Dog's Life: Travel
When Irish dogs are smiling
If you’ve ever had the good fortune to visit Ireland, you undoubtedly found yourself standing at the edge of a cliff or the top of a grassy hill looking out on what seemed like a glimpse of heaven. During a recent trip to Ireland, I had an opportunity to spend some time on a tiny slice of bliss known as Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands in County Galway.
Inisheer, or as the Irish refer to it, Inis Oírr, meaning “east island,” is a sparsely populated cluster of rock-walled farms whose inhabitants still speak the original Irish language. The landscape is rugged and breathtakingly beautiful. I had many “heaven-glimpsing” moments on that island — among them, of the dogs who call Inisheer home.
These weren’t strays; rather, they were loved and cared-for pets, complete with collars and tags. I’d often pass by them on my evening walks; they’d be lying curled up on rugs in the doorways of their homes. But during the day, they roamed the island, perhaps meeting a few friends down at the playground, thumbing their noses at the signs reading Cosc Ar Ghadhair, illustrated with a dog in a red circle crossed by a diagonal line. Though I guessed what it said, I couldn’t read it and, obviously, neither could the dogs. However, no one on the playground seemed to mind. The kids ran and tossed sticks for the gamboling canines, who playfully greeted each and every person. When the dogs tired of the entertainment, they went off in their own directions in search of new adventures.
My family and I ran into a couple of beautiful Border Collies romping in the surf. One had a cinnamon-red coat and a chest of wooly white. The other’s coat was a picture-perfect black and white, and her eyes were as blue as the Irish Sea. Both had sand clinging to their whiskers, and their sea-soaked coats were dusted with salt. As we approached, they ran up and greeted us. There was no body-slamming, jumping up or over-the-top excitement — just “Hey! You’re here! Mind tossing us something wet and slimy?” One of the dogs ran down to the rocks and grabbed a long piece of thick seaweed and politely dropped it at my feet, then dipped into a play bow and looked up at me expectantly. I bent down and tossed the soggy weed into the air, and she dashed off. In no time, she was back, and dropped the limp weed on top of my shoes. I decided that the dogs probably hung around the beach all day, waiting for saps like me to entertain them. Sure enough, a few hours later, a little boy was tossing that same piece of seaweed for the same two dogs.
In the afternoon, we fed bits of cheese to a well-groomed and obviously well-fed Terrier mix, who followed us around until another dog came along with a more attractive offer. Together, they ran off to the playground.
On Inisheer, I saw a lot of contented, happy dogs. What I didn’t see were dogs on leashes barking and lunging, or dogs at the picture window of a home destroying the mini-blinds, trying to get at my family as we walked by. Believe it or not, I didn’t see a single pile of dog doo; I guess if people saw it, they picked it up. There was no aggression, no fighting. The dogs on this island were balanced, socialized and, from the looks of it, extremely happy — they were allowed to be dogs.
Unfortunately, our dogs don’t have that luxury. We don’t live on a small island with more tractors than cars. We need to keep our dogs safe behind fences or controlled on a leash. For the most part, aside from the occasional romp in an open field, our dogs live in our world. They are coddled, secure, warm and fed. Their paws are wiped and their coats are scrubbed clean. No salt. No sand. But when our dogs are curled up on their fluffy monogrammed pet beds at night, I bet they’re dreaming of the dogs of Inisheer.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Was a good time had by all?
Typical advice for happy travels by car with dogs includes some basics such as having your dog up to date on vaccinations and in good health. It also makes sense to have your dog microchipped and to check on any parasites or diseases that may be common at your destination and take the proper preventive measures. For travel safety, it’s wise to have your dog restrained in the car, perhaps riding in a crate in the back of the car.
These simple suggestions belie the true nature of traveling by car with dogs. It’s a lot more exciting with many more unexpected events. In simple terms, taking your dog on a road trip is one of those experiences that never looks quite like it did in the brochure. Everything from fitting the crate into the car to walking your dog at rest stops to cleaning up 20 pounds of kibble from the back seat can lead to tears, laughter, or even tears of laughter.
