A few days ago we returned from a trip to Florida for the AKC Agility Invitational and Eukanuba show. Chili, Salsa, and Juno all got to represent their breeds in agility. They had some good runs and it was fun to show off what my girls can do. We may not be fast enough to be “real” competitors, but all three are great dogs and it’s fun to have an event that showcases agility as a sport for all breeds.
On Friday evening, PBGVCA held back to back specialty shows. Gromit had turned six months on Wednesday, so he was just barely old enough to show. I was on the fence about bringing him, since we weren’t taking the RV and I’ve heard so many horror stories about young puppies in high rise hotels, but decided that he would come along also. I ended up being really happy to have made this choice. Gromit had some success in the ring, but more importantly he had a terrific learning experience. Some factors that I think contributed to his ease of travel:
1. Gromit is really housebroken, not just crate trained. This meant he could have some freedom to play in the hotel rooms without worrying about accidents. Not being crated all of the time made the trip a lot less stressful for him. We did crate him while we slept at night and he was great about giving us time to get up and get ready for the day before taking him out. Getting to “out” meant going down a long hallway, riding an elevator, walking through the hotel lobby, and walking around to the side of the building to grass, so it wasn’t a quick process.
2. Traveling with older, calm dogs. My agility girls don’t necessarily like to play with their younger cousin, but seeing that they took everything in stride helped to show him that it wasn’t a big deal. Chili and Salsa aren’t necessarily confident dogs, in fact Gromit is much braver than they are, but both have made the trip several times before and knew what to expect.
3. Keeping up training and expectations in new places. Even on the road, we still practiced crate games, leash manners, sitting for meals, and other basic behaviors. I didn’t go anywhere with Gromit without food in my pocket in case a training opportunity arose. He is very familiar with the mat that I bring to training classes and trials, so having that at ringside gave him a comfortable place to hang out between classes.
4. Gromit has been many places since he was very young, including dog shows, agility trials, hunt tests, therapy visits to nursing homes and college campuses, training classes, dog friendly stores, and friend’s homes. The trip wasn’t a big traumatic experience, just something that he has grow to expect.
5. Bottled water and forti-flora. Need I say more?
Raising a puppy to handle this type of experience so well wasn’t easy. Every day of Gromit’s life since he was born was been a learning experience for him and will continue to be, but to me it’s worth it to have a dog who can handle whatever life brings him.