Training Tips For Traveling

Two people sitting on a rock with a dog nearby near SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel Pismo Beach

​Time to travel with your pup? Check out some of the training tips below to make traveling a little easier.

Training Tips for Traveling
By Becky Pesicka, CPDT-KA, CNWI

Teach Bark/Quiet
If you have a dog that barks, you are probably used to yelling everything under the sun in an attempt to get your dog to quiet down. Some tricks you’ve tried may have been more successful than others, but none are as successful as properly teaching a Quiet cue.

Note – Quiet is used for dogs that are barking at noises, people coming to the door, or boredom. If your dog is barking reactively or aggressively to other dogs or people when out on walks, that is a separate issue and you’ll need to consult a qualified trainer to work on that behavior.

To teach Quiet so your dog has complete understanding of the word, you will actually need to first teach your dog to speak on command. I know what you are thinking, if my dog already barks so much, why on earth would I teach barking more?! The answer is that dogs do not learn the absence of something, but then can learn opposite behaviors when paired together. So in order for your dog to understand that Quiet means the absence of barking, you will need to teach Bark on cue so both behaviors can be done back to back, and then you can make Quiet the more desirable or rewarding behavior.

Find a noise that you can make happen on purpose for training. For example, using the doorbell or knocking on the front door if that elicits immediate barking from your dog. Get a mix of high value treats (something REALLY yummy, like cheese, hot dogs or cooked chicken) and low value (kibble or store-bought treats that your dog likes less than the high value).

The sequence is “Speak” – Knock – Deliver low value treat – “Quiet” – deliver high value treat. So you will say “Speak” first (or whatever cue you want) then make the noise that will produce barking. Now deliver the low value treat so your dog is getting reward for barking with the word association. As your dog stops barking to chew the treat, say “Quiet” and then deliver the high value treat. Repeat this 5-10 times until your dog is anticipating the sequence and either not barking at all to the noise or anticipating the Quiet cue and reward. At that point you will say “Speak” and make the sound that gets the barking, but then stop rewarding barking and ONLY reward for the “Quiet” sequence. This way your dog starts off getting rewarded for both behaviors, but already with a treat discrepancy. Then when you stop rewarding for barking and only reward for quiet with the super yummy treat, it is immediately apparent to your dog what the more rewarding behavior is.

Desensitize to noises
In conjunction with teaching a Quiet command, desensitizing your dog to various noises is a great idea. There are phone apps and YouTube videos of a bunch of different noises that generally elicit barking from dogs, so find whatever it is that gets a reaction and start there. You will play the sound on the lowest level that your dog notices. If your dog is already barking at the sound then it’s too much and won’t be helpful for training. So as soon as your dog’s ears prick up that they heard the low noise but BEFORE they start barking is the moment you should reward for being quiet. Your dog will learn that hearing things without barking is rewarding and gets attention (when usually it accidentally gets ignored by us). As your dog habituates to the sound and starts anticipating treats, increase the sound slowly and continue training until your dog is relaxed hearing noises at full volume. This training will be extremely helpful in preventing your dog from barking at all different hotel noises, such as guests coming in late to their room, the cleaning service outside, knocks on the door, etc.

Wait at the door
Wait is a temporary pause used for the front door, car door, side gates, etc. At a door or gate, place your dog in a sit (this can also be done with your dog standing or laying down). Your dog should be far enough away so that you can completely open the door without hitting them. Start opening door and if your dog moves forward then immediately close it and try again. The game is that when your dog waits and stays still, the door opens. If your dog moves and gets up then the door closes. Use a release word (ex. Ok) to allow your dog to move through the door or jump out of the car. If teaching initially at a door that leads to an unfenced area, put your dog on a leash for safety so you can grab it if they try to run.

Here’s a fun game to play that will teach your dog to come when called, it’s called Ping Pong Puppy and your dog will become the “ping pong” ball. Two or more people can play this game which is fun for also reinforcing recall. Each person should be loaded up with yummy treats. Start playing this first in a low-distraction environment, such as your house or yard. The first person calls the dog’s name ONCE, very enthusiastically (the duller or grumpier you sound, the less likely your dog is to come!). Reward when your dog comes to you. Now the first person will turn away and ignore the dog and the next person can call the dog and reward. The game goes back and forth with your dog ping ponging back and forth. Once your dog is easily running back and forth, start saying your dog’s name and your recall word (“Fluffy Come”). Start a short distance away so your dog can be successful and learn the game, then progress to increased distances, people calling from out of sight, and in different locations with added distractions around.

Leash Walking
When walking your dog, a loose leash is a Green Light = Go! A tight leash is a Red Light = Stop! There are two types of equipment that can help reduce pulling, a front-clipping harness and a head halter (like a bridle on a horse). Bring your HIGH-value treats on the walk, soft, smelly and super yummy). Your dog does not work for free and the treat will help you be more interesting than the environment. While on the walk, if your dog pulls or the leash becomes tight AT ANY POINT, immediately stop, hold the leash tight, and wait for your dog to come back to you or to take a step back and release the tension of the leash, then immediately continue with a loose leash. Important: DO NOT pull your dog back. Instead, wait for his action, and then reward or praise, and continue with your walk. Waiting may take a while, in the beginning, depending on the level of distraction around, so be patient. Remember to reward anytime your dog is not pulling with verbal praise or a treat. Reward any eye contact. Be patient. You are not going to get very far initially, but your dog will soon get the idea. It is important not to give up and just let him pull you. Focus on the Quality of the walk, not the Quantity (for example, nice loose leash walking the whole time but it was a shorter walk) ​ Training Tip: Don’t allow your dog to greet other dogs or people while on leash. This will encourage PULLING with a huge reward (play or pets).