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How To Travel With Malamutes
Traveling with Malamute Dogs
How do you travel with Alaskan malamutes? This is a question that this author has been asked many times. My answer: Very carefully.
That being said, as long as someone understands the breed and lives with them day to day, it is possible to have a very rewarding travel experience with mals. Why? Because they are just the ticket when you want to go somewhere and actually do something. They are one of the best breeds to travel with because they propel you to actively participate in life. Given their social nature, they are more than happy to accommodate you.
I have a friend who mentioned to me that after our recent successful trip that our two lively travelers, Gabby and Griffin, were probably sitting in the car with their doggie bags packed and honking the horn, ready to start their next adventure.
To be honest, I think that's not too far from the truth. They had such a good time as did we that it was hard to settle back into "just" everyday life. They were that much fun to take on a trip.
How did it work out to be a success? Mind you this was not our first time "traveling" with our malamutes because we take them everywhere for day trips. But we had never taken them overnight except to family homes--certainly never to a very nice hotel. What we didn't realize is how very social and astute our malamutes are and how easily they assimilate their natures into coexisting in a public environment if you but give them the opportunity to prove themselves.
Tips on Traveling with Malamute Dogs
Alaskan malamutes are unique in that they are extremely social. They are also very intelligent and usually when things aren't going the way they are used to, they start "talking" and sometimes quite loudly. The key is to....much like caring for a child...take steps to make sure they are provided for before there is a wail or a temper tantrum.
Key points to remember:
- Mals are big dogs--they can't be confined for long periods of time without exercise
- Since many malamutes can and will escape things like cars, we've found that having their own crate works wonders and keeps them in the car and safe at all times
- Each malamute has a comfortable crate in our SUV which allows us to keep the windows down and always affords them the chance to be cool on warm or hot days or at least have air circulating
- Open crates also allow you to fold them up (after removing the dog). They are easily transported into a hotel room should you need to crate a dog for the night. We crate Gabby because she's 1-1/2 years old and still can't be trusted 100% not to chew. Bob even loaded her crate on the luggage rack without folding it up and wheeled it to our room
- Toys or chew things help younger dogs stay busy but the best toy of all is a Kong--a hard plastic toy with a hole in it that you can put treats in. We don't give our dogs treats per se as too many recalls and Griffin is allergy prone. Instead, I put in several small steamed carrots for each one of them several times per day and they have an object to play with/keep them busy for short periods--bones would work as well or other chew toys
- Feeding can be an exuberant episode for malamutes. Ours regularly howl, talk, do sits, downs, even roll overs trying to hurry you to release them to eat. We eliminated the noise or potential for it by feeding them at precisely their scheduled time (Griffin always lets me know with a very subtle look and a low rumbling howl) but in their crates in the SUV. This eliminated them waking up other people in the hotel in the morning or disturbing them with their "I wanna be fed now" routine in the evening
- We packed their food in premeasured bags complete with their supplements so both feeding times were easy to accomplish. We used their food bowls for water bowls in the crates when not feeding them
- We stopped every few hours on the 6 or 7-hour trip and literally ran their behinds off. Even if it's an empty field or a parking lot with grass--we get out of the car and on leash, proceed to run them around and around to give them a chance (and us) to stretch our legs. Even if you just walk for 10-15 minutes, it makes for an easier ride on both man and beast. We stopped at a rest stop or two but when we were traveling prior to Thanksgiving, the rest stops were loaded with other dogs, many off leash. We opted to just settle for sane and go to a field, a school or a big grassy area and run our two together
- Potty breaks are mandatory for all dogs. Our Gabby has an issue with being able to pee on command so it was a bit of a challenge. She also has a harder time going to the bathroom anywhere that is not her own backyard--but she eventually got the picture--do it or burst. Our regular attire is to have at least 4 doggie waste bags in every pocket so we were well outfitted for any cleanups needing to be done
- Once we arrived at our destination, we scoped out nearby trails and places we could walk them for at least an hour each time. We walked them in the pouring rain the first night we arrived because they had had a long day just as we had. It serves to help calm them down and give them a sense of accomplishment after a long day in the crate even with breaks
- The next day and every day afterwards, we took them on several very long hikes or walks wherever we were, no matter what the weather. We took in several beaches, twice in pouring rain and wind but they had an incredible time and it wasn't that bad--after all it's only water! We also had several towels we'd packed just in case and they came in very handy
- When we had to go other places or enjoy family and friends, we did our thing but we still took the time to take them out, walk them and pay attention to them. We just excused ourselves and said we needed to go walk the dogs or run the dogs--in most cases, someone always came with us as well which was another nice time for the dogs
- In between visiting time for the 5 days we were traveling, we also took time to go back to our hotel and let them "lounge." This worked well allowing them time to just be themselves with us and relax. The hotel was kind enough to provide older model bedspreads for doggie spreads so that they could lay on the bed or wrestle and play a bit in the room and not hurt anything
- The best bet of all is finding a dog friendly hotel--we stayed at a lovely upscale Best Western in Gig Harbor called the Wesley Inn. They know how to accommodate people with pets and even left dog biscuits for our two as well as made sure the door was open for us in the morning right at 7:00 a.m.
