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Helping your new puppy to love the car

Helping your new puppy to love the car

With Christmas out of the way, the nicer weather is looming (we hope) and this signals the start of fun, family-packed days out to visit new places and try new things.  But what if you’ve got a new puppy? Well what could be more fun than taking the new four-legged addition on the trip with you, to enjoy the sights and sounds that a day out has to offer? In order to enjoy a safe, stress-free trip for every member of the family, including those with four paws and a tail, follow our guide to travelling with your puppy:

Preparation is key

Getting a new puppy is a busy time but if you can make time to prepare them for longer car journeys whilst working through the other elements of socialisation, it will pay dividends in the long run.  Make the car a fun place to be and break down the process of a car journey into simple steps – start by throwing some treats onto the seat, or into the boot, when it is parked up at home and letting your puppy safely explore whilst enjoying sniffing and searching for the food.  Take time to sit in the car with your puppy, with the engine running, so that they can get used to the sound and vibrations made by the engine.  Take your puppy on some short trips in the car, getting them used to the feel of the car’s movement.  If your puppy is going to be wearing a car harness (more on safety below), take time to get them comfortable wearing this in the house, prior to taking them on a trip in the car.

Safety first

Safety is paramount when travelling with your family, and this applies as much to your puppy as to your two-legged family members.  The decision about where the puppy will travel in the car depends on a number of factors but whatever you decide, make sure that the puppy is secure and not able to wander onto your lap whilst you are driving.  Car harnesses can be a great choice for some puppies and are a great option if you have a saloon-style car with no option to put the puppy in the boot. However, some puppies can feel restricted by the securing strap, and will end up chewing through this to get free.  A good, solid dog guard in a hatchback car is another good choice, especially if you have a larger puppy and a good-sized boot space.  Consider buying the best quality guard that you can afford – Perspex shields are a great alternative to more traditional options with bars, allowing maximum vision through the rear mirror.  Smaller puppies may be kept in a crate on the back seat of the vehicle, but do consider how this will be restrained, should you need to brake sharply.  Whatever choice you make, ensure that your puppy is as comfortable as possible, which in turn will help them to enjoy their car journeys now and in the future.

Training for life

Whilst training your puppy to sit on cue and to walk nicely on the lead, take some time to also teach some car manners, which will help you to keep the puppy safe as he gets bigger and stronger.  One of the most important behaviours to teach is the need to wait to be invited out of the car once the boot or door is opened. This is simple to do if you can be consistent with your requests.  Begin your training in a safe environment, with a long lead attached to the puppy or someone else in the car holding the puppy’s lead.  Begin to open the door and watch the puppy’s reaction – if they remain still and away from the door, you can continue to slowly open the door, reward them for making a good choice and then invite them out of the car.  If however, they move forwards towards the door, gently shut the door until they have moved away, repeat until they realise that remaining still causes the door to open.  Repeat this every time you get the puppy out of the car and you will soon have a puppy who is happy to wait to be safely invited out of the car.

Pack for your puppy too!

Don’t forget, whilst packing the sandwiches and the sunhats, that your puppy is going to need their own survival kit for the trip.  Water is a must – pop a bottle of water into your cool bag, should you find the journey takes longer than planned.  You’re also going to need a suitable water bowl – there are loads of different types on the market but make sure it is one that your puppy is happy to drink out of at home before packing it into your kit.  Poo bags will be needed in case of comfort breaks, and you might like to pack a few toys as well as a puppy blanket, should you find yourselves stopping for an impromptu picnic.  It is probably safest to leave a collar or harness on your puppy whilst he/she is travelling, so that you can get hold of them quickly and easily in the case of an emergency.  Put your lead somewhere that you can get hold of it easily, and always make sure your puppy is wearing an ID tag that conforms to legal requirements. 

So, you’re all trained, prepared and packed.  Plan your journey in advance, using Driving with Dogs to plan comfort breaks for puppy and the family too. In hot weather consider travelling in the evening to limit the chances of traffic delays.  Enjoy your adventures, puppy and all!

Puppy School is a nationwide network of trainers who help owners to train their puppies in a caring and positive way. The classes are based on the work of Gwen Bailey, author of 'The Perfect Puppy' and you'll find this and other helpful books in the Driving with Dogs bookstore.

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