Those who have been following this blog for a while know that our dogs are not the easiest travel companions. When we found Buster as a stray, he was about a year old, and it seems he was not socialized with other dogs during his formative months. As a result, he’s uncomfortable around other dogs, especially when he’s on leash.

Ty also has fear issues – he’s afraid of strangers and, after being attacked at a dog park as a pup, has never cared for other dogs. People who meet the boys, or see pictures of them traveling around the country, often comment on how well-behaved they are, and I suppose that’s partially true. But this impression is more due to the careful system we’ve developed to managing their fears and avoid situations that are more challenging than they can handle.

Ty and Buster at Lake Agnes - Lake Louise, AB

To help them, we’ve taught the boys commands that provide alternatives to their instinctive behaviors. For example, we’ve taught Buster that the command “find it” means we’ve tossed treats on the ground, and he should sniff them out. We use this whenever a dog passes close enough to make Buster tense, and it keeps him from barking and lunging at the other dog. Ty’s most useful trick developed more by accident …

Buster and I were out playing one day and I decided to add the extra step of him running through my legs after fetching his ball to get his treat. B learns things really quickly, and had it down in no time.

Buster with the Squeaky Balls

Ty was watching us, so I thought I’d give it a try with him, too. Since he doesn’t fetch – he doesn’t seem to understand the point of it – we were just working on him walking through my legs. He got as far as standing between my feet, and never progressed beyond that point.

Ty in the Garage

Rod and thought Ty new maneuver was funny, so we called it “parking in the garage” and started giving him treats whenever he practiced. Before long it became a habit for Ty to stand between one of our legs whenever we stopped on our walks. It took us a little longer to figure out how useful it was to have Ty in that position.

Ty’s fear of strangers makes him uncomfortable in crowds, or whenever we’re approached by someone he doesn’t know – and both happen a lot when you travel as much as we do! To make matters worse, at twelve years old, his hearing and vision are failing, and he gets startled more easily. But since discovering his “garage,” he’s able to relax when we’re out and about.

Visiting Dog Friendly Banff, AB |

Some of Ty’s most fearful moments were waiting on busy sidewalks to cross the street, making our way on crowded trails, standing in line for any reason, and anytime we stopped to chat with someone he didn’t know. He was always on guard, worried, I imagine, that someone would try to pet him. Now he puts himself in the “garage,” and knows we’ll protect him from any unwanted advances while we feed him a few treats to encourage his calm behavior. This trick has also allowed us to relax – knowing exactly where he is and that he’s safe. It’s been a happy accident that worked out beautifully for us all!

Ty and Buster will always have their challenges, but learning to help our dogs manage their fears has enriched all of our lives. And our traveling together has provided us all the perfect opportunities to practice our new skills. If you’re traveling with a dog with challenges, please, share your tips in the comment section!

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  • You’re so welcome, Betsy! We’re just happy that what we’re doing is helping other people travel with their pets. And I hope that our paths will cross some time – it would be great to meet you in person. Waggin’ trails!

  • Great advice! I to have had a fear aggressive dog, and it is not an easy feat to get through. Our newest adoptee is also a bit fearful of strangers approaching, but she is young enough that hopefuly, she will overcome this. Thanks so much!

  • This is a great post. I found it and the comments very informative. Thanks for doing what you do, and for telling us all about it! :). Safe travels. I hope someday our paths will cross. Betsy Moynehan, FL/NY

  • Thank you, Edie! I really can’t imagine doing anything else for our boys, and it’s worked out beautifully for us all. And, you’re so right – Buster loved Madeleine! I think he really appreciates dogs who ignore him, because he doesn’t understand dog body language. Madeleine has the “too cool for you” attitude that Buster finds irresistible. =D

  • The most wonderful thing about your comment, Debbi, is how well you obviously know your dogs. You’ve illuminated exactly what I was trying to communicate – understanding your dogs and setting them up to be successful. Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Having spent many years with a fearful dog who couldn’t get treats because he didn’t eat when he was nervous (and then became diabetic), I know this situation is anything but humorous. And yet, the phrase you use, and the picture of a happy Ty parked “in the garage” cracked me up. You guys rock, spending so much time making life better for your pups (and yes, I know it’s a bonus for you too). Buster does like *some* other dogs, by the way. Like much of the canine world, he was smitten with Madeleine, who remains indifferent to all admirers except those bearing food.

  • I think with our Labs they each needed a “job” when we were in public. We traveled by SUV back and forth from Kansas to Florida. And finding a “potty” stop at a rest area can be tricky. We would never let our dogs interact with other dogs, because we didn’t know what diseases they might have. So I always took the yellow Lab, who thought he needed to protect me. He never barked or jumped at other dogs or people but he was always on guard. Needless to say, no one came close. My husband took the black lab, who was bigger, but just ambled through life. Little kids would run up to him, hug him, kiss him, and he would never move. He was the Public relations guy for Labs. They both were comfortable with their jobs.

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