Ask Our Trainers: Holiday Travel Tips
Terri A. of Florida asks how to get her newly adopted Poodle used to a carrier case, so he can fly with her to visit family over the holidays. Connie G. of Missouri asks for advice on her Shih Tzu that hates to travel and gets so stressed that he will not eat, sleep, or drink. Travel is sometimes necessary for our dogs, but it can be very stressful. AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer Breanne Long provides some tips for making travel better for our four-legged family members. The best way for any pet to travel is in a crate or seat belt harness. This is safest for you. You won't have a pet bouncing around the car distracting you (or worse, in your lap!), and safest for your pet since he could get banged up or even ejected from the car in the case of an accident. If your dog is uncomfortable in the car, try feeding him his meals in the vehicle, first with the car off, then gradually work up to the car running, and then driving slowly. Make sure to have a second person driving the car, so you can keep an eye on your dog without driving while distracted. Throughout this process, as your dog eats his meals, drop treats into the crate or into his bowl. For dogs that are small enough to travel in the cabin of an airplane, getting them comfortable in a carrier bag is essential. The best way to do this is by making a positive association with being in the carrier bag. It's important not to rush this process and zip up the carrier bag before the dog is ready; that will erode any progress you've made. While training your dog to accept the bag, make sure you open all flaps and zippers, so the bag is as bright and inviting as possible. The first step is to place your dog’s food dish near the bag while the bag is open, feed your dog near the bag until he is completely comfortable next to it. The next step is to feed your dog with the bowl just inside the bag. The dog doesn't need to go inside the bag to get the food; he should just have his head inside to reach his bowl. For each meal, place the bowl further and further into the bag, so the dog needs to go further and further inside to eat. Next, stand near the bag with your dog’s bowl in hand; keep some yummy treats handy, as well. If your dog shows any interest in the bag, such as looking at it, sniffing it, touching it with a paw, etc., reward your dog with a yummy treat. If your dog chooses to go in the bag, shower him with several treats and his meal. Do not force the dog to stay in and do not zip the bag. Instead, place the treats and bowl in such a way as to encourage the dog to stay inside the bag while he eats. Do this until the dog is comfortable in the bag and will pause for a few seconds after he finishes eating, before leaving the bag. At that point drop a few treats in front of him so he can eat while still in the bag, start to zip the bag, drop some more treats, and unzip the bag. Continue in this way until the dog is comfortable with the bag being zipped. When he is ready to stay in the bag for a minute or two, give him a food-stuffed rubber toy filled with something like peanut butter or cream cheese. Try to unzip the bag before the dog finishes his treat. This way, he is unlikely to rush out as soon as the bag is unzipped. Gradually build up to longer periods of time until he is ready for a trip. Our dogs are cherished members of our families, sharing our lives and providing unconditional love. But all dog owners know that our canine partners have different perspectives on life than our human family members. If you have ever asked “Why does my dog do that?” then this feature is for you. The AKC GoodDog! Helpline training team will answer your questions on dogs' behavior and offer training advice to help you and your dog have the best relationship possible. The AKC GoodDog! Helpline is a seven-day-a-week telephone support service staffed by professional dog trainers. For more information on the service and how to enroll go to www.akcgooddoghelpline.org.