This is going to be all about Froot! Being a dog trainer’s puppy can be quite a different experience than the average pet dog. This is meant to be a window into his life and how I as a trainer handle the common hurdles we face with any puppy.
I bought him from an Arizona trainer and Rottweiler breeder, Ryan Cambio, who breeds some absolutely stunning dogs. The kennel is Merakxel Rottweilers and I’m very proud to be a part of the lineage and vision that Ryan is creating.
I was not planning on getting a puppy this year. I wasn’t even planning on getting a rottie, I was looking for breeders for a completely different breed; I wanted a Malinois. Ryan and I have mutual friends in common, and so I was aware of his dogs, and his puppies. And the waitlist for said puppies…
Then one evening Ryan mentioned that he had a waitlisted person drop for some reason off the waitlist. Out of curiosity, he and I began talking dogs and by the end of the conversation I had a feeling that a puppy from this particular litter was not one to be missed. And so it was decided. Soon I was going to be traveling with a puppy.
At the time, I did not know what gender of puppy would be available to me, and wanted it to be a surprise. There was a flurry of packing and preparing at my home as I readied myself to make the 19 hour drive down to Arizona. I planned to make it 3 days drive total, but once I got on the road I practically flew. After all, I had to make it down to my little Rottweiler pup. The drive down was relatively uneventful, although with the ice and snow I can’t say that I wouldn’t have preferred summer road conditions.
I arrived after 2 and a half days of driving, bursting with excitement to see my pup. That day he was a very sleepy puppy and although I wanted to play with him and begin bonding THAT INSTANT, I forced myself to have a speck of patience. The next day was fantastic. Little Froot was more energetic and much more keen to play and interact. I was hooked.
Our Journey begins
At 8 weeks, the hardest thing for any puppy is acclimating to life away from the litter. So far a puppy this age has known nothing about being alone. To cut down on potential crying, whining, and carrying on, I opted to have Froot ride shotgun in a tote. Otherwise he would have been in the back of the van in a crate, unable to have contact with me at all, and essentially alone. This isn’t the experience I wanted to have while traveling with a puppy, and I’m sure it wasn’t what he wanted either.
The tote contained a towel at the bottom (of which I brought several just in case) and an assortment of chews. Puppies at this age need sooooo much sleep that I knew he would be sleeping most of the drive, but when he was awake I wanted to be sure that he’d be able to chew and occupy himself. Being that he was right next to me I’d also be able to monitor him extremely closely.
And so we went.
When he would wake up I would pull over and find a place for him to potty. How often this was, varied. Sometimes he slept for 2 hours, sometimes for 4. Like clockwork though we practiced good potty habits during the drive and without fail he would eliminate. Then I’d load him back up, give him some water, and then offer him a little bit of kibble. And so our first day went. Traveling with a puppy can go smoothly!
The first big hurdle of a dog trainer's puppy
I drove as far as I could that day and ended up in a small town called Hawthorne. This was Froot’s first night away from the only life he had ever known. I managed to find a hotel to accommodate all 4 of us, and one that could also put us in a room away from other guests. I knew that there would be whining and crying at night, knew that I would be up to potty him at least once during the night, and that sleep would be scarce. The hotel was also kind enough to provide me with a stack of rags to use in the event of an accident. I’m not going to lie, the tail end of the day was kind of a mess for all of us.
While unpacking I put him in his crate and dashed out to the car. He made it known that this was totally unacceptable by howling his little head off. I agreed and the change I was forced to make on the fly was that I took him with me. While packing or unpacking, while pottying my other dogs, taking a bath, whatever, Froot was on leash with me or in the room where I was. We had no accidents or noise complaints. Yes it stifled my freedom just a little, but no one can fault a puppy who is adapting to a world totally alien to the one he just left.
Due to an impending storm in the mountains I was determined to make it home even with the lack of sleep. Being a dog trainer’s puppy also means that during our journey there was training involved. Not every time we stopped of course, but at times I would come across places to have us stretch our legs, play some ball, or do some light exercises. It was grueling but we made it home safely without any complications.
Things I would do differently
Froot was a very thirsty puppy. He would ask for water before and after sleep and I didn’t have a great system of giving him water wall driving. The best I came up with on the fly was having a full large size Styrofoam cup of water. This was an ok solution because it had a lid, but there was more monkeying around with it than I would have liked. I’m not certain what would have been easier, and this was better than nothing.
Secondly, the trip was intense. I had a loose plan, but that allowed me to overexert and overextend myself driving. Our last day of driving was between 11-12 hours on not enough sleep. So better planning, maybe having a string of airbnb’s set up would have been a less stressful undertaking. Plus it likely would have allowed us all to take in some sights and stretch our legs more.
The third thing was a harness. I had been planning to buy one while in Arizona, but I spent most of my time with the puppies or taking care of my own dogs, so the task was shoved to the back burner. This would have made it more handy to wrangle him and given me more piece of mind while out and about. Properly fitted harnesses are ALWAYS more secure than collars.
Great things to pack while traveling with a puppy
Messes with a puppy are inevitable. There will be at least one, maybe more. Froot’s travel set up was very simple, I could change out the towel if needed, I could sanitize the bin if I had to, all very easy. A puppy doesn’t need mounds of bedding, and if there’s an accident on them, you can’t clean them effectively on the road.
Things I wouldn’t do without while traveling with a puppy:
- Crate – for hotel cleanliness and safety
- Collar or harness that fits properly
- Bleach wipes
- Poop bags and full sized trash bags
- Disposable rags or paper towels
- Slip lead
- Baby wipes – for cleaning the pup if needed
- Bottled/jugs of water + drinking container for the pup
- Towels for bedding
- A selection of chew items
- Dog treats
All of these things allowed me to have a successful and relatively pain free trip with my new puppy. Even though our bond was just growing I was able to build trust, ensure his safety, and provide the best journey home that I could for him. We didn’t have poopy car messes, endless whining, or other similar problems because of my puppy preparedness supplies. I made sure to tire him out for the day of driving in the mornings before our trip really began. All of these things are what I would recommend to do or have on hand if you’re making a long car ride to pick up your pup!