Roadtripping with Dogs: Part 3 – Exercise and National Parks

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In this post we will discuss how mental and physical exercise are a critical component to happy and healthy dogs on your road trip. We will discuss accommodating exercise wherever you happen to be. We will also talk about how to schedule your time when the humans are planning on spending time in the national parks.

 

Mental and Physical Exercise:
  • Make stops to take long walks and stretch your dogs’ legs: we like to power through when we drive long distances but we always make a point to stop at intervals to take a good 30-45 minute walk so the dogs can get a stretch. We do take short potty breaks every few hours, but we also stop every 6-7 hours for long-line walks.
  • Bring a long-line: Maybe your dog is great off-leash but there are a lot of places where leashes are required by law. When that is the case, I love to take out my 15-foot line and allow my dogs to stretch their legs and roam a bit. I had an awesome biothane one made recently by Sprydog that never gets dirty or wet! I love it!
  • Bring LOTS of chewing projects to keep your dogs occupied. Before going on our trip I ordered enough bully sticks for each dog to have one a day if needed, along with one trachea a day. I also brought kongs that I could fill and freeze in the hotel freezers, along with their typical food dispensing toys. With working for their food, having plenty of appropriate things to chew on, and stopping at a bunch of new places, they weathered the 8000 miles of driving very well!
  • Travel Hack: Fill a Kong with peanut butter from the continental breakfast mixed with kibble and place in the hotel freezer to give when you have to leave your dog behind in the hotel and you forgot something to re-fill the kong with!
  • If you plan on leaving your dog alone in the room, or just generally want them to behave well on your trip, exercise is crucial! We like to get up early and take care of the dogs needs before we head out on our own, especially in National Parks that tend not to be dog friendly. Take a couple mile stroll through your new surroundings or find a local park where you can play ball and burn off some energy to start the day. There wasn’t much in the way of places to walk in Wall, SD but we did find an awesome field to let the dogs run and play in. You have to be flexible and creative!
  • Sometimes it’s too hot to exercise your dog in the middle of the day (like in Arches when it was 104 mid-day!). That’s when you can get creative in your hotel room. Over the years I have taught many tricks in a hotel room including get me a tissue, put away the trash, turn lights on and off, put down the toilet seat, open and close doors, etc. You can even play hide and seek with your dog in a small hotel room. Your dog will burn energy when you call him and you’re hiding behind the bed or behind the shower curtain. There are a lot of fun games you can make up to do in small spaces so your dog can get mental exercise!

Schedule for National Parks:
  • What worked really well for us, especially in the summer heat, was to wake up early and exercise the dogs. At that point we would head into the park. Six to eight hours later we would come home to let the dogs out. This allowed us to do longer eight mile or so hikes while still being able to accommodate the dogs. After some play and exercise with the dogs we would head back to the park for another couple hours. This also gave us a nice break during the day as we were doing a marathon of different parks and this allowed us to not burn out.
  • Check with the park about where dogs are allowed. Most allow them 100 feet from paved roads and in campgrounds. Some parks have dog friendly trails or sections like Zion National Park. Take advantage of those areas when you can.
  • Our dogs are used to hanging in the car (they come to work with me on days when its not hot out) so in the places where temps were in the 50s all day, taking them was even easier as we just left them in the car for our shorter hikes and then they were able to sit outside and have dinner with us in the park and have a walk around.
  • Tip: Check out the parking situation before you go into the park. We didn’t know there wasn’t enough parking at Zion and we would have to take a bus into the park to take another bus to the hike we wanted to do. This would add time to our planned time away from the dogs who were hanging out in the hotel room. Luckily when we went into the park in the morning to walk the dogs we found out and were able to make adjustments to our schedule and plans. Be flexible and try to gather as much information beforehand as possible
  • Have fun and relax! The point of going on these fabulous trips is to enjoy this country with your best friend by your side. So plan ahead as much as possible and then sit back, relax, and take in the gorgeous country that we get to call home.

 

I hope these posts have given you some ideas to consider when preparing for a road trip with your dog. Yes, it’s a little extra work to bring Fido, but it’s totally doable with a little extra planning! Happy Roadtripping!

