In the UK, we have the opportunity to take our dogs with us to many places. Whether it is a weekend break, a meal out or taking them with us to Europe, this country is becoming more and more pet-friendly, which is great when it comes to spending time with our canine companions. All dogs react differently to car rides. Some dogs embrace the journey and absolutely love the experience, however, there are a fair few that don’t enjoy travelling by car very much. This can be due to them suffering from anxiety related issues, motion sickness, restlessness or can just be because of their age. If this sounds like something your dog suffers from or you are just curious, we are here to help. So, whether you are planning on taking your dog with you on a getaway, to a nice location for a walk or just to the vets, here are seven tips on how to make your dog comfortable during a car journey.
Preparing for the Journey
The preparations that you will need to make before your journey will depend on the situation. Obviously, if you are going with your dog somewhere overnight, you are going to need to make sure you bring all of the supplies that you will need on your journey. The law says (with few exceptions), your dog should always wear a collar with up to date contact details and their microchip should also be up to date. This is something you must do when travelling with your dog. If you are planning a long journey with your dog or you need to be at the destination at a certain time, then you need to make sure you leave with plenty of time, so you can stop for regular breaks or can pull up if your dog is reacting particularly badly to the journey.
Like many things, you should never push a long journey onto your dog without letting them experience short ones before. In some cases, getting them used to the car isn’t possible (like if you need to drive a long way to bring your dog home for the first time), but if you can then you really should. Taking them on short regular trips to start is advisable. When taking your dog on these trips, try to associate them with a good experience, like taking them to socialisation classes, to a nice location for a walk and/or to your local pet shop. Not only will this improve their behaviour towards strangers and other dogs, but it will also help them associate the car journey with positive thoughts. If the only time you take your dog in the car is to go to the vet or another place they may not enjoy, then when you travel with them, they will become stressed.
If you don’t restrain your dog in the car, then you are putting both the dog and yourself at risk. If an accident occurs, then your dog has the risk of being seriously injured. If you have a small or medium sized dog or a big enough car for a larger dog, then it is a good idea to have a crate or a travel bag for them to sit in during the journey. These carriers are great for making your dog feel more sheltered, as well as improving their safety during the journey. Make sure the carrier is secure before you set off and ideally make sure your dog has been introduced to the cage beforehand. Alternatives for bigger dogs or if you don’t have the room is to get a suitable harness, dog seatbelt or safety seat to protect your pet.
Making sure your dog is well exercised before you set off will mean they will be more likely to settle during the journey; this is particularly necessary for hyperactive dogs. If you are planning a long journey, then taking regular breaks during the ride is important. If your dog is more on the nervous side, then breaking up the journey can make it easier for them. If you have a senior dog, then breaks are essential to stop their joints from seizing up, therefore, making the journey more comfortable.
Having distractions can be very beneficial during a long or short car ride. Not only can a familiar toy calm your pet down, but it also gives them something to focus on. Ideally, you should avoid food-based trips, especially if your dog suffers from motion sickness. Dogs should always have access to clean water during a trip, but most of the time food needs to be avoided right before or during a car journey.
There are many products available that can be used to calm and de-stress our pets. If you know your dog hates to travel or is very restless in the car, then using these products is a great idea and can really help to comfort them. You can get them as sprays, tablets or even a collar. There is a wide range available, even ones specifically for travelling, but the majority need to be used for at least a week for them to work effectively, so you need to plan ahead if this is something that you’re interested in.
If your dog is showing signs of distress on your travels, you should avoid comforting them. Although this seems like the right thing to do, it also reinforces the idea that they are in a bad situation. Always try your best to stay normal and calm while keeping an eye out for signs of distress. Taking your dog on a long walk or giving him/her a treat once you arrive is a great way to assure them after the journey.
Patience, training, and being organised is the best way to improve your dog’s experience when it comes to a car journey. If your dog suffers from motion sickness or stress-related issues, you should consult your vet before your travels. The same rule applies for any other concerns you may have regarding their welfare during a car journey.