When people ask me about skills that I deem important for traveling dogs, I always start with “Potty on Command.” Many people look at me in disbelieve. Really? Why would teaching your dog to do his business on command be such a big deal? But I insist, teaching your dog to potty on command is one of the most needed skills if you like to take your dog with you on day-trips or vacations. Read on to find out why.
Unfamiliar places are distracting
Whether you travel far or just to the local Farmers’ Market, all the new and unusual smells are very distracting for your dog, so he will be too busy taking it all in and he will forget to do his thing. Then, when you are walking in a crowded area, he will remember that he has to go and relieve himself in the most inappropriate area. Believe me, I’ve been there.
This is why being able to tell your dog when and where he should do his business is so useful. I make it a habit to find a nice grassy area and have my dogs relieve themselves, before I take them to any busy area. This way I am sure there won’t be any messes right outside the restaurant or in the aisle of the Farmers’ Market.
This is also convenient as you travel, as it allows you to decide where your dog shouldn’t do his business. When I travel with my dogs, I find there are a lot of places that say “No pets!” By being able to tell my dogs when it’s appropriate to go, I can make sure we don’t break any rules at campgrounds or hotels.
You don’t have a lot of time
Quite often when you travel, there isn’t a lot of time for potty breaks, especially when you travel by airplane. There is seldom a lot of time between flights and it can be difficult to get to an area your dog can use the potty at. Many airport terminals now offer dog areas. These small areas are usually lined with fake grass or even tile. Naturally they are constantly cleaned with heavy duty chemicals to prevent the spread of diseases. Many dogs will not relieve themselves in these places, unless they are trained to do so. When your dog has learned to potty on command, he is likely to relieve himself in any circumstance and no longer requires to walk around and sniff for just the right spot. For smaller dogs, it is ideal to use a potty pad in addition to the command, as this allows you to have your dog “go” in any area that you lay down the pad. This way you can take your pet to an appropriate area or even put the potty pad into his crate and have him relieve himself.
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How to train your dog to potty on command
So now that you understand the benefits of training your dog to potty on command, here is how you can teach him:
On your regular walks, with your dog on-leash, go to the areas your dog usually relieves himself. When you get to the area, say the command. I use: “Do your buiz.” Now simply wait until your dog relieves himself. Do not talk a lot or walk around a lot, simply stand in an area you know your dog has used the potty before and say the command, then let the dog sniff around a little. When he starts to potty, say the command one more time. When he is done, praise him. Continue to do this from now on. If your dog uses the potty in your backyard, walk outside with him and use the command when he does his business, praise him when he is done.
It will only take a few days and you will notice your dog will relieve himself when you ask him to. Now practice in areas your dog usually does not relieve himself. Be consistent and soon your dog will know to potty on command.
Birgit Walker is a dog trainer and canine travel expert. She and her husband, Jim Walker, train dogs in the Phoenix area. Visit their website at ModernCanineServices.com. Birgit and Jim also published a book on traveling with dogs, titled “Keep Your Paws on the Road – A Practical Guide to Traveling with Dogs”