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Roadtripping with your Dog: Part 2 – Food and Lodging

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Choosing where to stay can be critical for having a successful trip. Overall, for never having been to any of these locations, we planned our accommodations well. However, we stayed in a couple of places that were just a bit too far from the park to make driving in and out easy. If I did it again I would stay as close to the park as possible (we were only a few minutes drive into Zion and Arches vs. 30 minutes from the entrance to Glacier and Yellowstone). An option we will likely explore next year will be staying in the parks in a camper van to cut our travel times. Read on to learn more about picking a location, along with food considerations for your pup.
Food and packing can either cause frustration or be something you don’t even have to worry about on the trip. Here are some tips on dealing with diet and packing.

Food:

  • Make any food switches beforehand: I feed a diet made up of half raw food and half kibble. I knew I didn’t want to deal with feeding raw on the road so I started switching them over to a dehydrated raw two months before the trip. This way there was no digestive upset from an abrupt change when traveling.
  • Bring enough food for emergencies where you may have to spend extra days in a location. While some dog foods are available everywhere, I have been in many towns that don’t have a good selection and abrupt food changes can be hard on your dog.
  • Store your food, treats, and chews in a large plastic bin so your dog can’t get to them, a
    nd other items can easily be stacked on top. It’s nice to have everything dog related in one place in the car so you can feel organized.
  • Make sure you bring any flea/tick or heartworm medication if you are going to be on an extended trip. Set an alarm on your cell phone since you likely wont be near a calendar to check their medication schedule.

Hotel and Location: For this trip we chose to stay in hotels and rented houses. We chose this option because we were traveling to many national parks and most are not particularly dog friendly. We also knew it would be summer and leaving them in the car would not be an option. Getting hotels and houses to stay in ensured we would have a safe and cool place to leave the dogs when we went to a human-only activity.

  • First, a note on animals: Know the types of animals you may encounter in a given location. There is a reason dogs are not allowed in certain parts of national parks and it mostly has to do with the animals. Those animals don’t just stay within the park boundaries. They are often in the nearby National Forests that you may be hiking your
    dogs in. Bring bear spray for grizzly country and be watching out for any animals that may be dangerous to you and your dog.
  • Seek out dog friendly locations: Check ahead of time for restaurants that have dog-friendly patio seating, or National Forests that often allow you to hike with your dog right outside the National Parks. When we stayed in Island Park, ID outside of Yellowstone we found an awesome National Forest with a river walk where we could take the dogs and even let them swim before we headed off to Yellowstone.
  • I have traveled all over the country with dogs for many years and I have had a lot of success staying at La Quinta hotels. They are all dog friendly and very rarely have any
    restrictions or fees associated with bringing a pet! Depending on location and time of year, you can typically get a pretty good deal. Many have nice features like the one we stayed in at Arches that had a fenced in dirt yard we could let them run and stretch their legs in.
  • Another great option is dog friendly VRBOs or Air BandBs. We stayed at a mix of the two while on this road trip. I highly recommend bringing your own old sheets to cover the furniture if you allow your dogs on it. This is respectful to the owner of the house and makes clean up a breeze!
  • If you stay in a hotel, I always ask for a room on the first floor by the door. This makes it easy to takes dogs out when necessary and also if they are running around, nobody is below you to complain.
  • White Noise: If you have a pup that’s a bit anxious about the new environment, leaving the TV
    on or bringing a radio or white noise machine can help drown out unfamiliar noises. We do both when we leave.
  • Bring extra dog towels. I like to have extras so you have some to dry your dog off, use as a bed or mat and also to put down on the floor if your dog is eating a marrow bone or something messy.
  • Security Camera: I brought my Canary home monitoring system with us on the road to keep tabs on the dogs. If you are renting a private home/apartment with wi-fi this can work really well as an extra set of eyes on your dogs while you are away.
  • Travel Hack: If you forget your water bowl in the car, you can always use the ice bucket as a temporary water dish.

