Puppy travelling – how can you get them used to the car?
This post is about putting your dog in the car, not about going on holiday, or travelling abroad. One day we will do those things, but not today…
Like so many things in life, getting a puppy used to travelling by car takes practice. It’s as simple as that. Lots of dogs do not like going in the car to start with. When I take my puppies to the vet’s for their microchips, or to the specialist vet’s for their hearing and eye tests, they often cry for most of the journey. Some of them are usually sick.
When they go off to their new homes, they are still small enough to be cuddled. They are usually happy travelling on a lap, curled up on a blanket or towel. In a crate, in the boot, they are very often frightened and stressed. Even covering the crate doesn’t necessarily help. Earplugs might be needed!
Travelling in crates
Dogs must be secure when travelling in cars – it is a legal requirement. The most common way of achieving this is by having a dog guard fitted between the back seat and the boot area. The advantage of this is that it is inexpensive and easy to fit or remove. It should not impact the sale of your car in the future (although the mud and dog hair might!)
However, if you are planning on leaving your dog in your car, where they might chew, you might be better off getting a crate to go into the boot. This can be a free-standing crate that just sits in the boot (see above), or it could be a structure that is specially fitted. When you have multiple dogs, people normally find that a van is the best option.
One of the key advantages of this option if you plan to go to any events or shows with your dog is that the dogs can be safely left inside the cage, with the car boot or doors open. It’s also brilliant if you are taking the dogs away with you, as they have plenty of room.
Other travel options
Some people don’t like using crates, or they don’t feel they have space in their car. You can use a harness to keep the dog secure on the back seat. Personally I feel that a dog is likely to chew through a harness. I also feel that a crate gives a dog more opportunity to change position and stand up, if it wants to. You can also put a water bowl in a crate.
How can we help?
As I’ve said, the main thing in getting a dog used to travelling is to take your dog out and about. Don’t make the only time they are in the car be when they go to the vet! Take them out for short journeys to different walks. This has the advantage of being a really positive experience for your dog. It also gives you the chance of a change of scenery.
I tend to walk from home for only around half my walks. The rest of the time I go off to woods or fields. I park in places where my dogs can go straight out from the van, with no lead walking at all. Lovely!
If your dog is really stressed by the car, try feeding them in the boot, with the engine off. If that is too stressful, start with giving treats next to the car. Gradually increase the time in the car. Turn the engine on and sit quietly, with the dog in their crate. Then start to go for short journeys, without stopping or getting out.
Quin’s other news
Walking around other dogs continues to be a challenge. The other day I had two dogs, including a greyhound, run over to us, causing Quin to run away from me. The owner called them, but it was a bit of a challenge and I had to go and fetch Quin from where he had run to hide under the van.
Fortunately, some dogs are polite and don’t rush at us. Quin is happy to sit by me whilst they go past, or even cope while they sniff him. We have managed to walk alongside a few other dogs, which is great.
This morning someone remarked “What a well behaved puppy!” That’s lovely, but really, I’m not doing much. It’s a slow, steady process. Keeping on doing it, every day. We do a few recalls, a bit of a wait. On lead, off lead (mainly off lead). Playing with my puppy. Engaging with him. He’s a happy boy, loving his life. Which reminds me to go and check what he’s eating..
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.