3 Commands and 1 Question to Ask Before Traveling With Your Dog

by Dr. Becker

The majority of Americans view their pets as members of their family, and a sizeable minority likes to bring them along virtually everywhere they can. This may include to pet-friendly restaurants, hotels, work places and yes, even to the homes of friends and family members (sometimes uninvited).

There are pros and cons to bringing your pet “along for the ride.” If your pet struggles with severe separation anxiety, for instance, going with you may save him some serious stress. On the other hand, some pets may find new environments stressful and prefer to stay safely at home.

There are practical considerations, too. Traveling with your pet in the car can be risky, especially if you don’t have proper restraint. And if your pet can’t come inside your destination, such as a grocery store or restaurant, leaving him in your car could be deadly, even if it seems to be mild weather.

However, assuming your dog has the right temperament and personality for an outing, the next factor to consider is his behavior.

A well-socialized, well-behaved dog is a pleasure to be around, but if your dog jumps up on your friends, tracks dirty paw prints across their home, pees on their carpet and barks so loudly that it’s difficult to talk, then, not so much.

3 Commands and Behaviors Your Dog Should Know
While you may think your dog is adorable no matter what his behavior, if you’re planning to bring him along as a houseguest it’s important that he has some manners. The following three commands and behaviors are the bare minimum that your dog should master to ensure he’s invited back again.

1. Housetraining
A housetraining accident can be embarrassing and annoying if it occurs in someone else’s home. First, realize that even if your dog knows to go potty outside when he’s in his home, those rules may fly out the window when he’s in a new location.
The best way to circumvent a mistake is to take your dog outside to go potty as soon as you arrive at your destination.

Use familiar command words to encourage your dog to do his business, then reward him with a treat or extra praise. When you’re inside, keep a close watch on your dog and take him outside regularly to circumvent any mishaps.

If you’re new to housetraining your dog, consistency, positive reinforcement and patience are your keys to success. You can find more tips for housetraining your dog here, but be sure to stay with your dog at all times in the beginning stages.

An unattended dog may quickly slip away and go potty indoors, so either clip his leash onto your belt or let him stay in his crate when you can’t give him your full attention.

2. Jumping
An excited dog may jump up on your friends to say hello. If your friends respond by petting your dog, talking to your dog or even using their hands to remove the dog (which may seem like petting), it reinforces the behavior to your dog. Your dog is looking for interaction, and now he’s received it.

If you want to break your dog of this bad habit, ignore the behavior. When your dog jumps up on you, turn your back, stand straight and still and do not acknowledge your dog at all. Instruct your friends and family to do the same.

Eventually, your dog will realize that jumping isn’t getting him the attention he’s seeking. Another option is to teach your dog the “off” command. If he jumps, give the command, and then reward him once all four paws are touching the floor.

3. Sit
Before you expect others to accept your dog as your “plus one” on invitations, be sure he knows the “sit” command.

This way, if your dog wants to bolt out the door, jump up on furniture or race around the house, you can quickly circumvent these unwanted doggy behaviors with one word: sit.

I recommend teaching basic obedience commands (sit, come, stay, down, etc.) to your dog as soon as your dog arrives — starting the first day you bring him home — but even old dogs can learn these new tricks.

If you’re having difficulty or your pet doesn’t seem to understand you, solicit the advice of a positive dog trainer to help you communicate more effectively.

Always Ask Before Bringing Your Pet
It’s a good idea for virtually all dogs to know basic housetraining skills and obedience commands (“sit”, “stay”, “come”, “off,” “down” and “drop it”/”leave it”), whether or not you plan to bring him along as a houseguest. However, keep in mind that even a well-behaved pet may not be a welcome addition everywhere you go.

Do not simply assume that your pet will be welcome during your travels, even if your destination appears pet-friendly (such as the home of a friend that also has pets). Your animals may not get along with your friend’s, someone living in the home may be allergic, or there may be other reasons why they’d prefer your pets stay home.

Be sure to get permission first rather than subjecting your pet to travel only to have to turn around and go home. No matter what type of travel you're planning, preparing accordingly ahead of time is key (check out the app BringFido for this).

Identify emergency veterinary clinics along the way, and be sure your hotel or campground allows pets and that you've planned for plenty of pit stops along the way. You should pack a bag for your dog too, including items such as:

  • A basic first-aid kit
  • An extra collar and ID tag
  • Leash
  • A copy of your pet's medical file in print form or on a thumb drive
  • Their dog bed, or towels or blankets for bedding and a couple of favorite toys
  • Bowls, food and treats, along with extra bottled water

  • Bringing your dog’s crate along is an excellent way to manage unseen issues during your adventure, providing a safe spot in a new location. If your pet enjoys travel, and your destination is pet-friendly, then by all means make the most of these new adventures with your pet.