Next week we will discuss how to how to exercise your dog on the road and how to schedule your time in the National Parks to accommodate your dogs

 

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Roadtripping with your Dog: Part 1 Preparing, Vehicle, and Packing

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Roadtripping with your Dog: Tips on keeping everyone happy and healthy when driving cross country

Roadtripping across the country can be a dream for many! Hitting the open road and seeing the amazing places this country has to offer is a life-changing experience. But what to do with Fido? Bring him of course!

This three part blog post will discuss everything from prepping your pup beforehand, to what to do with your dog in the National Parks (most do not allow dogs off main roads and campsites) to how to keep your pup happy and healthy during the trip!

I just finished a 3-week road trip with my 10-month-old Coolie puppy, Whip, and my 8-year-old rescue cattle dog Jake, a seasoned traveler. It went off without a hitch! Our itinerary included Badlands, Glacier, Yellowstone, Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, Great Sand Dunes, and Nashville, and we have plans for a 6 week road trip next year. I’ve also traveled for years with my own personal dogs through my work as a guide dog instructor. With a few accommodations, you too can bring your best friend with you and have them enjoy the experience just as much as you!

Preparing for the Roadtrip:

  • Look for dog friendly hotels and do some trial runs before committing to a month long trip. We did several overnights and long weekends with the puppy so that she understood how to behave when away from home. Her first night in a hotel she was a bit concerned with the noises of people walking down the hall, but by her third or fourth trip she was a pro!
  • If you plan to leave your dog crated while you are on a humans-only adventure, make sure you have practiced the length of time you plan to leave them and they are quiet and happy doing so. Because my dogs come to work with me, I actually had to build up Whip’s crate time so she was comfortable being left alone.
  • I recommend that if you have any concerns about your dog chewing or being uncomfortable in the hotel room that they should be crated so you know they are safe while you are gone.

 

Vehicle:

  • We ended up renting a van to take this trip. We were driving over 8000 miles and didn’t want to put that on my Subaru, along with wanting the extra space. It worked out great because we had plenty of room for a crate and all our luggage, along with the friends we met up with along the way. Next year we are looking at having a camper-van so we are even more self-contained. Think about what vehicle you’re going to use and then make sure it will fit everyone and all your gear comfortably.
  • Make sure you have a safe way for your dog to travel. Whether it’s crates or a harness/seatbelt combo, no one intends to get in an accident. Safety measures for your pet are just as important as you wearing a seatbelt.
  • Travel Hack: If you don’t have a dog seat cover and want to keep hair off your bench seats, especially in a rental, grab a fitted sheet and cover the seat with it. Extra towels can protect against nail marks.

 

Packing: This is not intended to be an exhaustive list but I will enumerate some things that you may forget to pack on the trip and might be helpful.

  • Collar with phone number and address clearly listed. Some tags wear out over time, make sure your dog is well identified in the case of an emergency.
  • A familiar dog bed or mat to lie on. I like the Ruffwear Mt. Bachelor Pad, as it rolls up small when not in use and has a waterproof backing.
  • Food: enough to have extra in case of emergency. We will discuss more on food in a later post.
  • Backpacks and portable water bowls. If you plan on hiking, bring the appropriate gear. Portable water bowls were really helpful when we went to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. If your dog can carry their own gear in their backpack, even better!
  • Heat related gear: I brought Ruffwear Swamp Cooler’s and a Ryobi fan run on drill battery in case it got hot. Both the humans and the dogs used the fan but we didn’t need the swamp cooler as our hikes were always early morning or later in the day. What I forgot to pack was dog boots. It was over 100 at the parks in Utah and we ended up carrying the dogs over blacktop on more than one occasion.
  • Exercise Pen: If you are meeting up with friends or want to be outside with your dogs without them being leashed to you, an ex-pen can work really well for both containment and seperation. You can pick one up for pretty cheap on Amazon or craigslist.
  • Tupperwear Bins: On this trip we packed one tupperwear bin for us and one that held all the dog stuff. This way everything was organized, easy to move around or bring into the hotel, and we knew that if we needed dog related, look no further than that bin. It also meant the dogs couldn’t get into it if we left them in the car with a 30 day supply of food 🙂
  • Nothing you don’t need: This is a great reminder that you CAN overpack. I brought anything that was critical and wasn’t easy to get (ie. I brought the dogs raincoats because I didn’t want soaking wet dogs in rental homes.) Remember that you will be near civilization, so if you really need something you can always run out and get it.