What experiences—good or bad—have you have on the road with your dog?
Dog's Life: Travel
Have Dog, Will Travel
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News: Guest Posts
Summer is almost here!
In our summer issue of Bark, we rounded up some of our favorite dog-friendly destinations from camps and swimming holes to happening neighborhoods and rustic lodges. Our readers chipped in as well with their favorite go-to spots and travel advice. We had so many great ideas, we couldn’t fit them all in the magazine, so check out our catalog of fun here. Also, we’re still collecting your ideas, and since summer is still four days away, there’s still plenty of time to make plans.
Several reader tips related to keeping dogs comfortable on trips—a very important concern. This is supposed to be fun, after all. And as anyone who has ever packed for a trip knows the challenges begin the moment you pull out the travel gear.
“I bring out my suitcase the same time I bring out my dogs' ‘suitcases,’” Georgia Herpel of Pennsylvania wrote us. “If my dogs saw a suitcase they would know they are being left behind—albeit with a wonderful dog sitter. I have them watch me pack their ‘bags,’ add their favorite toys and tell them they are going in the car. No anxiety!”
Trudy Halvorson of Montgomery, Tex., sent us a photo (above) of her English Springer Spaniel, Sammie (short for Samantha). “We were packing for vacation and she wanted to be sure that she was not left behind,” Halvorson says. “She did go with us and we called our trip ‘Sammie’s Big Adventure!’” I love this photo because Sammie does look about as casual as you could want.
In my house, when we are loading up the car for a road trip, the dogs are the first in the vehicle. Otherwise they will be constant UFOs (under-foot objects). Once they are settled in the car, they don’t seem to care how long it takes, as long as they are sure they’re coming along.
What are your tricks for launching a journey smoothly?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
“Capturing” behavior is part of training
One of the secrets to teaching dogs tricks is starting with what they naturally do. If the dog has a tendency to perform a particular behavior, then it will be easier to make that a cute trick that is performed on cue than trying to get her to do some behavior that is not part of her natural repertoire.The term “capturing behavior” refers to reinforcing your dog for performing a behavior that she does on her own so that she will be more likely to do it again in the future. Once your dog has figured out which behavior is the one that causes you to give her a treat, it is time to start introducing the cue that you will use to tell her to perform that specific behavior. For best success, try capturing behavior that comes so naturally to your dog that she does it often. You can then reinforce it often, which makes the process of turning it into a cute trick that she does on cue both faster and easier. You may have to fine tune the behavior to get the trick to be perfect, but you still start by capturing a behavior that your dog already does on her own. A dog who tends to use her paws a lot naturally is a great candidate for high-five, wave, or shake. Dogs who tend to creep when lying down or even when they are supposed to be in a stay are easy to teach to crawl. Dogs who rest on their backs with their legs in the air are already doing a behavior that many trainers call “belly up.” Spinning on cue is easiest to teach to dogs who naturally go in circles when they are excited. (However, I don’t like to teach this to dogs who spin and spin when they get revved up because I’m worried it will develop into a habit that they will have trouble stopping.) Part of training is teaching a dog to perform a certain behavior and another part is teaching them to do it on cue. If your dog already exhibits the behavior, then all you have to do is capture that behavior and put it on cue, which means that your work is already partly done before you officially start the training. Have you taught a trick based on a behavior your dog already does?
News: Guest Posts
Do city dogs have it better?
