Traveling with a Puppy in a Car
Dog road trips are one of my favorite things in life. I love the freedom of being able to pick any travel destination that offers a variety of fun, dog-friendly attractions and plan a dog road trip with Dexter. I never worry if Dexter will travel well or if the adventure would be too scary for him. Dexter is a great travel companion; I taught him well.
When you bring home your bundle of fur, you, too, have the opportunity to train your puppy to be a great travel companion. Teaching a puppy to love traveling can be accomplished by these 6 simple, but important steps.
6 Ways to train your puppy to be a great travel companion.
- Proper Puppy Socialization– Puppy socialization is a word you have probably heard over the course of your new puppy adventure. But, what does socialization truly mean? Socialization is the act of teaching your puppy that things in life are safe and not scary. The three main categories to hit on during puppy socialization are people, places, and things.
How to Socialize Your Puppy to People-You will want to gradually introduce your puppy to a variety of people in all shapes, sizes, and ages. Each day of your puppy’s life, introduce him to 10 new people. Allow them to feed him treats, toss him a toy, or just give him a nice chest rub.
How to Socialize Your Puppy to New Places-Puppies need a lot of walks and time to explore, so take this opportunity to allow your puppy to investigate new environments. Instead of hitting the same park or the same walk around the block, take him to the local pet store, a new park, or a store that will allow dogs.
How to Socialize Your Puppy to New Things-You can think of things as everything else. That flag that is flapping high in the air, the train that roars by, or the elevator that he needs to ride to get to your hotel room—these are all “things.” You will want to expose your puppy to a variety of things and situations so that he is not nervous or afraid. By taking your puppy to new locations, you will naturally be hitting on this socializing aspect.
- Puppy Confidence Building– Brave puppies that are comfortable around new circumstances and eager to explore lead to well-adjusted, happy dogs. Puppy-hood is the best time to influence his confidence as an adult dog.
While you are walking your puppy, look for things that he can safely walk over or on. A log that is off the path, makes a great climbing obstacle. Walk him over the log and, with one of his favorite treats, encourage him to put two paws up. Give him the treat and make a big fuss at how brave he was. Now, go to something else, like a park bench. Do the same thing.
You can do these same types of games in your home. What do you have in your house that he can walk on, over, or under? Place a pillow on the floor and lure him with a treat to walk over it. By doing these little confidence-boosting games, you are teaching him to trust in you, try new things, and that new things lead to rewards, praise, and fun.
- Car Comforts and Safety-When traveling with your dog in a car, there are a few car safety tips and comforts you should keep in mind. Safety is always one of my top concerns. Unfortunately, in the pet world, it’s like the Wild Wild West when it comes to dog-travel safety. However, we do have one advocate: The Center for Pet Safety. They are a non-profit organization dedicated to dog-travel safety through research and independent crash testing. I would recommend visiting their website for your first stop when choosing a dog car restraint.
Having the proper dog collar, harness, and leash is as equally important as having a safe car restraint. Puppy collars are a great way to provide identification, but are not the safest option when walking your dog. When a leash is attached to a dog’s collar and there is even the slightest tension, damage is occurring to your puppy’s body. Leash-and-collar walking a dog can cause injuries such as whiplash, eye bulging, lameness, and neck and back injuries.
I recommend your puppy wear a properly fitted dog harness, such as the Freedom No-Pull Dog Harness. What I like best about this dog harness is that the design is such that a dog is unlikely to slip out of the harness. The Freedom No-Pull Dog Harness also allows full range of motion vs. some dog harness that rest over the front of the shoulder, limiting a dog’s gait.
Your puppy leash choice can also determine your puppy’s safety while traveling. I am sure you are familiar with the typical snap-hook design seen on most dog leashes. Unfortunately, these kinds of leashes can fail and become loose, allowing your dog’s collar ring to slip out.
Yes, I’ve personally seen this happen more than once. When choosing a safe leash for your puppy, I would suggest looking for a puppy leash that has a reverse-gate snap or trigger snap. These kinds of snaps are better at staying closed and keeping your puppy’s leash attached.
After you have ensured your puppy’s physical safety while traveling, it’s time to consider your dog’s comfort while on the road. Playing calming and relaxing music while your dog is in the car can help ease his mind and lull him to sleep. However, you don’t want to fall asleep at the wheel, so I recommend a product such as iCalmDog. The ICalmDog is a portable speaker with clinically-tested calming music by Through a Dog’s Ear. I have been using Through a Dog’s Ear products with my clients and my own dogs for ten years.
- Small Car Rides-Before booking your first cross-country road trip with your dog, take short, small rides. Since you are taking frequent puppy trips to parks and other dog-friendly stores, your puppy has already started down this journey. Likely, your puppy has had 15-30-minute car rides to his favorite sniffing spots. Start to plan longer park trips with your puppy, such as an hour or two away from your home. By doing this, you are increasing the duration your puppy is in the car, while providing a fun journey at the end of the ride.
- Frequent Potty and Stretch Breaks-When you are traveling with your puppy, it’s important to plan frequent pit stops. This allows your puppy time to stretch his legs, potty, sniff his surroundings, and know you are there for him. The pit stops can be part of your travel excursion.
- Your Puppy Comes First– I think one of the most important factors when traveling with your puppy is to be aware of his needs. Make sure you are paying close attention to his emotions. If it seems that he is becoming a bit overwhelmed or tired, take a break from the activity or call it a day. By ensuring his needs are met, and he’s happy and comfortable, you will instill a sense of calm and security.
If you follow these 6 simple steps, your puppy will be happy and confident and a great travel companion. For more travel tips, check out these articles.
Do you travel with your dog? Tell me in the comments.
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