The Old Trainer: Dogs good travel companions

May 26, 2012 

Dear Old Trainer: We just retired and want to travel around the country in our RV. Our Scotty, Liz, knows how to ride around town in the car, but how do we train her to travel long distance?

-- Linda, Merced

A: You don't have to train her, Linda. The only thing she cares about is where you are.

If you are in that RV it becomes home to her. She will be as happy in the RV as Willie Nelson is on his bus.

No one knows why dogs love to travel, but they do. One of the things that will surprise you when you pull into rest stops is how many people, including long-distance truck drivers, travel with dogs. The dogs know their business, too. They go to the bathroom, stretch a little, get a drink, and are ready to hit the road again.

There are several ways to make travel easy for Liz:

1. Feed her the same food, at the same time, you do at home.

2. Stop several times a day at rest stops for her to go to the bathroom.

3. Never leave her alone inside the RV in warm weather.

4. Exercise is more important when you are traveling. Make sure she gets some every day.

Dear Old Trainer: We have two young mixed breeds, Jake, 3, and Lexie, 2. They are large dogs, each over 50 pounds. We would like to give them beef bones, but we have heard pros and cons about it.

What is your opinion?

-- Bob, Auburn

A: Until a few months ago my answer to that question was always the same -- give them all the beef bones they can eat. Now I urge caution.

I got so many emails from readers about health problems caused by bones that I consulted a number of vets.

Every one of them had cases -- some serious -- of dogs getting intestinal blockage from eating beef bones.

They agree that it is usually small dogs that are affected, but it occurs with large breeds as well.

At best, it results in an expensive vet bill. At worst, it may be fatal. I thought all dogs could digest pieces of bone, but the vets say that is not the case.

I adopted a new policy that I know is safe for all dogs, large or small. I have the butcher cut the biggest leg bone he has into pieces three inches long. My dogs chew the flesh off the bones, then work for two or three days getting out the marrow.

After the marrow is gone I put a little peanut butter inside the bones every few days to give the dogs something to do.

They chew on the hollow bones, but the leg bone is so strong it will not splinter. After a couple of weeks I toss the old bones and get new ones.

Try that with Jake and Lexie. Give them the bones after their daily meal. Their wolf ancestors chewed the bones after they finished eating the kill and modern dogs retain that ancient desire without knowing why.

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