teach them to come when called before your trip, or you risk having them ignore you when you travel.

The key to having your dog come when called is ensuring they think you’re the most exciting thing in the area. If you sound like you’re having a party, your dog will race over to see what they 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.

Limit Nuisance 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 they stop, even for just a second, pop a treat into their mouth. If they won’t stop, place the treat right in front of their nose so they’ll pause to take a sniff. To increase the length of time your dog stays quiet, continue feeding them tiny treats, gradually increasing the time between each treat. Pretty soon your dog will realize that it’s rewarding to stop barking when asked.

Related article: How to Keep Your Dog Comfortable During Car Rides
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