Next time we will discuss choosing hotels and locations along with considerations relating to food and storage.

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Training Tips

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Last month was National Train Your Dog Month.  As part of the effort to educate others on positive reinforcement I was asked to write an article for VitaBone on helpful tips to get started training your dog. You can find that article HERE. The winter is a great time to start training your dog because better weather is right around the corner. Show off your dogs skills this spring by starting training today! It only takes a few minutes a day to get a better behaved dog!

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When Management Will Do

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image-11-20-16-at-6-39-pmGreen fuzzy stuffing. Green fuzzy stuffing has been the bane of my existence for the last couple of days. But let me rewind a little. About a month ago we brought home an energetic 8 week-old puppy. She’s a typical puppy in that she will get into anything and everything!

Before we brought her home we had a nice dog bed in the corner of the living room. It had a hole in one corner, but had served Jake well for the last 3 years. Well, last week the puppy found the hole in the bed and started pulling the fuzzy green stuffing out of it. Every time I turned around she was at that bed, searching for the hole, trying to pull some stuffing out to chew on. I didn’t want to get rid of the bed because Jake loved to sleep in it and our hard wood floors are way less comfortable. But alas, it was causing me more anxiety than one inanimate object should!

I spent a few days redirecting her behavior to appropriate things to chew, restricting access to the area with the bed in it, and teaching her to lie in the bed instead of chewing on it. After a few days of some successes, some failures, and still green fuzz in my puppy’s mouth, I had an epiphany; this was not a training problem, this was a management problem.

So off I went to grab my needle and thread. In 10 minutes I had sewn up the hole. And guess what? No more green stuffing in puppy’s mouth or on my floor. Happy human!

Sometimes a problem doesn’t need training, it just needs some simple management.

With dogs we are always tempted to want to “train” the behavior out of a dog when a simple environmental change or change in our behavior will fix the problem in minutes. If we work on setting our dogs up for success by not leaving things around that they shouldn’t be chewing or getting into, we can also lessen the frustration in our lives and focus on training behaviors we actually need. The puppy was never going to stop pulling the stuffing out of the bed. It was way too much fun! So with a simple management strategy on my part, there is peace in my house again. Well at least peace in relation to the dog bed; she is after all a 13 week old puppy! 🙂

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Keeping Your Dog Cool This Summer

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With summer in full swing with high humidity and soaring temperatures, keeping your dog cool while getting them proper exercise is a serious concern. Today’s blog is on a couple different ways to keep your dog cool when you venture outside.

Last weekend I was at a clinic with my dog. Temperatures were close to 90 degrees, but he was happy as a clam out under a tree with his swamp cooler, frozen cooling pad to lie on, and bowl of  water. If you are going to be in direct sun (especially if you have a dark colored dog whose coat heats up quickly) I recommend a swamp cooler like the one Jake is wearing below made by Ruffwear. The vest works by using natural evaporative cooling to lower the dog’s temperature while reflecting the sun’s rays.

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If you are going outside for some exercise with your pup remember to try to bring them out early in the morning or later in the evening when temperatures are low. And remember brachiophalic dogs (those with shortened snouts) may have a harder time cooling off and breathing, so be extra careful in the heat!

If you are hanging out in the backyard a plastic kiddie pool can be an awesome and inexpensive addition to your doggy equipment. If your dog is timid about going in the water, make sure you introduce them slowly to just an inch or two of water. Give them lots of treats for exploring this new obstacle and you can even build them a small dirt ramp to get inside if they are nervous about jumping in. Toss a couple pieces of hotdog in the water and now you’ve created your own doggy “bobbing for hotdogs” game!

