Do you love road trips? Do you love your dog (or dogs)? Would you like to combine your two loves but know that it’s gonna “DO YOUR HEAD IN”!?
Well all is not lost as I discovered, so stick with me and I’ll share my little story and give you some tips on road trips with the dogs and let’s see if we can turn your situation around like I did
I love a lot of things in this world. My family first, my dogs second (sometimes 1st, depending on who in my family we’re talking about) and also near the top of my list is the great outdoors. The missus and I enjoy road trips and camping and we love our two dogs (A Maltese terrier X and a Pug X ) but we never used to take them with us as one of them would get way too excited the minute he got into the car (Pug X) and the other would be that anxious she’d be shaking out of her skin and drooling all over the place so my son or daughter would dog/house sit for us as we would do long distance trips for three or more weeks at a time
I decided to take them camping one weekend at a campground about a one and a half hour drive from our house just to see how they would go…Oh boy, MY BAD…..Turned out to be the worst road/camping trip ever (see the story in “How to camp with dogs“). They were painful to deal with when driving, over excited when we arrived, they wouldn’t listen to a word I said, they annoyed all the other campers nearby and the list goes on but we learnt from that experience and came up with a plan and now they come with us the majority of the time and they behave themselves every time. A far cry from where we started out
I want to share with you how we overcame the obstacles with some simple planning (really important) and are now able to have great road trips with our four-legged besties. After all, I couldn’t stand the guilt when I saw that pleading look in their eyes every time we walked out the door…. not to mention the sudden ‘let’s-turn-the-house-into-our-toilet’ behaviour and the complaints from neighbours about excessive barking whilst we were gone
THE PRACTICE – Only 3 easy steps
The 1st thing to do was to help our dogs overcome their anxiousness and excitement whilst travelling. It took a conscious effort and a bit of time and patience but the payoff was well worth it. Now, I’m no dog whisperer or training expert but I did a bit of homework on this and I tweaked a few techniques that I read about that I thought my dogs would respond to better and came up with a pretty fun and easy approach and low and behold, IT WORKED!
Below is a 3 step process that we did in order for our dogs to become better travellers and remember, they both had different travelling behaviours and it worked for both of them. I know all dogs are not the same but give this a try (it can’t hurt) and do be patient, it’s not going to happen overnight. If however you think your dog is not responding to the process as well as you would like then tweak it a bit like I did from the different sources I found. After all, you know your dog(s) better than anyone
STEP ONE –
I found that taking our dogs for a long walk beforehand wore them out a bit and helped them relax when they got in the car. I realise that all dogs have different energy levels and some are a lot harder to tire than others but do whatever you can to expend all their extra energy whether that be walking, running, playing fetch etc. You’ll find they’ll be more relaxed and in a much more positive state
Make sure they have a drink after all that exercise, but not too much as you don’t want them throwing up in the car if they gulp down too much. The same goes with food. I suggest you don’t let them travel with a full belly
STEP TWO –
My partner and I would take our dogs for a walk and when we returned home I would put them in the back seat of the car and settle them down by patting them and re-assuring them and when they eventually did I’d give them a small dog treat. I’d then clip them into their car seat harness, praise them (calmly), pat them and give them another treat. My partner and I would then get in the front seats and just sit there relaxed and talking and every so often look back and calmly re-assure & praise them and after about 5 minutes we’d all get out and then we’d enthusiastically praise them and give them another treat. We’d do this 4-5 times a week
A few things I’d like to add at this point are:
A) Place your dog(s) in their appointed travelling spot (i.e. back seat in a harness, in a travel carrier, portable kennel, etc.) and secure them as if though you’re travelling. Practising this will get them used to it. Changing it up might confuse them so try to stick with one location
B) Go “OVER THE TOP” when praising them for good behaviour at the end of their “practice session”. Dogs respond well when you show them enthusiastic praise and are more likely to repeat the desired behaviour. It works wonders!
STEP THREE –
After a couple of weeks of that they had become accustomed to the whole process and quite enjoyed it so we stepped it up a notch and started taking them for short 5 minute drives (completing step 1 and the first half of step 2 beforehand) and built up the duration of the drives, taking them in the car as often as we could. Within three weeks of driving with them it had become second nature for them to get in the car and be relaxed even when driving
AND THAT’S IT!
… In a nutshell. Now I know it sounds simple (a lot of things are when you break them down to basics) but you know as well as I do that practice makes perfect and you have to remain positive and just remember the end result you want to achieve which is to have your little (or big) buddies enjoying some quality time away with you.
Please remember I am not a specialist at dog training but this method worked for me and I hope you give it a shot and have success with it. I would like to hear from you if you have anything you would like to add or stories you’d like to share
Oh, I almost forgot…
I came across this cool video that I wanted to share that demonstrates what dogs can achieve with some good training. I just don’t think I want my dogs THAT smart
Until next time…