Recently, I met another dog trainer who asked me if Henri was my demo dog. This guy was the typical alpha male with a dog in a tactile vest, though to my knowledge we weren’t at war. All the dog did was sit and stare at him. Admittedly, it was a young working breed dog with a lot of energy and it probably needed that kind of discipline, but that’s just not for me. HIs question, “Is that your demo dog?” took me a little by surprise. I know most trainers have them, but I’ve just never thought of Henri that way. “Huh? Oh. Yeah, I guess. I mean, he’s my only dog,” I shrugged. Then I followed up.
“Really, he’s more like my life partner and drinking buddy.”
As a professional dog trainer, though coach is more accurate, my greatest joy is helping my clients live that same lifestyle. Most people don’t get dogs just to lock them in the house or keep them in the back yard, then panic if they try to escape. That’s not a pet; that’s a hostage, and it seems like a really boring existence to me. Dogs are life’s perfect adventure companions, and thankfully, preparing them to explore the world with you is pretty easy. It all begins at home.
Begin At Home
Just like with children, good manners begin in the home. If my dog only did three things: look at me when I said his name, come when he’s called, and keep his mouth off my stuff, we’d be ok. This is why I don’t have a boyfriend. Though I prioritize name recognition, coming when called, and leave-it over sit, once sit is learned, it’s the canine version of please.
For dogs on the go, there is one more skill I like to teach and that is “spot.” Henri’s spot is a baby doll quilt my great aunt made for me when I was a little girl. I found it in a box a few years ago, and since I don’t have a human child, it became Henri’s. I keep it in my bag, and anywhere we go I can place it on the ground and he knows that’s his place.
If you’d like to have a dog that can join you on the patio of a restaurant, then why are you putting him in his crate or locking him outside when your family eats dinner? Stop that!
The privacy of your own home is the perfect place to teach spot. Start with your morning coffee. Ok. Maybe not morning coffee. That’s too much thought B.C. After coffee might be a better time. Just sit at the table for a drink or a snack. Notice I said “a drink or a snack.” I didn’t say “dinner.” You have to work up to that. If your dog can’t sit still while you eat an apple, how do you expect him to make it through dinner? Also, give him something to do- a stuffed Kong, a yummy chew- while he sits there ever so patiently.
Ease Into Adventure
Once you’ve got a remedial grasp of some basics, I suggest you get going. I’m a fan of working both ends to the middle, so there’s no reason not to begin practicing your new skills sooner rather than later, and in the places you’re going to use them. Practice Where You Play. Have a favorite dog-friendly cafe? Take your pup there for a coffee. If your dog has a lot of energy, I’d suggest playing some ball at home or going for a walk before your first outing. Don’t forget to take your “spot” and something for your dog to do.
Now, here’s where it gets tricky. People are going to want to pet your little furball. While this is a great time to work on saying “HI” and not jumping on people, I encourage you to invite people over to your table instead of letting them call your dog to theirs.
This is your opportunity to teach your dog to stay close to you and learn that his presence isn’t needed (or wanted) at every table.
Have your eyes set on the farmer’s market? Start with a small weekday or evening market. In our hometown, Saturday is the BIG farmer’s market day. So when clients want to be able to navigate that situation, we always begin with something less chaotic than Saturday. Sure, some dogs can jump right in to it, but why take the chance? It’s just as easy to start slow and create a good experience, then expand your comfort zone when you know you’re ready.
Speaking of ready, you may think you’re ready for traveling with your dog, but are you? Are you really? Has your dog ever stayed at someone else’s house or in a hotel room? Try that first. Schedule a sleepover with your best girl or guy friend, or book a night at a local dog-friendly hotel. That hotel thing can be trickier than you think. Strange smells and stranger noises can get the better of a pooch. Make sure you take some clean-up supplies for accidents and have a plan to control barking. If your pup is trained to ring bells to go outside, take your bells. Hopefully, your dog will make sense of it and ring them when he needs to go potty.
You’ll want to be prepared when you’re hitting the town with your dog, and diaper bags are GREAT for on-the-go dog ‘rents. They are large enough to hold Henri’s things, as well as mine, and thankfully, finding trendy bags versus ones covered in Baby Mickey is easy. I carry a Coach bag I bought second hand from a girlfriend who no longer needed it. My brother used to carry his son’s baby things in a back pack, and a client recently found a really cute striped diaper bag at Walmart for $40. Another option, is using your favorite tote and buying an insert like one of these from Tote Savvy.
Once you’ve got your bag, you can travel like a pet parent pro with these essentials:
Collapsable water bowl & water bottle
- Poop bags
- Freshening spray & microfiber hand towel
- Spot for lounging
- Ear & eye wipes
- Hand sanitizer/ wipes
- Adaptil Travel Spray
- All-Natural Bug spray (in the summer)
For a more in depth look at what I carry, tune in to NWA Dog Blog on Thursday. I’ll be pulling all this stuff out and showing you exactly what I’ve got in a video chat with Katherine Hudson.
In addition to what’s in my bag, I keep a box of supplies in the backseat of my truck at all times. That includes: cleaning spray and paper towels, extra leashes, extra water bowl, and a first aide kit. There’s also the boat bag. Specific to water activity, it includes things like a doggie life vest, dog sunscreen, a bath mat for a water-resistant “spot” and better traction, and cheap sunglasses because the lake likes to eat expensive ones! For more information on preparing for lake season, check out my post How to Be a Boat Dog. For tips on visiting a specific location, you can search the Travel Tails site by state to see if we’ve been there.
Now that spring is here, we hope you’ll start putting those good manners to use, try a few of these tips, and tag us in your activities. If you dig up something fun, we might want to join you!