I was in a panic! My heart was racing and I was unsure of what to do! The situation was getting out of control! I adopted a dog! Now what?
Many of us travel with pets. Tempo and I travel with our rescue dog AussieOne, an Aussie Shepherd mix, and our two cats. AussieOne seems to have the biggest impact on our lives. His energy, size and willingness to interact with us, as well as his exuberant participation in our outdoor activities, enhances our RV experience and frankly our lives. That said, our current state is the result of a lot of hard work, patience and a willingness to learn…on our part! We adopted AussieOne before becoming RV’ers. Our initial dog “break-in” period took place in our stick and brick home, but, I think the lessons we learned about pet adoption and integration translate into any setting. Here are a few.
Dogs thrive on learning and recognize leadership
We adopted AussieOne in January of 2015. He was a year old and untrained. Or was he? We made a strategic error in failing to learn techniques to care for and train AussieOne BEFORE we adopted him. Our mannerisms were not that of a “pack leader”. He wasn’t respecting us. Fortunately we quickly recognized our need for emergency care. I found it by way of a wonderful book “Team Dog: How to train your dog the Navy Seal Way” by Mike Ritland, a former Navy Seal, working dog trainer and owner of Trikos International. Mike is also founder of the Warrior Dog Foundation. Do not be fooled by the name of the book. The information and skill set we obtained through reading Mike’s book taught us how a dog thinks, training techniques and becoming a pack leader to AussieOne. Utilizing Mike’s book will not make your Chihuahua into a warrior dog. I found the information contained within the books pages invaluable in developing my amazing and close relationship with AussieOne and I reference “Team Dog” even today.
We also absorbed YouTube instructional videos on specific dog training techniques in order to teach AussieOne some of the basics like sit, stay, come and “Go night-night” (okay, the videos do not teach “go night-night” but the command works for us). We focused on two trainers’ videos; Zak George and Caesar Milan. Both, while very different, provide clear, concise and specific training methods that helped us gain control of AussieOne and our household!
Our friends amaze at the progress AussieOne has made over the past year. He now looks forward to training and we incorporate it into everything we do. I highly recommend the book and the videos to enhance your relationship with your dog and to establish yourself as pack leader.
Have your new pet checked out by a veterinarian
Prior to adoption AussieOne was found wandering the streets in a Texas County about 50 miles from our home. A local private shelter took him in, provided medical care, updated shots and had him neutered. From there he went into a private foster home where he was very well cared for until adoption. This is all I know. The details of his care are a mystery. For that reason, before taking AussieOne into our home, I scheduled an appointment for his physical with a local, highly rated vet. My reasoning at the time was to get a stamp of approval on AussieOne’s health and to baseline his metrics for future reference. I’m glad I did. The Vet, Custer McDermott Animal Hospital (Plano, TX), put AussieOne on heart worm and flea & tick programs. They even inserted a locator chip into his shoulder (early on in our relationship AussieOne was a door rusher – I open the door and he rushes out). I also recommend enrolling your pet in a Pet Insurance program. Vet care is expensive. AussieOne’s insurance has already paid for itself. Benchmarking AussieOne’s health metrics has made it easier for the Vet to care for him during the times when he has been ill.
Socialize your dog
One of my pet peeves (pun intended) is barking dogs. When a dog barks incessantly what I hear is “My owner never bothered to socialize nor train me!” Do yourself, and your fellow campers, a favor by socializing your dog and spending time each day teaching your dog not to bark at anything and everything. I mentioned Zak George earlier in this blog post. Zak has a couple of videos on the subject as do others. Regular consistent training will go a long way toward making your dog socially acceptable. AussieOne never had a barking issue, however, his interaction with other dogs was lacking. He tended to either sit alone among other dogs or overreact to their overtures. We addressed this using regular visits to off leash dog parks and multiple visits to doggie day care each week. The idea is to introduce him to a volume of different dogs in a controlled environment. Over time, as AussieOne progressed with his socialization and training, we introduced him to shopping and dining out in dog friendly stores and restaurants. We consider each outing a training exercise. We always take a small, collapsible bowl for water and training snacks. These outings and doggie daycare have become a source of great pleasure for AussieOne and for us. As a bonus he has become the calm and social pet we hoped for.
We found no shortage of resources addressing pet adoption, training and care as well as a multitude of opinions as to which techniques work best. The methods described in this blog post work very effectively for us in making AussieOne an irreplaceable member of our family. We find it important to remember AussieOne is a dog and not a human. He seeks love, but, he also seeks leadership. He values training and socialization as well as outings with us. With those rewards he provides us with compliance. Find what works for you and run with it!
Update January 2, 2017: We spent the 2016 holiday season traveling through Arkansas and Tennessee (twice). I am happy to report that A1 has progressed in his recall training to the point where we feel comfortable walking him on mountain trails off leash! The longest off-leash hike was 3.5 miles and the shortest was 2 miles. He is also responding to “leave it” commands (grudgingly) when he fixes on a rabbit or a squirrel. This is real progress and the result of a couple of years of consistent hard work and overcoming setbacks. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have training treats handy at all times. We recognize that training is ongoing and never ending process and we are encouraged by our results to date. Check out video’s of A1’s off-leash antics on our Twitter and Instagram accounts. Safe travels!
We love you AussieOne!
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