Friday, April 13, 2018

5 Important Skills Your Dog Should Know Before Traveling

With the summer vacation time approaching, you are planning your next getaway and may want to take your dog with you. Statistics show more people are traveling with their pets each year. There are many dog-friendly restaurants and overnight accommodations to choose from. However, traveling with your dog does require a lot of planning and preparation. Planning a dog-friendly travel route is important, but you will also need to prepare your dog for the vacation. Whether you take your dog on vacation or a road-trip, your dog needs to have mastered certain skills to make her a good traveler and to ensure she is welcomed at dog-friendly places. So before you take your beloved pet, review this list of skills your dog should know before traveling.

1. Proper Leash Behavior

A well-behaved dog walks without pulling on the leash and needs to be able to walk past other dogs, people, bikes and skateboards, or loud noisy motorcycles without lunging or barking. Although it’s impossible to train for every scenario, it’s a good idea to practice in your hometown before you take your dog on vacation with you. You can practice with your dog on-leash by taking her to crowded areas, such as Farmers’ Markets or outdoor festivities. If you haven’t taken your dog to local dog-friendly restaurants, it’s a good idea to go to a few in your area and teach your dog to lay under the table out of everyone's way. Your dog should be calm and remain off the tables and chairs. Remember, there are other guests, who may not want your dog to lick the plates or tabletops, and it also is against health code regulations.

Going for our walks together

2.Comfortable being left alone in unfamiliar surroundings

A well-behaved dog should be able to be left unattended in a hotel room or RV without barking or destructive behavior. Be sure to practice leaving your dog in unfamiliar surroundings before you go on an extended vacation trip. Always provide your dog with plenty of exercise before you leave her unattended. Exercise is a great way to make sure your dog is relaxed and comfortable. Bring her dog bedding from home to provide the familiarity of home to any overnight accommodation. If your dog is uncomfortable being left behind, the crate is a good way to ensure she will not destroy any furnishings in the hotel room or vacation rental.

Jaeger and Heidi in our vacation rental in San Diego

3. Staying in a Crate or Pet Carrier
Crate training is another important skill you should teach your dog before traveling. Many hotels and vacations rentals require dogs to be crated while left alone in the room and being in the crate or pet carrier is a must for dogs that travel by airplane or train. Most dogs feel comfortable and secure in a crate, but they have to be introduced to the crate properly and ahead of travel time. Purchase your crate or pet carrier well in advance. Let her explore it for a few days at home, in familiar surroundings. You need to teach her to remain in the crate for several hours. Have her sleep in it overnight at home. Start by putting her familiar dog bedding and her toys inside. Small dogs that will travel in a pet carrier, need to remain quiet and calm while traveling in this way. It is important to get your dog used to this. You don’t want your dog to whine or bark while traveling in the carrier on a long flight.

Apollo in his crate
 You may also like to read one of my previous blog posts on Crate Training:

4. Respecting Open Doorways

Teach your dog to respect open doorways and to never bolt through an open door. This is a very important behavior any traveling dog should know. Most dogs get lost during travel because they run out of an open doorway or the travel vehicle. Take the time to train your dog to wait and be invited to walk through any door, whether car door or hotel room door and to come to you when called.
This is an easy skill to teach. You can see how to teach your dog to respect the car door by watching our You Tube video:

5. Potty On Command

Here is a skill your dog can easily learn and it will make your travel time much more enjoyable: teach her to potty on command. This can be an invaluable behavior when traveling. Small dogs, that travel by airplane, can be trained to use a potty pad to relieve themselves in public bathrooms in-between flights. Also, this is wonderful when you take quick potty breaks on the road. Most of the time, your dog will be distracted by the new surroundings and to busy smelling all the new smells to think about relieving herself. If you train her to potty on command, you will always be able to get her to do her thing no matter how many distractions there are. It is a great way to be able to have your dog empty her bladder and bowels before you go to busy outdoor festivities, check into your hotel, or go to a patio restaurant.

Traveling with your dog is rewarding and fun, but it does require some added preparation. It’s a good idea to get started early and prepare yourself and your pet for your upcoming travel adventure.

Birgit Walker is a Canine Travel Expert and the co-author of Keep Your Paws on the Road – A Practical Guide to Traveling with Dogs.
For more information about the book go to our website at

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