Ty and Buster are not easy. They are fantastic dogs, and we love them with all our hearts, but the truth is, traveling with them is a challenge.
Ty has been afraid of strangers as long as we’ve known him. We raised him in center-city Philadelphia back when we didn’t have a car, much less a motorhome – we walked everywhere, and Ty went with us. Running quick errands turned into marathons, not just because of his short little puppy legs and wandering attention, but because everyone wanted to pet him! Of course … he was ridiculously cute.
Thinking we could use the constant attention Ty drew to our advantage, I started handing out treats to everyone who approached, hoping he’d start to associate people he didn’t know with tasty snacks. He never caught on – he’d simply take the treat and then bark at the person to let them know they’d infringed on his personal space.
To complicate matters, at six months old he was attacked at the dog park. It took no time at all for Ty to add “other dogs” to his list of beings who couldn’t be trusted.
In his early life we worked with trainers and tried many techniques, and eventually we came to realize that this is part of Ty’s personality. He needs his space, and as his guardians, it’s our responsibility to help him feel safe.
When Buster showed up on our doorstep in Philly, he was about a year old and Ty was three and a half. Adding a rambunctious German Shepherd pup to our family took some adjustment for us all, and while the boys learned to live together, we spent a lot of time trying to help Buster burn off his excess energy.
After a four-mile walk around the city, I’d often stop at our local dog park so Buster could romp with the other dogs before heading home. It wasn’t long before I noticed a pattern developing … Buster would inspect the perimeter, avoid the other dogs, and drool until a lather built up under his chin. He was visibly nervous.
It all clicked. The reason he was barking at other dogs when he was on-leash and his behavior at the dog park were related – he was uncomfortable around other dogs!
Over the years, we’ve used treats and training to help Ty and Buster increase their confidence. Just a few weeks ago I wrote about Ty’s “parking in the garage” maneuver that helps him feel more comfortable. And I’ve written in the past about how we use the “find it” game to help Buster navigate past other dogs.
Though they’ve made a lot of progress, our dogs still have limitations, and that’s where the stunt doubles come in!
We’re heading out at the end of this week on The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip. We’ll be visiting the top pet friendly attraction in each of the lower 48 states over the next ten months, and hosting 17 live events along the way. The boys can’t wait to get out and see the sights, but making personal appearances at the live events isn’t something they’re capable of doing.
So, we came up with a way to balance the needs of our dogs with our deep desire not to disappoint their fans … Ty and Buster stand-ins!
Just like actors have look alikes to handle the scenes that aren’t in their wheelhouse, Ty and Buster now have stunt doubles to pose for photos with all the dogs and people that come to our events! This will allow the real Ty and Buster to duck the pawparazzi, and send time catching up on naps and unstuffing their toys.
We’re looking forward to meeting up with you during the tour! We’re co-hosting our first event with the SPCA for Monterey County on February 11th in Carmel. Get all the details here: Carmel Meet-up with GoPetFriendly.com.