Doggy road trips!
I have lived in Bristol now for 6 years, and the last 6 months I have shared my life with a 1-year-old rescue lurcher called Hector. I am originally from the Lake District and regularly make journeys up and down the country to see family and friends. So when we had to make our first long-distance journey up north, I had to think of how I was going to make this as stress free as possible for Hector and myself. A happy dog equals a happy owner!
I already knew Hector liked the car as we had been doing lots of little journeys around the city to find the best walks. I had even enlisted a friend to help me do the settle exercise, which is taught at Dog School, while I drove. That way I knew he liked the car, but I had also taught him to be calm in the car. Great! I now have a good foundation for our cross-country road trip. So now for the road trip bit!
Firstly, I choose carefully what time of day I am going to leave so as to avoid traffic. Early (and I mean EARLY!) mornings or late nights are the best time to travel as the roads are clearer and your fur baby will hopefully be nice and sleepy. Plan where you are going to stop off for relief breaks. On one 6 hour long stretch, we arrived at nature reserve not far off the M6 just as dawn was breaking – makes getting up early worthwhile.
Make sure you have packed things to make your dog comfortable and lots of fun things for your dog to do on the journey - stuffed Kongs, chews, their favourite toy, or a blanket with their own smell on it.
Once on the other side, prepare to calmly introduce your dog to new people, children, and other pets. If you know your dog can get anxious around new people, don’t force it, there is no reason they need to get to know everyone in the village! You may want to keep the introductions to just family/friends or people that will definitely be around. Brief the family or friends of your dogs likes and dislikes, and what to and what to not feed them - this can even be done over the phone or email prior to setting off. Remember, your dog has had just done a long journey to find themselves in a new place with new smells and people. This is a lot to take in for a dog, so think about how you can make this bit as calm as possible and settle your dog into its new environment. Blankets with their own smell on and a tasty chew might just do the trick.
Our own journey went swimmingly with this as the end result:
This means many more weekends away in the lakes which Hector and I were very happy about. Next stop: camping!
In our classes, we teach the settle exercise which is useful when you want to take your dog to new places and can be applied to travelling in the car. You can get more information on our classes, what we teach in them and how they apply to real life by getting in touch with us.
Please note: if your dog is afraid of the car or gets travel sick please consult a behaviourist or a vet before making any long journeys. You can even use it as an excuse to get everyone to come to you this year.