Featured So You Want to Have a Trainhopping Dog

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Johnny P

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#1
Some people might not agree with having dogs on train but let’s face it, it going to happen. Dogs are well suited to railroad lifestyle and make great traveling companions. If you train your dog well, love them, and feed them good then your dog will follow you off of a cliff if you jumped. They are loyal and loving companions. When the road gets lonely and cold, they will cuddle you and keep you warm. When somebody sneaks up on your camp at night, your dog will warn you. When walking through a sketchy neighborhood you don’t know, your dog will, a lot of times, ward off people who may be looking to harm you. Some people may not agree with some of the techniques below, but that is how I have raised my own cur and have helped with the training of a few other railroad pups out there.

The best railroad curs are practically born on the fly. I never recommend taking your house dog that has been lying around the house five years on the road, and especially not on trains. A stray dog that you can find running around South Texas may be better suited for this life than your house dog. It can work. I’ve seen good train dogs made out of older house dogs, but generally an older dog will be more anxious about the loud noises and environment that you are in on railroad property. The best way to raise a good train pup is to get exactly that, a pup. It is always best to introduce a dog to train riding when they are under 6 months old. That way, trains will be its whole life and will quickly get used to the loud and dangerous environment. It is all about repetition and routine, positive reinforcement, and discipline.

Before you can take a dog onto a freight train or into a train yard your animal must at least know simple basic commands. If your dog cannot sit and stay, then you need to rethink bringing them on the trip, or maybe spend some more time on their training. Look up some basic training stuff. I think the Dog Whisperer has some pretty good stuff. It’s all about repetition and positive reinforcement. Some basic stuff your dog should know how to do before taking them onto railroad property:

  1. SIT – You’re dog should do this the first time you say it.

  2. STAY – You’re dog should be able to stay in one spot until you tell them otherwise.

  3. LAY – Same as SIT, on first command.

  4. HEEL – You’ll have the best luck around trains if your dog already follows you close behind and if they aren’t behind you, will get there when told to do. I think it is good to be able to have our dog off of a leash on railroad property as it can get snagged on something and it leaves both of your hands free.

  5. SHUT THE FUCK UP – A dog that barks at everything that moves is no good on railroad property. It’s a really good idea to break this behavior or stop it before it ever starts.
Your actual verbal command can be whatever you want it to be as long as you have the above results. Having the command also paired with a snap or a click is always a good idea too. That way you can direct your dog and maintain listening silence on railroad property.

Introducing Your Dog to Trains

It’s never a good idea to just get the dog, tie him to a string, throw them on a moving grainer porch and then catch out.

This will probably shock your dog and lead to some anxiety later on. It is best to ease them into the idea of trains before you ever get on one that is moving with your mutt. Find a place where trains go by fairly constantly and walk your pup along the tracks getting them used to the large machines. After a few walks along the tracks, your dog will take trains going by as a given in his life.

The next step is to find a chill yard or siding where there are several types of rail cars sitting stationary. Place your pup onto grainer porches and sit inside grainer holes with them. Climb on and off a few different types of rail cars. Hang out in some boxcars or gondolas with them so that they take these activities as a normal part of their life as your companion.

Walk them among the strings and practice the basic commands (see above) so that your dog gets used to his routine coupled with the distraction of the railroad cars around. Doing all of this stuff without getting on a moving train will prepare your dog for when you get on a train and it starts moving. After a few daily walks around trains your pup should take being around railroads on a daily basis as a given. Now it is time to catch out with your pup.

It is best to catch stopped trains whenever traveling with a dog, especially for the first ride. When you are on the train waiting for it to pull, continually reassure your pup and give him praise. That first crash of slack action will startle your little beast, ignore his apparent anxiety and simply make them lay in your lap, or on your jacket on top of a piece of cardboard. Praise the fact that they are lying still despite their anxiety; this reassures them that this is a normal activity and they have nothing to fear. Do something that you did together not on trains, if you have room such as a gondola or a boxcar play with a dog toy. (Before I took my pup on a train I used to sing to him, so when we started up on our first train together I simply hugged him and sang to him.) Your pup will most likely stay on your lap as much as they can. After one or two rides your pup will look forward to getting on trains because seeing you happy with them on trains makes them happy.

