At home, commands like sit, stay, and come may be all you need. But once you hit the road, you might find that teaching your traveling dog some additional commands makes your trips a happier experience for you both!
When we got ready to sell our house and move onto a sailboat, I made a list of behaviors we needed to teach Honey to keep her comfortable, safe, and happy on board. You probably won’t need to teach your dog not to fall in a heeling sailboat. But I bet most of our other lessons will benefit you, too.
Here are our five most useful commands for a traveling dog, along with ideas for when to use them, and tips on teaching them to your pup.
This is one of the most versatile cues to teach any dog! It simplifies life when you’re cooking in a tiny RV kitchen, or trying to keep your dog safe around a campfire. You can use it when you’re eating on the patio at a pet friendly restaurant, or need your pup to settle down on a scenic train ride. And, if your pup is fearful, you can use this cue to help her feel safe and build confidence in situations she finds scary.
When I tell Honey to “go to bed,” she looks for the nearest rug or mat and lies down. Most dogs will associate this cue with one particular mat or bed, so teach yours to lie on something small and easy to pack, like a towel. You’ll know your training is a success when your dog settles down and relaxes on the towel in your hotel room or on the ground at an outdoor concert.
READ MORE ⇒ Can You Travel With A Reactive Dog? You Betcha!
Supplies: A towel, an ordinary treat like kibble, and a high-value treat like chicken or jerky
In the old days, this was called “heeling.” It was a signal for your dog to walk in lockstep with you until released. Honey and I aren’t competing in obedience trails, but I do sometimes need her to walk close to me. So, this command is a relaxed version of heeling and can be useful when you’re crossing the street, moving through crowds, or tying to avoiding other animals.
When I tell Honey “with me,” she makes eye contact and walks close to my side until I tell her, “go sniff,” her cue to lead with her nose.
Supplies: A six-foot leash (not retractable) and a treat or toy that interests your pup
Wait is one of the most important commands for a traveling dog. When I tell Honey to “wait,” I want her to stay where she is for a brief moment until she gets further instructions from me – I don’t expect her to sit or stay for a long period. We use this cue to keep Honey from jumping off the boat before we’re ready. You might use it to keep your dog in the car until you have him leashed and are ready to go.
I also find it useful for reattaching Honey’s leash at the end of playtime on a pet friendly beach. I never call her to come to me to put her leash back on because I don’t want her to associate coming to me with the end of something fun. Using “wait” allows me to collect her so we can continue on to our next adventure.
When I say “wait,” Honey stops walking, looks at me, and stays put until I tell her it’s okay to move again.
To teach your dog this command, you must help her understand that waiting is the best way to get what she wants. Let’s use an example of going out the door, where the reward is being outside.
Once you and your dog have mastered this with a door in hour home, build on your success by moving to the car door.
I tell Honey to “watch me” when I see something ahead I know she’ll find tempting. This cue allows me to direct her attention to me so she doesn’t get into things she shouldn’t. Of course, it only works if you see the temptation first. Good luck getting your dog’s attention after she notices the big bucket of fried chicken someone left on the park bench!
I rely on this cue a lot now that Honey has discovered the free-range armadillos of Georgia’s sea islands. Five seconds of eye contact is enough time for even the laziest armadillo to waddle back to her nest. Of course, if Honey spots the armadillo before I do, the armored creatures move much faster.
When I tell Honey “watch me,” she looks up at me and maintains eye contact.
Supplies: An ordinary treat, like kibble or favorite toy
Another of the essential commands for a traveling dog is touching your hand with his nose. This is the first step to training lots of other behaviors, like turning off a light switch, shutting a door, even some intricate moves in doggy dancing. But I find it useful to get Honey to move her body where I want it quickly and easily.
When I put my palm out and tell Honey to touch, she moves so her nose touches my hand. I can use it to direct her around hazards or to move her to the side of the restaurant table farthest from the server. I have not yet had a hungry golden retriever upset a server’s tray in a dog friendly restaurant, and the touch command is one reason for our success!
Supplies: Small treats or a favorite toy
Because dogs are so curious, this is an easy cue to teach.
Don’t forget these important principles for training your dog:
My training tips are fairly simple. But if you’re interested in learning how to train more behaviors, visit positive training sites like Karen Pryor’s on clicker training or Victoria Stilwell’s Positively.
Taking time to teach these commands to your traveling dog these commands means you’ll both be more relaxed and allows you and your dog enjoy being together even more. Training also builds your bond and helps keep your dog safe in unfamiliar places and situations. On top of all that, it gives you a fun activity to practice on the road. When everyone is feeling squirrely after hours of driving, there’s nothing like running through your training cues to work your dog’s brain and help tire him out!
Maybe you’ll love it so much you’ll start training your dog to pose for pretty pictures or do fun tricks. A viral video of your adorable dog showing off for the camera might just pay for more exciting trips!
READ MORE ⇒ 6 Simple Steps To Get Your Dog Posing For Photos
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