Are you doing any traveling with your dog(s) this summer? I love taking the dogs on trips, and am starting to prepare for one coming up in July. As I was making a list of things to take, a good article came out in Conde Nast about traveling safely with pets. Author Rachel Peachman interviewed me and several other experts in the field, and did a great job summarizing some of the most important considerations. The article contains a lot of great information about traveling safely with pets, including by plane, car, and even train. Check it out.
Here’s one consideration I brought up, and I want to focus on it here today–Not so much how to travel with your dog, but should you? There are two ways to look at it:
First, does your dog want to go? Your dog may think you hung the moon, but that doesn’t mean she wants to go visit your cousins in New York City. Some dogs are neophobic (afraid of new things). Some dogs would love a week in a cabin in the woods, but hate the city. Or vice versa. Some dogs can’t wait to play with your grandchildren; others, not so much.
Travel can be “broadening” for dogs too, but I’ve seen far too many clients whose dogs were taken on trips they’d have skipped if they had a choice. My advice, if you’re not sure if a new dog would like to travel or not, is to take an overnight trip and see how things go. Think carefully about what to take (especially familiar food and smells), and where you are going once you perch. Motel? Campground? Friend’s house? Every site has pros and cons, so ask yourself what situation will best suit your dog and aim for that. For example, campgrounds can be great if they are quiet, but you never know who is going to camp beside you. You have more privacy at a motel, but if your dog is a barker it can be tiresome every time someone walks down the hall. (And of course, you would never leave your dog unattended in a motel room, right? Right.) Lots of things to think about here, including whether it would be best to travel in a RV or motor home. (I would love to do that. Please send check to cover purchase cost.)
Second, do YOU want your dogs to go? Even the most stalwart dog lovers can appreciate a respite from canine care. Last month Jim and I booked a night in a local hotel, and it was heaven. We strolled down State Street in Madison like tourists, stopped in at a jazz festival and ate like gluttons at a good restaurant. The luxury of waking up Sunday morning with no dogs to take out, no animals to feed and no sheep to manage was beyond refreshing.
On the other hand, we’re leaving with all the dogs for some trips in July, and I anticipate that it will be fantastically fun. There’s little so bonding as traveling to new places with your dogs–the only thing that is familiar is you and your pack, and I just love the feeling I get when we all experience something new together.
That said, Maggie is still a bit uncomfortable in new motel rooms, so I go out of my way to bring in familiar scents and lots of chew toys. We ask for rooms close to the exit (and downstairs always please). As importantly, we check out googlemaps to see where the motel is located. Right beside a freeway? (No thank you.) Back from a busy road, with ample green space for walks and potty breaks? (Yup, we’re there.) Of course, if staying in a motel is your choice, be sure that they take dogs and be ready to pay an extra fee.
However, we can’t always have our dogs along when we’d like. Flying to Australia for a week? Uh, maybe not with dogs. Going to take care of a sick relative? Not a good time to also have a dog to take care of.
So these are my questions to you: When do you want to travel with your dogs? When not, if ever? What have you done to make it more fun? What things have you done you’d never do again? And please ask your dog to contribute to your comments.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Last week Maggie and I spent a few days at the Cedarstone Stockdog Trial. We ran on Wednesday in the “ProNovice” class. (Consider it the “Intermediate” class. The next step up is Open, in which you are competing with the best in the country with their best, most experienced dogs. Those top handlers also run in ProNovice, but they are running their younger, less experienced dogs.)
The BC’s and I lucked out and had gorgeous weather, unlike the later days when the weather was unspeakable hot and humid. We had two runs, ironic in that our first and “worst” run got 8th out of 42, and our second “better” run got a much lower score. I label the first as our “worst” because Maggie, poor Maggie, behaved as though she’d never been on a trial course. She didn’t respond to much of what I asked, looked back at me repeatedly, and on a few occasions simply lay down and wouldn’t get up. This after doing so so so well at the smaller trials this winter that encourage my hopes of moving her up to Open this summer. We got a good score on that run because, somewhat miraculously, the sheep went through all the gates and so we got points for “being on course”. Even though our second run was sloppier, I was gratified that she seemed much more confident the second time, listened well and didn’t look back at me very often.
I am confident I know why Maggie has regressed, and it has everything to do with confidence, or a lack of it. Maggie got attacked by one of my older ewes a week or so before the trial, and it absolutely gutted her. She was not injured in any way, but it terrified her, and she lost all the confidence she’s gained in the last 4 years. So that’s my job now, to help her get her confidence back. We’ve been working at home (sans the aggressive ewe, who I pen up) on doing fun things, and will go out to friends to work sheep with no pressure. Lucky for us, we are in a Scott Glenn clinic this weekend and I know that will help.
I had fun with my camera at the trial. Here’s some photos from it. (That’s me with Vince Metcalf, the father of top handler Kathy Knox and father-in-law of top handler Jack Knox. Vince is perhaps one of the sweetest people I have ever know and it was such a joy to see him again. And by the way, all dogs are the trial are not BCs. Dodger, of blue and brown eyes, was not there as a competitor, but added a certain amount of elan to the group.