Regular Something Wagging readers know we’re getting our dog Honey ready to live aboard a sailboat.
Many of the things we’re doing for Honey might help you even if the only adventure you’re planning is a trip to the vet, a long drive, or a kayak trip across a pond. Here are a few of my best tips to get your dog ready for adventure.
Get Your Dog Ready For Adventure
Tip #1 Expose your dog to expected new sounds, smells, and motions before your adventure.
We’ve hung crinkly tarps from the clothesline to expose Honey to the sound of sails in the wind. And we’ve taken many walks in marinas so she can hear the clanking of halyards against the mast on a windy day (note to non sailors: halyards are ropes used to lift sails into position; they have metal hardware that bangs against the vertical support for the sail, or mast, in the wind when the sails are down).
If your vet insists on having your dog stand on a cold, metal table for an exam, look for a similar surface for your dog to slide around on at home (the bottom of a metal sliding board at a playground work great, but not when it’s hot). Move your kayak around on dry land and let your dog sniff it. Or let your dog jump into your car or RV without going for a ride so they can find a comfortable spot to lie down.
Tip #2 Find special treats your dog will only get on your adventure.
I’m saving a squeaky toy for Honey that she’ll only get once we move aboard the boat. We gave her a new plushie when we took her sailing for the first time. She was so happy squeaking her hedgehog she didn’t seem to care that we were living in a moving home.
I know you love giving your dog goodies all the time. But save the stinky bully stick or new tug toy you know she’ll love for adventure time.
And don’t forget to put it away once you get home.
Tip #3 Take your adventure under the best possible circumstances.
My husband and I laugh about a story we heard of a man who wondered how he could convince his wife to move aboard a sailboat with him. Every year, he and his buddies took a long sailing charter around the British Virgin Islands (BVI). And despite having taken his wife for a similar trip in Lake Ontario he couldn’t convince her to adopt the life.
The woman telling the story suggested that if he was sailing the warm, tropical waters of the BVI with his guy pals and cold, murky Lake Ontario with his wife that he didn’t really want to convince her to go sailing with him at all. Otherwise, he’d take her to the islands.
When we took Honey on her first sailing charter, we stayed in port when the wind was high. And motored in when conditions changed while we were out.
Don’t take your dog to the vet on their very busiest day. Don’t make your first kayak trip with your dog one with baking heat or high winds. Don’t make your first RV trip last an entire day.
Make that first adventure easy and fun.
Tip #4 If something doesn’t work, cut your adventure short.
Adventuring with your dog is not the time to say, “Darn it, we’re going to have fun if it’s the last thing we do.”
I love taking Honey to public events. But when she tells me she has had enough, we go home.
You can’t tell your vet in the middle of a visit that your dog is tired and you want to take him home. But perhaps you don’t stay for the complimentary nail clipping or extra blood work. You can always make a short appointment with a vet tech later.
And the car trip should be fun for everyone. If your dog isn’t having fun, you won’t either. So end early today in hopes of building up your dog’s tolerance for a longer adventure later.
Tip #5 Use an activity your dog loves to introduce them to an adventure.
Nose work games make everything less frightening for Honey.
Hiding treats near a scary object and telling Honey, “Find it,” makes what could be a tense moment into a game.
Tossing a ball in front of the vet’s office is one way to create positive associations for your retriever. And hiding a sacrificial stuffy for your prey-driven dog to shred in the car is a great way to start your driving adventure.
Tip #6 Pick an adventure that will work for both of you.
Okay, you can’t do this if your “adventure” is taking your dog to the vet.
But does your double-coated dog really need to hike across a desert with you? And who would take a bull dog who sinks like a stone swimming?
That long car trip might be perfect for your couch potato dog who’s happy to sniff around when you stop at a scenic overlook but who’d just as soon sleep the day away. But it could be torture for your herding dog who needs at least a few hours a day of bossing someone around before he settles down.
Honey is a cuddly dog who likes sticking close to us. So life in a small boat where we’re on top of each other every moment is her idea of heaven. No more wandering around a two-story house trying to find the perfect spot to keep an eye on both of us.
Anything Can Be An Adventure
If you have the right attitude, a walk around the block is an adventure.
But if you’re trying something new, even a normally calm dog can get a little nervous.
Treat anything new you’re trying with your dog like the adventure they’ll think it is. Lead up to it slowly. And make sure it’s a happy adventure for both of you.
Your Turn: How have you prepared your dog for “adventures” you’ve taken?