Doggy on board: top tips for travelling with pets
A recent survey by Petplan revealed that 46% of the UK population worry about leaving their pet alone. If you prefer to take your dog out and about with you, you'll want to make sure it's a happy traveller.
Most of the time, dogs make great travel companions; but car journeys can sometimes be tricky. In fact, a nervous dog on the backseats can be extremely distracting when you're trying to drive. When your attention is drawn away from the road, your safety, as well as the safety of your passengers and other road users, is at risk.
It's simple: a patient pooch makes a perfect passenger. So with this in mind, here're some top tips on travelling safely with your dog.
Should they stay or should they go?
For short trips, you need to consider whether it's worth disrupting your dog's daily routine. Will they get a chance to stretch their legs? Or are you just going to leave them in the car while you run some errands?
Pregnant, ill or injured dogs should be left to relax at home. And if your pet's prone to motion or anxiety sickness, then heading out alone could save you from any messy cleaning up duties.
Planning a weekend getaway? If you've got lots of outdoor activities lined up, like long walks in the countryside, then your dog's bound to appreciate the invite. But they might not enjoy lounging by a swimming pool all day as much as you do. Think about how dog-friendly your break is, and whether it's best to leave your pet in the safe hands of a trusted dog-sitter, relative or close friend.
Take a seat
In the same way we buckle up to keep ourselves safe, there are plenty of products designed to protect dogs while in transit; from cradles and crates to harnesses and guards. These nifty travel solutions will improve in-car comfort for your dog and will stop them from trying to climb onto the front seat while you're driving.
Crates are cages that you slot into the car boot for your dog and they're very popular. But dogs can be daunted by them to start with; so if you plan on using one, you should introduce your pet to it before using it in the car. Leave the crate around the house for a few weeks with treats or toys inside, to help your dog build positive associations with it.
New dog training
New dog? Whether it's a rescue animal or a small pup, you'll need to get them used to travelling in the car with you. Spend some time with them in the car while it's stationary as their behaviour will be a good indication of how they'll act when the car's moving. If they're patient and settled, reward them with a treat.
Make sure the first few trips are short ones; reassure them on the journey by talking to them, and assert yourself if they misbehave.
You can reward with small treats if they do what you ask, but don't spoil them or they'll come to expect treats all the time. This will be easier to do without the radio on or any music coming from the speakers. Carefully consider your destination for the first few trips. Avoid visits to the vets and instead, take trips to the local park for a walk. This will help your dog understand that they'll get rewarded for being a patient passenger.
On long drives
If you're planning to be on the road for several hours with your pet, you should:
- Feed them a few hours before you leave to prevent motion sickness.
- Take them for a long walk a couple of hours before departure.
- Remove any jumpers or coats, so that they don't get too hot or thirsty in the car.
- Pack a doggy bag, which should include treats, toys, a non-spill bowl and bottled water, waste scoop and bags, and some snacks for when you're stationary.
- Stop regularly so your dog can stretch its legs, have a drink and relieve itself if it needs to
- Never let your dog stick its head out the window as it's extremely dangerous. Not only could they be hit by airborne objects, but the cold air can cause inner-ear damage as well as lung infections.
- Switch on your car's air con to keep your canine cool during the warmer months. You can also fit a guard onto a fully-opening window to allow fresh air to pour in.
- Use a window shade for the back and side windows to block direct sunlight.
- NEVER leave your dog alone in the car, especially when it's hot. Dogs can develop heatstroke within just 15 minutes of sitting in a hot car, with potentially fatal consequences. Even with the window open, the temperature inside of a car will be unbearable if the car is parked under direct sunlight.
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