Tips for introducing your dog to the cottage

Dog in a canoe

When I brought my Boston Terrier, Brockton, to the cottage for the first time, I was shocked when my house-trained pup had an accident inside. It was only the start of many problems that would follow throughout the weekend—Brock developed a rash from rolling in wet sand, he ran away during a fireworks show and at one point, he nearly drowned.

Stories like this don’t come as any surprise to professional dog trainer Caryn Charlie Liles. “In cottage country we have different health concerns than in the city,” explains Liles, a trainer at Whatta Pup. “There’s toxic plants, ticks that carry lyme disease, wild animals—you name it. Without careful planning and supervision the trip to the cottage could be a minefield. Preparation and awareness is key in order to make it a wonderful week for everyone.”

Here are some ways that you can ease a dog’s first trip to the cottage—regardless of whether it’s a new puppy or an old rescue that’s out of the city for the first time.

Pack the right supplies

Along with all the obvious goodies (clear identification on your dog’s collar, food, treats and a crate), you may also want to consider investing in some supplies designed for the cottage:

  • Bring a long line. Even if you walk your dog off-leash at home, the same rules may not apply at the lake. “You should assume your dog—who may have an excellent recall in your neighbourhood dog park—may not come when called in this new environment,” says Andre Yeu, owner of When Hounds Fly Dog Training. “If you have a very prey-driven dog or a hound that gets lost in scent, there’s an increased chance of losing them in the woods.” Yeu advises investing in a long line, which will allow your dog to roam safely during walks. Similarly, you may want to consider purchasing a tie-out. “Anchoring them affords them some freedom and you some peace of mind,” says Yeu.
  • Have a lifejacket on hand. If you’re planning on taking Fido out on the boat or near the water, make sure you pack a doggie lifejacket. “While many dogs instinctively know how to swim, they can also run out of steam and drown like any other animal,” says Yeu.
  • Pack your pooch’s favourite toys. “Toys are important to keep your dog busy when you’re trying to sleep-in or have a relaxing evening by the fire,” says Liles. She recommends Kong, Buster Cube, Omega Tricky Treat Ball, Tug-a-Jug as a few options.
  • Have a first-aid kit ready. In case of emergency, make sure you pack any necessary medications and a small first-aid kit. An emergency contact list should include the location and information for the closest veterinarian to the cottage. Pack extra towels to clean off paws, and just in case, a de-skunking product such as Skunk-Off.

Dog-proof your surroundings

As soon as you arrive at the cottage, give your dog a leashed walk around the property—both inside and out—so that he’s familiar with boundaries. This will help him settle in. Use the walk as an opportunity to look for areas that need to be doggie-proofed. Keep an eye out for traps, wires, sharp objects, animal droppings and carcasses, unsecured pesticides, points of escape, and even other toxic items in the woods such as mushrooms or poisonous plants.

Create a safe space

Set up a familiar crate or mat in what will be your dog’s “spot” throughout the duration of your stay. Clearly establish where he is welcome to do his business, as many house-trained dogs can regress in new environments.

Also keep in mind that long weekends are a time for celebration, which can result in a lot of unexpected noises. “Be prepared for thunderstorms and fireworks. These can cause dogs to panic and bolt,” says Liles. She recommends keeping dogs inside during fireworks and playing relaxing music or white noise.

Establish house rules

If you are a guest at a friend’s cottage, determine in advance what the cottage rules are. Is there a specific spot that your dog should eat or sleep? Are there any areas that are off-limits? Should you wipe their paws before they enter the house? Will there be any other guests that are uncomfortable with animals or who have allergies? Will there be any other pets at the cottage? Where can you dispose of their waste?

Likewise, make sure your rules for your pet are clear to other cottage guests. For example, if you don’t normally feed your dog from the table at home, make sure this is clear to the group.