Robin and I were recently at a charity event in Lawrenceville in support of a local dog rescue group.  It was great because several dogs found new homes that night.  During the course of the evening, we answered a host of different dog training and safety questions for the attendees.  One of the attendees had a young Shih Tzu named Hazel.  They had rescued Hazel about three months ago and were getting ready to go on vacation in New Mexico.  They were going to be driving and were going to spend about three days traveling.  He was wondering what could be done to make sure Hazel would enjoy the trip and vacation.  He wanted to make sure that she would feel safe and not go nuts in the hotel rooms during the drive or the rented house while they were in New Mexico.

We have traveled with our five dogs for years.  Traveling with one dog will be a great deal easier, but still requires the same procedure that has worked for us.  The most important piece advice that I can give anyone who ever believes they will ever travel with their dog is to get a dog crate.

Now, I know what about 50% of you are thinking.  “Oh my gosh!  That is like putting them in a jail and all dogs hate to be in a crate!”  This is completely wrong.  All dogs need a singularly safe location they can go to relax and understand that nothing from the outside world will bother or hurt them.  This is the same idea of the cave for the wolf pack.  If anything bad was happening in the forest around them (lions, tigers, and bears; oh my!), they could retreat to their cave and everything was instantly fine.  The crate can easily act as this same location.

First, purchase a crate that is big enough for your dog to easily enter, turn around, and lie down.  Make sure that there is also enough room on the crate floor for your dog’s food bowl, water bowl, and a few toys.  I suggest that you get the regular “wire crate” as opposed to the “traveling crate”.  The “traveling crate” is required for airline travel but is not something you need for your car or hotel room.  Also, the wire crate gives allows your dog more visibility of the world around him so that he can visually understand any strange sounds or smells while traveling.

Next, you have to socialize your dog with the crate.  I suggest the following:

  • Never put your dog in the crate as punishment. Never throw or push him into the crate.  Never hit him or yell at him while he is in the crate.
  • Be sure to take your dog’s leash off while in the crate. The leash could easily get tangled on the wire walls and could strangle him.
  • Initially have the crate in an area where the entire family congregates. Feed him in the crate and place his toys in the crate.  Leave the door open.
  • Get down on the ground and play with him while he is in the crate. You can play “fetch” by throwing a ball into the crate.  Hide goodies in the crate and then play “where is the goodie?”.
  • Once you see him entering the crate and lying down on his own, close the door from time to time. Always stay with him when you do this.  After a minute or two, open the door and praise him for being a good boy.
  • Continue playing with him, feeding him, and closing the crate door for about three weeks. By now, he should understand that the crate is really a great place.
  • Never let other animals or small children in the crate. It needs to be your dog’s and only your dog’s special place.
  • Now, put the crate in the back of the car and encourage your dog to go into it. Just stay there for a few minutes to make sure he is OK.
  • Next, have your dog in the crate and drive around the neighborhood for about fifteen to thirty minutes.
  • Congratulations, your dog is now socialized to the crate.

You also need to make sure that you can leave the room with your dog in the crate.  Here is what we suggest:

  • Have your dog in the crate. Remember that he is always socialized and fine with the crate.
  • Walk to the other side of the room and sit down for a few minutes. Repeat this for a day or two or until he could care less that you are at the other end of the room.
  • Walk to the door and step out just for a moment. Step back quickly.  This will give your dog the perspective of being alone, but only for a very short time.
  • Continue stepping away, but increase the time that you are out of sight.
  • Next, close the door to the room. This will give the same appearance of leaving the hotel room or the vacation house.  Open the door and enter the room after a few seconds so your dog does not have the ability to become over anxious over the new sound.
  • Repeat leaving and closing the door while you increase the time between leaving and returning. When your dog “doesn’t care” that you are gone, you are now done.

Remember that dogs see the world differently than we do.  Besides dog crate usage, there are a host of other dichotomies that most people don’t understand.

Please call Robin or myself at (770) 718-7704 if you are in need of any dog training help.  We have a lot of good dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Lawrenceville Georgia.  Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Lawrenceville Georgia.