Dogs have been man’s best friend for thousands of years, adapting to nearly any living condition man throws their way. Whether living in a cave or on a snowy mountaintop, dogs and humans have weathered many different conditions and lifestyles together. And this weekend I witnessed perhaps one of the most interesting (and overwhelming!) environments dogs share with us: New York City.My best friend Carrie moved to New York earlier this year, and pretty much since the day she moved we had been planning my visit. Carrie gets me, and she gets dogs. For the past few years, she has willingly shared her birthday party with my Schipperke Leo, so she knew when I came to visit I would want to do something dog-oriented. We hung out in dog-friendly neighborhoods, sipping on tea in cafes and catcalling every dog that walked by, “Oh look at that Terrier, he’s got a good attitude!” “Work your thang, Puggle!” “Rock them dreads, Puli!” While New Yorkers are famous for their no-nonsense, fast-paced approach toward life, they surprised me in how willing they were to stop and chat about their dogs. They’d offer up stories, discuss potty habits (“Lola always has to potty right in front of Club Monaco, it’s her thing.”), even show off their pup’s impressive tricks. (An Afghan Hound I met in Chelsea knew his right from left; I know humans that don’t know that.) Even more surprising was how dog-friendly the entire city was: Bowls of water were placed outside of storefronts, parks readily had Mutt-Mitts available, and one bakery had a tray-full of treats available. Each neighborhood seemed to have it’s own canine attitude: Central Park West dogs hang in packs and bark a lot. SoHo dogs are laid back, watching the world go by, while their people drink coffee at cafes. Brooklyn dogs look like they have somewhere to be, with no time to stop and chat (unless sniffing for food around a taco truck). It seemed like dogs were everywhere. Considering most New Yorkers don’t own a car and dogs aren’t allowed on the subway or in taxis, I found myself wondering if these dogs lived most of their lives within a 20-block radius of their homes walking the same sidewalks everyday, encountering the same dogs and smells, or if there were ways for them to get out of the city. Maybe take the Staten Island Ferry? I don’t know what I expected, considering my previous notions had been informed by Disney’s Oliver & Company. Somehow street dogs singing Billy Joel tunes just didn’t seem realistic. No matter what the living situation, from lofts to brownstones, it was amazing to see how well dogs adapted. While I can’t imagine Skipper or Leo living without weekend trips to the beach or hiking trails, maybe there are benefits to city life I have never considered. Do you know a city dog who could set me right?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
D.C. airports unveil high-tech pet potty areas
If you’re headed by air to Washington D.C. with your crew, now your pups have a special place to stretch their legs and go to the bathroom. Dulles and Reagan National Airports have recently opened “pet relief areas” in accordance with a federal ruling requiring potty areas for service dogs (though these spaces are open to all dogs, regardless of service status). Dulles already made Jaunted’s Five Best Airports for Traveling with Pets.
Dulles airport has three outside areas and two indoor areas complete with ventilation and flushing systems to keep the space clean. All potty spots feature artificial grass, fake fire hydrants, and poop bags. Reagan National has four outside areas on natural grass.
Since Nemo is too big to fly in the cabin with me, I’ve never taken any of my pets to the airport. I have seen many potty areas at rest stops on the road, but found them unusable. I would love to let my pups run around a bit after a long car ride, but rest stop potty areas always looked like a health hazard to me. Apparently other road trippers don’t feel the same as I do about cleaning up after the dogs.
With ventilation and flushing systems, I hope that Washington D.C.’s airport pet potty areas will set the standard for amenities for traveling pups!
For a list of airports with pet potty areas, visit Pet Friendly Travel’s web site.
News: Guest Posts
A journey to find the perfect dog seat belt
It all started with a Golden Retriever. Well, a photo of one anyway, placidly enjoying a car ride, all from the comfort and safety of a seat belt designed for dogs. It’s amazing what good marketing can do to instill a dream in your mind: “Hey, that could be my life.” While my two dogs are usually fairly well behaved in the car (aside from that incident when Skip pooped in the backseat while I was driving ... seriously, what do you do in that situation?), I recently realized I need to do more to ensure their safety on our many summer outings, and recalling that idyllic Golden Retriever’s picture from a previous shopping trip, I decided I would stop by the pet store in my neighborhood and pick up seat belts for the dogs.
It’s not that I haven’t attempted to keep the dogs safe in the car before; Believe me, I’ve tried. First there were the car seats. They looked cute, and when I had one dog it worked great (although there was that aforementioned pooping incident). Eventually, the car seats had to go, after Leo chewed his way free of his car seat, which inspired Skipper to escape too. Major mess: lots of foam and polyester in the backseat. After the car seats came the kennels, which were one long, howling nightmare, in addition to the fact that it was nearly impossible to fit both cumbersome kennels in the back of my ultra-mini Honda Civic. Then there was the cargo net, which literally lasted about 15 seconds until Skipper busted through it like the Incredible Hulk. When I worked out the cost, it came to about $1 per second of use.
