Some dogs never have an issue when traveling. Others hate getting in the car and howl the whole way, from the moment you pull out of the driveway to the moment you arrive at your destination.
A stressed dog means a stressed owner, and that’s not conducive to an enjoyable journey, especially when you’re going on holiday. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make sure your dog is happier and more settled when traveling.
Start as you mean to go on
If you own a puppy, there’s some good news for you – acclimatizing them to the car now will minimize the odds of experiencing any anxiety.
Practice putting them in the car, belting them in (they should be wearing a harness designed for this purpose, harnesses for dogs are different from those for cats), and praising them when they behave themselves. You need not even drive anywhere to start with.
Keep some dog training treats handy, so you can reward their good behavior.
Once they are used to it, take short journeys around the block and back. You should build up to longer journeys. Create a positive association by driving them to a nearby park (assuming they’ve had all their jabs, of course). This helps them look forward to going in the car.
Make them comfortable
It’s good to either take their bed in the car or to buy one for that purpose. Going around roundabouts can send a dog all over the place. They’ve got no way of staying put. If they have a bed to curl up in, they’ll feel more comfortable and less likely to be thrown around.
You could also put a favorite soft toy in there. A blanket with your scent on it would be another good idea. Avoid any chews or bones. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, they can turn into flying missiles in the event of a car accident. Secondly, you don’t want your dog to eat anything while in the car. If he chokes, you won’t be able to do anything about it. Your eyes will be on the road. You won’t know whether he’s safe and getting distracted is a sure way to increase the chances of an accident.
Start with short journeys
Once your dog is happy to be in the car, start introducing some short journeys with a positive destination in mind. Do you have a forest or park nearby? Drive there and take your dog for a walk.
Some people experience problems because they only ever take their dogs in the car when they go to the vet. No wonder they’re not happy on car journeys! By embarking on trips that have a better destination in mind, your dog won’t make this association.
Be sure not to feed your dog immediately prior to leaving home either. They’re less likely to be travel sick if they haven’t eaten for a few hours beforehand.
If your dog is sick, they’re going to associate car journeys with that experience. It won’t make them any happier to go on them in future.
Always make sure you have plenty of fresh water for them on all journeys. Never assume you can get some at your next stop either. What if your vehicle breaks down or you get stuck in traffic? Carry a dog-friendly water bottle with a large lid designed to be drunk out of. Your dog will appreciate it.
Building up to – and planning for – longer journeys
There is nothing like going on holiday and taking your dog with you. It’s a great bonding experience, especially when you explore new trails, forests, and parks together.
But it’s not advisable to head out on a drive of several hours if your dog isn’t used to it. If you intend to go away on a trip, build up to it slowly. Introduce some longer drives. Build in a day trip or two where you will need to stop on the way for a toilet break. That way your dog will get used to these short breaks from the car.
On a longer journey, pack plenty of water and prepare to make a stop every 90 minutes to two hours. Of course, if your dog shows signs of needing to go to the loo, you should stop sooner.
Take the opportunity to park up, stretch your legs, and give them a drink of water. It’s good for everyone.
Once your dog gets used to traveling, they’ll be good as gold as they will know what to expect. Always keep the car nice and cool with fans or air-con if you have it. Get it right, and you’ll be able to look forward to a pleasant journey with the furriest member of your family in tow along with everyone else.
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