Summertime coming up! And thousands upon thousands of family dogs will pile in the car, maybe with the kids (and sometimes the cat or hamster) and head out to go camping, visit Grandma or in reverse visit the grandkids, or just to have a good time. Some dog training in advance will help everyone have more fun and be safer.
First, brush up on the good old basics: sit, stay, down, come. You may well be using them every day at home, but an interesting thing about how dogs learn is that it tends to be very location-specific. In other words, if Fluffy sits beautifully in the kitchen, she may not when outside on the patio, let alone in a completely unfamiliar situation with distractions.
So do some very simple training, on these basics, but with a twist: do it in a variety of places. Even if you live in a tiny apartment, you can probably find spots where you have never asked the dog to stay. And when you go out for walks, ask your dog to sit now and then. When you ask for the down, select locations where the dog is likely to be willing to do it, as many dogs are reluctant to lie down if they feel insecure in a particular place. With some practice, the dog will be more willing to lie down in a wider variety of places. Then when you travel with your dog, you will have more confidence.
If your dog does not come reliably — and in my experience, very few dogs really always do — then vacation is not a time to risk off-leash, unfenced roaming unless you really know the circumstances. By the way, I am a huge fan of the Really Reliable Recall… that link explains it, here on my website.
I like extendable leashes for good walks and have been using the Flexi brand for a long time. You can choose sizes and colors here:
Check to be sure that the dog’s collar is sturdy and not wearing out. Also be sure that his ID tags are legible — sometimes, after a lot of wear, they can become very hard to read. Also be sure they have the right address and phone on them… have you moved? If you want new dog tags, you can usually get them, online or locally, inexpensively and quickly. Next time we have new tags made, I am going to have my email address included! If your dog takes any meds, have enough with you, plus enough of the dog food he is used to.
Another aspect of training to consider is your dog or puppy’s potty training level. If you are still housetraining, then you will want to have cleanup supplies along. Something else that can surprise people is that if a dog or puppy is potty trained to do his business on the grass, he may be very reluctant to go potty if there is only cement and gravel at a spot where you have lunch. So before you leave, be sure he’s versatile and that you have some cleanup bags along. Here are some made for the job: