Pack your bags and grab your pup — it’s time for a road trip. Whether you have plans to hike in the mountains, attend a family gathering, or simply have a one-on-one getaway, the open roads may be calling your name. What better way to go on an adventure than to have your pup in tow?
Before you embark on your new adventures, it’s important to desensitize your four-legged family member to the scary things they may experience. Loud and scary vehicles, unfamiliar faces, and new places are experiences humans are pretty used to, but what about your pup? Check out our tips below on how to ensure a fun time for both you and your sidekick.
First thing’s first: vehicles. They’re loud, sometimes hard to jump into, and claustrophobic. Could you imagine being in a place like that for hours on end? Before taking a long excursion, try taking short drives in your neighborhood, somewhere your pup is familiar with. Better yet, take her to her favorite pet store to get a treat or to the dog park for an afternoon of fun. Taking your dog on small trips helps build heir confidence, so the car won’t be scary at all. And taking your dog to her favorite place is a huge added bonus. When your pooch finally realizes the car is a good place, she will look forward to getting in.
One other tip to really seal the deal is to bring your dog’s bed or favorite toy. Creating a sense of familiarity with potentially stressful situations reiterates to the dog that they have something comforting to bond with. Going into a car can be stressful, but with a favorite blanket near, she’ll be reminded of being at home.
Do you plan on going somewhere your dog hasn’t been to before where he’ll meet a lot of people? When dogs are put into these new situations, they tend to want to be right by your side. It can be difficult for them to understand they can be comfortable by themselves. Before your trip, try taking your pup with you on errands where her or she can encounter small crowds. Maybe there is a dog-friendly farmers market or someone to see at a local park. Take things slow by choosing small crowds and initially staying on the outskirts so your pup can realize he or she is safe in that type of environment. Reward he or she for the good behavior with positive reinforcement and slowly increase the stimulation by getting closer to the crowd or choosing a bigger crowd.
The biggest factor to watch when in crowds is your dog’s body language. Is his tail tucked and he’s close to you? Do they have whale eye when someone gets too close? Or, is his tail hanging freely and his ears are relaxed? These small cues tell profound stories. It’s important to be able to successfully read your pup’s body language and ensure he is comfortable the whole time. If you notice he starts to get uncomfortable, take a step back and re-introduce them a bit slower. The key to success with crowds is reading your pup’s comfort levels and knowing when enough is enough.
Taking your pup on adventures with you can establish a bond like no other, and you create memories that will last a lifetime. While it may be easy for us to think, “Oh, just another road trip — no big deal.” For our canine companions who haven’t been on the road for an extended amount of time, it can be potentially stressful. These tips offer solid ideas for a successful adventure for both you and your pup.
Kerylin Mott is the owner and manager of Dog Tired Adventures, a professional dog walking business on a mission to change the world. A Bay Area native, she enjoys the great outdoors, lifting weights, and running her business. Check out the website at DogTiredAdventuresCa.com.
Main article photo by: Photo by Kosiv / iStock