More On Consistency As A Keystone To Successfully Traveling With Your Dog
Dogs generally prefer and thrive in situations where they feel safe, and one of the things that creates a sense of safety and security is consistency and familiarity. It’s the same for us as humans, especially for children. Consistency can be experienced in many different forms. It could be as basic and specific as being fed at the same times every day, to following the same route on a walk, to having the same people and dogs to interact within our lives, or even an old blanket to sleep on.
When we are traveling, consistency can be more of a challenge. For this reason, people often prefer to stay at the same hotel chain where rooms, policies and property layouts are often familiar. Or we eat at the same chain restaurant where we know the menu and layout. Some of us even have our favorite (or lucky) suitcase, briefcase, etc.
For dogs, their sense of safety is based in a large part on the consistency of the family or pack. To put this into context with regards to my 12 months 20,000-mile motorcycle journey with Max, I was the constant, the keystone of his world. As long as I was there, he was ok. The only other constant was our motorcycle, which by default played a huge role. To demonstrate my point, in the summer of 2000, we were visiting a friend in Boise, Idaho. We planned to spend the afternoon at a local minor league baseball game and decided to leave Max at my friend’s girlfriend’s house with her dog, 5 blocks from his home. Max had never been there before. We left in the morning, drove about ten miles around Boise on errands, and then went straight to her house, where we picked her up and dropped off Max in a backyard with an 8-foot fence made of block walls. 3 hours later we returned and he was gone. My friend was devastated, but I suggested that before we panic we head to his house. When we got there, Max was lying calmly but attentively in the driveway next to my motorcycle. It must have taken some serious determination to get over those walls because the only thing he had to jump on to get a boost up was the Rottweiler’s back. My friend’s father said he had been sitting there for two hours. I don’t know how he found his way there, but he knew that if the bike was there, I would be back, and he just hung out.
You being that keystone, along with a few other tips, is what your dog needs in order for traveling with them to be a success. In other words, as long as you are there and cool, calm and “in charge”, the rest is no big deal. It’s very much like if you were to travel with your child. In my travels, I have met many people traveling with young children, from toddlers to adolescents, and the one consistent thing was always that the parents were there, guiding and supporting while also giving them the opportunity to learn and explore. Those children have never failed to impress me with their confidence, maturity and the ease with which they interact and communicate with others regardless of age, culture or language barriers. Dogs like Max and those of many travelers of all kinds are equally impressive in their balance and calm. To the point, Cesar Milan talks in his books about the healthy balanced dogs that he often sees with the many homeless in Los Angeles
It’s important to remember that any way and anywhere that you can create consistency, you will be helping your dog to adapt and stay calm, even at home. Pretty much everything that follows in this series of travel tips is, in one way or another, based or focused upon this concept of consistency. Again, be as consistent as possible with the simple things, such as feeding times, scheduled walks, and of course, your vehicle if it is safe to leave your dog in while doing activities that they can not join in on. For years the back of our truck has been our dog’s favorite place. In New Mexico, they would happily hang out in the back of the truck all day other when they needed to pee or went off to chase rabbits, coyotes and prairie dogs. If you are backpacking or otherwise depending on transportation from others, a portable crate or kennel, even a super lightweight mini pop-up tent, kennel or kids dollhouse is a fantastic tool that I will talk more about later. Dog’s love dens, thrive when they have a safe place of their own where they can go that will minimize sensory overload, and need a place where others have to respect their privacy.