Part 2: The One With the Logisitcs
Travelling with your dog can be fun with a bit of preparation, and with safety in mind
Start early - get your dog used to the car as soon as possible
Stay safe - use a crash tested dog restraint
Think about food - leave your dog time to digest before travel
Plan breaks - and don’t leave your dog alone in the car
Keep your dog cool - but don’t allow heads out of the windows!
How do I train my dog to travel in the car well?
Give them time, and make it a positive experience. A high value reward is required here! Start by getting them used to your chosen safety restraint, be it a crate or harness.
Reward calm behaviour in their crate or harness.
Then get them used to the car whilst it is stationary. Again, reward them when they are calm.
Make sure they sit calmly before you open a door or boot. This means you can guide them safely into the car when you are ready. If done every time they get in, soon it will become automatic. You may need to open and close the door several times before they remain calm initially though. Remember to reward them when they do!
Once they are inside the car, spend a bit of time there, perhaps giving them something tasty to chew, or using a puzzle feeder. When you get back out, reward them for sitting calmly until you are ready, and for getting out calmly.
Eventually you can progress to moving in the car. Remember this may be overwhelming for them at first, so take short trips only. You may need to reward them when the engine starts up to distract them too. It can be really helpful to have someone sit near them to help distract them at first. Drive slowly and gently. Take them to somewhere fun, then the journey has a happy ending!!
Some dogs, especially when they are small pups, can feel travel sick. This is unpleasant for anyone! Signs include drooling and swallowing, or vomiting each time they are in the car moving. It can be made worse if they have a full tummy, so leaving a gap between food and travel can help. Vets can also help with this - we have a drug called Maripotant that when given at least an hour before travel can prevent travel sickness for up to 12 hours. It can be repeated once 24 hours later for longer journeys too.
Pheromones such as those in Adaptil can help with travel stress - there are sprays and collars suited to use on journeys.
If despite all this your dog seems to be very scared of travel, don’t force it. We’d suggest working with a qualified dog behaviourist to tackle major travel fear.
What about planes, trains and ferries?
Most dogs will be happier if you can stay with them throughout the journey. Some trains and ferries will have dog-friendly cabins. You may be able to stay with your car, such as when using the Channel Tunnel. Some flights will let your dog travel with you in the cabin. Do your research, and pick a dog friendly route.
Again, planning is key. Leave plenty of time at the terminal, plan toilet breaks before departure and as soon as possible on arrival. Make sure your dog has a comfy bed, and some distractions. Bring water - an anti-spill bowl can be very useful. If you have to leave them in a kennel, familiar toys and clothes that smell of you can help to settle them. Pheromones are useful here too.
How can I stop my dog overheating on journeys in warm weather?
This is a very important question. We all know “dogs die in hot cars”. Dogs cannot sweat, and will overheat easily in any confined airspace.
Good ventilation is key - use the AC, or open windows to provide a flow of air, but please don’t let your dog hang out of them! Try to travel during the coolest parts of the day, and consider cooling beds. Make regular stops and provide fresh water at each one.