Another simple but occasionally overlooked part of the cooling equation is properly grooming your dog. If your dog has lots of dead hair trapped in his coat, the coat wont be able to efficiently regulate heat, so make sure you are brushing them frequently to remove trapped hair.

Additionally, make sure you are monitoring their exercise in the summer. Some dogs just don’t know when to quit and will play until they succumb to heat exhaustion, especially those with high drive. Give your dog plenty of breaks in the shade, even if he grumbles about it.

And remember, CHECK THE PAVEMENT! If you can’t place your palm on the pavement for 5 seconds comfortably, it is too hot for your dog to walk on it!

Finally, if you’re looking to offer your dog a cool treat, try making homemade pupcicles! These are probably best enjoyed outside or in a crate and not on your favorite rug, but your dog will have a blast. I typically make them by freezing a mix of yogurt, pumpkin, peanut butter and other dog friendly snacks inside a plastic cup. Once frozen, I run it under hot water and pop it out when it’s time to give it to the dog. Another fun idea is to fill a kids sand bucket with water flavored with chicken broth and put a toy at the middle and freeze it. Once popped out of the bucket, your dog has to figure out how to release the toy from the ice. This can be a fun mental and physical game for them as you watch them roll your ice creation around the yard.

Summer can be an awesome time for you and your pup, full of lots of adventures and lazy evenings in the yard. With these tips you can keep your dog safe and healthy in the hot summer weather!

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Television Dog Training: How to use your favorite TV show to create a better-trained dog!

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One of the first questions I tend to get from potential clients is “how long is it going to take to train my dog?” The answer is, it depends on your goals but you can get a better-behaved dog with a daily commitment of simply watching your favorite half-hour TV show. Not too bad right? That’s because training should never take very long! We think we need big blocks of time to practice training with our dogs but in reality our dogs learn best in very short training sessions. Here’s what I mean:

The average television show is 30 minutes long with 3-4 commercial breaks around 2 minutes each. That gives around 8 minutes of training time while you watch your favorite show.

8 minutes??? But that doesn’t sound like enough time! Well it can be, if you are CONSISTANT. Consistency is the name of the game in dog training. You are much better off training 4 times a day for 2 minutes at a time than training for an hour once a week. Your dog will learn more, be excited to train with you, and your lessons will be reinforced daily. The idea of these short sessions is to leave your dog wanting more of the game you are playing together. If you end a training session while your disinterested dog is ambling away, he isn’t going to think it is very fun to train with you. But if he ONLY gets to train with you for 2 minutes before you take a break, he is going to be excited when he gets to train with you because he was having fun when it ended last time!

Additionally, television training puts a built-in restriction on your training. Humans can fall into the trap of “that one was good, but let’s get one more good one before we quit.” Instead, you end up suffering from diminishing returns where each successive attempt gets sloppier than the last. Eventually you end the session on a less successful attempt because you trained that one task for too long. Television training forces you to stop once your show comes back on (I know I’m not missing any Big Bang Theory Bazinga moments), creating a built in system for limiting your attempts.

But Laura, I don’t watch TV! Okay fine, I don’t watch much either anymore (except Big Bang Theory, seriously, that show is great) but I love my podcasts. I suggest downloading an episode of “Stuff you Missed in History Class” and use this same technique. This also gives you the added benefit of allowing you to take your daily walk while you train. Go out for your walk and every time there is a commercial break in the podcast, stop and work on a skill. Those skills can be eye-contact, sits, downs, stays, surprise recalls, leave-its, whatever you are working on that day. Plus, you get the added bonus of having the distraction of the natural world built in. So no excuses if you don’t watch TV!

Takeaways: Whenever you set out to train your dog, whether it be a puppy or an adult dog, make sure your sessions are short and fun! Pick one or two skills to work on for a short session and then leave them wanting more! Consistency is the key, so train every day for just a few minutes at a time and you will be well on your way to a better-behaved dog!

 

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Blog Coming Soon!

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Follow my new blog by clicking the “follow” link on the right margin at the bottom! You’ll automatically receive new posts directly to your in-box! You can always unfollow at any time, but I really think you’ll love this content!

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