For most puppies their first experience of car travel comes when you proudly carry them away to start their new life with you. Leaving home is a huge step, and the car plays a big role in your puppy's transition from being one of a group of pups with Mum around for security to joining a new household as a young individual.
All dogs are much more sensitive to sound and smell than we are. Cars are full of strange smells and quickly changing sounds. All these can be scary for your new puppy. So for the first ride home it's important to keep your puppy as calm and relaxed as possible.
Preparation for puppy collection Ideally have the driver plus one other person as 'puppy carer'. Have a cardboard box lined with newspaper ready for the pup to travel in, and this can be on the carer's knee. If they have to sit in the front passenger seat, make sure the airbag is turned off. Better, they sit with puppy in the back. Make sure that the puppy can't escape the box, and that the carer can easily hold the puppy inside the box. Have some kitchen roll at the ready in case puppy is sick. It often happens and this doesn't mean your pup will always be car-sick.
Noise, smell, movement and temperature These are the main changes the puppy will feel in the car and there's plenty you can do to help your new puppy relax. Sounds Many breeders leave the radio on to accustom pups to new sounds. Ask the breeder which radio station is usually playing around the puppies and then use the same sounds in your car and pray it's something you like! Smell Your car will never smell like your pup's Mum, but if the breeder lets you take the newspaper box liner and get the scent of Mum and the other puppies on it this can be comforting on the first journey. Movement Puppies can struggle against the movement of a vehicle, especially when you go around corners. Reassuring support from the carer will help the puppy maintain balance and not feel as if s/he is being randomly tossed around. I've often popped a puppy inside my coat to help them cope with the strange motion of a car. Don't forget that the puppy can't see where you're going.
Now your puppy is safely at home with you, have him sit in the car for a few minutes each day. You don't need to go anywhere yet. If you plan to use a crate or harness for car travel it's a good idea to let your pup wear their safety gear every time they are in the car.
When your pup is relaxed and happy in the parked car it's time to go for a drive. Just around the block is fine to start with and you can gradually build up travel time. It really helps if one of the family is next to the pup for reassurance, and to hold them tight when you go round corners to prevent loss of balance.
In a few weeks your young dog will learn that the car will take him for exciting walks and puppy classes. You're ready then to use Driving with Dogs to discover new walks, beaches and country parks near home, and long journeys will be easy and pleasurable with a dog who loves the car.