Easy Rider – Car Rides & Your Dog

    It is better to travel well than to arrive.




Summer!  Road trips to the beach! Travel to the park!  Go! Go! Go!  If you’re like me, once the weather breaks, you want to be outside doing, well, …something. Sparta, Orion and I love hiking once the weather breaks (technically, Sparta likes hiking before the weather breaks – Orion and I are too delicate).  Part of the fun, though, is discovering new areas to hike.  We live in Lakewood, and are very familiar with the trails around the Rocky River Reservation, but several times a week we will travel to a new locale:  Hinkley Reservation to hike Whipps Ledges.  Down south to Strongsville to hike Royalview.  In Vermilion, there is a great lagoon.  All of these trips require a car ride.

Sparta and Orion are perfect little angels in the car.  But most dogs aren’t just born that way.  Sparta sits in the back seat, her usual stoic look upon her face, waiting for her next orders.  Orion sits in the passenger seat next to me, excited about our destination, but trying (and usually succeeding) to contain himself. 

So, how did I get my little companions to do so well in the car?

Piloting. There is no substitution, no harnesses, herbal remedies, or restraints that will help your dog relax in the car.  Piloting is the only thing that can take a dog who is hyper in the car and turn them into a road warrior.

You and your dog - Road Warriors

You and your dog – Road Warriors

Let’s take a few examples of bad behaviors in the car and address how to Pilot your dog through them:

  1. Hyper dog, who jumps back and forth between the seats and never seems to calm down.  A couple issues with this dog:  energy and possibly anxiousness.  All dogs have questions that need to be answered.  This dog’s questions are pretty simple:Are we there yet?  Can I be in the front seat now?  Can I drive?   All of these are answered with a simple, gentle negative.As mentioned previously in the PAW Method, you need to control your situation before adding stimulation.  In other words, don’t start trying to Pilot the situation while flying down the highway at 65 mph.  Start simply.  Put your dog in the car, start your car, and hang out in your driveway.  If pooch starts acting hyper, simply use your body language and/or your negative command to address their question:  Can I be hyper?  Obviously the answer is no!   Angle your body as best you can so you are facing them, and them stare them down.  You may have to gently tap them on the ribs with your fingers to gain their attention (read: not discipline, you are merely getting them to focus).  The moment they care calm, give them a rewards (Touch, Talk, Treat).  Give a treat, gentle praise, and a gentle pet to reward.  Quickly you won’t need the treat anymore.  If you dog won’t accept the treat, that’s fine.  Still offer, and still give the Touch and the Talk.
    Remember, the object isn't to restrain them, it's to answer their questions.

    Remember, the object isn’t to restrain them, it’s to answer their questions.

    Stop the car and get your dog out once they are calm.  You should never let your dog out while they are hyper.  Remember, we are practicing calm – nothing fun ever happens unless they are calm first.  Keep practicing this in your driveway.  It is essentially the same as crate training: we want our dogs to become accustomed to the car.  It’s a normal, every day thing.  A “no energy” zone.

    After you have mastered the driveway, enlist someone’s help to start driving. Anywhere is fine…just start moving.  Every time your dog even gives a hint of energy, give them that gentle negative.  If necessary, you can even stop the car until they’ve calmed down. Keep at it. Travel by car isn’t always achieved overnight.

  2. Anxious, worried, terrified dog.  This dog is truly a sad sight to see.  They are scared.  They look like a small child in the queue for the world’s largest roller coaster:  convinced they aren’t going to make it.  Resist the urge to comfort.  Remember, if everything is good, fine, and safe, why would you feel the need to confirm that?  You don’t walk around your house reassuring them that it’s safe, right?  Do the same thing in the car.  If they seem to be doing a little better, you can offer them calm, gentle positives.  Don’t try to soothe them with words:  you are rewarding them for relaxing, not trying to bribe them into relaxing.
  3. Car sick dog.  This usually occurs in puppies under 1 year, as their inner ear has not quite developed yet, giving them a frequent feeling of vertigo.  Unfortunately, the best thing to do is ride it out. Orion reliably got sick in the car, every single time, until just after his 1st birthday.  If your dog is older and still getting sick, it could be that you have a dog who is actually anxious in the car.  Pilot him.  He will calm down.  You can also ask your vet what you can give your dog to help their stomach while traveling.
Boots & Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots & Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Keep at it.  Don’t give up.  You will have the perfect traveling companion. You just have to help them realize that there are indeed rules for them in the car.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


4 Lessons Learned on Vacation with Porter

 - Brittany Graham Photography

– Brittany Graham Photography

 It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man finds his supreme joys – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Recently, I went on a weekend vacation with Porter and Tall Guy. We ventured down to Hocking Hills for a weekend hiking and hanging out in a cabin. The trails were gorgeous and it was a great feeling to have Porter along for the trip. I loved every minute of it. Below are my 4 lessons learned on my vacation with Porter:

1. Don’t forget the Basics

When we started off on our road trip I was surprised at Porter’s behavior. Normally on long road trips he settles down within the first 30 min and snoozes until we get to our final destination. But, an hour and a half into the drive he was still pacey, panting and whining. We decided to stop for a quick break and I got him out of the car. There was a ledge in the parking lot so I made him jump up and down from the ledge multiple times to wear out some energy. The minute we got back in the car he was all smiles and laid down. I forgot the golden rule: Activity before a road trip. Because he’s always so good in the car I forgot why he’s so good in the car. Because I work him before we start! So, get some Activity in before you start in on your road trip.

2. Embrace the Victories

Porter and I encountered more dogs on our vacation than we usually see in a month. This can be stressful for a dog reactive dog and their owner. I started to feel discouraged when Porter would act in a way I didn’t think was acceptable. But, then I remembered to embrace the small victories. Like that time I was standing on a rock edge and a dog lunged at Porter through my legs snarling and growling and Porter did nothing. He just stood there still as could be. I guess we can call that a huge victory, not a small one. None the less, pay attention to the positives.


 3. Know When to Say Enough

Piloting your dog through situations is key. However, Piloting can be exhausting and you need to make sure you’re listening to both your body and your dog. On our second day we did an 8.5 mile hike. It was hot, tiring, and amazing. However, towards the end of the hike I could feel that I was exhausted and starting to get a little irritable around the larger less mannered crowds.

I looked at Porter and I could tell he had slight signs of stress. That’s how I knew it was time to go. I was exhausted and he was exhausted. I could keep Piloting him, but I was going to miss a signal or a sign. Just like when I missed the little kid reach out and grab for him. Luckily enough he paid attention to me and I was able to get him through the situation. But it was time to go because I was no longer on my game. Don’t push it. When it’s time to go home, go home.

 4. Prepare for the Unexpected

Remember that time I wrote a blog post about the 5 Items to take with you on Vacation with your dog? Remember that time I said to bring Benadryl? Yeah… I wasn’t joking.

Our second night on vacation I see an epic battle between Porter and a bee. Ok, not so much an epic battle as much as a bee landed on Porter’s nose, he intelligently tried to eat it and it stung him. As I realized what happened I was already moving towards the Benadryl I had packed. Porter’s nose swelled up a little but within an hour the swelling had subsided since I was able to give him the medication. It’s better to have it and not use it than not have it and need it.


A tired pup after a fun vacation!

A tired pup after a fun vacation!

Going on vacations with your dog can be so rewarding. It’s a great way to bond and have new and exciting adventures together. Have fun with it! Take advantage of one of the best friendships you will ever have!

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH