Bringing a puppy home for the first time can be exciting for everyone. It’s important to remember though that their early experiences in those first few months form life-long memories, helping to either create a confident and well-adjusted adult dog or potentially create phobias and anxiety, so prepare your puppy for car travel from day one.
Whilst pups are adaptable, we still need to consider their emotional health, and how their individual personality and temperaments will react differently to the same stimuli – objects, smells and activities going on in the world around them. Putting them in an unfamiliar circumstance when you first pick them up, will influence the way they react to car travel in the future, so here are my tips to help prepare your puppy for car travel, starting with their their very first car trip home.
What to bring for your trip
You’ll need to prepare the car and think about the surfaces that will make them feel comfortable. As a first-time traveler, your puppy may become sick or toilet in the car, so be prepared for this and also make sure you stop frequently and let them out on a lead to walk around, toilet and have some water.
It is always ideal to take home a blanket or item of clothing that has been in with its mother and siblings so the smells can provide them with a sense of security. Read here for other tips on how to prepare for a puppy.
Make sure the puppy isn’t a distraction to the driver and is safe should the car stop suddenly. A large carrier or crate is a great option and crate training from the get-go can not only help with toilet training, it provides a secure and safe place for puppies and adult dogs at home, whilst traveling and in unfamiliar environments. Use some treats to entice them in, include their blanket and some toys and lots of praise when they are in there to make it a positive space. Read my tips on crate training here.
If you are wanting to use a harness for car travel, particularly for bigger dog breeds, remember they do take some time to get used to, so you’ll need to consider this.
Take it slow
We don’t want to rush the car journey with our puppy either. Before you even start the car, sit with your new pup, giving them praise and using treats to make the space positive.
Ideally you will have someone else with you that can supervise, praise and reward good, calm behaviour. This is an ideal way to prepare your puppy for car travel.
Take it slowly and one step at a time. Start the car and let the pup get used to the vibration and noise of the engine. Particularly if they are a little nervy. It is really important not to rush this and give them time to get used to it all. Slowly start moving. Don’t go too far too fast. Just keep stopping after short distances so they can get used to the motion and the stopping and starting.
Just like us, pets can get motion sickness and don’t forget puppies need to go to the toilet around every 30 minute so, making it really important to stop frequently on your journey home. Take along a pee pad so they can stand and go on it if they’ve only had their first round of vaccinations.
Constantly rewarding good behaviour and making the experience as enjoyable as possible…for you all and is a way to help prevent anxiety with car travel in the future.
When you get home
When you get your puppy home, give it time to sniff around and check out its new surroundings without the children vying to take turns to give it a cuddle.
Ensure it has a quiet and calm experience when entering the home and make sure children agree to give it the space it needs to settle in slowly over the days ahead.
Again, using treats and other rewards will help to create a positive association with their new home. It is also very important that you have puppy proofed your home first to help keep them safe and sound.
There’s plenty of other tips on caring for preparing and training a puppy throughout the website, particularly the importance of early socialisation for your puppy.
And, to find some puppy specific treats to help make your puppy’s journey a memorable one, visit the Vitapet website.
About the Author: Lara Shannon is co-Host of Pooches at Play and has completed a Certificate III in Dog Behaviour & Training with the National Dog Trainers Federation. Lara also runs her own dog training, minding and walking business in Melbourne’s Bayside area.