Are you prepared for your next adventure?
with Melissa Dallier of ACanineAffinity, Training Advocate

Traveling with Dogs

Whether you are spending a night in a hotel, taking a month long road trip, camping or moving the family to a new city - traveling with your dog can be a fun and exciting event but it can also be stressful and even dangerous if you don’t prepare properly. I’ve camped with my dogs, stayed in hotels, Airbnb’s and just recently relocated from California to Colorado with my pups. I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned along the way to help you prepare for all of your adventures.

I challenge you to follow along whether you have a trip planned for next week or next year. There is no such thing as preparing too much!

Depending on where you are going, and for how long, your “must pack” list will, but I consider traveling with dogs to be a lot like traveling with small children - better to be over prepared, especially if its your first time. If you know you will be near stores where you can easily access items you may forget or not have room for then you may not need to be so strict, but if you are planning to camp in the wilderness be sure you are well prepared. 

Packing for the Dog 

***This list is not all inclusive, but here are some things you will likely need no matter where you are headed**

  • Dog Food, pack extra. If you plan to be exercising you and your pup more than usual (hiking, mountain climbing or swimming) consider increasing your dogs caloric intake or adding extra fat and protein. If you plan to be a bit more sedentary, maybe cut back a little! 

  • Dog First Aid Kit - Especially important for outdoor adventures. I always have one in the car and on hand for any sort of outdoor excursion. 

  • Medications / Supplements 

  • Clean/Fresh Water 

  • Extra poo bags 

  • Wipes / towels / cleaning supplies 

  • Dog Bed / Mat - Even when staying in a hotel or Airbnb it helps to have something comfortable and familiar. Some places also ask that you keep your furry friends off of furniture. If this isn’t possible pack some old sheets to cover furnitire to keep hair and drool off to prevent cleaning fees. 

  • Vaccination and Vet Records - Important in case of emergencies or in the event you need to board your dog for a day or overnight while you have a non dog friendly adventure. 

  • Treats / Chew’s / Toys - Its important to be able to reward your dog for good behavior. Remember even the most well trained dog will be a bit unsure in a new environment and may display behaviors such as barking, pulling on leash, chewing unknown items or more. Additionally unknown wildlife pay produce unpredictable behavior such as unreliable recall or chasing. If you are prepared with toys and chews this will help keep your pup busy and treats will help you tell your dog when you like what they are doing. 

  • Leash’s / Collar / Harness - and extra back ups! 

  • Long Line Leash - Dog’s are required to be on leash in many areas, a long leash can help your dog get the exercise they need while still remaining safe. 

  • Crate - Some places you stay may require your dog to be in a crate when left alone. If you are camping a crate can be a safe place for your dog while you set up or while you are otherwise busy. Be sure your dog is comfortable in their crate before asking your dog to stay for any extended period of time! 

  • Enrichment Toys - Depending on the length of your trip, amount of time in the car or hotel, enrichment toys can be a crucial part of helping your dogs expel mental and physical energy as well as decompress and reduce stress. See my this post on enrichment for ideas! 

  • Check/Update microchip information - while this isn’t packing, making sure your dogs microchip information is up to date before you hit the road is one safety measure you can’t overlook! 

Did I forget anything crucial? Comment and let me know what you would bring? 


Important Skills

What life skills should your dog know before hitting the road? 

Training your dog is a lifelong journey - especially if you plan to take adventures! Using reward based, force free methods we can teach our dogs to safely enjoy life side be side with us. Here are the skills I think all dogs should know well before heading out on any trip. 

Riding Comfortably in the Car: 

This may seem obvious, but it's a big one that can be overlooked! My dog Rodger used to suffer from some car frustration and anxiety and I worked on it for about 6 months before we relocated to Colorado from California. The last thing I wanted to deal with on a 3 day road trip was an anxious, barking, whining dog in the car for 10 hours a day! 

First, using classical conditioning (learning by emotional association) Rodger learned that good things happened when he was in the car. He would get small bits of tasty treats just for being in the car. Then in time I began to teach him that good things happened when he behaved a certain way in the car (operant learning). This was laying or sitting calmly for just short periods of time while we drove. Seconds at first. Then minutes, then eventually the food came less and less frequently - but this took place every single time we were in the car for 6 months. Several times a week. The work paid off! Our trip to Colorado was a breeze for Rodger! He as calm, cool, collected and has shown none of his former car related behaviors on the road trip or since we arrived in Colorado.

Reliable Recall

While come when called is always something we should be working on, if you plan to take your dogs to a new place and even consider letting them off leash, their recall should be close to perfect. Dogs need time to gain reliability in new places, even the most well trained dog may decide that the smell of a new animal is distracting and reinforcing enough to chase after in a new setting. I recommend practicing recall on a long line before allowing off leash access in any new environment that is uncontrolled (not fenced in). Here are my top tips for teaching a reliable come when called

  • Start in a low distraction environment, call your dog from just a few feet away and reward - slowly work your way up to longer distances as your dog remains reliable. 

  • Always use the same recall word (Come / Here ) paired with your dogs name, every time. 

  • If your dog doesn’t come - don’t repeat yourself. Make it easier. Less distraction. Less distance. Higher Value Reward (better treat). 

  • Always. Reward. Recall. Every Time!! And reward well - real meat, cheese, hot dogs, pizza crust etc… this is such a valuable behavior that your dog needs to know it is always worth it to come to you. 

  • Don't punish. Recall should always be reinforcing. If your dog fails, it was too challenging. Manage the environment until they are reliable and set up training so they can succeed more than fail.

Check out this post for more

Loose Leash Walking 

When walking in new places, many dogs forget their previous skills for a bit - this can be especially true for walking in leash. If you are in a new busy town, on a trail or trying to walk to a hotel room it will be extremely helpful if your dog has a solid base of walking nicely on a leash. 

Need help with this skill? Join my advocate community and we can work together! 

Hand Target / Touch 

I believe this is one of the most useful behaviors any dog can learn. It is the foundation for many other skills and can help in so many situations! How does it relate to travel? 

  • Gaining attention when there is a strange noise outside of the tent 
  • Refocusing your dog when they catch a strange scent 
  • Another way to encourage recall in the hotel room when someone walks by and the dogs bark 
  • Confidence building in new places 

The list goes on and on! 

Check out my post here and here on how to teach your dog the hand target