Traveling with your dog can be a fun way to go. It means treating your pooch like a member of your family rather than a latchkey canine, and both of you will be glad for the companionship. However, before you start roaming the open road with Rover you first must make sure your pup has been properly prepped. Here are a few simple, sure-fire ways to make sure your trip is a dog-gone good one:
Road rules, not road rage
• Avoid feeding your dog for few hours prior to the start of any car trip.
• Take the dog for frequent, short trips. Go to pleasant destinations, such as the park or dog run in order to insure your pet has a positive association with the car.
• Restrain the dog in the back seat by using in a crate or car harness. These items are available in most larger pet stores. Even though such restraints may not look cool, they are essential in case of accident and they give the dog a sense of security. Crating or harnessing is not only a good cure for rambunctious car travelers, it is kind and gentle method of obedience training.
• Do not keep an unrestrained dog behind a gate in the cargo space of your car, van or truck. Ever.
• Remember to praise and use treats as rewards along the way.
Travel Training Tips: Sitting StillBasic obedience training is valuable at any time, but it is absolutely essential when taking your pet to an unfamiliar locale. The “wait” or “stay” command is especially vital when traveling. For safety’s sake, your dog must learn to wait for your permission before jumping out of the car.
To teach your dog a wait command, begin by having the dog sit in the back seat of the car. Put a leash on the dog. Hold it firmly to prevent him from jumping out of the car. Then, standing directly in front of the dog, tell him “Stay” or “Wait” while putting your hand in front of his face like a stop sign, with your palm flat and forward. For every few moments that the dog properly sits and stays, you should give the dog a treat and praise him by saying “Good stay.” or “Good wait.” Release the dog by saying “Okay.” or “Go.” and moving your hand. Do not give him a treat on the release. If at any time during the exercise, your dog breaks from the “stay” without permission, lure him back into the sitting position and repeat the process.
Teaching the “potty on command” can help facilitate a dog’s willingness to go in an unfamiliar area. To teach your dog “potty on command,” take him to a suitable area and wait until he begins to eliminate. As he begins, start your chant “Good potty.” I use the word “potty” as a generic term for both functions. It is crucial that you say the word during the act.
During car trips, stops should be made every two to three hours, depending on the age of the dog. Cats that are taken on extended car trips should be in a crate large enough to accommodate a small litter box.
Crating: A Home Away From Home
Crates are essential equipment when you hit the road, and dogs like being inside them. Too often, humans tend to think “I wouldn’t like being all cooped up like that, so my dog probably doesn’t either.” Nothing could be further from the truth. This fact became apparent to me when I drove across country while showing my competition obedience dog, Lotte.
When I let Lotte loose in a strange new location, she would often whine and bark, feeling abandoned and fearful. On the other hand, when I set up her crate (complete with favorite blanket and chew toys) she immediately felt safer and more secure, even in a scary new place.
For dogs that are still in a destructive chewing and/or housebreaking stage, the crate is essential for preventing minor disasters such as messed carpets or chewed bedposts. Besides, even a well-adjusted and well-trained dog can sometimes become troublesome when left alone in a new place, so always use a carrying crate when traveling.
In a hotel, using crates will not only cut down on expensive and embarrassing messes, they will also keep the hotel staff safe, thus ensuring the hotel will continue to take pets. I also feel better knowing that, should a housekeeper or anyone else enter our room, Lotte will not be able to escape.
If at all possible, start training a dog or cat to use the crate when the animal is still a pup or kitten. Feed the animal his or her meals inside the crate. At other times, use treats to create a positive association. When you want the animal to go inside the crate, consistently use a phrase like “Go to your crate” or “Go to your bed.” If the dog or cat does not go voluntarily, gently place him in the crate and shut the door. Then give your pet treats through the crate door and say “good crate” or “good bed.”
If all else fails, take some trial runs before the road trip. Take the top off your crate, put the animals’ bed inside and let him get used to it. Then, after a short while, put the top back on but leave the door open, creating a cave-like atmosphere in which the pet can hide.
High Flying DogsIf your vacation is to be a short one, it is sometimes better to leave your dog at home, safe and secure, with a good friend or trusted pet-sitter. Because of the obvious difficulties with air travel, many of my celebrity clients, such as Halle Berry and Laura Dern, choose to leave their dogs at home unless the location is within driving distance. For those who do fly with critters in tow, please note the following safety tips and requirements:
• All animals must be issued a health certificate within ten days of any flight. Dogs must have a current rabies certificate.
• Only dogs and cats who fit in carriers which are twenty-three inches long, thirteen inches wide, and nine inches high, may ride with their owners in the passenger section.
• Dogs who travel in the baggage compartment are most at risk. Precautionary measures start with getting a very secure crate. The top of the line for safety is a non-collapsible aluminum crate. Avoid plastic or other materials, as they are not nearly as solid. The crate should be just large enough for the dog to stand up, lay down and turn around comfortably. Any larger, and there is a danger that the dog will be tossed to and fro during periods of air turbulence.
• It is important to make sure you have several pieces of identification on the dog: a buckle collar and two ID tags with your permanent address and phone number. Also include any addresses and phone numbers at which you can be reached while you are traveling. This same information should also be placed on the crate.
• Make sure you bring a leash so you can walk your dog, both before checking in and after your arrival. Keep this leash with you, not in the carrier.
• It is usually best to avoid feeding the dog for several hours prior to departure. Leaving food in the crate is a bad idea as well. However, on a very long flight, it would be advisable to place some ice cubes in the water tray of the crate. Also, have plenty of paper towels ready in case a cleanup is required.
• I do not advise tranquilizing dogs or cats, as drugs can impair respiratory function. This is especially true for short-nosed breeds of dogs, such as boxers and pugs, which are more likely to experience breathing problems during transport.
• Whenever possible, use direct flights to avoid accidental transfers or delays. Always travel on the same flight as your pet.
• Try to make friends with your flight attendants and the pilot. Double check with them to make sure your pet has been safely loaded onto the plane. Be just a little pushy, let them know that your “child” is on board and you are truly concerned, but do so in a friendly way. Remember, no one will ever care about your pet as much as you do.
• In the summer months, it is imperative that you fly in the early morning or late evening to avoid temperature extremes that may affect your pet. In winter months, your pet will be very vulnerable to the cold. Most airlines are aware of these issues but, as always, take the initiative in making sure the friendly skies are friendly for all passengers, two- and four- legged alike.
• Carry a current photograph of your pet. If your pet is lost, an upto date photo will make the search go much more smoothly.
An undisciplined pup can be a pain, but a well-trained animal is truly a delight. Teach your critters the proper commands and get them used to travel etiquette and safety. It will make any excursion far more fun, both for you and for your furry little tourist.
Happy tails, … trails to all!
by Shelby Marlo