Last Tuesday I was in Decatur with a new Home Dog Training client and his Miniature Schnauzer named Barry. Like all Schnauzers, Miniature, Standard, or Giant; Barry was headstrong and was positive that he was meant to be the boss of the world. I spent several hours with my client and Barry “helping both understand” who was the boss and who was the follower. Barry quickly understood that being the follower was his role. It took a little longer for my client to understand that he was the boss. Many people think we are joking when we tell them we are training the human more than the dog, but that is what we are really doing. In the end, both our client and Barry understood their roles and the family dynamics were resolved. As we were finishing up, my client mentioned that they were going to Arizona to visit their daughter’s family for Thanksgiving.
Because of COVID, they were making it a road trip and were planning several stops at hotels along the way. They had already confirmed that the hotels accepted dogs and Barry was up to date on all his shots and check-ups from the Vet. This would be Barry’s first “road trip” and first time he would stay in a hotel room. My client was wondering if there were any special preparations or procedures he should do to make sure that the trip would be “uneventful” when it came to Barry and the hotels…
Just like our initial learning process, everything is based on socialization and repetition. When we were young, our mother would take us to places over and over again so that we would understand what to expect and become comfortable being out in the world. Mother doggies do the same thing by taking their pups on walks around the house and yard. What we must do with Barry is to get him comfortable with traveling and staying in a new place. There are several things that we must do:
- We must get Barry comfortable with being in a crate. He is going to be in the crate while he is in the car and many times in the hotel room.
- Have the crate with you at home. Feed him in the crate and give him his toys in the crate. Make sure it is a happy place for him.
- Take Barry for rides in the car with the crate. You might start with having someone hold him in the back seat next to the crate. After a while, put him in the crate with a goodie and close the door. Make sure that the crate is securely fastened to the seat belt.
- Go to a friend’s house with Barry and the crate. Go into one of their bedrooms (simulating hotel room) and be there for a few minutes.
- Leave Barry alone in the crate so that he will get used to your not being there all the time.
- It is obvious that the hotel room will be relatively unfamiliar to Barry. Even though you took him to your friend’s, it still isn’t quite the same.
- We need to add a “safety factor” to the crate and the hotel room ahead of arriving there. The best way is through smell.
- Think of a special smell that you can have around Barry’s crate that he will familiarize with and feel comfortable being around. I suggest lavender.
- Get some lavender spray and put it on some old towels or shirts that you can put in the crate. Also get some lavender plug ins or room deodorizer that you can turn on or spray around the crate and the room. Try this at home and at your friend’s home.
- Also, get some old, smelly clothes that you don’t plan to wear any more. Place them in the crate so that Barry associates your smell with the crate and the immediate surroundings.
- Now you are ready to go. Barry should be familiar with the car, the crate, and being in the crate in a location away from your home.
- Feed Barry several hours before you leave so that he has plenty of time to potty. Play with him just before you leave so that you can drain his adrenaline and make him ready for a nap.
- Do not play loud music in the car. Quiet, soothing music would be the best to keep Barry calm and collected. (I suggest the greatest hits of The Carpenters.)
- Stop every two hours to allow Barry to get out, potty, and get a good sniff. I always like the highway rest stops because they normally have large, grassy areas that the dogs always love.
- When you arrive at the hotel, take the crate into the room and add the lavender smell. Keep Barry outside.
- Walk Barry for about ten to fifteen minutes to see if he has to potty. This will also allow him to sniff and get familiar with the new area.
- Take him to your room through the back door so that you don’t have to go through the lobby where there might be a lot of people and activity.
- Have Barry with you for a while in the room. Slowly put him in his crate and make sure he has one of his favorite toys and/or goodie with him. Make sure you have the lavender towel and one of your smelly shirts in with him too.
- If you need to leave the room, try to do it when other guests are out too. This will minimize the external noises from your “neighbors” on your left and right and will minimize the possibility of barking from Barry.
- If you feed Barry while you are at the hotel, do it in the bathroom so that any mess will remain on the tile and not the carpet.
- Make sure that Barry has a good walk and sniff before you head off the next day.
- When you arrive at your family’s home, make sure that you have already arranged for one of them to take Barry while you get settled. He doesn’t need to be under foot as you bring in your suit cases and other stuff.
- Introduce Barry to everyone in a quiet, calm manner. Remember that adrenaline only creates more adrenaline.
- Keep Barry on his regular feeding and potty schedule. This will assure for a minimum of unexpected surprises.
- Have the crate in a central area so that when you put Barry in it, he is still part of the activities.
As I mentioned earlier, the most important thing that we need to accomplish is to get Barry familiar with the idea of traveling and being in strange locations. By performing the “dry runs” that we have discussed, traveling and staying in strange places will become second nature for him. This is how we got our dogs accustomed to traveling and now they can’t wait for the “road trip”.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over fifteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.