Keeping your dog from barking on railroad property is very important. If your dog barks at everything that moves or at every sound then you should rethink traveling by train, or work on your dog’s behaviors. If you have a pup, you can usually stop this before it ever starts. The key is to immediately reprimand your dog before he even thinks of barking or even growls. Watch your dog’s ears, they will usually hear things well before they bark. If you notice that your dog’s ears have perked up, make your dog ignore whatever they heard. If they insist then you need to be a bit more forceful. If he starts to growl then I grab the loose skin up on his jowls and get a firm grip on him and let them know that what they are doing is absolutely NOT allowed. Smart dogs will eventually get it, and even distinguish between railroad property or not.

Catching moving trains is never recommended with a dog. The dog won’t like it when you throw them up onto a giant rolling grainer porch and think, what if that train kicks and leaves you standing there and your poor mutt is not standing on a grainer porch heading off into the Sierras. However, sometimes you just got to get the hell out of wherever you are at and catching something on the fly is the best way to go. The smaller your dog, the easier this is of course. If your dog is a smaller agile breed or mix then eventually your dog will understand what is required of it and this will be easier. Catching a DPU on the fly with a dog is the easiest. You can place your dog on the steps and then catch out right behind them so they don’t fall back, some dogs will learn to climb the steps on their own. (My cur can catch a DPU that is moving under 5-7mph on his own!)

Some Other Tips & Concerns

WATER! Your dog is going to want to drink more water than you can imagine, especially once you’re sided out in the desert sitting in a hot boxcar in the blazing sun all day. Your poor hound is going to pant and pant and pant. Make sure you are prepared to have enough water for both of you. I usually have at least a gallon at all times.

Eventually your dog is going to have to piss or shit. When you first start riding trains with your pup they are not going to know where to piss or shit. There is a good chance you will wake up in your sleeping bag while your thundering through the mountains with your cute furry little puppy snuggled against you, suddenly you will notice your puppy shivering and then you will feel the warm wetness soaking into your sleeping bag. You will have to reprimand your pup for pissing on you, but don’t go too hard on the beast it really didn’t know any better. The best way to deal with this is to make sure your pup goes before you catch out and to take your dog off for a break, if possible, at sidings. Also don’t take as long of rides. Instead of taking that 64 hour ride from Seattle to Chicago, prepare for some stops maybe every other crew change or so. (I tend to get off at every CC, not only for my dog but for me as well.) As your dog gets older they will learn to hold it longer and longer. Some dogs will learn that they can shit in places like boxcars or gondolas, but others will just hold it until they are let off.

Crossing Strings with your dog is dangerous. There are several ways in which it can be done. If your dog is small enough you can cross strings using grainer porches, and tanker car catwalks. Simply place them onto the car, climb up the ladder and across the catwalk and back down the other side, then take your dog off and put them back on the ground. I found however that this method worked great when my dog was a pup, but as he got larger it started to become time consuming and simply increased the risk in getting caught or injured. What I started doing, and it was completely by accident, was simply having my dog follow me. When I cross the cars using the ladders, handholds, and catwalks, my dog simply follows me across by crossing quickly underneath the coupler (knuckle). It is extremely dangerous for my dog, but I have found it is the safest and quickest way to get him to the other side of the train. In addition, I have trained him to sit when I climb onto a car and then cross when I say under and then sit on the other side waiting for me. I discovered that this was easier one time when I crossed a string to simply see what was on the other side and found my dog waiting for me at the other side.

Take your dog’s tags off when on railroad property. That way they don’t jingle jangle when they shake or scratch themselves.

Having a good train dog takes a lot of work, but after a year or so riding hard with that beast they will have it down and your cur will be able to hop up on and off of grainer porches on their own, stay at your side at all times on railroad property, and not bark at railroad workers.

If anybody has any other tricks or tips regarding train dogs…please feel free to comment!
 

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#2
My dog is extremely stubborn. I have been trying to train him but he doesnt want to learn. I got him at a yr and a half old so maybe thats the issue.
My biggest concern is the barking. I hold hime when theres workers present and the lil fucker tries to bark evwn when im holding his mouth shut and telling him quiet.
Any tips on how to get him to respond to training?
..or maybe I should get a puppy?
 
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J

Johnny P

I deleted myself
#3
A puppy is ALWAYS best....

my technique for a barker on a train is NOT very popular within the Dog raising world...
What I do when my cur gets stubborn and wants t growl & huff at something is that I grab his skin really tight on his neck/jugular area and twist to apply pressure while forcing his head down so he is lying down...a good solid whack with a backhand never hurts too...

