Ever stand in a busy square and see a dog walking flawlessly next to its owner and think, “How is that dog so well-behaved? …[Rover] could never do that.”
I still have these thoughts from time to time. I admittedly get dog-envy when I see other dogs’ high levels of training and obedience. Imagine trying to take an unruly, hyperactive dog who doesn’t listen into a shop piled high with hand-painted ceramics. That would be a disaster, right? It would make taking fido MUCH more stressful.
So, as I begin to tell you about the logistics of taking your dog everywhere you go, I think it’s important to stress the major factor in making traveling with fido possible: Training!
Here are 5 things you can start doing now to make your life and future travels with fido a whole lot easier.
- Get them used to people
- Teach impulse control
- Practice leash walking
- Kick their separation anxiety
- Expose them to weird stuff
1. Get Them Used To People
This point seems obvious. People are everywhere, especially in the big travel destinations where you want to see the famous sights and attractions. The thing about people, you see, is that they mostly love dogs! If you didn’t like dogs, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog, right? If you have an especially cute dog, you can forget about people passing you by without noticing. Remember when we talked about crowds in my post Is Rome A Place For Fido?
Your dog needs to be comfortable around other people, even strangers. You might be thinking, “My dog is protective of me!” Well, hey, you’re not alone. Ava is very protective of me, too. But she can read me. If I’m comfortable around all the people, she is comfortable around them, too. If someone is rubbing me the wrong way, she is going to pick up on that and act differently.
The most important thing now, is that you start to get your dog acclimated to strangers. Early on after I adopted Ava, she was wary of strangers and would often growl at them. To combat this, I took her on walks in the park and asked complete strangers if they would greet my dog, explaining that I was training her to get used to people. I gave them a few treats (remember, I always have treats) to reward her after meeting them. I did this repeatedly for months. Strangers in the park probably thought I was nuts! But, it worked. I now have a dog that LOVES people.
But please, don’t take your dog into public and crowded spaces before they are comfortable. This can lead to bites, and that is a messy place to be.
2. Teach Impulse Control
Teaching your dog how to control their impulses is great for self-control and overall obedience. If they can’t listen to you at home, it’s unlikely that they will listen to you when they have all of the distractions and high stimulation that comes along with public spaces and traveling.
I am by no means a professional dog-trainer or an expert in these matters. I am just a normal dog owner who has learned a bit from previous experiences and fortunate interactions with many experienced advisors.
From day one, Ava was trained to sit and wait before exiting a door, before eating meals, before leaving her crate, etc. Little things like this are instrumental in your dog’s ability to listen and remain calm when they are excited. Check out some simple ways you can start this training at home.
3. Practice Leash Walking
Walking nice on leash is super important! If you use a Flexi-extendable leash, start walking fido with a normal one. You can’t control your dog if they are 10 feet ahead of you.
In fact, in Italy, it is the law to walk your dog on a leash shorter than 5 feet. While I have never seen this enforced, I use a 4 foot (1.5 meters) leash in crowded places, just to be safe.
The other thing to consider is pulling. If your dog pulls or lunges on leash, make it stop.
This is the very reason Ava wears the head-collar, or Gentle-leader, you commonly see in her photos. You can read about why I use this method, but it will be up to you to make the best decision for your dog. It ultimately comes down to one thing: practice, practice, practice.
4. Kick Their Separation Anxiety
The fact in life is that there are some places where your dog just simply isn’t permitted. It’s sad, and maybe in time we dog-lovers can lobby against this; but for now, it’s reality.
When you need to leave your dog in your respective AirBnB, hotel, or agriturismo unattended, you need to trust that they will not destroy the place or bark constantly while you are gone. These are sure-fire ways to never get invited back, or even worse, ruin your “guest ratings” online! Yikes!
While separation anxiety is a complicated problem to fix, it isn’t impossible. Learn about what you can start doing to work towards a solution.
5. Expose Them to Weird Stuff
Weird, I know. But think about it for a second. Has your dog ever seen a wheelchair before? Has your dog ever ridden in an elevator or seen a moped? These things seem totally normal to us, but they can be scary for dogs who don’t know any better! Ava used to growl at idle, parked mopeds when we first moved to Europe.
Now, a moped can zip by her on a narrow city street and she doesn’t even flinch. Amazing what a little exposure will do. For Ava, otherwise known as “scaredy cat”, we utilized the command “Touch”. This command basically enabled us to have her touch, smell, and explore new things, only to be rewarded afterwards.
See something weird? Go take your dog up to it and introduce them. Make them be friends with it. You’ll thank yourself later!