Why is Leash Training and Socialization Important When Traveling with a Dog?

Doberman with Leash Training

You have just landed in a crowded airport. Your dog is super excited to get out of its crate or carrier. You have your hands full with baggage, laptops, children and trying to figure out where to go and walk your pet, gather your baggage and get everyone and everything in a taxi. There are people everywhere, and the last thing you need is an out-of-control furry friend to deal with.

Or imagine that you are traveling with your dog and your family on a car trip. You decide to give everyone time to stretch their legs at a rest stop. Your child opens the passenger door before you can get your dog on a leash and off they run to explore a new place with great new smells while you chase them in pursuit hollering for them to stop. Not a great scenario either.

For this and many other reasons, leash training your dog is truly worth the time and effort you put in.

Family walking dog

You may think that dogs are born with the ability to know how to walk politely beside their pet parents on a leash while obeying their every command. That is not the case with most dogs. Dogs require training in this skill for them to learn and master it and some learn it faster than others.

Good news, though, because leash-training is among the most beneficial skills that you can teach your dog.

Another thing that you need to do for your dog to make them a good traveler is to teach them how to socialize. Your dog may be very proper, polite and well-mannered with you and your family, but they also need to learn how to interact with fellow dogs, other animals as well as human beings.

Start by analyzing their personality

Before you start either of these endeavors, think for a minute about your pet’s personality. Is your pet naturally shy and clingy, outgoing or protective, stubborn and maybe a bit aggressive?

Also important to know what gets their attention. Will they perform for treats, verbal commands or do they need physical attention?

Taking the time to evaluate your pet’s personality will go a long way in coming up with the most effective way to achieve success in both leash training and socializing your pet for traveling.

Most of all, be patient. These things can take some time, but the pay-off is worth the effort!

Woman walking dog on leash

Leash-training your dog

The first step of training your dog on how to walk on a leash is to introduce them to the harness or dog collar, and, most importantly, the pet leash.

You should start by letting your dog get accustomed to wearing a leash. Find a place where there are minimal distractions. Walk with them from room to room in your home keeping them close to you. Let your puppy wear their leash and collar for short periods around the home while giving the dog treats to reward good behavior. When you do this, your pup will love this time, because the time also represents a time for eating and having fun with you.

Your dog will look forward to training time, and eventually get accustomed to wearing a dog collar and a leash.

Most importantly, teach your dog how to come to you when you call them, and practice this inside and outside your home. When these skills are mastered, you can go on and trouble-shoot leash training with your dog outside.

Trouble-shoot your leash-training

As perfect and adorable as your dog may be, you are bound to come across some issues when you are teaching them how to walk on a leash.  Loose-leash training entails teaching your dog how to walk without having to be pulled or jerked using the leash. Teaching your dog loose-leash walking is one of the qualifications of the Canine Good Conduct (CGC) test.

This 10-step test is a non-competitive test for all dogs, including purebreds and mixed breeds. It is required by an increasing number of apartments and condos and many insurance companies encourage it. Passing the test comes with benefits like your dog being allowed into dog-friendly hotels and an access to advanced training. Introducing the tasks required to pass this test will go a long way to make it easier when traveling with your dog.

How leash training works

If, while walking your dog, it starts moving in a different direction, you should stop and remain stationary until your dog turns its attention to you. Abstain from jerking your dog’s leash when they do this, or even dragging your dog along in the direction you wish them to go. Once you get their attention and they return to your side, then start up again. If they do not follow your lead, stop again. Continue this process until your dog willfully follows your lead.

Another tip: if you see something ahead that you know will distract your dog (like a cat or squirrel, for example), redirect their attention to you before they get the opportunity to lunge forward. Change direction to move away from the distraction. You should be prepared to take this action before this target gets very close to your dog. In short, don’t give your dog the opportunity to misbehave.

If your dog displays bad behavior, immediately grab its attention through verbal communications, have it sit down and take a “time out” by your side. You should discourage any efforts to continue the walk until everyone is perfectly calm (including yourself).

Lastly, exercise your dog enough for mental and physical stimulation, before you go on a walk to avoid your dog from barking at other furry friends while you are on your walk. Also, changing the walking routine and making your dog work for their food are a good ways to mentally and physically stimulating them.

Socializing your dog

Socializing your dog

Why is socialization important before traveling with your dog?

Many dog breeds as well as mixes of these breeds are naturally protective; it’s in their DNA. When removed from their environment, their stress level increases and their guardian instincts kick in. This can have unpleasant consequences in the cabin of an airplane, for example. The last thing you need is to break up a skirmish or have your dog bite someone who gets too close.

Other dogs are simply stressed out from being removed from their daily routine and surroundings. This can cause them to react quickly in situations where they feel they are not in control.

Here are some things you need to do ahead of travel to make your dog more at ease when in closed environments or new surroundings.

Take your dog on walks every day

Taking your dog on daily walks to public places, and around your neighborhood goes a long way in making your dog more accustomed to, and comfortable with the universe and the people in it. When your dog sees the kids coming from school, the school buses and cars being driven up and down the street, and even other animals like cats, the world becomes less scary than before, even after a few walks around your block. You can also change the routes frequently so that your dog can see more, and even get the chance to meet new friends, and a variety of beautiful sights and smells for them to experience. You get benefit from these walks as well!

Make it interesting

Mix it up a little, and let your dog meet a wide range of people: seniors, men, children and women; this will help your dog get used to the idea of people who seem and look different. If your dog only gets used to spending time with you, he may become suspicious of anyone else who is not you.

Make your dog’s calendar diverse, so they can meet many more people and have more experiences.

Remain calm if your dogs act scared when they meet new people and dogs, and don’t push them. Finally, make sure that when people approach your dog to pet it, assure your dog that this person is a good person. Dogs don’t speak English, but they do understand inflections in your voice and body language. Keep tones upbeat. If you have any reservations about your pet’s behavior, ask the other pet owner not to approach.

Take your dog to dog parks and dog-friendly businesses

Dog at restaurant
Courtesy of timeout.com

Let your furry best friend take laps around the dog park and meet and make new friends. Also, you could set up play dates with your friends who have dogs, and your dog may end up striking a great friendship with these newly found furry friends.

A trip to the pet store is great fun for your pet. Bring your pet when you go and get pet supplies. Employees have been trained to deal with dogs and usually have treats to hand out.

Try a pet friendly restaurant. Most any restaurant with outdoor dining is pet friendly these days. Have your pet sit at your feet and enjoy looking around at a new environment. Best to try this in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon the first couple of times when the restaurant will not be as crowded.

After all your efforts, if you do not see a change in attitude in your dog around other dogs or people, you may consider a professional trainer.

It is important to note that more practice brings about more improvement, therefore ensure that you leash train your dog, and increase their interaction with others, and traveling with your dog will be much easier; that is, if everyone else behaves!

Find more information on traveling with a pet.

Duncan Kingori has been in the writing profession for a decade now. He has great experience writing informative articles and his work has been appreciated and published in many popular publications.


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