Trains, Planes & Automobiles (Oh My!)

Sunday is family hike day for us. Although I hike every day and enjoy every moment of it, Sunday is for my husband, me and our three dogs to reconnect doing our favourite activity. This past Sunday was no different.  We opted for a lovely route that takes us through the woods, along a river and around a wetland area filled with birds and other wildlife. One short section of our route runs parallel to an active railway.

Every moment is an opportunity to work with your dog so that he/she can be balanced, happy and healthy. We came to the section of our hike that runs parallel to the railway and I could hear a train approaching from far off in the distance. I looked at our three dogs to gauge their reactions to the noise and vibration of the train. Bayliss, our 14 year old German Shorthaired Pointer/Husky mix, was too busy stalking birds to care about the train. Stevie, our five month old German Shorthaired Pointer, was doing a fantastic job of holding point on a bug along side the path so she also showed no interest in or worry about the train.  Stanley, our 15 month old German Shorthaired Pointer, showed mild anxiety as the train got closer and louder. His ears perked up and his body became a little tense.  Instead of rushing to distance ourselves from the train, I welcomed the opportunity to help Stanley learn that train=no big deal. As the train got closer and began passing us, I had Stanley sit and began rewarding him with food treats for focusing on doing a really good sit and paying attention to my cues.  I then asked for a down and he focused on his down and what I might ask for next. As he became more relaxed, I released him from his down, gave lots of food rewards and the five of us continued on our walk.  The train was still passing us, all three dogs completely ignoring it. Success!

Many dogs have anxiety issues with cars and other loud, noisy vehicles. These are problems you can help your dog to overcome, not by avoiding situations like the one we encountered on Sunday, but by offering your dog an alternative, setting her up for success and rewarding her behaviour as she follows through.