Really, I should have known better than to think that I could just breeze in to my local pet store and buy the perfect dog seat belt. But I was clouded by the lie of that well-behaved Golden Retriever, and the employees at the pet store were so sure they had the right safety option for my dogs. They allowed me to test (i.e., they looked the other way while I tore open every package on display) all of their seat belt options. They even patiently assisted me in squeezing Leo, whose body is shaped like an Old Tyme strongman, into a seat belt clearly designed for cats. After thoroughly dismantling the well-organized Car Safety section of the pet store, I purchased two padded seat belt harnesses, with that dreamy looking well-behaved Golden Retriever on the package.
Excited about my new purchase and the promise of increased safety for the dogs, I wanted to use the new seat belts immediately. Getting the harnesses onto the dogs was surprisingly easy, making me confident that these seat belts would work. Then came the task of actually securing the harnesses to the car seat belts. Not as easy. Once Leo heard the snap close, he realized the only thing he wanted in this world was freedom and he was going to fight to the end to get it. He twisted and contorted his body, while I stood nearby with a treat trying to coax him into just sitting still. He calmed down for a minute (probably out of exhaustion), and I sprinted to the other side of the car to strap in Skipper. By the time I had secured Skipper, Leo was free. I zipped back to the opposite side of the car to reconnect Leo, and by the time I got there, Skipper was loose. So here were my options: Get the dogs strapped into their seat belts so tight it will take them about 10 minutes to escape (giving me the chance to drive safely for a few miles before pulling over and re-securing the dogs), or give up and return the seat belts. Wiping my brow free of sweat, I walked back into the pet store with my dreams crushed, my tail between my legs, and I asked the clerk, “What’s your return policy for opened merchandise?”
While finding the best car safety options for my dogs has been difficult, it has now become an obsession. I’ve resorted to purchasing increasingly creative (and slightly outrageous) options on the Internet, and I’m praying something works soon, or else I will have to throw down some serious cash to purchase a car big enough to comfortably fit the dog crates. Maybe I’ll just go whole-hog with one of those $1,000+ police K9 enclosures. Safety first!
News: Guest Posts
Rachel Ray asks where to stay
When celebrity chef/magazine mogul/ubiquitous TV presence Rachel Ray needs tips on traveling with a pup—who’s she gonna call? Well, Bark magazine, of course. Check out editor-in-chief Claudia Kawczynska’s suggestions on pet-friendly accommodations.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Heat isn’t the only danger for dogs in the car
People travelling to conformation shows and dog sport trials spend a lot of time on the road, stopping at hotels and restaurants. When weather permits, “dog show people,“ myself included, will sometimes leave the dogs in the car for a short period of time to pack luggage or to eat a meal. Care is taken to make sure the dogs are cool, windows are open, fans are on and shade cloth covers the car, but the heat may not be the only danger in these situations.
Earlier this month a couple was on their way with their three dogs to the Swedish Vallhund National Specialty. While packing their van at the hotel, someone stole the vehicle with the dogs inside. Fortunately the dogs were found safe and sound two days later.
This is certainly not a common occurrence, but I do hear about similar stories from time to time. While it’s best to avoid leaving your dogs in the car unattended, it’s not always possible for those who spend so much time on the road. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to lock the doors when you walk away from the car, even if it’s just for a minute.
When eating out with the dogs in tow, I always choose a restaurant with outdoor seating or a parking lot with ample parking near the entrance. Picking a spot that’s visible from the inside is even better.
Leaving the windows open can make your vehicle a target for theft, so if it’s too hot to close the windows, you may want to consider getting take out and eating it in the car.
Many of us feel safe when traveling to shows, surrounded by fellow dog lovers, but it’s important to not let your guard down.
Do you have any travel safety tips to share?
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