Famously known as “man’s best friend,” let’s be honest—who wouldn’t love to travel better with their dog? It only seems natural that our four-legged companions travel alongside us in our journeys, whether small or large. However, travelling with a canine may seem quite intimidating and it really is a test of their obedience and skills. So, how can you make your trips smoother and more fun for everyone?
We have put together our top training tips for travelling with your dog, just for you!
These training tips cover everything from car trips, to hotel visits, to new and exciting locations.
Hopefully, these tips on how to travel better with a dog can put you at ease so you can further prepare your travel plans for you and your furry friend.
Introduction to training
When you’re deciding what commands to use, keep your words short and sweet–“come” rather than “come here,” for example. Say your dog’s name to get their attention, and then give the command. Keep your commands consistent so your dog doesn’t get confused.
Always use positive reinforcement in training—never punish your dog for getting things wrong. They won’t connect the punishment to their action and will only learn to fear you. Instead, reward your dog when they get things right, with a tasty treat or a belly rub.
As for how long will it take for your dog to learn necessary skills, it can vary. Some breeds (like border collies and dalmatians, for example) are known for being intelligent and fast learners, and they may pick up skills in a matter of minutes. Other dogs will take a little more time and patience.
Now that you have an idea of how to train, we’ll move in what to train in order to travel better with your dog!
Condition your dog to car trips
One of the best tips we can offer for how to travel better with a dog begins as early as puppyhood.
Conditioning your puppy to car trips from a young age is critical to ensure that your pup is calm, comfortable, and without stress during car trips, both short and long.
John from Allthingsdogs explains to us just how essential the socialization period is in the puppy. Early socialization includes the exposure to not only other dogs and humans, but also different environments (i.e. car trips and various locations).
By conditioning your puppy to car trips, you ease any predisposition to fear, anxiety or even motion sickness woes which they may have.
You can help ease any initial or on-going car trip woes with toys and familiar blankets. An excellent idea is to have specific “car toys” which are made special by only being kept or used during car time. This helps create a positive experience when it comes to travelling with your pup!
Take short trips and build up to longer trips. And importantly, take trips to happy places like your dog’s favorite trail or park. If their only experience with the car is to go to the vet or groomer, they won’t be a happy camper in the backseat!
Just like us humans, our puppy friends may experience serious injuries from car accidents. We therefore recommend the use of harnesses or doggy seat belts when travelling with your dog.
Training your pup to “buckle up” and be familiar with the use of a harness or other car safety device is essential so that your dog is not put into an unfamiliar restricted situation which may cause distress.
A great idea is to allow your pup to get a feel of the harness or other device at home in a relaxed setting. Let them wear the harness around the house and give them lots of cuddles and treats. Your dog will begin to associate the harness with other positive things and therefore they will not find the restriction so intimidating!
Crate train your dog
Crate training your dog is a great training tip for travel.
Training your pup to sleep in a crate encourages your dog to sleep in one area. This is a great option when staying away from home.
Additionally, crate training also enables your dog to have a “safe-zone”. Many dogs begin to recognize the crate area as their safe zone which is a plus when they are in an unfamiliar environment or around unfamiliar people.
Crates are also useful for the car trips. In fact, some dogs prefer to be in a crate while traveling than to be buckled in on the seat. This is also a more relaxed approach as your pup will have free reign of the crate during travel.
Crates are the most common and often the only method of transporting your pup in-flight. As many of our pets will take to the skies at some point in their lives, the crate is an important tool that will help them feel safe in the air.
Again, positive reinforcement is the best method for crate training. When your pup enters the crate say “bed” or “crate” and then pass on over a treat and some praise. Soon your pup will make their way to crate on command, or just for a snooze on their own!
Train your pup with bathroom cues
Dogs can only hold their bladder for so long, although adult dogs hold their bladder better than puppies. Nonetheless, bathroom cues and stops are an important part of travelling with pets.
To make it easier, we recommend training your pup to go to the bathroom on command through bathroom cues. For example, using the command “potty” and popping a treat into their mouth once they go.
Potty training your pup is a common training step during puppyhood. However, we do recommend taking the extra step and practicing your dog to go bathroom on command. This will save a lot of grief during long-distance travel!
Ace your dog’s on-leash skills
Leash training is an essential tool to have down pat when travelling with your pup.
Begin leash training slowly from a young age. First, let your pup run around the house with their lead on. Then, slowly begin to lead him or her around home or the backyard. If they pull, then stop. Begin walking again once they are calm.
When they are walking nicely next to you, praise and send down a treat so that they begin to associate good behaviour with yummy treats.
A well-behaved dog on a leash is a blessing while travelling. There are so many new sights, smells, people, and other animals your dog will get exposed to on a trip. It can be frustrating, and even dangerous if your dog tries to pull toward everything that interests them in an airport or rest stop. Leash training can help greatly with this.
Teach more good manners like “wait” and “quiet”
Teaching your dog to “wait” is a great training tip to help them travel better. If your dog is an unfamiliar environment and runs off, this can be a dangerous situation. Teaching the command “wait” is simple and just requires some positive training methods.
We recommend to begin teaching “wait” before your pup enters a door way, or exits the crate. Ask your pup to “wait”, and slowly open the door, if he/she begins to head out, then close the door. Repeat until your dog finally waits and then give them a treat and some love.
A barking dog can cause a lot of angry holiday-goers, and it is not the most pleasant noise to hear when on vacation or travelling.
Dogs may bark to alert us, grab our attention, and to communicate. However, they can also bark if they are fearful or bored.
We recommend training your dog to be “quiet.” When training, it’s important not to yell or get upset, but actually ignore the barking. Don’t give them any attention. When they stop barking (even for a second!) quickly reward them with a treat and praise.
Keep your dog as comfortable as possible by bringing familiar blankets and toys, and it’s a great idea to exercise them before a trip so that they are tired and sleep through the flight or drive.
Travelling with your furry friend requires proper training and preparation in order for it to be a successful and smooth ride.
Conditioning your dog to the car and to handling new and exciting environments in a controlled manner is essential. Ensuring your dog’s safety along the way to your destination is also critical.
Through the use of positive reinforcement methods, a wide array of training is required in order to prepare your dog for travel.
A dog who is well-socialized and conditioned travels the best. We trust that our top tips will help you travel better with your dog!
Have a paw-tastic and ulti-mutt journey!
John Woods is a graduate in animal welfare and behavior, member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and a recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America.