When we adopted our little puppy Chester last year, we knew our lives would change a lot. We were ready though… We talked about getting a dog for so many years! When we finally settled in Canada, we knew the time was right and when we saw his little face advertised, he became ours.
So he came home. We stopped sleeping. We stopped going out. We stopped watching movies. We stopped travelling. We basically were new parents for the first 3 months. When it eased off a bit (ie: house trained), we started breathing a bit more and started traveling (by car) with him. As we now have some experience with this, I thought I’d write a post for all of you pawrents about travel hacks.
One extra bit of information: Chester is a very anxious and dependant pup. He just turned a year old and he still doesn’t sleep very well, whines a lot when we’re not near and his weary of other dogs. This weariness and anxiety is however due to the fact he was attacked by another dog when he was only 5 months old (one of the worst experiences in my life). We have therefore adapted our travels to his needs and are currently working on his anxiety level by sending him to puppy daycare once a week where he is in contact with other dogs and humans. He LOVES it.
Now for the travelling (by car) hacks:
Get yourself a car seat cover
Seriously, this is a necessity. They sell them especially for dogs, which makes them easy to install, clean and adjust. We paid $30 for ours and we wouldn’t do without it anymore.
Get a seat belt for your pup
I had never heard of this before as we usually see dogs wandering free in cars. Trust me, this isn’t being overprotective, it’s all about safety. It stops your pup from jumping everywhere but still allows him to move and get comfortable and keeps your mind at ease.
Put his favorite blanket and teddy on the back seat
It will make him feel safer and more comfortable. I don’t recommend putting anything else on there as it can create some stress for all parties concerned if he accidentally drops his ball between the seats… A teddy is less likely to create such an issue!
We always take a little box of healthy treats with us. If your pup doesn’t like car travel and tends to become quite vocal, you can teach him that being quiet is rewarded. Wait 30 seconds after he is done whining and give him a little treat and tell him what a good boy he is. Now, if he is very anxious and does this repeatedly, you might not want to give him a treat every time: he will need to poop. It’s also good to take his favorite treats with you, especially as you don’t necessarily know what will be available where you’re travelling to. A certain routine will make this trip much more enjoyable for him, therefore for you.
ALWAYS have fresh water
We have a special bottle for Chester, which transforms into a little bowl. We of course fill this one up before leaving but we also always carry a big bottle of fresh water for us and for him. Be careful not to give your pup too much water while in the car though as you probably don’t want to visit every single rest area.We find that giving an ice cube works very well in hydrating him and cools him down at the same time. Now I know you can’t really travel with ice cubes (or maybe only for the first hour or so) but this is a good trick even for home. Make sure to keep an eye on your pup though so that he doesn’t choke!
We try to make Chester as comfortable as possible so that is anxiety doesn’t pike. In order to do so, we bought him a Thunder Shirt (click here for the link) and it seems to really help him. The pressure points and the fact he has something surrounding him makes him feel safer. We also put it on when he’s home alone. On top of that, we use calming aids from NaturVet called “Quiet Moments” (click here for the link). This was recommended to us by a friend who also has a very anxious dog and we live by it. They’re not bad for you pup and he can take one everyday if required. Chester has one when he is home alone for longer periods and when we travel by car. Read about it… It’s worth it.
Your pup won’t be allowed everywhere and it’s important to remember that dogs need to sleep a lot more than we do. So plan ahead and look for a nice daycare near where you are going. I suggest you do some online research, read reviews and schedule a quick tour of the place upon your arrival before sending your pup. During our recent trip, we sent Chester to a wonderful little daycare 3 days (from 9am to 4:30/5pm) out of the 6 days we were there. We could therefore visit places for humans only and do lots of fun stuff with him when he was with us: doggy cafes, parks, beaches…
Locate the closest vet clinic
It’s always important to have this information at hand: the name, address, phone number saved in your phone and written on a piece of paper in your wallet. You just never know!
Pack for your pup
Chester has his own little bag when we travel, which includes:
– Health book (ALWAYS travel with it, along with his most recent vaccination certificate)
– Towel: he is bound to get wet or dirty at some point so we take his own towel (or 2).
– Spare harness
– Snow boots if it’s cold/winter
– Calming Aids
– Enough food: we always take food for 3 extra days, just in case
– 2 or 3 of his favorite toys: he needs to be entertained after all
– Poo bags (you never have too many of these!)
Exercise your pup A LOT before leaving
We always go for a very long walk with him before going anywhere. We make sure he runs a lot and that he truly is tired at the end of it. This makes a very big difference to him and to us.
For the safety and enjoyment of all involved, make sure to stop approximately every 2 hours. Your pup is just like you: he will want to stretch his little legs and exercise a bite If you limit the quantity of water and food you give your pup, everything should work fine.
Do you have hacks to share with us?
UPDATE January 8, 2019: A wonderful article about separation anxiety in dogs was recently brought to my attention. As we deal with a pup suffering from moderate to severe separation anxiety, this came at the perfect time! It’s filled with tricks, advice and good information. You can find it here: