Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Our First trip

Christmas dinner with my parents presented the perfect opportunity for Shilo and I to go on our first overnight since finishing team training in October 2008.We were meeting in Portland at the Heathman Hotel for Christmas dinner. Due to the snow and ice encasing Portland I could not drive so the train, namely Amtrak, was the best option. I had never traveled with Shilo, but I knew during her training with Summit she had the opportunity to fly, cruise and stay in hotels. I was fairly competent she would handle it well. I know that travel, no matter how experienced and enjoyed, does put added stress on both service dog and partner. I wanted to ensure Shilo's first trip with me was as positive and fun for her as possible. I also had another goal of establishing travel behavior paterns for her. Many trainers I have worked with have warned me to be careful what I let my dogs do in a new environment. Since dogs do not generalize behaviors, whatever they are allowed to do when entering a new environment they will think is the rule for that environment. I wanted to ensure she would ride on the floor in the taxi, sleep on her blanket in the hotel room and adjust to the new environment of the hotel.

I was pleased to discover Shilo comes alive when traveling. She took everything in stride and impressed everyone with her loving, calm demeanor and quick response. I think she was happy that it was just her and I for three days. We worked, we played, we relaxed.

People with disabilities who need a service dog who not only can travel, but loves to travel can do somethings to help their service dog see traveling, a normally high stress situation for both dog and human by associating travel with:
  • Special toys, treats and other rewards that are reserved for travel
  • Giving your dog stress breaks through play (you'd be amazed what a short game of tug, or game of find the item will do to lower stress for both the dog and handler.
  • Rewarding your dog at a high rate for both new and from time to time entrenched behaviors such as a particularly well negotiated crowd, or leaving a particularly yummy tidbit thrown at them by the person in the next seat.
  • Find itineraries that work for both human and dog schedule's
Happy traveling!

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