There is a good thread here on how to stop a dog from barking in a normal situation. It's really about showing your dog dominance and reprimanding him so hard that they KNOW that if they do it, it will hurt.

https://squattheplanet.com/furry-no...-with-a-problem-dog-advice-on-training.18688/
 
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#4
I'm with ya johnny if you want an obedient and honest dog some physical teaching is a must. My parents never beat me but weren't afraid to whack an ass. I was tough on my dog as a pup, spent everyday and night with him and gave him lots of freedom and trust and I have a great dog whose been lots of places safely and I can trust at all times and walk without a lease. I think why most peoples dogs don't listen is like said, they need to be raised into an outdoor lifestyle and TIME SPENT. Don't go out with friends half a day with them locked alone in a room or house or tied up alone for hours and hours spend every freaking second with them if possible. Walking to get a beer at the gas station tie him outside and see him in a minute
 
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#5
And last part I meant especially as a pup. My dog spends days here an there alone part of a day because of work or something else but he wasn't raised like that
 
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J

Johnny P

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#6
Yes spending everyday, ALL DAY with your pup makes a big difference. If you have themas a pup, usually as a grown dog there focus will be on you and nothing else. A dog ultimately wants to please it's master and that is it!
 
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#7
Pretty sure I've tried everything and my dog is super disobedient. He figures its worth it to misbehave because punishment doesn't seem to bother him. Even physical punishment.
I'm going to try neutering him as ive heard that'll help, but if this doesn't work idk what else to try. Be a shame to have to give him up-I've had him for a year now.
 
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Johnny P

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#9
Mixed breeds are the best in my opinion.

@nomadic hobo seems like you have a real issue there. You just have to remain firm with him. If he continues to be problematic then maybe you should consider not taking your beast on trains (hard desicion I know)
 
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#10
hey lashes fuck you. rate my post stupid. sorry to shove truth in your face
 
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Johnny P

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#11
@Tatanka your post is good info IMO..whoever rated it stupid has probably never raised a dog..
 

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#13
what if ur parents chopped ur balls off for not listening? just sayin....as much as u dont like blue collar life...maybe ur dog hates the road
 
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#14
what if ur parents chopped ur balls off for not listening? just sayin....as much as u dont like blue collar life...maybe ur dog hates the road
It's different thing: if dog hates the road, and you and your dog know eachother well before hitting road together, you will understand if he / she act weird because of road. Some dogs are, and will be homedogs, no matter how much you train them. But it's your thing to understand are their actions because hate of the road, or because they just don't listen. And psychial training does not mean punishing. You dont need to hurt them, just do something, what you would normally not do: they will get it, that something i wrong (that they made something wrong) if you react like this.).

And dog must be trained before hitting road.
 
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#15
My dog and I are both ready to hit the road, and she's young enough that I think she'll learn. I just had one question: how do you dismount the train with a 45 pound mutt?
 
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AlwaysLost

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#16
My dog and I are both ready to hit the road, and she's young enough that I think she'll learn. I just had one question: how do you dismount the train with a 45 pound mutt?
Very Carefully...
 
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#17
Last two dogs I had on trains wore a Ruff-wear harness from REI, like a hundred bux or so. My dogs are around 65 pound pit mixs and I can comfortably lift them by the harness handle. Lot of weight to lift so get a good harness that will support their weight without discomfort. And I carry a pad for my dog too. Got to. ditto on the rest of article too.
 

NotmybestNotmyworst

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#18
Last two dogs I had on trains wore a Ruff-wear harness from REI, like a hundred bux or so. My dogs are around 65 pound pit mixs and I can comfortably lift them by the harness handle. Lot of weight to lift so get a good harness that will support their weight without discomfort. And I carry a pad for my dog too. Got to. ditto on the rest of article too.
Lifting a dog by the pack harness (mines got one too) scares the fuck out of me. Its only one or two plastic clips. I think i would change the saftener on mine if i was regularily doing that. My dog is 85-90lbs

In general id say medium sized dogs would be the best to hop with. Or whatever size the littlest hobo was. And if you dont know who the littlest hobo is fuck you! SOMEONE SING THE TUNE!
 
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#19
My dog and I are both ready to hit the road, and she's young enough that I think she'll learn. I just had one question: how do you dismount the train with a 45 pound mutt?
I found the best way is to throw my shit off get her to come to the edge then I go down ladder and reach up and grab her all while being super careful of not tangling leash- this is best way I've found with a lot of trial and error, but this method might work good for me cuz I'm over 6 feet tall.my other method was she had a good kurgo backpack with a handle and I would hold her by it and lean over, which works but isn't a great method because the jolt of a 3 foot or more drop isn't great for em.
 

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