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Friday, May 31, 2013

An introduction to traveling with a dog stroller

Hey, who's that doggie in the stroller at Betty Burgers in Capitola? That would be Kitai riding in a pet stroller out in public for the first time!

Betty Burgers makes delicious veggie and meat patties.

In order to prepare him for our upcoming road trip I really wanted to be able to introduce him to the stroller we'd gotten our cat Squash years ago so we could take walks together as a family.

Kitai had only walked along side it because in the past it's been filled with cat.

Test run to see if everything would fit in the back seat. Success!

I also tried something new in the car which was adding an extra cushion for comfort and wedging his medium sized, nested, dog crate and the pet stroller between the front and rear seat backs by reclining the front passenger seat and jamming the crate in place. He still has on his car seat belt leash hooked to his harness to keep him from becoming a projectile in an accident or if I have to slam on my brakes hard.

Once on the road I noticed for the first time ever, thanks to the pillow and mattress, he was able to sit up and look around out the windows, something he'd never done before. He would also rest with his chin on the edge of the crate so I grabbed a fleece blanket out of the trunk to drape it giving him a softer edge to rest his scruffy chinny chin chin upon.

The process of teaching him how to get into the stroller began a few days earlier in our living room. I didn't want to traumatize him by dumping him in and zipping the stroller up so I'd been tossing dog treats into the stroller to entice him to want to go in himself.

Note the additional support I added beneath the pad he's standing on.

At first he seemed quite frightened of the stroller. I realized it was because the bottom he had to stand on wasn't solid (it was just a piece of fabric covered cardboard) so when he'd step in and it gave a bit to his weight he didn't feel safe. The next day I took an old bulletin board and cut it with an Xacto knife to fit the inside of the stroller and placed his fuzzy pad on top of it. It helped but there was still a bit of bend/shake to the stroller floor. So, I added a small piece of 1/4" white foam board beneath the bulletin board. That did the trick! After that he was perfectly fine to jump in and out as I gave him more treats.

My rule of thumb will be to always make sure he's had the opportunity to walk around outside a bit first to stretch his legs, go to the bathroom if needed, meet other dogs and people, and just burn off some energy and curiosity before placing him in the stroller.

Training him with treats worked so well it got to the point where he refused to leave the stroller. LOL

Not only did I teach him to ride in the stroller, I also covered it with a small table cloth because sometimes the less he sees (other dogs in particular) the more calm he'll remain. For Kitai being in the covered stroller was no big deal. When he's all zipped in he can still see out the back so he's not in the dark.

With websites like Fido Factor and Bring Fido it's going to be a lot easier to find dog friendly stores that won't mind if Kitai comes in with me on a quick errand.

Using the stroller makes it a lot easier (on me) to take him into stores that are pet friendly because though he's never had an accident in a business, it could happen and the stroller eliminates the risk I'd say by 99.99%.

It also keeps him in one spot so I can focus on what I'm doing and my surroundings rather than what he may do next or having to untangle his leash if he meets another dog and they wind their leashes together during the obligatory meet and greet butt sniff.

At the restaurant he got to sit inside the stroller out on the patio with the front zipped down while I had lunch with my friend Carl. I was ready for anything including Kitai jumping out of the stroller (his leash was attached to the stroller so he couldn't run away) or for him to bark at another dog if a dog barked at him first. Even though there was another dog there that did bark he just sat and watched it quietly.

The only real problem for me is that since I'll be traveling alone I'll need to find restaurants that will seat me outside and I won't have to try to sneak him in just to place and pick up my order. The nice thing is with the internet and a cell phone I can call around and look for just the right place that offers the right opportunity. Worst case I can drive around until I find parking outside of a restaurant, call in a to go order and leave Kitai in the car just long enough to run in and pick up the order and bring it back out to the car where I can either eat in the car, the trailer, or we can find a nice bench outside to catch a breath of fresh air.

Or maybe I'll just look for food trucks whenever possible.

After lunch I needed to drive my car more as my mechanic wanted me to take it for a shakedown drive after all of the work they'd done to make sure everything was in good working order. We took HWY 1 along the coast and stopped at Pescadero State Beach to stretch our legs. Unfortunately the beach is closed to dogs so we just walked around the parking lot which still afforded us with a great ocean front view, sunshine, and a fresh ocean breeze.

Kitai didn't seem to mind having to stay in the parking lot as he stood with the ocean in the distance. I was laughing at the way the his windswept ears made him look even scruffier than usual.

We continued up HWY 1 until we arrived at Half Moon Bay then cut across to HWY 280 to head home. We made two more stops along the way, one to stretch our legs again and one to stop at Pet's Choice, my favorite pet supply shop to get more essentials for the big trip.

In total we were on the road for 5.5 hours, not quite the 8 I plan to drive each day on the road trip but it was enough to let me know that Kitai will do just fine as my co-pilot. We were both exhausted by the time we got home. He walked in the house and immediately dropped on the floor and took a two hour nap. LOL I'm sure he'll have more endurance by the time we arrive back in CA with The Glampette.

Happy trails and tails to you!

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