Hotel Checklist for Traveling with Malamutes
- Make sure your room is close to the exit--especially with two, it made it so easy to be the last room at the end of the hall. There were many other guests with dogs, and small yapping dogs at that. Ours didn't have to be harrassed as they made their way to the door and out to the dog area or to our car which was very convenient
- Bring your own dog blankets or ask ahead if the hotel will supply you with blankets so that your dog can lay on the bed if they're accustomed to doing that or have one for the floor for them. You'd be surprised--the hotel knows you're going to do it and will happily provide you blankets to keep things clean
- Make sure your dog knows simple commands before attempting to travel with him or her. At night, when the door we used during the day was closed (which our mals quickly figured out how to open by stepping on the activator), we had to take them through the lobby--yes, the lobby of a very nice hotel where there were actual people to meet and greet
- Griffin was much better than Gabby as she is still in the puppy phase of her development and could hardly contain her excitement over people wanting to pet her and meet her. Both tend to be very vocal when meeting people and this was a great exercise in using the "sit" command and the "quiet" command as well as "with me" when it was time to trot down the hall to their room
- If you happen to have to stay in a pet room that isn't on the main floor, I would advise taking the stairwells. There is another hotel we may stay at another time but it has pet rooms on the 2nd floor. It does have an elevator but I wouldn't be particularly fond of being in an elevator and getting trapped with a small yapping, nipping dog and one or both of my malamutes--too confining and no place to go
- No matter where you go, people will always break the rules--be prepared. Other travelers let their dogs off leash and they were a menace to our dogs, running at them and barking and snarling a few times. Out on the trails near the hotel, we encountered the same type of ignorant pet owner behavior. All you can do is be prepared--in my case, I walk quickly the other way engaging my dog to listen to my commands and leave the other dog behind for the owner to chase down and take care of as it isn't my responsibility to get his or her dog under control, only keep my dog from making a mistake
- Don't under any circumstances leave your malamute in the room unattended. This gives us all a very bad name! No dog should be left in a room unattended as it's possible your very good, well mannered dog may panic and cause all kinds of problems for you and other guests. If you want to go have breakfast, feed your mal, put them in the car in the crate, and then go--but don't leave them crated or free in your room!
- Even if just going out to the car to get something, one of us stayed in the room at all times if the dogs weren't in the car--we made sure that they were engaged and not howling or wailing after the person who just left. It's common sense and good manners but it's also a great way to show that malamutes are a delightful breed of dog and can be well mannered if expected to be so
What to Pack for Day Trips and Overnight Stays with Malamutes
Gabby and Griff's list:
- Food! Griffin says this is the most important
- Water bowls and food bowls--and water--riding in the car may not seem like hard work but it is on dogs because of a certain level of stress--water is essential frequently
- Collars, leashes or harnesses--Gabby is currently in a Halti harness because she thinks she's a pony--have it handy so that any time you get out of the car, it's a breeze to snap on whatever you need to keep your dog safe and under control
- Extra long leashes or rope--we hooked up our malamutes to 15 or 20 foot leashes on the beach and let them have their head--they loved the freedom of being able to go further than a 6 foot leash
- As most malamute owners will tell you--let your mal off leash at your own risk. We were on the beach one afternoon with no one else on the beach and I decided to trust Griffin who is 3+ years old and I figured would behave. He didn't, thus verifying why I do not let them off leash--he was puzzled by his newfound freedom and began to run unfortunately every which way and right towards a dead seal that I'd forgotten about on the beach. Between all of us, we were able to run him down and get hold of him again--but it did bring to mind again why mals are better left on leash and not trusted to the consistent recall
- Treats and toys--this helps them feel at home and occupies them at times when they might be getting bored though if they travel a lot as mine do, they know the routine and know we will always take them out and exercise them
- Doggie poop bags for picking up after them
- Dog blankets and crates especially for overnight stays
- Any kind of special equipment or toys--for instance if you're backpacking, doggie backpacks; if skiing, dog harnesses, gang lines; if sledding, dog booties
- Patience and enjoyment of your dog--if you take the time to bring your dog or dogs along on a trip, it should be natural to enjoy being together and having fun. Don't set your expectations so high that your malamute fails--they can only be as good as they've been trained to be. Set them up for success and they will succeed
Traveling with Your Malamute
All in all, we gave our trip 4 paws up and so did Gab and Griff. They had a wonderful time visiting family and friends and seeing other dogs they know and others they didn't.
The most important factor we found that seemed to make it work was the relationship we have with our dogs that we've built over time. We take them on enough day trips to know their limits and we train them enough to know what to expect--and what is too much to expect. We simply don't put them in situations (as much as humanly possible) where they fail. So in other words, we know our dogs because we spend so much time with them.
Even the lesson I learned with letting Griff off leash was valuable. I'll just probably get a longer leash next time rather than risk the drama--or work with him more to attempt to get a consistent recall from him. However, our personal experience has been that malamutes simply do not return every single time and that one time he doesn't might just be a disaster.
We had intended to take them to run off leash in a fenced playground area but the mud and rain precluded that by being literally underwater. It's important to have plans but as we learned, it's really important to have a plan B--which was figure out nearby trails that weren't flooded and do those instead. It turned out to be a great alternative and at the same time, yet another training opportunity as ours had to be behave in the face of undesirable circumstances like dogs off leash or passing 8 dogs at a time! We also walked them downtown to get to trails and that in itself was a great experience for them.
We can't wait for the next adventure--Gabby and Griffin are literally rearing to go and who knows...maybe next time it will be with the scooters strapped to the back of the SUV!