Saturday, 26 March 2016

A dog’s life … in the back of the car

PET behaviour counsellor Kris Glover and offer families advice on taking their dogs with them on a holiday in the country

A CLASSIC sign of anxiety from dogs is dribbling in the vehicle. Being in a car for a long time is not comfortable or natural for dogs, so it’s important to acclimatize them to their new surroundings.

To lower anxiety, put your pet in the vehicle next to you while feeding treats and leaving the door open. The dog shouldn’t feel trapped and having them on the lead will help maintain control. Repeat these sessions, but ensure they are short and frequent. Providing familiar bedding and favourite toys will help settle your dog.

Once the dog is relaxed, the vehicle’s door should be shut. Again, feed treats before letting your pet out. If you’re satisfied your dog is comfortable, feed meals within the car but observe from outside so they get used to being inside alone.

The last stage should be turning the vehicle’s engine on and allowing it to run while your pet is inside eating. A lot of practice and time is needed to help your pet learn to tolerate the vehicle. When this has been achieved, it’s then time to drive a short distance (around 100 yards) with your pet inside with treats, food and its familiar toys alongside. Once happy with this, plan a trip with your pet to a destination that would be good for them. Arriving at a fun holiday destination or park will help your pet associate vehicle journeys with positive destinations, rather than ending up at the vets.

For the journey …

It is essential the dog has an opportunity to go to the toilet prior to a long journey.

Dogs like comfort. So moving their bed from the house into the vehicle will allow them to feel as comfy as possible, and therefore as relaxed as possible.

A dog is much more likely to settle if they are prevented from seeing exciting things outside (e.g. a dog walking past), so try to place the dog’s bed in a location where he or she can’t see out of the windows. There will be some dogs who are more settled if they can see outside, so if your dog ticks that box, position their bed so they can see through the window.

Give them something to do. A food toy or a long lasting chew will give them a focus during the journey.

Make sure the dog has access to water (anti-spill water bowls are ideal for vehicle travel) if the inside temperature of the motorhome or vehicle is overly warm. Make sure the dog has an opportunity every two to three hours for a leg stretch and toilet break.

If holidaying abroad, consider whether the vehicle insurance includes the relevant cover. Motorhome insurance from Comfort Insurance includes up to £2,500 cover for pets.

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