Safe Travels, Everyone!

Sasha’s longest car trip (that we know of) was our first day together, when we drove hours through the Ozarks and across Oklahoma’s tallgrass prairie to bring her home. For a rescue dog that had been handed off from one place to another, a long car journey with strangers was one stress too many.  Since then, though, we’ve taken short trips about town to gradually acclimate her to car travel. Nowadays, “Car” means another happy adventure is on the horizon. She’s equally comfortable secured with her seat harness or zipped into her travel crate, although she clearly prefers being right next to me. We’ve gone to training, the park, pet store, and her favorite Lowes store. We’ve even visited the vet clinic just to say hello and step on the scale, and those casual visits resulted in a calmer dog come annual check-up time.  In the photo here, she’s at the drive-through, waiting patiently for her post-training reward of cheese while I pick up lunch.

Even though she’s a much better traveler now, we’re staying close to home. According to the American Auto Association a record-breaking 107 million people will be on the road and in the air in the coming days, and many will be traveling with pets. If you plan to be among those traveling, here are some tips from AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer Breanne Long to help ease the stress of travel for our four-legged family members.

The best way for any pet to travel is in a crate or seat belt harness. This is safest for you. You won’t have a pet bouncing around the car distracting you (or worse, in your lap!), and safest for your pet since he could get banged up or even ejected from the car in the case of an accident. If your dog is uncomfortable in the car, try feeding him his meals in the vehicle, first with the car off, then gradually work up to the car running, and then driving slowly. Make sure to have a second person driving the car, so you can keep an eye on your dog without driving while distracted. Throughout this process, as your dog eats his meals, drop treats into the crate or into his bowl.

Breanne has excellent tips for air travel with dogs, too. Check out those tips and the rest of the article here.

Some good reminders:

  • Be prepared. Take food, water, and bowls, any medications, and a first-aid kit. Remember extra collars, leashes, and tags. Toss in some cleaning supplies, too; I keep wet wipes, white vinegar, baking soda, and old towels in the car in case of accidents. And remember to take along vet clinic and current microchip info. If your dog is lost while you’re traveling, a microchip may be his best chance to getting home to you.
  • Keep photos handy. I keep Sasha’s AKC registration photos on my phone; they show her standing in profile and face-on. I also have photos of her in sit-stay and down-stay positions to make it easy for someone to recognize her if she’s ever lost.
  • Schedule breaks along the way. Choose a safe place and always keep your dog leashed while out of the vehicle. Avoid high traffic areas whenever possible, and give your dog time to explore. The few extra minutes you spend at a rest stop can help your dog enjoy the journey.

© Creative Commons public domain

For more tips on traveling with your dog, visit http://dogsaholic.com and learn how to manage hyperactive dogs, backseat barkers, and more. You might also enjoy reading TripAdvisor’s tips from experts for safe travel with your pets. For more, be sure to check out the AKC’s complete guide to traveling with your dog.

And whether you’re planning a cross-country trek or a jaunt across town, remember that a little planning can lead to better travel experience for all involved. If you’re venturing out to someplace new, check out the pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, events, and more along your route at https://www.bringfido.com/.

Whatever, wherever, and however you celebrate, Sasha and Buddy The Wonder Cat join me in wishing you the merriest of holidays!

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For the love of a cat

Like Deadly Ties, the first in the Waterside Kennels mystery series, there are multiple scenes in Dangerous Deeds (book 2) that were inspired by real events. One of those, previously described in the post There Came Along A Kitty, is the scene in which Maggie Porter’s dog Sweet Pea rescues an injured stray kitten she finds beneath the dock. Although Maggie’s initial assessment is “not much more than bones and fur” the kitten turns out to have a tiger-sized attitude and, after a brief stay at the vet, claims the kennel—and Sweet Pea—as his own. There’s another scene in which Sweet Pea briefly regrets the new addition, and it’s inspired by my own cat’s early morning shenanigans.

Buddy The Wonder Cat starts every morning at oh dark early by tapping me gently on the shoulder. If I don’t immediately get up, off he goes to do whatever cats do in the pre-dawn hours, and he’s back in 15 minutes to tap me again.  Ignoring him might buy me a few more minutes of quiet time, but then he knocks whatever he can off the headboard shelf and runs laps around the room. And if none of that gets me up and moving in the direction of his food dish, he leaps straight down onto the still-sleeping dog. That’s a move guaranteed to get everybody up and moving, whether they wanted to or not. He can go from sweetly solicitous to saber-toothed snarly in no time at all. Fortunately Sasha, like Sweet Pea, is quick to forgive her feline housemate, and life goes on.

More soon! And in the meantime, here’s a slideshow of my own Buddy The Wonder Cat and Sasha, who both keep us laughing every day of our lives.

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Training, Sasha-Style

Dog training real and imagined

If you’ve been following the blog you might remember that I enrolled Sasha (my Sheltie rescue) in Basic Obedience.  She already knows the commands of sit, down, stay, come, etc. and the class was intended as socialization time to help her acclimate to both people and dogs. The basic class turned out to be a great learning experience for both of us. We’ve discovered, for example, that she reacts fearfully toward clickers—which made being in a room with a dozen people clicking endlessly quite a challenge! I resolved that by moving her away from the rest, just far enough that she could relax and focus on me.

I also learned her patience has definite limits. She’ll willingly repeat an exercise three times. If I push for a fourth attempt she looks downright exasperated by what she apparently thinks is my inability to learn something! So while everyone else was doing (seemingly) endless repetitions of one exercise, we practiced a variety of commands on the leash.

Another learning moment for me: this dog gets downright cranky when she’s tired or hungry. The trainer recommended we don’t feed the dogs before coming to class, suggesting that a hungry dog will be eager for treats and consequently eager to learn. That meant Sasha didn’t get her evening meal on training night. Instead, I filled the treat pouch with her favorite yummy treats and some cheddar cheese, which she loves. That should have worked, right? Not with Sasha, who was clearly uninterested in any of the exercises that night. And she wasn’t pleased when other dogs, drawn no doubt by the alluring scent of cheddar, edged close to me—far too close, apparently, from her point of view.

In the past month I’ve learned (the hard way, of course) that I have a dog unwilling to train when hungry, disinterested in multiple repetitions even when offered cheese or tasty salmon bits, and definitely not the kind who’s up for an evening  out. We’re an “early to bed, early to rise” household, and Sasha tends to head toward the exit near the end of class when we’re practicing loose-leash walking around the training arena.

I’m taking all that into consideration as we move into Intermediate Obedience. Due to a quirky schedule, we’re actually starting Intermediate before our final basic class session. I chose a Saturday noon class so she has time to enjoy her morning meal and a neighborhood walk before we dive into training activities. We’ll continue to use the “three times and move on to something different” strategy for training. And thankfully, the trainer for the Intermediate class is shifting folks away from clickers in favor of verbal reinforcements, which will please Sasha (and me, too).

Next on our training agenda: object differentiation, which means Sasha needs to understand that fetch means more than looking at an object. And in between frequent short bursts of training time, Sasha is enjoying a happy life with a family who loves her (even the cat).

Sasha 3-20-16 posing for spring