It’s been nearly 16 years since I last had a four legged bundle of fun who just wants to play, sleep and see what he can get away with all day long. Easy when in the house but if like me you want to take your puppy with you as much as you can, getting them used to the car and teaching them to behave when near other road users is really important.
Car travel is therefore something my puppy is going to have to get used to and part of my puppy socialisation programme.
My first thoughts were how will Dylan travel in the car compared to my old faithful ‘go anywhere and do anything dog’ I used to have. With his first trip being a three hour drive home from the breeders when he was only eight weeks old I really wanted to get this right as it could affect his willingness to travel in the future.
I decided he would travel on the back seat with me while John, my husband drives us home (John has said I can be a bit of a back seat driver anyway) rather than in the boot area.
We made sure the trip was timed so it was not straight after a meal time and had a couple of toys with us just in case he needed entertaining on the way back, the journey was a complete success with him safe in his harness he was happily snoring for most of it.
The first few trips in the car can influence whether a puppy likes the car or not. The first journey is normally with the breeder taking them to the vet for a microchip injection, the second is new owners taking them away from the only home they know, with the third and fourth normally to the vet for inoculations – not really pleasant trips at all. However with treats and toys the journey can be made into a fun trip.
We were very lucky and Dylan did not mind the car at all so we did not have to spend much time going through the process of slowly getting him used to it.
He is very comfortable on his seat cover which covers the whole of the back seat and also attaches to the front seats giving the rear passenger area a sort of hammock feel (a bonus as he can’t lose this week’s favourite toy to the foot-well which if he could not reach would no doubt cause a major protest).
It has holes for his doggy seat belt to go through allowing me to clip him in safely. If he is safe, secure and occupied it means I am not getting distracted by him.
With a puppy which will grow into a large dog, I know I will have to buy a couple of car harnesses to fit his growing body correctly and keep him safe when travelling in the car – but what about when just out and about with me?
Dylan is now well into my ‘calm dog safe dog’ road safety training and has so far met a bicycle, refuse lorry (very scary), children running along the pavement, a mobility scooter, a skateboard (where he tried his best to leap into my arms) and a blind person with a white stick on a ball (had to learn this is not a new toy for him).
He is learning to walk on the lead and sit when we get to roads we want to cross – he copies me and looks when I check whether or not it is safe to cross, however I doubt he understands why! He is the proud owner of a reflective lead, collar and coat so he can be seen by motorists when out in the dark.
Rebecca Ashton, commercial learning and development manager