I was in Canton last week at an initial Home Dog Training Session with our new client and his Brittany Spaniel named Johnnie.  In many respects, Johnnie was a great dog.  As with many Brittany Spaniels, he was very active and a little crazy.  This was the major problem that our client had with him.  Johnnie was constantly jumping on people, never listening to commands, and would always pull on his leash when on walks.

Plan ahead to have a safe trip with your dog

The action plan of our training centered around acquiring Johnnie’s focus and directing that back to our client.  Our client needed to have a calm demeanor while showing he was the leader. After a few hours of instruction and “role playing”, Johnnie was giving our client respectful focus, and our client could easily direct him to the correct actions.

Our client was extremely happy with the results of the day’s training and grateful for all the new things we had taught both him and Johnnie.  He told us that, even though he had placed new rules on Johnnie, he appeared happier than before.

As we wrapped up the lesson, I asked him if he could think of anything else we needed to work on that day or if he had any “general Johnnie questions”.  He pondered for a second or two and then asked us about car trips.  It seems that the family was going on a vacation to Arizona in a few weeks and they were driving.  They would be taking Johnnie, and this would be his first car trip.  He asked if we had any suggestions to keep Johnnie safe and happy while they were on the trip. 

I commended our client for asking such a great and important question.  We always do what we believe is necessary to keep our dogs safe around the house.  For some reason, we never extend that same sense of safety preparedness when it comes to our dogs and long car trips.

We provided our client with a set of guidelines that we have offered our clients over the years when traveling with their dogs.  No matter if you travel by car, truck, plane or train, we want to assure that you have a safe and pleasant journey with your dog: (By the way, Robin and I used to travel with five dogs across country!)

General Travel Tips:

  • Make sure that you always have your dog restrained in some manner as you are traveling. And, by the way, “restrained” does not mean that they are sitting on your lap.
  • Whenever you travel, whether it is across the country or to the neighborhood store, make sure that your dog is wearing a collar or harness with ID tags with up-to-date information. We strongly suggest that you have your dog microchipped.  If their tag falls off, the microchip is “always there”.  Make sure that the company that is providing you with the microchip service has your current information. If you are going on a trip, make sure that they have the numbers of the cell phones you have with you.  If you are staying at a resort or a friend’s house, make sure that they have their number as a “backup contact”.
  • Have a recent picture of your dog on your cell phone.  This will make it easier if you are wandering around and are asking people “Have you seen my dog?”.
  • Some dogs just don’t like to travel. They don’t like the monotony, sounds, tight spaces, etc. If this is the case for your dog, ask your vet if he could prescribe some “calming pills” for your dog. Never give your dog any pill that is prescribed for humans unless you have checked with your vet.
  • Feed your dog two or three hours before you are going to start off on your trip. (If your dog has a tendency to get “car sick”, feed him one half of his normal meal three to four hours before you start your trip.)

Cars and Trucks

  • No matter how long the car ride, you must always have your dog securely and safely restrained. When your dog is unrestrained, situations can instantly occur that will make your dog hazardous to himself and others. A quick slam on the breaks or swerve of the wheel and cause him to become a “flying projectile” that can cause great harm to him, yourself, or others in the car.
  • We strongly suggest that you use a method that will keep your dog secured in the back seat.  This is because, even if your dog is secured in the front, passenger seat, your airbags may deploy and harm your dog. We have found that either a pet safety harness (we used this when transporting many large dogs) or a dog carrier attached to the seat belt (best for smaller dogs) are excellent safety devices.
  • Although we strongly discourage the practice, sometimes the only way you can travel with your dog is to have him in the bed of your pickup truck.  If this is the case, make sure you have a sturdy crate that can be firmly attached to the bed of the truck.  Once in place, yank on it in different directions to make sure that driving conditions will not have it come loose.  Also, make sure the crate protects your dog from “the elements”.  If possible, place it at the front of your load bed to minimize the impact of the wind.
  • Do not let your dog stick their head out the window while the car you are driving. “Stuff” may blow in his eyes or the force of the wind may harm his neck.
  • Make sure that your dog has plenty of exercise before and after you take your trip.  This will help tire (relax) him before the trip begins and associates the destination as “a fun place”. This will encourage him to look forward to car trips and become comfortable with the surroundings of your final destination.
  • Make sure that you have his leash attached to his collar or harness before you open the door at a rest stop.  Make sure that he is calm before you open the door and that you have scanned the immediate surroundings to assure that there is nothing that may harm your dog once you let him out of the car. If you think that he may wiggle out of his collar, always use a harness when letting him out.
  • Stop every four hours so that your dog has the opportunity to potty and “stretch his feet”.  This is also the time you could give him a little bit of water and a small treat.  Make sure that you police the area afterwords to pick up any poop.
  • Be aware of temperature extremes. Your car will act like an oven on a hot summer day and a freezer on a cold, winter day.

Plane or Train

  • Be sure that you have a travel carrier for your dog that is approved by the airline or train company that you will be using for your trip.  Although most carriers follow the same standards, it is always best to check before you arrive at the airport or train station. Also, be aware that even though there may be information on the carrier’s web site, the plane or train that you will board for your trip may have additional restrictions or requirements.
  • Even though we always discourage having your dog travel in the cargo compartment, sometimes it can’t be avoided.  Double check with the carrier to determine if there are any additional restrictions regarding health/immunization/size requirements.
  • Whenever possible, book a straight-through flight from home to destination.  This will minimize having your dog sit on the tarmac for hours because of a connection problem.  It also minimizes any issue that could cause your dog to be routed to the wrong destination.  Check to see if the airline or train company will allow you to watch your dog being loaded into the cargo hold.
  • Open up the carrier the moment you arrive at your destination, and it is safe to let your dog out.  Put his leash on him and make sure he is fine.  If he appears listless or has any marks or bruises, it will be a good idea to take him to the nearest vet for a quick checkup.

We have followed these guidelines with our dogs for many years and have enjoyed wonderful traveling experiences with them.  We suggest that you consider implementing these procedures so you and your dog will enjoy a great trip and fantastic vacation.

Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over nineteen years.  We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.