Reactive Road Trip – Lessons Learned

Although we did have a few reactivity issues, overall, I was very impressed with Odin’s behavior during the trip. It goes to show how much his training has paid off. When we took him to a beach in Carmel last year, it was nearly impossible to get him back and leashed up when it was time to leave. This time, he was very focused on me, recalled very easily, and allowed us to leash him with no issues! Although I do A LOT of training with Odin, I was concerned that it wasn’t going to be enough for him to ever be an off leash or public dog (especially with him wanting to meet every dog he sees). This trip was a nice reminder of how well he is behaved in most situations. For most of the time in cities while seeing other dogs, we were able to manage his reactivity and he heeled/listened to commands even in the presence of distractions.

This trip showed me how far we have come in his training. Sometimes I get worried about Odin because we can’t always do the things that normal dogs do. He has restrictions at the dog park which means he doesn’t get to socialize as much as we would like him too. And because of his reactivity, we don’t get to do a lot of things in public (i.e. going out to dinner, or bringing him to the local downtown area). During this trip, I could see how far he has come along and how much all the time spent training has paid off. I hope this can inspire some of you to continue along the journey of diligently managing your dog’s reactivity. This is something that does take time. There is no overnight cure for reactivity. It is a bunch of little baby steps forward usually followed by a step backwards. Keep going and be persistent in your training. If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have never believed Odin’s reactivity would have been managed this well. Yes, there is still a long way to go in his journey, however this has made me hopeful and it was the energizing boost I needed to continue with his training.

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Coming out of the trip, there are a handful of things that we learned that we need to work on in addition to his reactivity. The two big things we need to work on are (1) reduced barking when one of us leaves the room and (2) working on him settling/relaxing. Although no one complained about his barking, it was not something I was proud of. Every time one of us left the room, Odin would worry and bark. Also, while we were in the hotel rooms, he had a hard time relaxing and would be constantly looking for something to do (this included trying to steal the bathroom towels, toilet paper, and trash cans in the hotel room) even though we had provided him with plenty of chews/puzzles. In the near future, I will post how I will be tackling each one of these issues and hopefully if you run into the same issues while traveling, they can be used as a guide.

One of the biggest things that helped me with traveling with a reactive dog was all the planning I did ahead of time. I researched beaches, trails, and locations to ensure that we were taking Odin to places where he could be successful. Bring Fido (website and app) and All Trails were very helpful in facilitating this planning. Bring Fido has information on dog friendly restaurants, hotels, activities, and dog parks all over the US. I utilize this app quite often as it is loaded with information. I used All Trails to find local dog friendly trails and found ones that were labeled “low traffic” to help ensure that we were reducing the chances of running into other dogs. Also, I had given myself soo many activity options that if we couldn’t do something, we had about 5 other things to choose from. My Oregon Road Trip travel binder was jam packed with all this information and was one of the biggest reasons for our successful trip.

Overall, these are the pieces of advice I found most helpful while traveling with a reactive dog:

1. Be flexible

If you get somewhere and there are too many dogs/triggers and you know that your dog will not be successful, skip it. You may not get to see what you wanted but your experience will be ten times worse if you try to do the activity and both you and your dog end up frustrated. If your dog is happy and calm, you will be happy and calm and be able to create happy memories.

We had to do this a handful of times during our trip. We decided not to do the Mount Pisgah Summit or Cannon Beach because of the large amounts of dogs visiting these places. We made the decision to not stop at these places during the trip and found less stressful things to do instead.

2. Avoid the hassle and order in

For almost every dinner during our road trip we ordered in as we knew it would be hard to eat out with Odin. This made eating significantly less stressful which made everything more enjoyable. We made sure we had hotels with nice views so we could have cozy dinners in our room every evening.

This is a big stress saver for both you and your dog. Also, you can eat in your pajamas in bed. What could be better?!

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3. Travel during the off season and do activities during off times

Go when you know there will be less people. We knew that traveling during the rainy season in Oregon meant less people and less dogs. This was one of the main reasons why we had lots of the places we visited to ourselves. The Oregon Garden and many of the state parks we had all to ourselves because it was not the high season. It was colder for us, but it made everything about our trip more enjoyable as we did not need to worry so much about other dogs.

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Hopefully, my postings can provide with some value and hope in terms of owning a reactive dog. When I first found out that Odin was reactive, I thought we would never be able to do something like this. However, with the right planning and mindset, it can be done.

If you have any tips or advice from your experience from traveling with your dog (reactive or otherwise) please comment below to share your experiences with others!

Disclaimer: Odin has moderate reactivity and can be managed to ensure the safety of all parties. Not all reactive dogs will be able to go on a road trip and the ability of your dog should be assessed by you and your reactivity trainer.

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